'Metro Exodus' review: Gas Masks and Guns

Guns & Ammo: One of my favorite aspects about the wonderful "Metro Exodus" is the deep customization of the arsenal protagonist Artyom has at his disposal. Pictured is Artyom with the Helsing Crossbow, in one of the many diverse environments in the game.

Earth-sized Chernobyl returns.

"Metro 2033" and "Last Light," much like The Witcher franchise, are two well regarded games based on novels by Dmitry Glukhovsky, taking place in Russian underground subway tunnels. First person shooters with an emphasis on well-done survival mechanics, I have fond memories of "Last Light" and "2033," both being very immersive experiences with interesting stories.

Come 2019, 4A games has brought a third installment to the series titled "Metro Exodus," putting you in the shoes of hardened soldier-badass Artyom, this time venturing outside the cramped confines of train tunnels, taking you through diverse environments, with a well told story and characters you grow to be attached to. 

The most noticeable thing about Exodus is without a doubt that change in setting. My biggest qualm with the past two games was just that: the often same long corridor metro tunnels, that just weren’t for me.  I was ecstatic to finally get out of the confines of Moscow and experience creative and diverse environments. You’ll visit a desert, an irradiated swampland filled with genuinely terrifying creatures, encountering other human survivors along the way, some friendly, others not so much. This all looks wonderful. While at times the framerate dropped, the visuals are among the best I have ever seen in a videogame. 

The game also retains the frantic gameplay with some added improvements. Having not played the past two games in years, one thing that was immediately jarring is movement. I suppose in an effort to be more realistic, walking is cumbersome and clunky, with running being a less controllable sprint. Eventually you get used to it, but at first I absolutely dreaded that aspect, as it was the opposite of smooth.

One of my favorite new features added is weapon customization. You are given an AK at the start of the game, and almost every weapon has deep customization. For instance, You can pick up a single-barreled break action boomstick pistol, and once you find the parts, you can add a stock, and eventually long quadruple barrels to make it an infinitely more viable weapon for killing the irradiated beasts that you encounter. I am a sucker for weapon customization in games with that option, albeit in well done ways, and I really loved how it was done in this game.

One of the more divisive things in the psat games was the good/bad ending consequences based on how much people you killed. This time around, you are given the option when stealthing around to either evade or knock out enemies, in addition to the usual guns blazing or stealth kills. Evading enemies is always a fun tactic, as well as encountering hostile enemies that give no consequence to butchering them with a crossbow, AK or a revolver fashioned into a carbine.

Overall, "Metro Exodus" fixed my biggest problem I had with the franchise, ditching the figuratively and literally repetitive on-rails environment for pseudo-open world segments, all with a captivating story and punchy gunplay with well done survival undertones.

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