After the somewhat unexpected critical acclaim of the first two Metro titles, it was only natural for another sequel to be released by Deep Silver and developed once again by 4A Games, a relatively small, Unkrainian-based studio.
The story of the game picks up from where the previous installment, Metro: Last Light, left things and aims to expand on the universe created by the author of the Metro books, Dmitry Glukhovsky. Artyom keeps going to the surface of Moscow, scanning the frequency band of his radio in hopes of contacting any other survivors outside the city, as his dream dictated. In an unexpected turn of events, Artyon and his now wife Anna, learn that jammers were deplyoed around Moscow in order to "protect" the metro system from being attacked again, after the world was already destroyed by the nuclear bombs. Set to find a place clean of radiation to live, Artyom, Anna and a supporting cast consisting of the Spartans, the special forces group seen in the previous games, set off in a train towards a supposedly better part of Russia.
In general, the story isn't particularly original, but it doesn't get stale or boring at any time. The "expedition" flavor of the script ties in well with the open environments/hubs that take up about three quarters of the game, with the rest being linear levels, similar to the ones in the first Metro titles. There are main quests and side quests for Artyom to complete in the hubs, with the map working as a physical object our protagonist has to bring up and look, forcing him to holster his weapon(s). The enviroment is full of loot, which is even more important now that there is crafting in the game and there's a day and night cycle that not only affects the gameplay, but also breathes more life in it.
While the first games really hit a spot story-wise, delivering a claustrophobic environment that kept the tension high with a good mix of horror and simply making you feel combat ineffective, the open-world takes a bit out of that feeling, luckily without ruining it completely. Monsters are constantly around and they are a menace even on Easy. There are various factions, that unfortunately only exist within the confines of each level, but those, along with the different environements offer a very diverse plate of flavors. At the end of the day, one will wonder what happened to the "Dark Ones" story arc of the first two games, where Artyom was adamant he could communicate with the mutants and struggled to convince the powers that be in the metro. In Exodus, all of this seems like it never happened, with the band of characters simply looking for a better tomorrow. This is a missed opportunity, but the final product doesn't flop, so everything is fine.
In terms of gameplay, it's more of the same survival-FPS, but the gunplay has been improved in feel and responsiveness. Shoot the bad guys and the monsters, don't shoot prisoners or enemies that surrender (at least if you want to get one of the two endings), watch your radiation levels and take care of your gas mask. The number of available firearms has been increased, along with the number of mods and attachments Artyom can fit on them, so, no complaints there.
The graphics are a significant step-up compared to the previous games, partially because Exodus was developed for current-gen systems only. Guns look detailed and so is the grime that starts to accumulate on them the more you used them. Characters have articulate facial expressions and marks/shapes on their faces, while the fauna and flaura really pop, which coupled with the impressive lighting, makes for pleasing visuals in general. The only drawbacks could be some pixelated textures inside the debris of some buildings or when some textures in the distance pop-in too close to the player.
Sounds are spot-on, with the elements of nature sounding realistic, which can also be said about the weapons. The tickering of the Geiger meter is still ever-present to help with the tension. Voice-acting is good on its own, taking advantage of the much longer lines each character has in this game, but there are issues with the timing, where two or three characters will be speaking at the same time, ruining the experience as you can't listen to all of them at the same time.
In general, Metro Exodus is a great game that took the next logical step in the post-apocalyptic sub-genre of FPS's, losing a bit of its characteristic atmosphere on the way, but compensating with greater production values. The story doesn't move on as you'd expect it and isn't as interesting, but it does a good job until the very end. Exodus is also polished in its technical aspect too, making for a solid experience overall.