With Metro Exodus, A Niche Series Finally Gets Its Deserved Attention

Opinion by Mark Delaney,
To be honest, it can be really hard to evaluate a game just from its brief trade show demo. Publishers bring the best vertical slice the creators can build to shows like E3 and Gamescom, so it's nearly a given and at least the norm to try out a game on the showfloor and come away impressed. It's all by design. So when I saw Metro Exodus at PAX West last summer and my takeaway was that the game seemed like a smart evolution of the Metro franchise that still stayed true to its roots, I wondered how that would hold up over a longer play session. Now that the game is out, I'm thrilled to see that remains true. It feels like Metro Exodus, as it literally brings Artyom out of the tunnels to explore a vast wasteland, is also the game to finally shine a deserved spotlight on this unique series.

Metro Exodus

Fans of Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light have been singing the praises of the shooter for years now. People love how the games don't pull punches. You need to recharge your flashlight battery or else walk in the dark, pump up your pneumatic weapons or have little more than a pea shooter at hand, maintain ammo and resources which can be extremely scarce, making you consider every shot you take in a lovely Resident Evil sort of way. The two games before blended horror, action, and stealth in such a way that is still very hard to come by even today nearly a decade since the first game arrived. Despite the good reviews and unique premise, the games never seemed to break through past their cult-like status.

Having such a small but passionate fanbase isn't the worst position in which to find your game, though. In fact, it's a big part of how we got here today with the excellent Metro Exodus. Microsoft saw promise in it when they decided to put it on their stage at E3 two years ago, and then again last year. The biggest stage in video games, often reserved for only household names, suddenly became home not just to the next Gears and Forza, but to the quiet hit series from 4A Games. Microsoft took the smart bet that speaking to fans as passionate as Metro's made sense, and they were right. There was a buzz after the reveal two years ago where longtime fans got excited and new eyes became curious. It was exactly what the series needed.

But it wouldn't matter if Metro Exodus came out and didn't deliver. It was due to launch on one of the busiest single days for new video game releases we've ever seen, alongside three other big games. Yet, as the dust clears, it's only Metro that has garnered substantial critical acclaim, boasting a proud 83 on OpenCritic while none of its launch day rivals cleared 75. Strong reviews and Microsoft's push for the game will certainly help, but the true difference maker is the awesome design of Metro Exodus, and that's owed directly to 4A Games.

Metro Exodus

The previous two games took place largely in the titular subway tunnels, dark, damp and decrepit. Exodus goes beyond the occasional peek outside its predecessors gave players and instead offers several large hubs to explore at their own pace. How you approach these open world sections and how well you execute your plans changes the story quite dramatically, though Exodus hides many of those gears in the background, only revealing to you later how you've altered your own course. You still have to conserve ammo, scavenge for resources, and pick your shots. It all still very much feels like Metro, and it's easy to see how they could've gotten away from that to offer more mass appeal, but they didn't and the game is better for it. These are vital elements of Metro and without them, Exodus could've been the threequel that loses steam like many other series tend to experience. Instead, it's the best game in the series because of its blending of old and new ideas. Horror moments remain, superb stealth sections are abundant and are always ready to descend into chaos if you screw up. The game trusts players to be smart just as Metro always has, only this time the world is much bigger, offering more variety in both enemy and environments, and plenty of brilliantly subtle player agency.

It's very quickly clear to anyone who has played the series that 4A games knew what the untouchable aspects of Metro were and what aspects could be reconsidered, built upon. As a result, Exodus is the best possible version of Metro. Just as Artyom emerges out of the tunnels for good this time, Exodus could be — and should be — the game to finally give Metro its well deserved time in the sun.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.