Thanks to our friends over at Koch Media, we were able to attend an extra-special event last Thursday where we got an exclusive hands-on experience with Metro Exodus!

Developed by 4A Games and published by Deep Silver & Koch Media, Metro Exodus is the third title in the Metro game franchise, and the latest entry in the Metro extended universe; following protagonist Artyom, Metro traditionally took players deep into the underground recesses of the Russian Metro system, after the surface world was ravaged by a nuclear war in 2013 – Metro Exodus, however, aims to totally shake up this formula by taking players to the surface for the first time in the game’s history; having never played a Metro game, I went in with middling expectations and a lack of understanding as to the game’s plot, themes and overall narrative.

…What I was greeted with was a game that I feel should inspire future post-apocalyptic shooters, such as Fallout.

Metro Exodus again follows Artyom, as he traverses the surface world for the first time in the series’ history, capturing and commanding a train known as “The Aurora” that him and his fellow group members utilise to travel across the midland and eastern Russia, in an effort to escape the country and to see what remains of the rest of the world – During their journey, however, the group of survivors will encounter new allies, warring clans and factions, and hostile bandits and terrifying mutant monsters across a variety of diverse locales.

This diversity was well shown off in the day-long demo that we were given to play, split up into three distinct areas in the game – A spring-time swampland flooded by the melting snow and overrun by mutated crab-like monstrosities and home to a clan of electricity-fearing villagers, who instead opt to worship a giant fish in the nearby lake, known to them as the Tsar Fish. Another locale we got to explore was a large, dusty desert-like location in a soaked up and dried out seabed somewhere in the Russian wasteland during the heated months of summer, occupied by terrifying mutant beasts and Mad Max inspired drivers, introducing one of Metro Exodus’ newest mechanics, vehicle driving (More on this later) – Finally, our last portion was centered around a large, abandoned orphanage in the middle of autumn, where, due to a scout train accident, Artyom is stripped of all of his equipment and must scavenge for his ammunition and to survive the camps of tribals that have set up shop around the beautifully derelict complex.

Beginning our journey, we entered the wonderfully themed Proud Embankment near Temple, London, to be greeted by a large locked iron door and dark, atmospheric interior – A dusty skeleton sat on an armchair, chained as weapons from throughout the game and series laid bare on side tables for inspection and viewing – Ascending the main lobby stairs, the room opened up into a massive two-storey hall fitted with over 100 individual stations spanning PC’s fitted with 144Hz monitors and RTX 2080Ti graphics cards, alongside Xbox One X’s, to ensure we were playing at the highest graphical fidelity. It should be noted, however, that Ray Tracing was turned off for this demo due to integration issues with the demo build.

For comfort, we sat down at an Xbox One X booth, and buckled in for our first foray into the world of Metro…

What greeted us was a bleak, but beautifully realised rendition of Russia, brimming with immersive features and touches that really did appeal to the roleplayer inside of me – Voice acting was top-notch, with characters like Miller and Anna having some of the most notable vocal ranges within the demo we were given; gameplay operates similarly to heavier first person shooter titles, such as Fallout and RAGE, where a variety of weapons can be used to slay the mutated horrors and demented bandits throughout the wastes, from crossbows, pneumatic pump-action rifles, and sawed-off shotgun pistols – Reversing back to some of these immersive features, it must be noted that, unlike in games like Red Dead Redemption 2, these immersive features don’t have an overwhelming impact on gameplay; guns will clam up with mud and blood when mowing through enemies and traversing the wastes, which can lead to your weapons jamming randomly, however, whilst cleaning your guns at a workbench can prove to be a bit tedious and annoying, it is one of the only minor systems in the game that you have to keep an eye on.

External factors like radiation, mud and air purity all play a part in your survival, but, again, unlike similar survival-themed titles, all of these issues can be remedied or mitigated with the press of a button, given you have the resources to carry out the action needed – Air purifiers, for example, must be crafted and carried with you in order to maintain a level of air purity to avoid dying to air pollution or poisoning. Ammo as well plays a vital part in the wastes, being rationed similarly to a survival horror title and requiring crafting in order to keep your supplies high – Many times throughout the demo, especially in the more arid and desolate locations like the sandy desert wastes and frozen swamps of Russia, I found myself seriously running out of ammunition, being reduced to simply meleeing monsters with the butt of my weapon to survive – This ramps up the stakes of each encounter, and puts a large reliance on accuracy and efficiency to stay safe.

Speaking of encounters, a wide variety of human enemies in the game have a range of states that can be triggered – Clans and settlements can be sent into blind furies by massacring their numbers, whereas craftily picking each of them off will spread fear, and eventually lead the stragglers to put down their guns and raise their hands in mercy, from which you can decide their fates – Stealth naturally plays a big part in this, with noise, light and sight playing a huge part in the hiding mechanics of Metro Exodus, with Artyom having a light indicator on his gauntlet to indicate when the player can be seen in plain light – Some monsters, however, will be able to detect you through smell, so knowing your opponents and their behaviours becomes far more integral than one would expect.

However, these behaviours don’t mean jack when you’re smushing schmucks over in a salvaged truck – Yes, as mentioned beforehand, vehicles are now driveable for the first time in the Metro franchise, and, surprisingly, they handle brilliantly – Driving, much like the rest of Metro Exodus’ gameplay, is entirely first person, and handles with a sense of weight and force that just feels right – Terrain types will slip your control, bumps in the road will shake you around and rattle your view, and control is as would be expected from salvaged vehicles and parts; whilst we were only given one area to drive around in, I do hope that there is a larger variety of vehicles to drive.

Overall, we had an absolute blast getting our hands on Metro Exodus early; whilst I’m totally lost on the overarching plot and themes of the title, based off of gameplay and aesthetic alone, I can tell that Metro Exodus will be a strong, strong contender for one of Q1 2019’s best titles. If you want to pre-order Metro Exodus, feel free to use one of our affiliate links below! We’ll get a cut of the sale, which means we can continue to bring you exclusive early content such as this!