Metro Exodus Is an Open Slice of Heaven in Hell [Preview]

The Metro titles are some of the most underrated games around. They should be considered two of the best shooters ever made as they are filled with stunning, highly detailed visuals, immersive worlds, imaginative storylines, and constant surprises. Metro Exodus, the third game in the series, is nearly here, and is promising to bigger, badder, and better. It has big shoes to fill and, judging by my hands-on demo, the game seems like it will match or even surpass its predecessors.

Metro Exodus Preview: Into the Wilderness

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My EGX 2018 demo started with main character Artyom, who has returned from Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, drowning in a lake. It’s not a good start, but fortunately a strange woman from the group called the “Children of the Forest” pulled him out and beat him up until he started breathing again. Her colleagues apparently had a friend of Artyom’s, although she was convinced we weren’t bandits. That’s nice I suppose. She then ran off into the woods and we were left alone.

The first shock came when I realized I was outside, and didn’t have a gas mask on. If I was in a previous Metro game, Artyom would be dead in moments, since the game’s version of Moscow is an irradiated wasteland. In Exodus, however, his group has fled far from the capital in a train, so I was free to explore the wilderness. It’s no less deadly though, as I was about to learn.

Metro Exodus Preview: Cry Wolf

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Despite being a relatively small developer, 4A Games has always managed to make its Metro games look gorgeous, and Exodus is no different. The water,  grass, and animals wanting to tear my face off all were crafted with an incredible attention to detail that popped on the Xbox One X I played on. Heading into a ditch and discovering a small child’s hideaway under the roots of a tree really added to my sense of the world, and it would also prove important for an encounter to come.

Unfortunately, it was not a bug-free encounter. The game isn’t out until February so I can excuse most of these issues, but my Metro Exodus preview was almost cut short by a wolf. Not by killing me, which would have been unfortunate but fine (as the game has checkpoints), but instead by a bug that permanently fixed my camera to the wolf. So I had to restart, overlong unskippable intro movie and all. Sigh.

When I got back I put two bolts in that wolf quickly and moved on to the guy it was trying to eat. He was tied to a post with the word “bandit” scrawled on him. Encounters like this are presumably common in Exodus, and the fact that I chose to take pity on him and release the bandit will likely have consequences in the future.

Metro Exodus Preview: How Appropriate, You Fight Like a Cow

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Metro Exodus is not full-Skyrim open-world, but it does have multiple zones which you can openly explore. I was incredibly impressed when I jumped over the barrier next to the path I was on and discovered that I could go completely off the beaten path. I decided not to at the last minute, because that meant I would miss the camp ahead of me. I headed there, and suddenly two armed guys dropped down and blocked my path, warning me to turn back… in silly pirate voices.

Apparently these pirates, which I would learn from bits of lore scattered around, were once a group of children who grew up without adults after the bombs fell. So they’re still playing pirates, except now they’re armed grown-up raiders.

I could’ve shot them there and then, but they didn’t fire first so I chose to be sneaky. I went around the side, hid in tall grass, and started to pick them off from the side. This was more difficult when the alarm was raised, especially as I’d forgotten how rare ammo was in Metro and quickly found myself without any. That’s when I was shot in the face by a pirate. He didn’t even insult me first. Arrr.

I only got a small peek of Metro Exodus but I’m already pretty excited. The idea of playing a first-person shooter with Metro‘s level of quality in a larger world, more akin to STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl or even a first-person The Witcher 3 feels like a great step into something better. A world with choice and consequence, interesting groups to befriend or raid, and some of the best graphics in gaming is a world I want to be in and absorb. Metro Exodus is out February 22, 2019 and I can’t wait.