Hands-on: Metro Exodus blends Metro’s grim story with massive Stalker-like open areas

Metro Exodus is incredibly ambitious. I knew that as we headed into our hands-on demo at E3 this week. I’d heard it was a pseudo-open world game, almost more akin to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. than the Metro games before it.

But I don’t think I’d completely internalized those thoughts, because Metro Exodus is way larger than I ever imagined. Overwhelmingly so when you only have an hour to see as much as you can.

Exile on main-track

Exodus is an appropriate name. For the first time Artyom is leaving the bombed out ruins of Moscow, via train. As we rushed down the tracks at the start of the demo though, our way was suddenly barred by a barricaded encampment—an ambush. The perpetrators retreated after shooting up the train, leaving us stranded in the Volga.

The scenario might sound familiar to Metro fans. After all, the previous two games were spent traveling from subway station to station. What’s really different about trains, aside from the scale?

metro exodus 6 4A Games

Scale is important though, and the Volga is larger and more open than any environment I’ve seen in (or expected from) a Metro game. Both 2033 and Last Light were pretty great at providing players with a multitude of paths, but the title belies the scale. The cramped and dirty subway tunnels make for a claustrophobic corridor shooter. In Exodus, the Volga is a vast snowy wasteland, dotted with ruined houses and a crumbling church and downed airplanes and icy rivers and just so much stuff to see.

It’s hard, playing a demo for a series you love. I’ve spent a lot of time with both Metro: 2033 and Last Light, and I know how I prefer to play those games. It’s slow and deliberate, cleaning the supplies out of every last dusty corner. Creeping up on enemies and knocking them out. Doubling back to make sure I’ve seen every room in every building.

And so as I reached the halfway point in my Exodus demo, I realized with horror that I hadn’t even made it to the mission marker yet. I kept getting distracted, climbing into the backs of trucks to snag supplies, stripping weapons for parts, turning over corpses to steal their last meager possessions.

To its credit, I found this all interesting. Metro Exodus is bleak, and never more so than when you’re on your own, creeping through the abandoned remnants of a dead civilization. My favorite house in the demo, I crawled in under a broken board and was confronted with dozens of beer bottles, all stacked on the floor. Five or six corpses resided nearby, along with a fishing line hanging out the window and a dusty accordion in the corner.

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