Hands-On: Metro Exodus Spoiler Free Preview
Back in September of last year at EGX, I got to play some of Metro Exodus nice and early. The mission in question was called Taiga and it was one of my standout games at the show. However last week, I was invited to go hands-on at a press event down in good ole’ London to spend the day playing Metro Exodus. During the day, I got to try out three levels in-depth; one was the Taiga level, while the other two were Volga, an icy, flooded industrial town and Caspian, an area set in the desert which gave a Mad Max vibe. Now as this is a preview, I will be keeping plot and some mechanics vague, as I want to keep this preview as spoiler free as possible.
Despite playing Taiga at EGX, I was keen to see the improvements over the last time I had played this mission, to see how the game has improved and I was quite impressed with the results. For starters it looked and played more smoothly, and during the opening moments of the mission I tried a different approach when confronted with bandits. Upon entering the seemingly abandoned village when I was warned off by the said bandits, rather than responding by putting crossbow arrows in their foreheads like before, I heeded their warnings to stay out of the village and turned the other way, or so it seemed.
The bandits then turned and walked away, believing that I have been scared off. This gave me the perfect opportunity to sneak back into the village while their backs were turned, so that I could pick them out one-by-one. This was certainly a satisfactory approach utilising stealth, rather than going all gun-ho John Rambo as I did at EGX, and it highlighted the various approaches that you could take for each mission. However, as I’ve already previewed this particular mission, I’ll now move on to the other two missions that I played at the press event. You can read my previous EGX preview of the Taiga mission here.
My intentions were now turned to the Volga mission. This very much felt like a mission taken from Metro Last Light, and following our squads train breaking down on the bridge, I made my way through flooded waters on a small boat hoping that I wouldn’t be pulled into the muddy lakes by the mutants that lurked beneath. My mission in Volga was to head towards a crumbling building in response to an SOS call by a mother and her young child. Upon entering the building, I was greeted by an unnerving religious cult, and it soon became apparent as to why our help was needed.
After I approached the mother and daughter to aid my mission, I then had to use my best stealth skills to leave undetected. However, I was soon spotted by the unwelcoming locals which resulted in my making a run for it, frantically gunning down any enemies that got in my way, in attempt to make it back to my squad on the train. Even though this mission quickly went sideways, as I could have entered and left the building undetected, it offered the perfect opportunity to see how Metro Exodus handles in a gunfight, and it handled rather well, certainly as well as any competent first-person shooter. Switching between weapons from a makeshift handgun, assault rifle and shotgun felt very satisfying and seems to handle better than the deliberately wonky gun-handling in previous games, though it’s not quite as smooth as some of the top shooters, by design.
Finally it was time for me to try out the Caspian desert mission, which is something new for the series and as I alluded to prior, this very much had a Mad Max vibe to it. Out of all the missions I played at the event, this was the largest open-world map available. In fact, it’s so large; you’re best travelling across the map via an acquired, rundown camper van. Each of the missions I played all gave you an open approach, but this was by far the most open of the three. Set in-between Russia and Kazakhstan, the environmental conditions were harsh as I found myself wiping my gas mask every few seconds, but the mutated local inhabitants were far less welcoming. After fighting following failed sneak attempts through mutated human hordes, I rendezvoused with an ally, who then instructed me to venture underground to retrieve some vital Intel. It was here that I felt very much at home with the series, as I found myself wondering deeper into the underground system.
The environment was dark, eerie and filled with horrid spider-like creatures that you may have met in previous games. This mission, more than the other two, gave me the element of dread and horror that endeared me to Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light. However, it wasn’t just the monsters that gave me the inherent feeling of dread and despair, but knowing that I had to back-track though some of those dark, damp and claustrophobic corridors once more to complete my mission, gave me that unnerving feeling of worry of what awaits around the next corner. Despite my unwavering fear of spiders, I even ventured a little further into the darkness to complete a side-mission for my recently acquitted ally above ground.
All in all, I was mostly impressed with what the preview event had to offer. Despite the larger scale approach that Metro Exodus aims to bring, it still retains the element of survival as you make every scarce bullet count, not wanting to waste a single shot. Thankfully you can craft bullets and other survival tools from scavenged goods at the designated workbenches. You’ll also need to keep an eye on your oxygen for your gas mask and you’ll be relying on an old-school compass and map to navigate through the world, though you can upgrade your weapons and equipment. But above all else, tension and threat is always about, as you aim to survive to your next mission.
However, one issue that I had with the preview was the intense motion blur. Not since playing Hitman 2: Silent Assassin from 2002 have I felt so sick playing a game (well, other than Rise of the Tomb Raider in VR), it gave me a true feeling of car sickness and I had to stop playing every ten minutes or so to combat my sickly feeling, which hindered some of my progression with the game. Now this was a preview build, played on an Xbox One X dev kit, but I do sincerely hope that this motion blur can be turned-off on console come release. Other than that, I quite enjoyed my extended time with Metro Exodus and I look forward to its release next month.
You can also read the thoughts on the Metro Exodus preview from our friends over at Game Hype.
Finally, you can enjoy 10 minutes of new gameplay footage in 4K featuring the Caspian mission below. Metro Exodus will release for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on February 15th, a day after my birthday might I add.