Author Topic: Metro Exodus [2019 -- 4A Games]  (Read 58 times)

Offline Starfox

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Metro Exodus [2019 -- 4A Games]
« on: May 26, 2020, 07:49:07 PM »
Before reviewing the last opus of the Metro franchise, I realized that I never reviewed or even really talked about the other two previous games, Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light. The horrible truth is, I played all these games and I'm not a huge fan. I liked Metro 2033 enough, it was innovative in its approach (for the time) and there was a good story supporting it but, the way this story was delivered was not optimal for me. Metro Last Light was even worse. the story was still OK but the way it was told gave me the constant impression to be in an horrible subpar horror movie. Sorry to say (because I know that's going to be some kind of heresy to some), but I played each of those games once and shelved them without regret (I just played them recently again in their "redux" version as a refresher course to prepare for Metro Exodus and I didn't enjoy them more now that I did all those years ago). For me the reason is mainly coupled to the storytelling.

The story that is undoubtedly there in Metro Exodus but once again without any real effort on the storytelling side. True conversation are non-existent and Artyom, being still his consistently silent self, just sit there swallowing what other characters have to say, without any way to engage in real interaction (aside from the occasional drinking or playing the guitar which he does, perfectly quietly). That doesn't really change from the previous opuses, sure, but considering the amount of lines present in this game -- except Artyom all other characters have a lot to say -- I think the "bare minimum" aspect of the character interaction preserved in Exodus is a shame. Especially as Artyom as a central character in the books from which the games originate is far from being silent.

4A also tried to give more insight into the characters composing the Sparta (as after all the whole gang embark in a journey to find a new home). To that Effect, they created the train, Aurora, and intermission time aboard it. Between missions one can take some leisure time around the train and get to know the crew a bit like the good old Normandy of Mass Effect. Well that would be nice if it was handled correctly. Unfortunately, everything is done so that the player jumps the gun and go from mission to mission without stopping on the way. The inability of 4A to retain the player and get them interested in what is going on around them is symptomatic of the problem of the game on a pure storytelling level. In brief, the guys at 4A have put a lot of effort into some optional although important storytelling moments, unfortunately these won't work for 80% of players, first because Artyom is mute and doesn't participate in any conversation whatsoever which doesn't incentivize players to partake in the various conversations and second because the player is "rushed" into getting off the train and go kick some more mutant ass as fast as possible. Example, after the first big area, Artyom wake up aboard the train and the first character tell him "The Colonel wants to see you", OK, message received, don't need more than that, really. But then you get to a scene with most of the crew assembled and if you stay there is some interesting character revealing background conversations going on, unfortunately before it all starts, one of Artyom's mates tells him "The colonel wants to see you", just in case he was deaf the first time around. That has a perverse effect on the player because being told -- twice -- that the colonel wants to see them impart a sense of urgency so in most cases you won't stay to listen to the whole discussion, you'll go see the Colonel that after a speech instructs you to look at the map and there you go; because once you're in the map, there are only two choices, either you back out or you start the mission. And why would you back out? You're there so you may as well start. This is the perfect setup so the player ignores and just bypass everything going on in the train. And believe me, that may sound silly explained that way but I can guarantee that most players getting into the game for the first time, and because they probably also played the two previous opuses that were pretty much a succession of missions with no intermission, will just do that, bypass the train, the lore and jump into the next mission. If there is one area where Metro Exodus fails the most, it's possibly this one.

Not to say that Metro Exodus doesn't bring some nice things to the table, because it does. Among them is most obviously a gameplay that happens outside the metro. To be precise one is confronted to the closed atmosphere of the two first game twice, once at the beginning and once near the end of the game (and a little bit at mid point but it's more like the D6 silo area of Metro 2033. Aside these few occurrences it's open space time with varied enough environments (frozen tundra, desert, nice wooden area...) that makes you forget easily that you are in a Metro game; heck most of the time one doesn't even need a gas mask -- but when one does, one really does. Myself, I certainly welcomed the change of pace even though the fans of the series were not all equally impressed (it's fine, as I already stated, I'm not a fan). The term "open world" though, is debatable for Metro Exodus. There are two areas in the game that certainly qualify (by that I mean that one can explore and do things in whatever order one wishes) while the rest of the game is either on rails or close to it (meaning one gets one route to go with little to no leeway).

The endgame (two flavors like in the previous games, good or bad) is decided by how one plays the game and some decisions one takes. Fortunately it is very much less confusing than Metro Last Light was. Obtaining the good ending in Metro Last Light was near impossible unless you knew exactly what to do and what to not do. In Metro Exodus, it's just a matter of common sense. For example, when an enemy gives up and surrender you don't brutally murder him if you want the good ending. You can knock them out though -- which was impossible in Metro Last Light and created some confusion (why in Hell would you leave an enemy alive, untied and conscious just on the vague promise that he will be good?) -- so you can be reasonably sure they won't pose an ulterior threat. In general the rules of a good ending are simple: don't kill people who are not actively trying to kill you, don't murder the innocent, spare the guys who surrender... etc. Like the previous games, Metro Exodus is very big on stealth. So avoid direct confrontation whenever possible. Of course the choice is your. You can go all guns blazing (although dead on confrontation are deadly, they may be fun) and kill everyone in sight, if you don't mind getting the bad ending.

Among the interesting changes in gameplay is that one can mod weapons on the spot thanks to the invaluable backpack. Artyom is still limited to two main weapons and one special (the Tihar, signature weapon of the two first games, and later a new surprise weapon called Helsing -- and if you know who Helsing is, you know what kind of weapon I'm talking about) but those weapons, including the special ones, can be modded at anytime by deploying the backpack and working on them. Of course this is a process putting Artyom at risk so not to be done encircled by a pack of enemies. The mods themselves come attached to many weapons that can be found in the world or taken from enemies and Artyom just needs to pick the mods for himself so they are stored into the convenient backpack. One thing to know is that when you drop a weapon (to exchange it for another for example) you have to recover the mods from the weapon you just dropped or they'll be lost. Mods includes barrels, magazines, sights, supressors, stocks... and on, each providing its own benefits and disadvantages.

Weapons are acquired definitely as soon as one picks one. However, unlike mods, changing weapons require Artyom either to find another one in the field or to go back to the Aurora. The backpack is some sort of portable workbench with some limitations. Artyom can mod his weapon (provided he has gathered relevant mods) and he can also manufacture very basic ammo (like the balls for the Tihar) and some important aid like medkits or filters for the gas mask. For everything else a true workbench is required (they can be found in diverse locations across each area -- although they can become very scarce depending on the difficulty level one chooses) and that "everything else" includes manufacturing more evolved ammo and grenades, modifying your armor and gas mask (special mods for these can be found in the field) and most notably cleaning weapons.

Cleaning weapons is new to the series. It requires a workbench and an awful lot of chemicals (depending on your difficulty setting, the amount of chemicals required for cleaning and the speed at which your gun degrades may vary -- the Ranger Hardcore difficulty, the one I used (don't ask, I had my reasons), being the most punitive. What does happen if you don't clean your gun (or if you pick up a dirty gun, which may occur)? It's not really different from systems featured in games like Fallout 3 and New Vegas. You let your gun degrade too much and you start experiencing difficulties like overheating, failure to feed, up to the point where your gun will require a manual reload after each shot. My advice? Try at least to always keep one of your weapons relatively clean so you have a backup if the worst happens during a fight. Why do I say that? Because there's no way to actually assess exactly the state of cleanliness of your guns, aside from the visual clue that may sometime be not very helpful. The only way to see if your gun is really about to break or is still OK is to find a workbench.

Another new feature of the game is a New Game+ mode that is amazingly complete. One can replay the game at any level of difficulty (of course being a "plus" mode you get back all the weapons and mods you had when finishing the previous run -- if you select the correct option on the Game+ management page -- after the intro/tutorial part of the game) and if Ranger Hardcore was too easy for you there's a number of options allowing you to up the difficulty even more, like giving armor to all of your opponents, having the days and nights lasting real time... etc.

On the technical side of things, Metro Exodus is demanding, not demanding like Metro 2033 was on its release, but still. Depending on your system, especially graphic drivers both nVidia and AMD, you may experience some issues. The game simply gives at time the impression that it "wants" to crash. My take is that for achieving the effect they desired, the team at 4A pushed away some development guidelines and left to both nVidia and AMD the task to catch up by tuning their drivers so the game won't crash, or freeze, or lockup your whole computer. In exchange what you get is a good looking game with a superabundance of particles effects (try shooting in the sand, you'll see what I mean). However, beside the particles and weather effects, the textures and models are okay enough without being jaw dropping. The final ensemble is several notches above the previous Metro games, for sure, but not necessarily above the current competition.

So Metro Exodus appears to me as a mix bag. On a pure gameplay level it is very much enjoyable and I would lie if I said I didn't have fun with it (hence the blue smiley). On a storytelling level though, it sometimes falls flat on its face due in part to the reasons I mentioned above. It's like if 4A wanted to turn their semi-RPG franchise into a proper RPG one but didn't had a clue as to how. But that's something I've come to expect from this developer, I certainly didn't play their games for the way the story is told. If I want a deep and powerful story strongly delivered I go play... yep you guess it; Witcher 3. And if I just want a proper RPG with dialogues, choices and all that... I can think of a large list of games that are not Metro. Suffice to say that 4A could have done something really neat with the story and characters interactions in Metro Exodus and they missed the mark.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2020, 08:42:30 PM by Starfox »

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -- A. Einstein