All aboard for post-apocalyptic adventure
BASED on the novels by Russian author Dimitry Glukhovsky, the Metro games tell the story of Artyom and fellow residents of the Moscow underground railway (the Metro), who survived a nuclear attack on the city and have been living underground ever since, battling rival factions and mutated horrors alike.
The latest instalment - the third in the game series - is Metro Exodus, developed by 4A games and published by Deep Silver for PC, PlayStation 4and Xbox One.
Metro Exodus moves the setting from the Moscow underground railway to the above-ground world, which isn't quite the desolate wasteland the Metro inhabitants had been led to believe.
Your character, Artyom, his wife Ana, and cohort of fellow Spartan Rangers find themselves aboard a Soviet-era steam locomotive named the Aurora, heading east on the Trans-Siberian Railway line in search of whatever remains of the Russian government.
The game can broadly be described as a survival shooter and takes place over the course of a year, starting in the winter and progressing through the seasons, which each season being represented by a different and visually distinct location (Winter on the Volga, Summer by the Caspian Sea, etc).
The game looks amazing - whether it's an old command bunker, the snowy ruins of a port, an overgrown Soviet youth camp, or the Moscow Metro tunnels. The levels are well made - the Caspian Sea level in particular strongly evokes the Mad Max films.
While giving the appearance of being an open world, the locales are really more of a hub, with various objectives that need completing in different locations before your crew (and the Aurora) can move on.
Hope is a recurring theme in the game. I really liked the moments of real tenderness and humanity shared between the various locales. Artyom and his wife Ana share touching moments where he comforts her as she expresses fears about where their journey is taking them, and your comrades swap stories, give each other a hard time and speculate about what's going on generally.
The gunplay in Metro Exodus was satisfying as well - ammunition is a limited resource, especially on higher difficulty levels, and there was a real feeling of having to make my shots count. The weapons in the game mostly have a real "cobbled together from random parts" aesthetic, and they looked like the sort of things that people would actually make using whatever they could scavenge after the apocalypse.
My major criticism of the game is its use of a silent protagonist - having people talking to your character but you not replying comes across as either strange or very rude, especially given your character audibly narrates the journey in their diary.
The enemy AI wasn't the sharpest bayonet in the rack either, often failing to flank or not noticing when I walked up right next to them with a loaded shotgun levelled.
The story was engaging (if a bit predictable) and some of the voice acting wasn't superb, but ultimately, this is as close to Half Life 3 as we're likely to get. There is a lot to like in this game, especially if (like me) you enjoy a solid single-player experience with interesting characters and a well-designed world to explore.
Metro Exodus is a great and engaging journey and one I highly recommend you undertake sooner rather than later.