I love a good shooter, especially one with a well written and deep narrative. I tend to pull towards single player shooters. Whilst I played a lot of Battlefield 1 for its fantastic multiplayer I put it down for Wolfenstein 2 and its wonderful nazi smashing story and top-notch performances; trading experience points for exposition. A lot of shooters concentrate on the technical aspects like the feel of a gun firing or map structure. Others on creating a competent multiplayer experience, usually with any single player mode and well written, believable narrative as a secondary thought. A handful of games, however, are the exception. COD 4: Modern Warfare and COD: Black Ops had both great single and multiplayer experiences. Doom (2016) was a joy to play with its fast paced carnage, well designed levels and fantastic audio. The modern Wolfenstein games are brilliant in conveying tone and urgency through its story. One game though, from the last few years, has combined a great number of elements to create a pretty unique and well made single player experience. This is Metro: Last Light. The prospect of experiencing a game like Last Light again has me very excited for Metro Exodus.
I’m a bit of a late comer to Metro. I wasn’t familiar with the source novels when I first heard about the franchise and I’ve never played Metro 2033. I only played Last Light when it came to PS Plus on the PS3 in 2014 around 18 months after release. I also haven’t played Redux so it’s been a long while, 4 years, and a lot of other games since I played or really thought about Metro. This has changed since the announcement of Exodus.
Last Light was fantastic in showing what a first person shooter can be. It combined a number of different genres, different map structures and a well written narrative from the franchise author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Whilst not the best from a technical perspective, notably questionable AI, it’s atmosphere and narrative we’re almost unmatched in the genre that year (2012 was a great year for excellent story’s in shooters with both Last Light and Spec Ops: The Line). It’s story was enhanced by a fantastic setting. Using both the dark, dank metro system and above ground irradiated areas of nuclear Moscow provided a variety of spaces to play. It allowed for the action to change-up enough that I didn’t get corridor shooter fatigue. This change of space allowed me to mix up how I approached encounters and gave some very varied, very tense boss battles (I seem to remember being terrified by the giant crab thing at the church). I don’t think I’d felt the sense of horror Last Light delivers since Dead Space.
With all that Last Light offered Exodus looks to be building well on a solid basis. The changes for Exodus come in a few big ways. The Metro is gone, replaced with a train that takes you through Russia and away from Moscow. This has allowed for map structures to change and to improve on the world systems. Areas are now larger with additional side missions. I’m a little wary of this change. The mix between metro and above ground sections was done well in Last Light and I don’t want that pacing or feeling of intense close quarters to be lost in these bigger areas. I’m more than willing to see how they can retain this feeling in these larger spaces or if there are any more familiar underground style maps or areas to play through. The world also now has dynamic weather and a day and night cycle. This allows for a variety of play styles in these larger areas. I can see myself wanting to approach enemies under cover of darkness whilst a storm hides any noise I make. Hopefully both the stealth and action game play are fluid enough to switch between.
In a recent preview by Game Informer developer 4A Games have said they’ll be side activities to undertake. These can be found from notes or overhearing conversations. I’m a sucker for exposition and environmental storytelling so this addition is a huge pull for me. Red Dead Redemption 2 has done this very well and I think a lot of open world games will adopt this kind of side quest structure. With Exodus’ large areas this would fit very well to give some variety and purpose to an open level.
With the move out of the metro system the previous games economy has changed too. In Last Light ammunition was used as currency and hard decisions between shooting enemies with good ammo and wanting some reserved for purchases had to be made. Exodus then has adopted scavenging. Kill an enemy and take their things including weapons and upgrades. I don’t think we’ll be worrying about conserving ammo when fighting and should have enough styles of weapons to use if ammo runs dry. This alleviates a little of the stress of the last game, creating a little more freedom rather than being beholden to this system. Also it makes sense as we’re not dealing with the dwellers of the metro system anymore for trade.
Gun maintenance has also been included, adding to an already stressful set of survival elements. As well as collecting air filters and fixing a damaged gas mask weapons will now need to be maintained at a work bench or risk poor performance. Last Light always made you keep an eye on Artyom’s watch which showed how long your air filters would last. Weapon condition probably won’t have a metre on a watch but it is something else to constantly consider. Getting into a fight with low air filters and a weapon in poor condition should add to the tension already set by the atmosphere.
Metro: Last Light was very close to a perfect game for my tastes. These additions to Exodus look to take the franchise in a slightly different place but it’s looking like a very exciting, horrifically tense place elevating the standard of first person shooters as Last Light did. It’s definitely a place I want to visit.