The atmosphere doesn’t mean scary. While there are games out there that are scary and can suck you in, any game can really. It just takes excellent world-building and something that’s not realistic but engaging, a world that you would want to be in.
Resident Evil 2
RE2 managed to nab the scary atmosphere this year, but also the heart-wrenching fear of being stuck in Raccoon City. The world in RE2 may be linear, but it’s downright frightening and one of the best horror games of the last decade. The most realistic zombies ever created sure helps a lot too.
The best graphics in a technical showcase are less about the art and more about pushing shaders and GPUs. Usually the best technical game is a masterclass example of a brand new graphics technology or just a game that can define a generation even.
Metro Exodus is a gorgeous game, but what really pushes it above the others is the use of Nvidia’s new ray tracing technology to bring lighting to life. It’s one of the few games that does it well and is only available on the latest RTX GPUs from Nvidia.
The Metro series is one of my favorite and in my top 10 first-person shooter list. It has a lot of flaws, but there’s a lot of heart and love that went into this series and it showed with each game and even the Redux games. Exodus has been in development for about 5 years now and I expected a lot from this game. What we got was a lot, but not how I really imagined it would be.
Exodus takes off right after the end of Last Light with Artyom and Miller and the gang setting out from the Metros of Moscow to find a clean place to live free of radiation and monsters. The main hub in this game is a train called the Aurora and instead of being confined to a small linear metro tunnel there are a few large maps you can freely explore and the game is much longer than previous ones. The story itself is actually quite good and the atmosphere plays a big role here just like previous entries. The funny thing is that the game almost feels like three parts put into one. The first two large maps are fully explorable with hidden items and side objectives while the third map seems large and open but there are no side objectives or things to really find. The last map ends up being a linear tunnel that harkens back to the first two games with mostly atmospheric storytelling during the last 30 minutes. It’s got great pacing and this constant change of gameplay kept me interested.
One of the major changes is the crafting system which allows you to collect chemicals and scrap metal to craft anything from medicine syringes to filters to certain ammo types. When you finally get a workbench you can use this to clean your weapons and mask and craft ammo as well as equip new pack items such as a compass, motion detector, and even a better charger. Metro is all about survival so the only thing you can do with your pack on the field is craft meds, filters, smaller ammo, and throwables as well as change out your weapon parts. The crafting system is decent enough and I stuck with one loadout through most of the game as once you get better parts there’s no reason to equip weaker ones. There is a large variety of weapon types and the more you use them the more they jam up and misfire just like previous games.
The shooting is spot on here and the weapons feel heavy and cumbersome like any junked together gun would. From pistols to Gatling guns the weapons are rather unique for the series and I’m glad the weapon system got a lot of attention here. My first issue occurred with the stealth though. Just like previous games, nothing was really fixed. Some times I could sneak through an entire compound and kill everyone and other times the enemies were placed in such odd positions that I got spotted no matter what. I also don’t like how silent weapons and stealth kills can be heard if you’re too close to another enemy. There were several dozen checkpoint restarts made throughout the game to get it right, but thankfully you can quicksave anywhere. Most of the time sneaking missions turned into shootouts and dying is quite easy here. A few bullets and you’re pretty much dead so keep med syringes handy at all times.
I do want to talk about the atmosphere a little. The game is incredibly foreboding from the empty tundra to dry desert and lush forests the game feels empty, alone, and you’re always feeling afraid. Of course, the tensest moments are towards the end when you’re in the tunnels and when you finally get back on the train or even a safe house the respite is so relieving. I never played a game where a single light, rest spot, or another person would feel so nice. You’re constantly on the edge of your seat whether it’s hiding from monsters, tense shootouts, or sneaking around a bandit camp.
The visuals in Exodus are absolutely fantastic. Some of the best graphics this generation has seen. While I don’t recommend playing this on the original Xbox One or PS4 hardware it looks amazing on my Xbox One X and I gave it a whirl on PC with Ray-Tracing enabled and it looks out of this world good. Of course, you need a 2080 or higher to get good frames with RTX on and sadly the DLSS is completely broken in this game. The entire game looks blurry and slightly out of focus which is sad because I got a good 15-20 FPS just from DLSS alone. On Xbox One X the game looks amazing and there are only slight differences between it and PC outside of RTX and some draw distance settings. Of course, the game never reached 60FPS on One X or PS4 Pro (which the game runs slightly rougher on) but it all plays way. There were some glitches with the game crashing my Xbox and scripted events not activating causing me to restart at a checkpoint as well.
Overall, Exodus is a fantastic game that is somehow still rough around the edges, but still evolves the series with large open maps, varied environments, and mixed up gameplay ideas as well as the best story in the series with good characters, but sadly they aren’t exactly memorable, but good enough to push you through it.