Thankfully, most of the problems are technical in nature.
After Metro Exodus’ visually stunning reveal at last year’s E3, I came into this year’s event with the long-running post-apocalyptic survival shooter high on my list of games I was eager to get my hands on. Unfortunately, I walked out of my demo a lot less excited than I was going in, as technical woes plagued my hands-on session.
Metro Exodus isn’t an open-world game, the developers told me, but it does have open-space missions where you’re free to roam. And so my play session began on a bridge in one of these pseudo-open-world areas. We were on a train, which turned out to be our roving home base called the Aurora. We encountered a roadblock and slammed on the brakes. Playing as Artyom, I went to the engine room, where our group of allied survivors convened to figure out what to do next.
ABOVE: The latest trailer for Metro Exodus, released for E3 2018.
The answer was to grab my backpack and venture out into the wild, looking for ways forward. First I climbed a power tower that had been converted into a makeshift apartment building of sorts for a few wasteland residents. I tried to stealth my way up, using melee and silenced attacks to clear the place out. That…didn’t go well after I made a mistake, and it turned into a bloody shootout.
Part of the reason it came to a shootout was my own stealth failure, to be sure, but this particular build of the game also bore some of the blame. The developers had me play on an Xbox One X development kit running in 4K, but it was immediately clear that no gamepad tuning work had been done yet, making movement feel very stiff. This isn’t a big concern for me in the long term given the early-2019 release date, but even with the X- and Y-axis sensitivity turned way up, making finer diagonal motions with either thumbstick was cumbersome during my demo. Shooting didn’t feel super great as a result, making it tough to evaluate how the gunplay will feel in the final game. Compounding this, loading times were painfully long – it took around a minute or so to get back into the action after dying.
ABOVE: Metro Exodus’ reveal trailer from E3 2017.
But let’s get back to the mission at hand. The next part of my demo was a boathouse, rife with hostiles on both land and sea. I rowed there across a mini-lake/swamp of sorts, and was nearly capsized by a giant mutated crawfish that tried and failed to kill me. It was a surprising and fun moment that added a bit more to Exodus’ permanent sense that you’re in imminent danger. I again tried the stealthy route when I got inside, and after a number of failures – failures compounded by a severe lack of ammunition that led to more deaths and thus more long reloading times – I finally got it right. I cleared out the boathouse, freed a woman named Katya and her young daughter, scurried around the docks on the outside of the building and made my way to the next rowboat.
This time, a much, MUCH larger mutant crawfish hopped in the boat and attacked as I rowed away. I survived, was dragged ashore by one of the friendly fellow survivors from the Aurora, and limped back to our train HQ. My next goal was to help a mechanic at the port. This required a long trip up a tall crane, at the top of which a wave of fast-scurrying mutants attacked. Once they were defeated, I made it to the mechanic’s home in the neck of the crane, got what I needed, and slept until the next morning in the extra available bed. He invited me to take all the ammo I needed when I woke up (thank goodness, as ammo seems to always be in short supply!), and it was on to the next task.
ABOVE: The second trailer for Metro Exodus, from the 2017 Game Awards in December.
That task, it turns out, was to find my wife, Anna, who’s gone missing. I found her only after hopping down into a hole, where the air quality was terrible enough that it was finally time to put on my gasmask, a signature gameplay item of the Metro series. I made my way through the irradiated sewers, trying to find a way out. I killed mutants and used my lighter to burn some icky spider webs along the way, and I managed to find fresh air (and friendly reinforcements) just as my last air filter was expiring in my gasmask. And then my hour with Metro was up.
As it’s probably clear, I wasn’t thrilled with this particular slice of Metro Exodus at this particular moment in its development cycle. That context is important to note. Fortunately, a lot of the poor first impression made by Metro Exodus – at least on the technical side – hopefully has time to be resolved before it releases early next year. The loading times, framerate, and controls will likely turn out just fine. Odds are the game as a whole will, too, given the series’ impressive track record.
Ryan McCaffrey is IGN’s Executive Editor of Previews and Xbox Guru-in-Chief. Follow him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan, catch him on Unlocked, and drop-ship him Taylor Ham sandwiches from New Jersey whenever possible.