The metro games bring to life the workings of Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro novels. The novels focus on and dove into the reality that is a post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear war. At its surface, the Metro series explores what it means to live where life above ground is almost entirely impossible, while also fighting to survive in the underground metro systems of Russia.
Many might compare the Metro series to the likes of other post-apocalyptic game series like Fallout. However, there are some rather large differences between the two franchises. The largest being the open-world gameplay of the Fallout series that is almost entirely missing in the metro titles, which work more like horror/FPS games at their core.
1. Metro 2033
- Released: March 16, 2010
- Systems: PC, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, Linux, Mac
- Reception: Favorable
The Metro, the home for thousands who lost everything when the war concluded, is now the only thing survivors know. The sole way of enjoying the above world now is through images. The endless winter that now blankets the Earth has left its people cowering underneath it all, struggling to find a means of survival. Food has become a blend of mushrooms and meat from the now monstrous rats.
Artyom is a survivor of the war but is too young to remember things how they were before. He is persuaded to leave his new home for the security of his district against a new unheard of enemy. Follow Artyom through the tunnels of the Metro in search of aid from Polis, the new capital, as the conflicting ideologies of the Communists and the Nazis compete for the remaining land.
The world of Metro is genuinely desolate, and you’re reminded of that fact constantly throughout the game, from the cramped tunnels to the almost worshiped photos of grass, there is little to no hope found in Metro 2033. Thankfully however, while the world doesn’t bring much joy, the gameplay and graphical integrity surely does.
The gameplay is rather standard for an FPS but there is something special about how Metro handles it. Like many other post-apocalyptic games, Metro has a heavy emphasis on the dread and status of the world that is shown through the lack of ammo, a reliance on gas mask canisters, and deciding whether or not to use your flashlight.
Though there is much to be frightened by, many critics found that Metro 2033 never truly dove into the horror of the situation, making it feel slightly shallow in that one aspect. Other complaints focused on their assumed similarities to Fallout 3, which saw the release of its final DLC just five months before the release of Metro 2033.
2. Metro: Last Light
- Released: May 14, 2013
- Systems: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, Mac, Linux
- Reception: Generally Positive
One year after the events of 2033, Last Light continues through the life of Artyom as he recovers from what occurred at the end of Metro: 2033. Now part of the neutral peacekeeping force, the Rangers, Artyom is met by a mystic named Khan who requests a meeting with a Dark One, an alien force with telepathic abilities. Artyom travels once more through the conflict-ridden tunnels of Moscow, facing foes both human and beastial before uncovering shocking information that changes the course of humanity.
While a majority of Metro: Last Light takes place within the tunnels beneath what remains of Moscow, this new addition to the series adds time above ground that requires better resource management of oxygen, as well as ammunition against the mutated creatures on the surface. Ultimately, this allowed for Last Light to be much larger than its predecessor and also aided in Last Light getting much better reception.
Additionally, Metro: Last Light also added new combat mechanics with destructible environments, new weapons, customizable weapons, and the introduction of melee weapons that allow for instant eliminations of targets. However, it wasn’t just combat that received improvements, the environment also gained a further rehaul that enables players to complete missions more along with their playstyle.
Although not following the written sequel “Metro: 2034” written by Dmitry Glukhovsky, the development team did request assistance from Glukhovsky in regards to story and character motivations and received over 3,000 Excel spreadsheet cells of dialogue and narrative notes. This decision came about due to a concern that the novel sequel would be difficult to translate into a game.
The majority of critics found Metro: Last Light to be somehow more desolate than Metro: 2033 and praised it for the atmosphere as well as the sound design of the game. Many found the better-explained economy, overhauled combat, further developed environment, and the story to be delightful given the standard of most FPS games. Where Last Light found some criticism was around the artificial intelligence of NPCs, some of the design choices of the mutated creatures, and a feeling of Artyom being an empty character.
3. Metro: Redux
- Released: August 26, 2014
- Systems: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Linux, Mac
- Reception: Favorable
Venture back through the years 2033 and 2034 with Artyom in this faithful remake of the two games. Uncover aspects newly added, rediscover the intrigue and desolation found within the Metro, and fight your way through the warring factions of the underground railways as you venture farther from home than ever before.
Metro: Redux is a substantial remake of the first two titles, Metro: 2033 and Metro: Last Light. In this remake, the graphical qualities for both titles were improved drastically, as well as receiving a rather robust improvement on combat and the artificial intelligence system for NPCs. Metro: Last Light was mainly updated graphically, while 2033 transferred to the new and improved game engine, making it available for the next generation of consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One.
Previously only included in a special edition of Metro: 2033, Ranger edition, a mode in which players have no HUD or user interface, was included in both games in the Redux collection. There were also two difficulty levels for players to select that determined the level of resource management required throughout the game, and both games found a rehaul of the weapon handling system.
The reviewers of Metro: Redux appreciated the new graphical improvements, found the gameplay to be both enjoyable and at times concerning, as well as applauding the team for bringing Metro: 2033 to the newer generation of consoles so readily without loss of content. Although, some felt that Metro: 2033 was revamped much more than Metro: Last Light and that while the two games are rendered in the same ways, 2033 just overall had more care put into the remake for Metro: Redux. However, due to the nature of remakes, any issues with pacing and character designs were, for the most part, still present within Redux.
4. Metro: Exodus
- Released: February 15, 2019
- Systems: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia
- Reception: Generally Positive
The Metro has become more crowded and confusing than ever for Artyom, who, after the events of Last Light left him disillusioned about the state of life within the Metro, has decided to leave in search of something else. Joined by Anna and Miller, the leader of the Spartan Order, Artyom dangerously travels into the irradiated wasteland of Russia.
Spanning a year, Artyom and those following him, reveal some surprising details surrounding the status of the rest of the world, and in doing so, decide to abandon the Metro for good. However, Artyom meets constant combat and interference from outsiders and ultimately must make sacrifices for the greater good.
New to the series is the inclusion of a weather-based atmospheric system that changes throughout the year, a deceptively larger world than previous titles, an upgrade system that is usable anywhere, and a foray into the open-world genre. Though not considered to be genuinely open-world, Metro: Exodus has created levels that vastly dwarf any level that came before in the series, and this ultimately allows for players to experience the narrative the way they want.
Development for Metro: Exodus resulted in the most significant project 4A had undertaken yet, with a vast open-world, an overarching story that continued from the events of Last Light naturally, with new lighting and rendering mechanics. Once again, the story saw contributions from the original writer of the Metro novels Dmitry Glukhovsky and was ultimately far more open due to the nature of the game, which led to some developmental challenges.
When released, the size and scale of the next title in the Metro series didn’t go unnoticed by critics. Metro: Exodus found itself nominated for over ten awards, including Best Storytelling and Game of the Year, and as the expansion packs for Exodus continue to roll-out, it’s likely to receive more awards yet. Finding the game to be overall far more enjoyable than even the Redux versions of the first two Metro titles, critics hailed Exodus for attempting such a massive departure for the series. The new and improved AI also helped sway previously disinterested reviewers.
The Future of the Metro
Since the release of Exodus, most of the focus for the 4A Games Metro team has been on the DLC packs. With the first, The Two Colonels, released early August of 2019, and the second, Sam’s Story, to be published shortly into the new year, there’s a lot to look forward to with the Metro series.
Surprisingly, there is some talk of a sequel to Exodus that is currently in the works. Writer and novelist Dmitry Glukhovsky has confirmed he is working on story ideas with 4A Games on the sequel already. With the plethora of novels already within the Metro lexicon, we know there’s a substantial canonical story that developers could explore.