ConclusionMetro Exodus brings back the post-apocalyptic shooter in full force. 4A Games has added some RPG elements to their latest iteration of the game with, for example, weapon mechanics now being more complex with upgrades, and your other gear sees improvements throughout the game, too. For example, while you just have a lousy flashlight that keeps running out of batteries at first, you'll later find proper night-vision gear to help you stay safe in the dark.
Gameplay is entertaining, as is the story, which does seem a little bit linear at first, but gives you some minor branching options later on. The characters are well-designed and feel life-like even though the whole experience is definitely not a full-scale RPG like The Witcher; rather, it reminds me a bit of Far Cry—in a totally different setting, of course.
Level design is breathtaking and ultra-richly detailed. This is combined with incredible lighting effects that simply look stunning (even without RTX). Textures are high-resolution and stay sharp pretty much all the time. Only some surfaces lose fidelity when you walk right up close and situate yourself in front of them. 4A Games has ticked pretty much every technology checkbox, including support for DirectX 12, HairWorks, PhysX, Tessellation, RTX Raytracing, and DLSS. I do wonder why the settings options haven't been given more love, though. The most annoying limitation is that motion blur can't be disabled completely—there is just a "low" option. Right behind is field-of-view, which does seem a bit narrow for PC gamers. It would be better to simply include a FOV slider through which people can select their preference. Also lacking are the options for monitor settings: you can't select whether you want windowed, maximized window, or full screen since the game will always run in fullscreen mode.
In terms of performance, we see NVIDIA graphics with a good performance advantage over cards from AMD. For example, the RX 580 usually trades blows with the GTX 1060 6 GB—here, it is around 10% slower than even the GTX 1060 3 GB. The difference shrinks as the resolution goes up, but nearly everybody will use the RX 580 at 1080p, not 1440p. Another data point worth mentioning is the Radeon 7, AMD's just-released flagship. While we usually see it a bit behind the GTX 1080 Ti/RTX 2080, the difference to RTX 2080 is around 15%, and it barely keeps up with RTX 2070. The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is the clear king of Metro Exodus, easily surpassing the 4K 60 mark with 71.1 FPS, which means you have some headroom left to enable RTX raytracing. We used actual gameplay for our performance testing because the in-game benchmark doesn't provide realistic results.
Being an NVIDIA sponsored title, Metro Exodus is a first-class citizen when it comes to NVIDIA's new RTX technologies. It is actually the first game to support RTX raytracing and DLSS at launch. Unlike Battlefield V, the first RTX game, which uses raytracing for reflections only, Metro uses raytracing to generate more realistic lighting, which makes a lot of sense given the dark, messy environment gameplay happens in. Looking at our RTX on-vs-off screenshot comparisons, we can see that lighting is much more accurate, and you suddenly realize how wrong these effects can look when implemented in the traditional way. Nevertheless, even with RTX off, lighting in Metro Exodus looks phenomenal, which makes it hard for RTX to improve the experience even further. While many of our comparison screenshots might look darker with RTX enabled, this actually helps with gameplay because you end up feeling more immersed, increasing emotional reactions to scenes, especially when moving through these environments and not just looking at static screenshots.
RTX Raytracing in Metro Exodus comes with quite a performance hit. Depending on resolution and performance, the cards see between 30% and 40% reduced performance. This seems a little bit high, but something similar happened with the first iteration of RTX in Battlefield, after which NVIDIA quickly stepped in and helped address issues and optimize the system, which resulted in a much smaller performance hit of around 30%. Still, even at that performance cost, I think raytracing can be worth it because you'll see its effects all the time in Metro, and not just on shiny surfaces like in Battlefield. The single-player scenario is also better-suited to accept lower frame rates because you don't have other players battling it out with you.
NVIDIA DLSS is a new form of anti-aliasing which renders the game at reduced resolution, upscales it, and then fills in the details using a pre-trained AI network. In our testing, performance of DLSS is between 17% and 30% better than with DLSS disabled (22% on average). This provides extra performance you can use to increase rendering settings, enable RTX raytracing, or simply enjoy the game at higher FPS rates. What is worth mentioning, though, is that the game does look more blurry when DLSS is enabled—4K DLSS still looks much better than simply running at 1440p. We also spotted some rendering errors in certain locations when DLSS is enabled, but 4A Games and NVIDIA will probably address those until launch later this week. NVIDIA also emphasizes that their DLSS work is constantly ongoing and that they can deliver DLSS algorithm updates to user systems at any time even without requiring a driver update. During testing, we also found that the game's user interface is part of the lower-resolution DLSS image, which leads to less sharp texts and is especially noticeable when navigating through the menus, though it is not a game-breaker, I guess.
However, we are a bit puzzled by NVIDIA limiting the use of DLSS in some ways that make little sense. For example, you can enable DLSS at 1080p only when raytracing is enabled and you have an RTX 2060 or RTX 2070. RTX 2080 or 2080 Ti owners don't have access to that setting (at 1080p). When you increase the resolution, those limitations are lifted gradually: at 1440p, all cards can run DLSS as long as RTX is enabled, and at 4K, all cards except for the RTX 2060 can run DLSS, no matter whether raytracing is enabled or not. While the limitation at 4K could be explained by varying hardware capabilities, we don't understand why you shouldn't be able to run DLSS at 1080p with an RTX 2080 to reach higher FPS rates on your 144 Hz monitor, for example.
Overall, Metro looks like it might be one of the biggest successes this year. Gameplay is excellent, graphics are topnotch, and all the latest technologies are supported. Personally, I'll play it with RTX enabled on my 1600p monitor; DLSS will be disabled because I prefer crispness over the extra FPS.