Metro Exodus was a bold expansion of 4A Games’ first person shooter franchise, and a successful one, too. Because though it introduced a wide, non-linear, semi-open world structure to the series, it also managed to retain its atmosphere, its strengths in storytelling, and peppered in more than enough linear, claustrophobic sections to keep series fans intact. After turning back the clock and offering an entirely linear experience with Metro Exodus’ first expansion, The Two Colonels, with its second one, Sam’s Story, 4A Games deliver more of what made Exodus so good- and deliver it in spades.
Sam’s Story, as the name indicates, puts players in the shoes of Sam after he departs from Artyom’s group in the base game. As an American soldier who was stationed at the American embassy in Moscow when the bombs fell, Sam has been a long way away from home for years, and this expansion follows him as he attempts to make his way back to the United States, where he’s hoping his father will still be alive.
4A Games have never failed to tell an engaging story over the years, and they do so once again with Sam’s Story. The character of Sam is a lot more upbeat and feisty than the perpetually silent Artyom, so following him as the leading man of the story proves to be a much more engaging experience. Some of his lightheartedness occasionally feels like the situations call for it, while a few story developments feel somewhat rushed, but by and large, this DLC tells a solid narrative.
"After turning back the clock and offering an entirely linear experience with Metro Exodus’ first expansion, The Two Colonels, with its second one, Sam’s Story, 4A Games deliver more of what made Exodus so good- and deliver it in spades. "
To get to the United States, Sam needs to cross an entire ocean, of course, and it is as he’s looking for a way to sail across the Pacific when he arrives in the port city of Vladivostok- which is perhaps the DLC’s biggest strength. Narratively, the city has a lot to offer, as the story does an excellent job of immersing you in the brewing conflict that’s taken hold of the area.
Beyond narrative strengths, Vladivostok impresses in other areas as well. For starters, it is perhaps the single most visually impressive location I’ve ever seen in a Metro game. The city is half sunken and fallen into ruins, with water flooding the streets and seeping into the buildings, while an overgrowth of plants on structures and roads and layers of moss in the water give sections of the city a bright, green aesthetic.
Design-wise, too, Vladivostok feels fresh and exciting. Traversing through the city in a boat and finding new areas to explore or points of interest to check out is constantly engaging. The unique properties of the environment also pave the way for some excellent encounters, like wading through waist-deep waters in the corridors of a dark and half-sunken building, while underwater enemies camouflage themselves in the moss and suddenly jump out at you. The trademark tight, claustrophobic corridors of Metro feel even more oppressive in Sam’s Story.
"Vladivostok is perhaps the single most visually impressive location I’ve ever seen in a Metro game."
There’s also plenty of interesting things to do scattered around the map, which can offer anything from the aforementioned, more tense sections, to sections that are heavily stealth-centric, and more. Like the base game, all these activities are contextualized within the world and the main story very well, while the rewards they yield are also usually rather useful- so going after the optional objectives never feels like a waste of time.
Meanwhile, exploration has another added layer in Sam’s Story. Vladivostok is littered with mines and explosives that’ll blow you to bits upon impact, and so you have to keep an eye on the Universal Detector, a new gadget on Sam’s arm that warns you about everything from mines to other resources in your proximity. The Universal Detector gives exploration a more focused approach, and there were far too many times when I was happily distracted by its beeping and had to take a look around. Sure enough, there’s no shortage of content in Sam’s Story. At about 8 hours long, it’s quite a meaty package.
The expansion does stumble in some ways though, and chances are, if you’ve played Metro before, these issues won’t be unfamiliar to you. For starters, as engaging as the story and the world-building are, things such as the dialogue and the voice acting tend to be a bit spotty. The voice acting especially is, by and large, mediocre, and does dull the impact of some important scenes.
"The expansion does stumble in some ways though, and chances are, if you’ve played Metro before, these issues won’t be unfamiliar to you."
There’s also a few of technical issues that I ran into during my playthrough. There was quite a bit of texture pop-in, with some textures taking a bit too long to load in, and though the frame rate mostly remained solid, there were some occasional dips here and there. The facial animation and lip syncing are also quite rough, and facial models themselves don’t hold up too well under scrutiny. Finally, there were also several times when the audio would glitch out and dialogs would be skipped over before they were finished.
These few issues aside, Sam’s Story is a perfect encapsulation of everything that was good about Metro Exodus itself. It brings an excellent and large new area that is full of content and always a joy to explore; it delivers a balanced mix of stealth-based action, the series’ iconic claustrophobic horror, and more open-ended gameplay; and to top it all off, it tells an engaging story. It’s a great way to bid farewell to Metro Exodus, with 4A Games now having delivered all of its post-launch content, and an excellent final reminder of just what made the base game so good in the first place.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Vladivostok is an excellent new setting, both visually and design-wise; Lots of content; A great mix of linear and open-ended missions; Engaging story.
Technical issues; Mediocre voice acting.