4A Games have always been at the forefront of pushing visual boundaries in video games. Their innovations with the exemplary 4A engine to deliver graphically intensive games like Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light along with their respective Redux versions have been nothing short of stunning. So, it comes off as no surprise to us that with more powerful hardware, the developers have been able to push the visual fidelity of Metro Exodus to new heights.
4A Engine has always excelled in rendering high quality volumetric lighting effects along with a custom global illumination solution. These were the highlights of the tech powering Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light, however, with Metro Exodus this solution has been largely overhauled to support a complete physical based rendering pipeline. Unlike its predecessors, Metro Exodus takes place in a mixture of linear and open world levels giving the developer more creativity with how they want to play with the game’s lighting. The linear levels still have that eerie and creepy look and feel to them, thanks to some amazing atmospheric lighting, however, it’s the open world levels that truly shine thanks to some extremely well-done weather effects like sand storm and rain. As expected, the game’s terrain will get dynamically affected and will dry up or get wet accordingly to the on-going weather. One standout weather effect is the blizzard and the snow rendering tech here is stunning. The player’s visibility gets affected and you may never know when a monster just jumps out on you all of a sudden.
The post-apocalyptic world of Metro Exodus has been beautifully crafted and features a ton of variety in terms of its locales and the local flora and fauna. You will come across deetiolated up roads, marshlands and completely abandoned architectures, not to mention the scary fact that these locations are being stalked by monsters. The game uses an abundance of screen reflections, be it on water surfaces or wet mud, Metro Exodus doesn’t shy from its implementation. All of this may seem usual for a post-apocalyptic world, but the art design in Metro Exodus brings these generic features to an all together different level from a visual perspective.
The monsters are easily one of the high points of Metro Exodus. They have been intricately rendered with varying designs and the fur effects give them a distinct and a scary look. 4A games have nailed the animations of these monstrosities but as far as human NPCs are concerned, they have missed the mark by a bit. The lack of a modern animation framework for facial movements along with lip syncing issues may result into disappointing results at times. However, they aren’t that bad and for the most part animations are passable.
As noted earlier the game now adhered to full physical lighting model, however, its immediate impact can be seen on weapons. Physical based lighting has matured a lot throughout this generation but the process may have become a tad complex as developers now need to design custom material shaders for each object type. Weapons, from a technical standpoint, are one of the most complex things to render in the game due to the fact that they each have different material shaders for stuff like metals, wood, plastic and others. Furthermore, the game provides several weapon customization options thereby resulting into a complex physical lighting support for them. For example, getting close to a light source like fire will result int self-casted shows and reflections on the weapons; it’s a minor but a neat effect and you don’t see many games using this kind of rendering tech. The volumetric effects like wind and smoke for the most part look great but certain alpha effects like fire are underwhelming. It’s a minor shortcoming of the 4A engine, but one we wanted to point out regardless.
So, overall, from a purely technical perspective, Metro Exodus marks yet another winner for 4A engine. With its ability to handle complex material shaders, a full adherence to physical based pipeline, rendering impressive sandbox levels with excellent attention to level of detail along with exceptional weather effects, the 4A engine is a force to reckon with and we can’t wait to see where the developers will take it next.
Now, let us take a look at how the game runs and performs on the PS4 Pro, PC and Xbox One X. As usual, let us take a look at the PC requirements. The developers recommend an INTEL CORE I7-4770K or equivalent, 8GB of memory and GEFORCE GTX 1070 or GEFORCE RTX 2060 or AMD RX VEGA 56. On the graphical settings front, we are disappointed to report that the game offers a very barebone selection of parameters that you can tweak. For a game that is pushing visual barriers, we were expecting a whole suite of options. Regardless, the options include the ability to select DX11 and DX12 APIs, Motion Blur, Hairworks and Physics, Tessellation, Texture Filtering and Shading Rate. For those who are unaware, Shading Rate is basically utilizing GPU horse power to increase area detail. Metro Exodus provides multiple values for Shading Rate and as you can guess, it’s a pretty resource intensive option.
Our test build includes a GTX 1080Ti, 16GB of GDDR4 memory and Ryzen 1700 CPU. Unfortunately, performance is a bit of a mixed bag. To begin with, DX12’s implementation seems buggy as there was a drastic drop in performance when we ran the game with every setting maxed out and Shading Rate set to 1. Coupled with frequent crashes made the game almost unplayable in certain scenarios and we had to switch back to DX11 which provided the best performance during our test. But even with DX11 enabled, performance seemed a bit rocky, specially during the linear levels. However, during the open levels, performance was generally fine. This was indeed surprising to us that a game as resource intensive as Metro Exodus ran the game fine in an open world setting but struggled in a linear level. But that is how things stand at the time of this analysis being written and hopefully the PC performance can be improved in a future patch. Regardless, there is no denying that Metro Exodus looks absolutely phenomenal on the PC. Of course, this should not come as a surprise to anyone, but the various graphical intricacies that we have discussed previously are best represented on the PC. So, the PC version is the best-looking version but it clearly isn’t the best playable version. So, which version plays Metro Exodus the best? In order to answer that question, let’s take a look at the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X versions.
Metro Exodus has been marketed as leading third-party title for the Xbox One X. It was one of those games that promised to push the Xbox One X before the console had even launched. After playing through the first couple of hours on the Xbox One X, we have a feeling that Microsoft’s machine was the lead platform for Metro Exodus. And although it’s not as good looking as the PC version, several parameters of it do get very close to it. But what makes us fans of the Xbox One X version of Metro Exodus is its stable performance compared to the PS4 Pro and PC, and of course the higher resolution. The latter, specially, gives it legs over the PS4 Pro version and is yet another example of the Xbox One X running graphically intensive games at a much higher resolution than its Sony counterpart.
The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X versions both target 30 frames per second and they mostly stick to that performance. However, as noted earlier the Xbox One X sticks to that target more frequently. For example, in areas where there are a ton of volumetric effects, there is a noticeable frame rate drop on the PS4 Pro. On the Xbox One X, however, this doesn’t happen. From a core assets perspective, both versions are largely similar. Texture quality is higher on the Xbox One X compared to the PS4 Pro but that may be down to the console’s higher rendering resolution.
Between the PC and the console versions, the former leads in several areas like better shadow quality, ambient occlusion and shader quality. However, 4A games have done an admirable job on both console versions and they stack up quite nicely against the PC build, specially the Xbox One X build.
In conclusion, the PC is the best-looking version of Metro Exodus provided you have the hardware. However, in terms of performance, Xbox One X takes the lead over both the PC and PS4 Pro. So, overall, the Xbox One X version has a lot of good things going for it, so we recommend the Xbox One X platform for Metro Exodus for its stable frame rate, higher resolution than the PS4 Pro and an assets package that is closer to PC.