Metro Exodus PC Technical Review: Like A Speeding Train

Metro Exodus PC Technical Review: Like A Speeding Train

The launch of Metro Exodus is both highly anticipated and marked by controversy. Although some may take issue with the game’s one-year exclusivity period on the Epic Games Store, that doesn’t change the fact the game offers a breathtaking open world adventure that takes players out into the post-apocalyptic world.

While much of the game’s enjoyment comes from its unique characters, dangerous monsters, and gorgeous environments, tech enthusiasts may want to play the game to give their new Nvidia RTX cards for a spin. Real-time ray tracing is used to enhance the shadows and the overall appearance of the game for some subtle yet impressive details.

But before we go further, let’s take a close look at Metro Exodus’ system requirements.

Minimum

  • OS: Windows 7 | 8 | 10
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-4440 or equivalent
  • RAM: 8GB
  • GPU: GeForce GTX 670 | GeForce GTX 1050 | AMD Radeon HD 7870
  • VRAM: 2 GB
  • Direct X: 11 |12

Recommended

  • OS: Windows 10
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K or equivalent
  • RAM: 8GB
  • GPU: GeForce GTX 1070 | GeForce RTX 2060 | AMD RX Vega 56
  • VRAM: 8 GB
  • Direct X: 12

Extreme

  • OS: Windows 10
  • CPU: Intel Core i9-9900K or equivalent
  • RAM: 16GB
  • GPU: GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
  • VRAM: 11 GB
  • Direct X: 12

Author’s Specs

  • OS: Windows 10 (64-bit)
  • CPU: Intel Core i7 980 @ 3.33 GHz
  • RAM: 24 GB RAM
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070, 8 GB

Video/Graphics Settings

While Metro Exodus is technically playable at its lowest settings, it’s not necessarily recommended. With low-resolution textures and little anti-aliasing, the graphics come out looking blurry at 1920 x 1080 resolution. Tuning the benchmark down produced some uneven results. In some areas with a lot of candle lighting, the difference compared to ultra settings with no RTX was less than 10 fps. Meanwhile, open some outdoor areas got a 30 fps boost. Generally, the benchmark reported 50-85 fps on low settings depending on the environment, which was slightly better than Ultra settings with RTX off.

However, toning things down had some unexpected benefits. Specifically, the shadows are considerably lighter than at higher settings, making it easier to see in darkened areas, which would help considerably during stealth sequences.

Metro Exodus Fire Low Graphics Setting
Metro Exodus fire effects on lowest settings, RTX off.
Metro Exodus Ultra Graphics Rtx On
Metro Exodus fire effects, ultra settings with RTX on.

I played the entire game with RTX on High with graphics at “Ultra” setting at 2560 x 1440 resolution. Ultra differs from Extreme in that it handles half as many particles, and I was able to consistently get around 50-60 fps depending on the environment. I got about 10-20 fps more out of the game when I switched to 1920 x 1080, but there aren’t a lot of fast action moments in Exodus, so I decided to stick with the higher resolution. My monitor doesn’t support 4K or HDR capabilities, which would have likely slowed the game down considerably.

Metro Exodus Nighttime Low Setting
Metro Exodus night scene, lowest settings, RTX off
Metro Exodus Nighttime Ultra Graphics Rtx Off
Metro Exodus night scene, ultra settings with RTX off
Metro Exodus Nighttime Ultra Graphcis Rtx On
Metro Exodus night scene, ultra settings with RTX on

Is RTX Worth It?

But the biggest point is how impactful the ray tracing features are, and I can say that that the effects are subtle yet impressive. The world looks more natural than without RTX, and certain details pop out at you, especially on the player’s gun. The metal looks more worn, making it look like the well-used weapon it’s supposed to be. At the same time, the lighting on the player’s arm looks softer and less intentional.

However, RTX does have a few issues, most prominently in how it makes shadows look extra dark. The night sometimes looks like it’s swallowing up the torches and candles. Oftentimes, I had to use the flashlight or night vision goggles just to get around dimly lit areas. I got used to this, but a lot of little details can be missed if they’re hidden behind dark shadows. Fortunately, almost all the enemy human characters wear headlamps that are always turned on, making them easy to spot.

Metro Exodus Screenshot Rtx Off
Metro Exodus, ultra graphics with RTX off.
Metro Exodus Screenshot Rtx Ultra, Dlss Off
Metro Exodus, ultra graphics with RTX on.

Another prominent flaw with RTX is the way it handles whites. The color pops out a little too much, causing things like snow to lose their sense of texture. There were also one or two instances when it looked like white graffiti was floating off the wall and at least one time it looked like Anna’s hair seemed to turn completely white in the dim light. However, these issues were relatively rare and did not impede my enjoyment of the game.

I should also mention that the sound design, enhanced with Dolby Atmos, plays a huge role in the stealth action game. The sound is absolutely crucial to the game. I constantly kept an ear out for footsteps and chatter on my headset. But with that, I wouldn’t say that it’s critical to have Atmos installed, but it does make sounds like the train engine and environments sound deep and richer.

Ditch DLSS

One significant problem I encountered is with the DLSS feature, which uses machine learning to change graphical aspects in real-time to optimize frame rates. It apparently does this by blurring the graphics and subtracting details, particularly for far-off objects and buildings. As a result, the environment can look like it’s stuck in a haze, and all your careful system settings like tuning the anti-aliasing will be wasted for a modest frame rate boost.

DLSS provided me with an extra 5-10 fps, but I didn’t think the sacrifice in beauty was worth it. As I stated earlier, the game doesn’t have a ton of fast action. The majority involves stealthily creeping through darkened areas to avoid detection.

So, I found that the best way to enjoy Metro Exodus with RTX is to leave DLSS turned off, even if you take a small hit with the framerates. As you can see in the comparison image below, leaving DLSS turned off has a significant impact on graphical details.

Getting Control Of Yourself

Metro Exodus uses a relatively straightforward keyboard layout for its controls, which should be acceptable for most players. However, it’s worth scrolling through the key bindings ahead of time to familiarize yourself with the controls, since I didn’t discover that I could toggle crouch using the “Z” key until two levels in, after I was stuck holding down the CTRL key the whole time I was sneaking around.

I also thought the mouse sensitivity was set extremely low by default, which made it feel like I was moving through molasses half the time. Also, I had to rebind the grenade throwing action to “G” (it’s “C” by default) after the fifth time I tried to melee using “V,” but my fat fingers threw a Molotov instead.

No HUD Here

True to the spirit of the series, Metro Exodus features a completely in-game information system with no heads-up display in sight. There are no health bars or ammo counters because everything is integrated into the game’s graphics. Apart from occasional reminders to take a health pack, change your gas mask filters, or use the photo mode to take a screenshot, you have to completely rely on the objects on screen for information.

Your only map is the one you pull out to check where you are. There’s no way to track or mark targets except with your eyes and a keen memory. If your gas mask and weapons are deteriorating, then you can visibly see this on the screen. Remember to count your shots and reload frequently because there’s no on-screen counter apart from the number of shots you can see left in the magazine.

For the most part, this system works perfectly and fully immerses players in the game. However, things can get a little dicey with your watch as it counts down the final seconds of your gas mask filter time. The watch is often obscured under the gun, which can make the final two digits hard to read. Pressing “Y” will stick your arm up, but running around with your arms sticking out all the time is silly. Also, you could lose sight of the watch altogether if you get pulled into an animation sequence or enter a highly irradiated area that shuts down your electronics.

Metro Exodus Screenshot On The Train

Epic Games Store Or Wait?

There has been a considerable amount of controversy involving the game’s sudden move to become an Epic Games Store exclusive after being available for pre-order on Steam for months. The game is playable on Steam for those who pre-ordered the game there before the announcement, while everyone else will either need to use the Epic Store to play or wait a year for the exclusivity period to expire.

I don’t think I experienced any launcher related difficulties while playing Metro Exodus. Although I did encounter some bugs, they seemed to be from the game itself. They include rare instances when enemies could detect me from behind walls and some sound issues like a screeching static noise in some places. I also experienced in issue during the late game when the audio would completely stop when I paused the game, which was fixed by either quitting to the main menu or restarting the game.

But even though the Epic Game launcher seemed to have little impact on the game experience itself, the platform currently has some quality of life issues. For instance, there’s no cloud saving feature, so there’s no way automatically backup and transfer your save files. Additionally, there doesn’t appear to be a way to set the launcher in offline mode, which indirectly turns Exodus into an online-only single player game.

Those are the main issues, but the fact of the matter is that the Epic Games launcher is missing a slew of features in comparison to older platforms such as Steam and Origin. These include achievements, user reviews, chat forums, and more. Hopefully, Epic will address these features soon to prove that its store can offer more than forced exclusives.

Metro Exodus Screenshot Scenery

Full Speed Ahead

Whether you’re using RTX or not, Metro Exodus delivers magnificent environments, detailed characters, and frightening creatures. You may have to tweak the settings a little to balance out between performance and quality, but the game’s overall pace and lack of a heads-up display made me prioritize beauty over frame rates. What’s the sense in braving the post-apocalyptic surface world if you can’t properly take in the sights?

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