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a vision for the future of graphic technology • Eurogamer.net



The PC version of Metro Exodus is a genuine game-changer for graphics technology – a vision of the way in which developers can take real-time rendering to the next level. In some respects, it's this generation's Crysis moment – where the current state of the art is pushed to its limits, and where we see aggressive push to deliver a taste – and perhaps more – of next-generation graphics.

We expected something like this simply because of the pedigree of the developer and its technology. Metro and the 4A engine command respect many PC enthusiasts in terms of the way it pushes technology. Metro 2033 is the PC that has been hacking off the most powerful rigs and is generally a generation apart from its Xbox 360 console release ̵

1; utilizing technology in the artful, non-tacked way above and beyond what consoles can deliver. I would know that it was the second game I played on my vintage 2010 Core i7 930 PC paired with two GTX 470s in SLI-and 2033 certainly made the mess of that PC on ultra.

This tradition is continued with Metro Exodus in a way that I am particularly excited about. I am not a full masochist, but I enjoy enjoying even the best PC hardware punished. Like, Metro Exodus' PC version takes the cake as the thing to beat for me in the future. The 4A engine has seen a huge array of upgrades, and Metro Exodus runs the gamut of graphics effects and polish that I love from first-person games. And Metro does first-person so well, starting with that most essential of elements – inhabiting the view of a character. Metro makes you feel as if you are Artyom in several ways, many of which are down to the graphical techniques in place.

Just take it when you are walking around, how Artyom touches and interacts with the world and his equipment. Taking out his backpack, flipping levers and lights, clambering over things. Is your gas mask dirty? Wipe it off. Need to know the time? Check your watch. So many actions in the Metro Exodus show the direct smooth translation of the camera and active movement by Artyom's body and hands without telegraphing. You're planting in the world more realistically than most FPS titles: Artyom has a real presence, he physically connects with the environments. Firing, reloading or swapping a weapon? Not only are the hand models and animation spot-on, but Artyom's entire character model lives in the environment – as evidenced by unerringly accurate shadow rendering.

In the motion you have something else entirely – in a series first, within the object motion blur rendered to the first person assets giving them an ultra slick snappy feel. It's just so good to watch guns buck and recoil and Artyom tinker knowingly with gear – slapping in a fresh magazine, pumping up and air supply, ripping off mutant legs and throwing them in the water. This game has it all. That all combines with the punchy bark of the weapons and how they animate and impact the environment – I had no idea guns in this game needed care and maintenance for dirt and grime. In the Metro Exodus – traversing through the mud and dust the dirt up your kit gradually over time, with a particular impact on weapon reliability.

Of course, all those nice guns, hand animations and general violence would count for naught if the enemies and environments were not up to it, but aside from a few shortcomings, everything holds up spectacularly well. Being an FPS, the bestiary is incredibly important – thankfully the Metro series has never really had problems here – with uniquely detailed monsters and armor designs being a series of staple at this point.

This time around, though, they show even more detail of detail when close inspection – where almost every monster and animal showcases detailed rippling muscle, sinewy appendages and a fine layer of moving fur exclusively to the PC version through the integration of the HairWorks library. Even character clothing, dogs and the like are fitted out with HairWorks splines – not in a density to cause your PC to explode it indisputably but tense enough to be convincing.

Character clothing, helmets, weapons, anything on characters in general is the area where I think this game makes one of the greatest successes over its predecessors. Armor tended to look great in previous games, but the character faces and clothes ended up missing. Metro Exodus looks like it has taken direct scans with performance capture, with particularly impressive work on Anna and Miller. There are a lot of little details about the characters that really bring them to life, such as Miller's artificial appendages, for example, with a visibly working gyro mechanism.

Metro Exodus's environments are particularly show-stopping though – all the more so when viewed through the lens of Nvidia's RTX hardware. Just in general though, we are looking at fantastic materials and lighting work on PC – with denser vegetation, flat expanses with water with deformation shader for splashes, complete with SSR. Everything looks like it has been through the nuclear hell and back – a particular highlight that I love is how 4A uses a material blend shader to add dusty, grit, snow, mud, or even things like dust to objects.

Like the games before, there is extensive use of tessellation for rounding out bricks and adding extra displacement to many surfaces. One thing negative here, that occasionally were surprisingly low resolution textures on some objects, almost looking like they never loaded correctly. Perhaps the push to more open levels with the greater asset diversity in production, streaming and texture cache requirements required some cuttings, but it sure does look odd at times.

Beyond that nitpick, there is a multitude of flourishes that the series is known for, like the hazy particle effects that are lazily cling to the air – this time punctuated by a new particle lighting and shadowing system much like that found in games like Star Citizen, Doom 2016 or Alien Isolation, where any light can color, shade, or cast shadow to particles, making them feel like part of the environment. And as the series veterans should expect, the game also makes a lot of use of accelerated particle effects exclusive to PC through PhysX, where your shots against concrete sprays of collateral damage in the form of shrapnel, or smoke wafts in and around structures in the environment.

Here's a detailed video of how the four console versions of Metro Exodus compare.

These particle effects integrate seamlessly with what is presumably the now ubiquitous frustum-aligned volumetric fog, which is found almost every scene in the game. , outdoors streaming into the valleys, or in the dank and dirty Moscow Metro. This fog's density is an artist-placed in volumes and mapped globally to match the time of day changes and weather conditions. The game can also bring out more fog for rain and snow, combining with screen-space and particle effects for sandstorms making it look amazing. The only thing really missing from this world sim that we've seen elsewhere is the big fluffy moving volumetric sky as seen in the likes of Horizon and Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Exodus uses the old-school but visually competent rotating sky box sphere. Dynamic time of day is crucial to the game's design and look: every mission you take will look slightly different from someone else due to different weather conditions and time of day, greatly affecting gameplay (where there is literally night and day difference)

All of that brings us to the topic of ray tracing, where I'd recommend watching the video at the top of this page to see how genuinely game-changing this is. Metro Exodus uses the DirectX 12 extension of DXR to use ray tracing to accelerate a form of indirect lighting, that is global illumination. Global illumination is essentially where every point in the game world is capable of reflecting light, becoming a light source. In the Metro case, this means a single diffuse global illumination from the sun, so any area in the overworld where the sun hits or is not hit, is affected by this. Faked lighting and shadowing are gone, everything looks like right but more than that, combined with the artwork in the visuals and the technology, ray tracing provides some simply spectacular 'next level' moments.

Gone are some of those inaccurate, sometimes unsightly compromises made for performance and scalability reasons, as the ray traced GI from the sun offers a holistic solution instead of 'faked' effects like screen-space ambient occlusion. Ray tracing in Metro Exodus is effectively simulating light, instead of trying to emulate how it acts. This extends to almost any and every scene in the game, which has some indirect interaction with the sun or sky – adding anywhere in the shadows and lighting and scene recolouring the scene based on local and global conditions in the blink of any eye, since it is real time . Comparing traditional raster lighting and ray tracing side-by-side shows a generational leap that reminds me of games before and after shadow maps, or like turning on and off the shadows in Doom 3.

 Xbox One X  PlayStation 4 Pro  PlayStation 4  Xbox One
Metro Exodus is largely divided by its operating resolutions. You get a native 4K on Xbox One X, 1440p on PS4 Pro, 1080p on regular PS4, plus a dynamic 1080p setup on base Xbox One – dipped under that in this shot to create a lower-res image overall.
 Xbox One X  PlayStation 4 Pro  PlayStation 4  Xbox One
Most other settings are close, especially texture quality. LOD's small objects are pared back especially on the base Xbox One, with X showing a higher setting overall.
 Xbox One X  PlayStation 4 Pro  PlayStation 4  Xbox One
The reflections of the flames manifests differently by the platform. In this shot, the base Xbox One and PS4 are seemingly missing reflective mapping on the top of the crates to the left, while it's present on enhanced machines.
 Xbox One X  PlayStation 4 Pro  PlayStation 4 [19659035] Xbox One
Xbox One X “/> PlayStation 4 Pro  PlayStation 4 </figcaption></figure>
<figure class= Xbox One X </figcaption></figure>
<figure class= Xbox One X </figcaption></figure>
<figure class= Xbox One X </figcaption></figure>
<figure class= Xbox One X </figcaption></figure>
<figure class= Xbox One  Xbox One  Xbox One  PlayStation 4 Pro  PlayStation 4 </figcaption></figure>
<figure class= Xbox One  Xbox One X  Xbox One X </figcaption></figure>
<figure class=
Edges of the character's gun and bullet shells reveal a lower-res buffer is in use here – a possible cut-back on either volumetrics or post-effects, which means a part of the image renders at a lower resolution than the main output, saving on performance.

What we're dealing with in Metro Exodus i You have a PC version that clearly stands apart from its console counterparts, both in terms of performance and the visual features set, but that does not mean that the boxes of Sony and Microsoft do not deliver a decent experience – although quality varies according to the capabilities of the hardware. The Xbox One X is the native 4K visuals, and broadly speaking, looking like PC version running at high settings with HairWorks, PhysX, DXR and tessellation disabled. The PlayStation 4 Pro is visually similar, but resolution drops down to 1440p, and suffers from lower frame rates in stress scenes. Both versions cover at 30fps and exhibit screen-tear when they do not hit their performance targets – something that the PS4 Pro does more often.

4A has made some interesting technical decisions on base consoles, seemingly locking to 1080p resolution on PlayStation 4, with some high performance issues in some areas, paired with intrusive screen-tearing. For the base Xbox One though, the frame rate is far more consistent. In fact, it's the smoothest performer of all four console versions. 4A deploys several techniques to keep performance closer to the target here, including dynamic resolution scaling along with lower resolution alpha buffers. The approach clearly pays dividends and I wonder what could be gained by offering these features as selectable options on other platforms. Other differences in terms of LODs,

On the PC side of things, performance is all going to come down to your hardware, of course, which brings us to the cost of ray tracing. At Gamescom, the top-end RTX 2080 Ti struggled to hold 1080p60, which is obviously about. However, 4A has massively revamped its RT techniques, meaning that the 2080 Ti can now deliver 1440p at 60fps with some tweaks, and in turn, 4K60 is possible with Nvidia's deep-learning super-sampling (DLSS) tech. Unfortunately, this is the weakest DLSS implementation we've seen – it actually looks blurrier (though more temporally stable) than native 1440p. It's the one area of ​​the RTX feature set we hope to see significantly improved on the PC side.

But Metro Exodus is a truly exciting title and remarkable technological statement. Everything you need from the game is available on consoles and still looks great – especially on the Xbox One X – but if you are looking for 60fps performance, significantly improved visuals and the best implementation we've seen yet in real time ray tracing , the PC version running on an RTX card is nothing short of a truly phenomenal, visually stunning achievement.

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