In addition to our most important Game of the Year Awards 2021, every member of the PC Gamer team sheds spotlight on a game they loved this year. We are announcing new employee choices along with our main prices for the rest of the month.
The past year has left me very little time for new games. A big unfinished pile of gamblers, toddlers, baby, moving to the house, yadda yadda. I’m still basically catching up with the huge amount of amazing PC games I have not yet played from the last few years, let alone staying ahead of everything that was launched in 2021. But Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition put the eerie post-apocalyptic shooter back on my radar again, forcing me to confront the radiated nightmare of the apres bomb Russia once again.
And I’m so glad it did, because I can now see every single detail the developers have wrapped up in it without having to resort to the tired cliché of the FPS flashlight. And I’m with Hitchcock about this; the excitement and horror is more tangible when you can see what is coming for you.
But there’s something almost counter-intuitive about a game like Metro Exodus – a historically gloomy first-person shooter – that makes a big deal out of improving the lighting. Without sounding too ridiculous, everything 4A Games has done with Enhanced Edition has only improved the darkness.
In a world of remakes and reimaginations, Enhanced Edition is all that, a technically reworked version of the exact same Metro Exodus, except this time with ray-tracing as standard and more fully incorporated into the gaming world itself. The original game, released back in 2019, introduced some sort of half-baked global lighting to the 4A Engine halfway through development, but 2021’s Enhanced Edition completely replaces all of its conserved lighting in favor of far more realistic beam-tracking effects.
And it makes a world of difference. Even though you may not think so, you are playing the game in isolation, but only because the world now looks like this ought to. If you flip back and forth between the original and improved versions, you can see how artificially dark the game was with all its pre-baked and fake light effects.
But now, as I roam the abandoned sewers and tunnels of Moscow in the early game, or explore bunkers around the Volga, I do not have to wind up my flashlight to have a chance to illuminate the ground two meters inside in front of me. I get to see the wonderfully detailed game world that the developers lovingly created, with the glow of the mutated flora sprouting out of the floors and walls shedding new light on the mutated fauna that is inevitably out of my blood.
In a fast-paced shooting game, you do not always see much in the heart of the action when the bullets fly and the claws tear, but in the tense moments before you press the trigger the new light that you can use. watching your antagonists just makes them even more real.
Outside, in the baked air of the Caspian Sea, under the solitary glowing sphere in the sky, the effect of the light changes is inevitably less pronounced. With a single light source performing all the heavy lifting, there is very little difference between the original and improved version of the game. But the details are all in the shadows.
Of course, it’s a brave move for a two-year-old game to release an update that has ray tracing-suitable hardware as a minimum requirement – especially at a time when it’s mildly difficult to pack a brand new graphics card with the mentioned options. – but as a free upgrade, Enhanced Edition is the only way I want to play Metro Exodus. And I have happily started my depressing train ride all over again.