A radio signal fights through airwave static, calling out for protagonist Artyom. He won’t answer. Artyom doesn’t speak. He grunts and screams, but never engages in conversations. It’s bizarre why anyone asks him to respond over comms. Metro Exodus needs him to speak. The number of awkwardly silent, emotional moments bomb without a reasonable response. No one sits in silence as a slave is kicked and tortured; no hero does, anyway. No one lets their wife endure tuberculous without a kind word or inspiration. No one celebrates an impromptu wedding without a “cheers!” or other salutation. Just Artyom.
The lack of speech does make sense in the context of Metro Exodus’ sci-fi tale of isolationism, but only little. Out of the sewers and subways of games past – done in an uneventful reveal – a train journey takes a traveling town across Russia. Other than this group of heroes originated from Moscow’s heart, no one in these radiation-scorched lands is out to help. Everyone is violent, part of a religious cult or slavers, that nihilistic view of things that feeds off post-apocalypse fiction with a touch of Russian anxieties toward outside culture. Travel through a middle eastern desert is met with thugs using a brainwashed populace for various misdeeds. The slaves fear a false god. Russians do their best to save this Afghanistan-esque troop, re-igniting a decades old conflict.
What government remains in old Russia – if one is left at all – is under control of cannibals. Subtle. Metro Exodus uses an apocalypse started 20-years in the past (although it looks more like 100 years) to fuel a masculine vibe where even in such dire circumstances, might always wins. Russian might, anyway. Artyom can traverse newly open areas, costing Metro its Ridley Scott-like Alien claustrophobia for the sake of contemporary design. That’s a loss. It’s a lot of space for little gain. And a lot of length for little story, where the best moments occur onboard the tightened confines of the train anyway. Letting Artyom travel only makes his muteness dubious.