Metro Exodus is the pinnacle of what 4A Games has achieved and experiencing it felt like a culmination of what the franchise is.
Game they had always dreamt of.
Massive technological improvement, a bold story that branched out of of Gluhovsky’s pathway and en epic journey throughout post-apocalyptic Russia almost seem like a big metaphor of a studio finally being able to make a game they had always dreamt of. And to what effects!
Once more, Metro delivered narratively, artistically and musically. There is so many details in this game and everything seems so polished that it makes you hope for a game industry with longer development cycles. We’ve recently covered how music in the Metro series is a great example of how good music can be used in many ways within one game, and Exodus feels just like the rest of the game — like Alexey Omelchuk learned a lot, made sure all the lyrical themes can mercilessly crunch your soul and suck you in to the many immersive environments, and made the best use of his music in every possible way.
There was a staple to Metro music and Exodus carries on the legacy. As an album, it’s a well balanced mix of somber themes played on strings, piano letters, dark ambient, minimal combat music, more macabre-like brass section and ethnic touches music of the peculiar locales you visit. As such, it’s the most varied soundtrack from Omelchuk, which kept surprising me with neat, small touches throughout the journey. I especially adored ambience pieces and singular sounds that keep my hairs on back straight (Forest Brotherhood).
The main theme of the game is introduced in Exodus, later played in a bluesy way in Exodus Blues to finally play in full scope in Dawn of Hope. With previous themes of the actual Metro being rather sad and hopeless, Exodus is a massive tone change throughout the entire game, including this theme. It’s a good tear-jerker that has a hopeful tone with an underlying tragedy to it and it works well within the game.
Speaking of tear-jerking, the majority of this album is only setting up the massive cavalcade of emotions in the last few tracks. Atonement and Sacrifice leads to Race Against Fate (absolutely beautiful piece and the highlight of the album), Dawn of Hope, Lacrimosa and old-school Metro Between Life and Death – amazingly sad and touching theme after theme. It’s a quality of good storytelling to leave the best for last and the score corresponds to it accordingly. The finale of the game is nothing short of gut-wrenching. Piano letters set that up too. Teardrops Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 are very subtle and intimate variations of the same tragic/romantic theme that adds depth to the theme of love between Artyom and Anna.
One can argue that it holds its cards for too long.
Premonition is among other menu guitar themes, which for a change gives some tenacity to the score and to the motivation of characters. This kind of vibe will return in a rip-and-tear, revenge track Yamantau Cannibals, repeating a catchy metal riff. Action music works similarly to previous games, bursting into high tempo when detected.
The minimal, percussion-centred score returns here (Forest Brotherhood, Last Train to Yamantau and in-game tracks), proving to be a great way of letting the player focus on health/ammo/cover instead of having an entire orchestra carrying away at your ears. When orchestra does come in to play, it’s usually a scripted event and minute-long action pieces tightly woven into action seem to be weakest part of the score and most difficult to enjoy (Deadly Claws, Confrontation).
Omelchuk shows absolute mastery at setting menacing and foreboding tone, either utilizing the repetition or slow creeping of strings or great ambient design. You can drown in the tracks like Dark Waters of Volga, Caspian Mirage, Secrets of Taiga and Dead City, they completely suck you in and add a layer of mystery and dread, which build up almost fantastical nature of the post-nuclear Russia. These tracks have their own respective shapes and colours, further distinguishing the areas from one another and keeping things fresh.
With honest, authentic lyricism and atmosphere mastery.
The only thing I usually dislike in orchestra-centred compositions is the excess of pathos. The actual finale (New Home), although centred around the importance of one character, sounds a bit too overblown for my taste and the Overture features really cliched and overused Inception brass-boom. Almost as if trying to sound as much Western as possible. I generally disliked the brass section parts and think that Omelchuk’s main strength are darker compositions and string-led lyrical themes.
Metro Exodus is an almost perfect soundtrack. Its precise implementation adds to the mood in many ways, builds the world with additional diegetic pieces and most importantly, keeps the player invested both in the world and story. Even though an album listen could use a cut and some things stand out as not necessary, the score works well within already great game.
One of the best soundtracks of 2019.
One can argue that it holds its cards for too long (just as the game), but the finale led by fan-favourite Race Against Fate will stick with the playerbase for quite some time. With honest, authentic lyricism and atmosphere mastery, it’s one of the best soundtracks of 2019 and certainly the best 2019 soundtrack from Europe.