Metro Exodus: The Two Colonels is everything that Metro Exodus wasn't. It's a focused crawl through the claustrophobic tunnels of a Metro system. It's an opportunity to experience true, torturous terror 270ft below ground. It is action cast across a contained scenario in which mutated monstrosities creep through every dark shadow, haunting each of the winding pathways lost beneath a world wrought with decay. Metro Exodus: The Two Colonels is developer 4A Games returning to what it does best – scaring you shitless in a world where hope has been all but abandoned.
There's a lot to love about Metro Exodus. It was big and ambitious, as any good sequel should be. It was an impressive exercise in non-linear storytelling too, a chance for 4A to flex its muscles and show the world that it has more to offer than intricately lit dusty corridors and expertly sculpted irradiated beasts that stalk the underbelly of Moscow. That isn't to say that the game skirted criticism entirely. Some long-time fans thought that it steered too closely to 4A's roots, acting as more of a spiritual successor to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl than a true follow-up to Metro: Last Light.
The Two Colonels pushes back against all of that. This is the first of Metro Exodus' two DLC packs, and it's a clear love letter to the tempered pacing of Metro 2033. It walks the delicate line between stealth and action, pitching suffocating isolation against scenes of all-out destruction. It's incredible to see, really, just how potent Metro can be as a vehicle for delivering tension and thrills when 4A is able to reign in its creative vision.
As wonderful as Metro Exodus was, there was a sense that it sometimes lost sight of why many fell in love with the Metro games to begin with. Its spaces so cleverly authored, proving 4A to be masters at visual storytelling. The studio used the tightly designed network of Metro tunnels to paint a picture of despair and hope – of a society that failed its people, their tale cast out into the annals of history. Metro Exodus lost sight of this at times as Artyom and the crew of the Aurora raced across Russia in search of new beginnings. And that's why The Two Colonels will be a must-play for Metro fans.
It's set to delve into one of Metro Exodus' most fascinating and unexplored areas. The story revolves around Colonel Khlebnikov returning to Novosibirsk – a retelling of his last years, months, and days as those that survived the bombs ultimately succumb to the fallout of a society that lost touch with its own humanity. Novosibirsk's dark demise was hinted at in Metro Exodus' campaign, as too was the role of Colonel Khlebnikov after a brief encounter with his orphaned son, Kirill. The Two Colonels will explore all of this and more.
This weird sensation rushed over me as I stalked my way through the Novosibirsk Metro, lurching at each flickering light, feeling my skin crawl with every scratch and hiss echoing on the wind. It felt, weirdly, like I was home – back in the Moscow Metro, having a wonderful time being scared out of my mind. But then that's the power that something like this can hold over a player; when 4A is able to tightly script its action, it is almost untouchable. The studio is able to define a singular experience that is absolute in its resolve to evoke a reaction and instil a pervading sense of dread.
Given that we have recently had a Metro Exodus sequel confirmed by author Dmitry Glukhovsky, it seems likely that the adventure is far from over, but I do hope that the studio continues down the path it started down with Metro Exodus – the wider open spaces, the more ambitious attempts at storytelling and captivating set-pieces. But that isn't to say that it isn't nice to return to where it all started for 4A – back into the messy and maleficent tunnels of a Metro system that was never meant to sustain life.
In many ways then, The Two Colonels gives us a glimpse into what might have been. To what 4A could have done had it decided to reign in its own ambition, utilising new and emerging technology – like Nvidia's RTX ray-tracing – to forge a smaller, more focused adventure. The studio is known for making beautiful games, and this is no exception. But there's more to it than that, it's a paean to a style of Metro game that has been left behind by the last generation. Metro Exodus undoubtedly represents the series' future, and The Two Colonels feels like a well deserved, parting memorial to its past.
Metro Exodus: The Two Colonels DLC release date is imminent, and should be available to play for anybody with a Metro Exodus Expansion Pass later today.