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Metro Exodus for Xbox Series X/S and PS5: 4A Games discusses the new next-gen upgrade
Ray tracing, 4K 60fps, reduced loading times, smoother controls and more
4A Games has discussed the significant updates it has made to Metro Exodus for Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5.
A next-gen version of the post-apocalyptic shooter launched today and is available as a free upgrade for Xbox One and PS4 owners.
It’s also available digitally and in a physical Metro Exodus Complete Edition pack priced at $39.99/£34.99, which includes the base game and its two expansions, Sam’s Story and The Two Colonels.
The game includes fully ray traced lighting and 60fps on all next-gen consoles. It runs at 4K on Xbox Series X and PS5 and targets 1080p on Series S.
The new console versions also offer significantly reduced loading times, a field of view slider, and various platform specific features including spatial audio and controller latency improvements on Xbox, and support for the haptic features of PS5’s DualSense controller.
During a recent media preview, 4A Games executive producer Jon Bloch and senior rendering programmer Benjamin Archard discussed some of these new features in greater detail.
Bloch told VGC last summer that 4A was “all in for ray tracing moving forward” and was “fully rebuilding” its proprietary engine’s render technology to be centred around it.
Ten months on, Archard claimed that the upgraded version of Metro Exodus delivers “the most comprehensive ray tracing experience ever to feature on a home console”.
He said the game’s headline feature—“in layman’s terms, ray tracing a is physically accurate simulation of the behaviour of light”—not only enables the studio to create richer, more realistic and atmospheric worlds, but also frees up developers to focus on gameplay and design.
“Prior to ray tracing, games used to have all sorts of tricks, some of them real time, some of them pre-calculated or what we call ‘baked’, in order to make the scene look as though it were believably lit. Creating baked assets and a lot of these tricks were not only extremely time intensive on the artists, but also any technique that cannot be done in real time greatly hampers other areas of development such as gameplay and design.
“By using millions of rays, we are able to build up an incredibly intricate picture of the lighting environment consisting of something that is effectively akin to millions of individual light sources. In turn, we can use that unprecedented level of lighting detail to deliver the most realistically lit images that we have ever produced. And in addition to that, far more importantly I think, we now have that done completely in real time with a 100 percent dynamic lighting simulation and a similarly dynamic environment.”
Archard went on to claim that rival ray tracing efforts are relatively limited in scope compared to 4A’s work on Metro Exodus.
“There are other games that contain ray tracing features to some extent, but they often elect to focus on a single phenomenon, something like reflections or shadows, for example, but as ray tracing pioneers, we have delivered for our creative teams a full suite of lighting tools to simulate all of their lighting needs. And to our players, we have delivered the most comprehensive ray tracing experience ever to feature on a home console, and all of that running at 60fps.”
The Metro Exodus upgrade also includes a 4K texture pack which adds a new level of detail to most assets, particularly key ones like weapons, characters, enemies and structures, according to Bloch. And the game’s new FOV slider means players can widen their field of vision to suit their playstyle or simply soak in the wasteland views.
Owners of the Xbox One and PS4 versions of Metro Exodus who found the game’s loading times frustrating will be pleased to hear that these have been significantly improved too.
“Also of note is the dramatically reduced loading times which could reach around three minutes in the worst of cases on Gen 8,” Bloch said. “They are now all under one minute for even our largest level and in some cases can be almost instant, particularly when coming back from a death or otherwise loading a save during gameplay.
“Overall, this update provides a huge increase in the quality of the experience – a quality of life boost, if you will,” he added.
Metro Exodus install sizes:
Install Sizes (Digital):
- Base Game: ~72.2 GB
- The Two Colonels: ~1 GB
- Sam’s Story: ~6.4GB
- Total: ~80 GB
Install sizes (Complete Edition Physical):
- Xbox One: No Install, all content on disc.
- Xbox Series X: Total ~80 GB for all content.
- PS5: Expansions download only, The Two Colonels: ~1 GB, Sam’s Story: ~6.4GB
Elsewhere, 4A has worked to make the game’s controls more responsive following some issues with the original release.
“I think there are two elements to this,” Bloch said. “There were issues in our initial launch with, I guess you could call it controller lag, controller responsiveness, and we did a number things to update that as soon as we could after launch. It’s also something that we’ve further optimised for this release, so there should be additional improvements there.
“But one other main element to this is all the Metro games really are, well, it’s not a twitch shooter, I guess, so we’re not a multiplayer shooter, it’s a story-driven experience. We do have a lot of immersive animations, all these things come together and it’s a very cinematic experience. And so it will play differently than other games, so there is an element to it that is kind of supposed to be there.
“But when it comes to actual functional issues like the responsiveness of the controller, those things are not supposed to be there and we’ve worked to try to remove them as much as we can, so hopefully the experience should feel a lot better aside from all the other things we’ve improved, like even simply going from 30fps to 60fps, it will feel a lot smoother for that.”
On the subject of immersion, which Bloch described as “one of the main pillars of all the Metro games”, he said 4A had put significant effort into utilising the PS5 DualSense controller’s haptic features to heighten it.
“One of the ways we typically try to push immersion in our games is with very tactile animations that really make you feel like you’re a part of the game world, you’re attached to it, where you have a lot of animations where you see the player character actually interacting with things, touching things, picking things up, grabbing things, and so any items which might realistically have some sort of feedback for you based on this interaction, it really made sense to use this feature.
“You can think in simple terms of just firing a gun and getting some kickback, but also more so specifically for Metro, things like pumping air into the gas canister on your Tihar. You imagine the more you pressurise the cannister the more resistance you’d get from the hand pump in real life, so it would make sense to do the same thing in the game, and so those are the sorts of things that we’ve implemented, wherever those kinds of interactions make sense. We tried to make them as unique to the type of item it is as well, so a shotgun has a different kick and trigger pull than a pistol for instance.”
The Xbox version of the title supports Smart Delivery, meaning saves can be transferred from Xbox One to Xbox Series X/S, including the items players have acquired up to that point in the game.
Saves on Xbox work on a chapter-to-chapter basis, meaning auto and mid-chapter saves won’t carry over, so players are advised to complete the chapter they’re on before upgrading.
In contrast, Metro Exodus PS4 saves can’t be transferred to the PS5 version of the game. “No unfortunately [they can’t],” Bloch said. “We need platform support for that, and at the time we were finishing up development on this, that wasn’t available, so we didn’t have a way to do that ourselves, unfortunately for PlayStation specifically.”
To mitigate this, 4A has added a chapter unlock feature which enables players on any platform to jump in at any level, although they’ll have to use a default loadout and achievements are disabled.
The Metro Exodus Complete Edition includes the base game and its expansions, Sam’s Story and The Two Colonels. Is there any more DLC planed? “As of right now, no, we have finished content for Metro Exodus and we have moved on,” Bloch said.
4A confirmed last November that the next game in the Metro franchise is being developed for PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC, and that it has plans to add multiplayer to the franchise. And according Bloch, the studio now has solid experience to build on with its Exodus follow-up.
“We’ve now effectively shipped something on this console generation, so now we know, at least today, what we are able to do with it and we can take those learnings to our next projects to make sure if anything didn’t work or had to be kind of slapped together with glue and hope, that maybe we can go back and rebuild it a different way to make it work better,” he said.