Metro Exodus PC Game & Performance Review featuring Ray Tracing & DLSS

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“Which is better, a life built on a lie or a death born of truth?” — Colonel Miller, Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus is one of the rarest games that can immerse a player into its vast and varied world by keeping them entertained with more good story telling, depth, and atmosphere than found in just about any other video game. Exodus is the third game of the Metro series, and it has left the dark tunnels of the first two games on an exciting cross country train ride for a much more open world. We played for about 30 hours to arrive at a satisfying, touching, and bittersweet ending that is custom tailored for the kind of character that we played.

Metro Exodus will be released by 4A games on the EPIC platform on February 15 as a hybrid sandbox/linear FPS game that spans the course of a year and almost the entire width of a huge and varied country, post apocalyptic Russia, from Moscow in Winter to Novosibersk in Autumn.

BabelTechReviews received a reviewer’s copy of Metro Exodus for PC on Friday courtesy of 4A, EPIC, and NVIDIA, and we began playing on Saturday using both a RTX 2060 and a RTX 2080 Ti after downloading its 50GB files. This editor has spent three very long sessions playing the entire campaign from its start to completion. Here are our impressions of it, including a very short mini-performance and IQ evaluation that will focus on Metro Exodus’ revolutionary implementation of real time ray tracing of global illumination.

We are not going to spend a lot of time on benchmarking performance in this Exodus review as the built-in benchmark is flawed, not to mention that the game will be patched in two days for its worldwide release, and NVIDIA will also release new drivers for it making our current benchmarks instantly outdated. Instead, we will follow up at the weekend with a full performance review and image quality comparison. We will focus here on the game review and touch on the first real time ray tracing global illumination implementation for any video game.

Metro Exodus

Until Exodus, the Metro series has been confined to the dark subways or underground train stations of the Moscow underground which is based on the popular novels by Dmitry Glukhovshy. In this bleak and radiation-ravaged world, the last humans live underground after an all-out nuclear war fighting to stay alive by warring against each other in factions and against horribly mutated creatures.

The two Metro games are first person shooters with survival horror and stealth elements that are known for their incredible attention to detail and an almost supernatural atmosphere that also embody some interesting philosophy which focus on the human spirit and hope against all odds. The first two Metro games are very linear and require the player to wield hand-made weapons that are customized by scavenging for material and crafting upgrades, and this trend continues with Exodus.

Exodus brings the Metro series to the surface in 2036, two years after the events of Last Light by continuing the story of Artyom, now a newly married 23-year old man who was born just before the war, as he seeks a better life above ground away from the tunnels of the Metro. Exodus now features a dynamic weather system, a day-night cycle, and environments that radically change from one moment to another by intense storms along with the regular four dramatic season changes of Russia.

During the course of his adventure, Artyom learns that the Metro residents are not the only humans who survived, so he flees Moscow with his wife Anna and a small team of Spartan Rangers on a locomotive known as the “Aurora” that is commanded by his father-in-law, the gruff Colonel Miller. Your Spartan allies are capable in battle for the times that you must work together and you don’t have to babysit them as your wife is a skilled sharpshooter that has your back many times.

Metro Exodus is a relatively long single player game that most players will not want to rush through as it is best savored. We spent about 30 hours playing the game and would have completed even more sidequests except for the deadline that was imposed on getting this review completed in time, so we stuck mostly to the main story.

None of the side quests we played felt like grinding as they are exceptionally well done, integral to the story, and there is no leveling up nor experience points to be gained. In the tradition of a good novel, you the player begin to level up as you understand the game’s mechanics and the mind of the developers better. As you play, you soon realize when it is best to sneak or to run and gun, and you will just know which weapons to take with you for each adventure while remembering to clean them and always repair your gas mask.

The Metro Exodus weapons are varied, and our highly customized favorites included an automatic crossbow with night vision that never let us down. The 4-barrel sawed off shotgun and rail gun together with explosive ammo, along with Molotov cocktails and improvised grenades never failed us even against some huge mutant bosses or mobs of human enemies or creatures. The big fights are exciting and your heart will race as you survive wave after wave of enemy NPCs with the odds stacked against you.

The game doesn’t hold your hand, but as you play through Exodus, you learn crafting and which items to disassemble and which to upgrade. You can craft in the field by using your backpack in a limited fashion, or fully at workbenches scattered throughout the world at strategic locations, or in the Aurora which is your home base.

Instead of getting stuck on puzzles, you begin to naturally look in what seemed previously to be an odd place for a hidden ladder, or to cut something, or pull a well-disguised lever so that you can proceed. Although the game is still very linear, you have multiple ways to approach each objective and you are given many choices – to sneak, or even to knock out your opponents, or to kill them outright. Stealth takes careful planning and patience but it will save you hard to find ammo. All of your choices have an effect on your comrades and will determine the ending that you will get.

If you want to explore, you can spend as much time in the Exodus world as you wish. If you want more direction and updated objectives, just equip your compass and check your map and journal regularly and stick to the main storyline. You can race through it like a tourist in a hurry, or you can stay and linger to fully appreciate and absorb its atmosphere. There are several difficulty levels to pick – from Reader where you take little damage and heal quickly – to Hardcore where you take damage easily and find very little in the way of ammo or crafting materials.

The enemy AI is decent. It is rarely stupid and it reacts to your presence fairly well especially on the higher difficulty settings. You will have to infiltrate multiple groups to achieve your objectives, and you can sneak and knock out your enemies, or you can kill them and engage them as directly as you choose. You are always outnumbered, but the AI isn’t that good either as you soon learn how it works. Whatever method you pick does have an effect on the ending you get as well as on what happens to your companions so the game lends itself to successive playthroughs, perhaps on harder difficulties.

Although Metro Exodus is rather long for a single player game, it uses great writing which includes comedic scenes and witty dialog between your family of Spartan Ranger comrades that makes you care about them. There is even a long party and musical segment on the train where Artyom picks up a guitar and jams with another player as they sing traditional Russian songs and toast each other. If you want to bypass this dialog, just walk up to the front of the train and interact with the map to start the next chapter, but you will miss out.

Exodus also provides some touching and tender moments between the player Artyom and his wife Anna, the crack sharpshooter daughter of Colonel Miller who leads the expedition of Spartan Rangers out of the Moscow Metro to try and find a new and better life above ground. The Colonel jokes that he wants grandchildren so he can teach them how to dual-wield pistols. The dialog is exceptional and we are drawn to care about the characters if we just take the time to stop and listen.

There are some weaknesses in the writing perhaps. You may be forced to listen to NPCs at times drone on and on with no escape for you except to physically leave the game while it is running and make yourself a cup of tea as we did several times. There is a drunk and insane older sailor who won’t shut up and you have to indulge him to continue. Fortunately, most of the conversations generally add to the rich atmosphere of the game which is decidedly Russian, and it helps you to understand the world you are traversing. It is a dark world of intense despair, and yet hope keeps you moving forward despite tragedy, death, and perversion all around.

Metro Exodus is a metaphor for the world we live in now and what may be if we don’t take better care of ourselves and our planet for our children. It is self-indulgent, but like a great novel, it can be forgiven as you immerse yourself into its decidedly Russian yet universal culture. The villains are over-the-top yet somehow believable, and there is a cannibal segment worthy of “The Walking Dead” or the Resident Evil series, but there is still humor in it.

We won’t give any spoilers about how many chapters there are, or where we ended up, but we found the ending surprising, believable, and logical. We got the ending that our character deserved and we have been thinking about it since we stopped playing it. Overall, we loved Exodus and found it to be a significant improvement and expansion of the Metro series. We hope there are further installments.

Checkpoint Saves

This gamer hates the checkpoint system. However, this checkpoint system is particularly well implemented. When your character dies, you don’t have to start over way back nor are you forced to watch cutscenes over and over. You can Quick Save anytime except during battle, and loading is very fast from a SSD. In fact, the few Quick Time events (QTE) are well done and the action flows like a big budget movie.


Metro Exodus has some replayability. Mostly a player will want to explore everything on the first playthrough which may reach 30 or more hours. You can start over at a higher difficulty and change from run and gun to pure stealth, as well as very the way you play to see if you can get a different ending.

Bugs, Graphics, and Performance

There appear to be no major game-breaking bugs, and during more than 30 hours of play, we did not experience a single lock-up nor a crash to desktop. However, there are issues with the built-in benchmark which does not apply DLSS, and like earlier Metro built in benchmarks, the minimums are not representative of the run. We developed our own benchmark in the Taiga Chapter that is not only completely repeatable and within less than 1% variance, it is only about 10% less demanding than the official benchmark.

There are some other minor graphical issues with the pre-release press copy that 4A promises to fix before the game launches, including a mini-bug that changes some character’s hair to pure white when DLSS is applied. The other issue we found is that the in-game screenshot capture tool doesn’t have a way to make it work, so we used Ansel to capture our DX12 screenshots and some DX11 captures were made with Fraps. Other than these very minor bugs, Metro Exodus is extraordinarily stable and well-polished for its release.

The Graphics

One thing that immediately stands out is the incredible detail and impressive graphics at Metro Exodus’ higher setting. The characters are about as detailed or as real as in Crysis 3, and it succeeds brilliantly to create a immersive world. A lot of emphasis was placed on the weather effects and the intense storms that plague post war ravaged Russia, so the player must deal with the varied harsh yet sometimes beautiful environments. At times, the winds kick up so much dust that you can barely see where you are going, yet it all fits perfectly into the story.

The settings are diverse – from subterranean dark settings, to moonlit nights, to brightly lit daytime forest scenes, and bleak wind-ravaged desert scenes, as well as extreme Winter’s bitter snow and ice. The game makes very good use of the 4A engine’s advanced capabilities. There are settings that range from Low to Medium, to High, and Ultra. And there is even an Extreme setting that will bring any current top graphics card to a near slideshow.

Ray Tracing Global Illumination

Ray traced global illumination, a first for any video game beginning with Metro Exodus, brings far more realistic lighting to set the mood and especially the dark gritty atmosphere much like the way filmmakers use it. Ray traced global illumination gives Metro Exodus a deeper level of anxiety for greater immersion.

Instead of prebaked unnatural rasterized lighting that game developers have had to use, ray traced global illumination gives far more subtle visual lighting cues which work well with the almost supernatural effect that the Metro series strives for. Here are eight comparative screenshots that contrast the overbright pre-baked rasterized lighting with the ray traced global illumination techniques used in Metro Exodus.

In all cases, the rasterized overbright regular lighting is shown first followed by the almost cinematic ray traced image which is darker, more natural and subdued.

Be sure to open each image larger and full-size if possible in a separate window or tab. First, the indoor scenes.

In this outdoor scene, the entire image without ray traced global illumination is brighter and the shadow brightness is faked and less real looking.

In the second image, ray traced global illumination makes for subtly more real images with better lighting and shadows. In all cases, the ray traced globally illuminated images are superior.

DLSS is what makes ray traced global illumination rendering in a game possible in real time at Ultra 4K settings with Ultra ray tracing. DLSS gives similar image quality to good post processing AI, and combined with ray tracing, far superior and playable frame rates. For a explanation on how DLSS works, see our Final Fantasy XV DLSS patch review.

Here is a comparison of DLSS On versus Off. First with DLSS Off.

Now with DLSS On.

The images have very similar image quality, but with DLSS on, the framerates go from unplayable to playable with about a 40% speedup.


We played Metro Exodus satisfactorily with decent fluidity on Ultra settings with everything on and highest (except for Motion Blur, Normal) all the way through the entire single player campaign at Ultra 4K using Ultra RTX features On with DLSS with our RTX 2080 Ti. We managed similar framerates at 1920×1080 with the same settings for our RTX 2060 except that we dropped ray tracing settings from Ultra to High

Playing with a RTX 2080 Ti in DX11 (no ray tracing and no DLSS) at Ultra 3840×2160 with everything On and maxed-out (except for Motion Blur, always Normal), we averaged 53.9 FPS with a low of 45 FPS which is fine for Metro Exodus even during firefights.

Switching to DX12 with the same RTX 2080 Ti at Ultra 3840×2160, with Ultra Ray Tracing, our average FPS dropped to 34.9 FPS with a low of 36.2ms for the .1 frametime – unsatisfactory. However, turning on DLSS together with Ultra Ray tracing got us 53.9 FPS average with 21.9ms frametime low, basically matching the DX11 averages but with much better IQ and with superior ray traced global illumination. Switching from Ultra ray tracing to High gained us an extra 3 FPS.

We got similar performance results with a RTX 2060 at Ultra 1920×1080, but with ray tracing set to High instead of to Ultra.


Ansel is a GeForce Experience exclusive which puts the game camera into the control of the player and it is far more flexible than other universal capture programs such as Fraps. NVIDIA worked with 4A to add Ansel into the game. In the screenshot below, we were able to pull back from being in the scene and to take a much wider view with Ansel.

If you have a GeForce video card with the GeForce Experience installed, just press Alt+F2 to stop the action and to bring up the Ansel overlay to create your own custom captures including using post process filters. You can also use Alt+F1 to just capture without opening Ansel if you are in a hurry. There isn’t as much flexibility with the Ansel implementation in Metro Exodus as with some other games, but it is a great tool for capturing since the in-game photo tool isn’t yet functional.

The main settings are Low, Medium, High, Ultra, and Extreme. Extreme settings are very demanding future settings and should not be used unless SLI will be enabled by the devs. In fact the “Ultra” setting with Ultra ray tracing On is designed only for the fastest PCs with a RTX 2080 Ti at 4K.

A player can pick “default” or a NVIDIA graphics card owner may also choose to use the GeForce Experience to suggest optimal settings. Here is our test configuration which we shall also use in our multi-card follow up Part 2 which will focus on performance and IQ after the game is released, patched, and with new Game Ready drivers.

Test Configuration – Hardware

  • Intel Core i7-8700K (HyperThreading and Turbo boost are on to 4.7 GHz for all cores; Coffee Lake DX11 CPU graphics).
  • EVGA Z370 FTW motherboard (Intel Z370 chipset, latest BIOS, PCIe 3.0/3.1 specification, CrossFire/SLI 8x+8x), supplied by EVGA
  • HyperX 16GB DDR4 (2×8 GB, dual channel at 3333 MHz), supplied by HyperX
  • RTX 2080 Ti, 8GB Founders Edition, stock Founders Edition clocks, on loan from NVIDIA
  • RTX 2060 6GB Founders Edition, stock Founders Edition clocks, on loan from NVIDIA
  • 480 GB Team Group SSD
  • 1.92 TB San Disk enterprise class SSD
  • 2 TB Micron 1100 SSD
  • Seasonic 850W Gold Focus power supply unit
  • EVGA CLC 280mm CPU water cooler, supplied by EVGA
  • EVGA Nu Audio sound card, supplied by EVGA
  • Edifier R1280T active speakers
  • Grado SR60e headphones
  • EVGA DG-77, mid-tower case supplied by EVGA
  • Monoprice Crystal Pro 4K

Test Configuration – Software

  • Nvidia GeForce 417.71 WHQL drivers. 418.81 is buggy with Exodus.
  • VSync is forced off.
  • AA enabled as noted in games; all in-game settings are specified
  • Gaming results show average frame rates in bold including minimum frame rates shown on the chart next to the averages in a smaller italics font.
  • Highest quality sound (stereo) used in all games.
  • Windows 10 64-bit Home edition. DX11 and DX12 render path
  • Latest DirectX
  • MSI Afterburner, latest beta.
  • OCAT, latest version
  • Fraps, latest version

The Game

    • Metro Exodus, digital reviewer’s copy supplied by 4A/EPIC/NVIDIA

NVIDIA will have their own optimization suggestions which may be quite helpful, or a player can just use the GeForce Experience included with the new Game Ready drivers that will be released before the game launches on February 15. The GeForce Experience will, at the touch of a button, set near-ideal custom settings for any PC and for hundreds of games including for Metro Exodus.


Metro Exodus is a really good game and it is the most fun that we have had with any game in at least the past 2 years. We were completely taken with and consumed by the game only stopping to eat and to sleep. We neglected everything else while playing it. We went to bed late, exhausted, and when we woke up the next morning early, we returned immediately to the game to complete it in under 3 days.

If we have to give it a score, Metro Exodus deserves an “8.8” in our opinion as a very polished single player campaign. Metro Exodus brings a great story and expanded gameplay to an already awesome series. Gameplay is smooth and the story immerses you in the Russian culture to make you think philosophically about the world around us.

Metro Exodus comes highly recommended and it is a certain hit for Metro series fans and will probably win over new fans. The graphics are extraordinary, the gameplay is excellent, and the story is exceptional making a player care about his companions and his choices. The voice acting is absolutely top-notch and it feels like a great cinematic experience which is enhanced by ray tracing of global illumination. We feel it is worth the $50 asking price from the EPIC store for a fairly long and excellent single player adventure.

Metro Exodus has become BTR’s latest and 41st benchmark. Stay tuned as we have many more reviews and evaluations coming up. This week, you can expect a full review of the EVGA Nu Audio sound card which added greatly to our enjoyment of the excellent positional audio. And after the game is launched, patched, and new drivers are released by NVIDIA and AMD, we will revisit Metro Exodus performance using multiple video cards.

Happy Gaming!