First released in 2019, Metro Exodus was not just a graphical showcase in its own right on both consoles and PC, but it was also one of the first major games to support ray-tracing technology. In the original release, however, ray-tracing was an optional feature you could toggle on or off in the settings menu. Now, Metro Exodus is back with an all-new Enhanced Edition for PC (and consoles at a later date) that is built from the ground up with ray-tracing in mind. The developers have gone and reworked many of the game’s systems to take full advantage of the technology, and the result is truly jaw-dropping. The game already looked fantastic two years ago, but the graphical upgrades (and surprising performance improvements) do wonders to enhance the game’s overall atmosphere.
This review will primarily focus on the fancy new features of the Enhanced Edition. It’s largely the same game as the original release, but with several technical improvements. You can read our original review of Metro Exodus for thoughts about the game overall. I first played Metro Exodus on PlayStation 4, so going from 30 FPS with a controller to 100+ with a keyboard and mouse while taking advantage of all the new graphical features of the Enhanced Edition was a treat. I was skeptical that the ray-tracing would make much of a difference at all, but it’s definitely noticeable. I jumped into The Two Colonels DLC first, and it turned out to be a remarkable showcase for the fancy new lighting and shadow tech in this new version of the game. When you’re cramped in the dark tunnels the series is known for with nothing but a flamethrower to light your way, you really appreciate the way the game handles shadows and light sources.
Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition’s ray-tracing is a step up over the original release’s implementation for a number of reasons. The game now features ray-traced emissive surfaces with area shadows and an infinite number of ray-traced light bounces for light sources. The atmosphere and transparent surfaces receive ray-traced bounce lighting as well, and there’s a brand-new ray-traced lighting model with color bleeding for every single light source in the game. Fires will fill rooms with a red glow, your flashlight will reflect the color of the wall you’re pointing it at, and light sources placed near colorful objects will spread those colors into the rest of the room as they would in real life. It sounds simple on paper, but it’s quite the sight to behold when it’s running in real-time. It’s one of those things you wouldn’t think you would notice, but it does wonders to improve the overall image quality and make scenes feel much more real.
Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition boasts some crazy new bells and whistles, so much so that a ray-tracing enabled graphics card is the minimum spec required to run it. That’s right, the minimum graphics card required to run this game is an RTX 2060, a pretty significant step up from the original release’s minimum requirements. That’s only for 1080p gameplay at roughly 45 FPS, so you won’t be able to crank up the settings or use a higher resolution if you want a stable framerate. Thankfully, Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition includes support for NVIDIA’s DLSS technology, and the performance estimates don’t factor that in.
Metro’s DLSS implementation is great, as has been the case with recent DLSS implementations like Death Stranding, with the Quality setting looking as good or even better than native resolution while boosting performance by quite a bit. Even if you lower the setting to DLSS Balanced or Performance, you still get a great-looking image while seemingly pulling additional frames out of thin air. I know DLSS has been done before, but for a game literally built around ray-tracing, it’s crazy that it runs this well.
I played the game with an RTX 3070, which the developers say can do 1440p at 60 FPS with visuals set to ultra and ray-tracing quality set to high. Using these default settings, I was able to push 80 frames per second in outdoor areas with DLSS set to Quality mode and 100 in indoor zones. If I swapped to DLSS Performance mode, which is a slightly degraded image, I would reach 100 FPS outside and around 120 inside. Being able to push this many frames with ray-tracing enabled while playing at 3440×1440 is immensely satisfying, and you should be able to get decent performance on an entry-level ray-tracing graphics card thanks to good optimization and DLSS.
I only have a few minor gripes with the PC version of Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition, but they really aren’t that big of a problem. The game defaults to fullscreen and doesn’t have a borderless windowed or windowed mode, which is annoying for someone with multiple monitors. There’s also a really strange bug where the game repeatedly minimizes itself during the opening movie. This sometimes persists through the main menu, but it generally stays up after bringing it back to fullscreen once or twice. The settings menu is also fairly barebones. The main two options you can change are Quality and Ray Tracing Quality, but you don’t get any granular control over graphical features. You can adjust the VRS level and toggle certain things on or off like Hairworks and PhysX, but the settings menu as a whole is quite simple. Again, these are just minor annoyances, but I felt like I should point them out.
Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition is, simply put, the best way to experience the game. The hardware requirements are steep, but if you’re lucky enough to have a ray-tracing enabled graphics card, there’s no reason to play the original release instead of this version. Sure, ray-tracing was a feature in the base game, but the Enhanced Edition has been built from the ground up with ray-tracing in mind and it absolutely shows. Whether you’re trapped in the series’ staple claustrophobic tunnels or staring out across an expansive vista in the new open-world sections, Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition looks absolutely stunning thanks to its significant graphical overhaul.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
- This article was updated on May 6th, 2021