Metro Exodus: Sam’s Story DLC Review – Metro With More American Accents
Developed by 4A Games
Published by Deep Silver
Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Of Metro‘s colorful cast of characters, the only ones I can readily remember are the Colonel, Atyoooooom, the girl that got naked in Metro: Last Light, the American, and Khan. It’s not that the characters in the Metro series are bad. It’s just that the actual plot has never been the focus. I played Metro 2033 maybe six times, and I still can’t tell you what it’s about other than “Dark Ones.” Artyom’s is best when he’s the lens with which we see this dark and terrifying world. He has an overall mission. But your real mission as the player is to survive. The more you explain the anomalies and monsters, the less effective they are. So while 4A does plenty of backstory and worldbuilding, the focus is always on the challenge directly in front of you. Who cares what the demons or librarians actually are. What matters is if you have enough bullets and air filters to make it out alive.
What this means is that the supporting cast of the Metro series exists to serve specific purposes. Khan is your guide into the spiritual side of the world, both introducing you to the game’s mystical elements and grounding them in reality. The colonel is the tough but secretly caring (tsundere) older Russian military man that is mandatory in every story from the former Soviet Union. The girl Anna gives the faceless voiceless protagonist Artyom some human connection. And the American Sam… I think his only real purpose in the game is for the player to stop and wonder, “huh, I wonder what’s his story.”
The second installment of the Metro Exodus Season Pass, Sam’s Story seeks to explain this enigmatic American. Sam’s Story begins where Metro Exodus ends. Which makes talking about it without spoilers hard. But I’ll do my best. After the crew of the Aurora finds their final destination, Sam decides to leave his brothers of the Ranger Order behind and embark on his own journey to return to his homeland. He dreams of reuniting with his elderly father and smoking a pipe on his porch in San Francisco. Why is Sam so hellbent on reuniting with his elderly father? Why does he think he might be alive over 20 years after the end of the world? No idea. Sam’s just real tight with his pops I guess.
Sam’s journey takes him from Lake Baikal all the way to the port of Vladivostok 3,461 kilometers away (thanks Google Maps). That long treck happens in the opening cutscene. There are presumably several other smaller Sam’s stories along the way. Sam’s ultimate goal is to search the port city for any kind of surviving ship that might be able to take him across the Pacific and back to Califonia. Lucky for him, the first person he meets is the previous Captain of a nuclear submarine that still works. Unlucky for him, the submarine is without fuel and controlled by Tom. Luckily, Tom is also an American. Unluckily, Tom’s a filthy capitalist.
Upon finding that Sam is from the same continental landmass, Tom immediately trusts Sam to take care of the sub’s problems. He tasks Sam with acting as his liaison with the Captain to convince him to give them the fuel rods and join in a quest to spread civilization to the ruins of the world. The Captain has thus far refused to cooperate out of fear that Tom would re-nuke the whole world. How on earth would anyone get these two intractable wills to work together? Why, be shelving the whole conflict until the end, of course!
If I was being too subtle for you thus far, the plot of Sam’s Story is dumb. I don’t know what kind of fantasy land the Russian developer 4A Games thinks America is, but Donald Trump is the president and Hillary Clinton was our previous “left” candidate. If I were to encounter another American in a foreign country, I’m liable to pretend I don’t speak English. Although, I will give Sam’s Story props for portraying the proper way to gain the trust of an elderly Russian man. Get blackout drunk with them once and they’ll just give you the keys to their nuclear submarine.
Whatever. The plot is dumb, but I started the review stating that the plot is the least important part of a Metro game. Maybe I’m just extra triggered because my people are being misrepresented as heroes that live in harmony. We’re dicks, Russia! Look up what the CIA is! Anyways, the gameplay is thankfully a hell of a lot better than the story. Once you get out of the sub and into the action, Sam’s Story quickly becomes the best of what Metro Exodus has to offer. The flooded streets and buildings of Vladivostok are more densely packed with foes and secrets than the base game. No more driving around a desert for 20-minutes looking for the next interesting thing to do. From the time you get into the boat and begin the open-world segments, it’s not two minutes before you find your first optional encounter. Overcome this challenge and you’re rewarded with night vision goggles that reveal even more secrets. Sam’s Story is packed to the gills with these moments. You can’t go 30 steps in any direction without finding a new interesting puzzle or fight with a satisfying reward.
A lot of this density comes from having to introduce much of Metro Exodus‘s progression in the limited timeframe. Most of the gear upgrades you can get in Exodus are present in Sam’s Story. It’s just that the game only has 3 hours to give them to you and not 30. Also returning is Exodus‘s weapon upgrade system. There are two new weapons in Sam’s Story: a 1911 handgun called the Stallion and an assault rifle called (no joke) the Sammy. Also returning is the Ashot pipe shotgun and the Valve sniper rifle. You can also get the Bastard pistol towards the end, but it honestly feels like it was left in by accident. Each of the new guns feels great, with enough upgrades to make their progression feel meaningful. The Stallion, in particular, goes from subpar sidearm to powerhouse.
Most of the enemies in Sam’s Story are recycled. The only new faces are a bossfight bat-monster and electrical spiders that can turn off the lights. Other than that, we get a returning cast of bandits, rat monsters, crab monsters, bigger crab monsters, and ghouls. While some new faces would have been nice, what matters is how the fights are paced and spaced out. In that regard, Sam’s Story was top notch. Levels are designed to accommodate both a stealth and guns blazing approach. The shorter runtime does mean there are fewer setpiece moments, but Sam’s Story has enough to keep things constantly engaging. I never felt like I was at the slow/boring part of the DLC. Well… at least not when I was shooting stuff. There’s still plenty of time to sit and listen to longwinded NPC conversations about shit you already know.
All-in-all, Sam’s Story is a tight package. It packs all of the good parts of Metro Exodus into just a few hours. It switches between open-world and linear quickly and with equally satisfying results. It doesn’t waste your time with a lot of bullshit. It’s a solid 4/5 for repackaging good content. Which is why it hurts so bad that Sam’s Story drops the ball so hard at the end. I won’t spoil anything here, but it concludes with one of the most assinine moral choices I’ve ever seen in a game. Metro games have always had a grey morality, typically pitting humanist ideals against practical concerns. If Sam’s Story was a dinner party, the final choice would be between a decent plate of spaghetti and driving drunk through the dining room window. And then the game has the balls to call you a bad guy for eating spaghetti.
Whether or not Sam’s Story is worth it for you is largely based on what you want out of a linear FPS DLC. It’s got a couple of new guns, a new character, and repackages the base game nicely. The bow on top is made out of cockroach legs, but you can ignore that. It’s a hell of a lot better than The Two Colonels, which was basically a long cutscene. Still, it doesn’t reshape what you expect from Metro Exodus. If you miss it, I highly doubt you’ll be out of the loop for Metro 4. If you loved Metro Exodus and want more, it’s a great 2-5 hours of content. If you feel like $18 is more than you want to pay for a few hours of more of the same, then you’re better off waiting for a sale.
Sam’s Story is a 2-5 hour DLC for $18. It’s a tight package of Metro Exodus content, but it’s still basically just Metro Exodus. If $18 for a few more hours of Metro Exodus sounds like a good deal to you, then you’ll have a good time. Just ignore the ending.