“A warrior is not a person that carries a gun. The biggest war you ever go through is right between your own ears. It’s in your mind. We’re all going through a war in our mind, and we have to callus our mind to fight that war and to win that war.” –David Goggins
Ranger Samuel “Sam” Taylor had joined Artyom and the Spartan Order on a trek across Russia to find a new home. When the group had arrived in Lake Baikal, Sam decides to separate from his old companions, feeling his journey was not yet completed – he desires most to return home to San Diego, and to this end, Sam ends up travelling to Vladivostok, which had escaped the nuclear war but was ravaged by a tsunami some time later. Here, he encounters Captain Eduard Baranov, former captain of a nuclear submarine and wanted by Tom, a former arms dealer who seeks out the fuel rods to the submarine so he may use its nuclear payload as a bargaining chip for his own ends. Sam ends up helping Eduard out and gains his trust. After Sam defeats the batwing, a massive creature maligning Vladivostok, the two end up retrieving the fuel rods from a heavily contaminated warehouse and returns to the nuclear submarine. In this time, Klim (Tom’s second-in-command) has organised an uprising: Klim had originally worked for Tom and helped to drive the bandits back, but his methods proved questionable even to Tom, who agrees to eliminate Klim once the fuel rods are recovered. Hearing this, Klim and his men rebel against Tom, planning to seize the submarine and use its payload on targets. With Sam’s help, Tom and his remaining supporters defeat Klim’s forces. Sam subsequently reaches Klim and offers the latter a chance to surrender, but ends up falling into the harbor after attempting to attack Sam one last time. With the fuel rods loaded into the submarine, they prepare to set sail, but Eduard remains untrusting off Tom. He reveals to Sam that he’d wired the submarine with explosives and hands him a detonator. As the submarine leaves the harbor, Sam must make a difficult choice and decide whether or not to destroy the submarine, his only ticket out of Vladivostok. Sam is only limited to two choices: either allow Tom to set sail with a fully-functional arsenal of nuclear missiles and return home to San Diego, or destroy the sub to prevent Tom from potentially using these nuclear missiles at the expense of being able to leave Russia.
At first glance, there should be a host of other options – some players have wondered why it was not possible for Sam to have detonated the charges and destroyed the submarine after reaching San Diego. Such a outcome, they reason, would allow Sam to both return home, and at the same time, prevent Tom from utilising the submarine as a weapon of terror. In their haste to pass judgement, however, those players have failed to account for a central thematic element in Sam’s Story: decisions have to be made on the spot at times, and people must take ownership for the choices they make because more often than not, there isn’t time to look at everything and mull things over. In this case, if Sam had elected to do as players suggested and boarded the submarine with the intention of destroying it later, there was always the possibility that the crew could discover the detonator or charges. In the case of Sam’s Story, then, Sam has two certainties: respect Eduard’s wishes and prevent the possibility of another nuclear exchange, or put his needs first and allow the submarine to leave for San Diego. The moral duality here is meant to accentuate that regardless of whether or not one decides their needs, or the collective goals, matter more, there will be advantages and disadvantages. Sam can either reach America with the knowledge that there may be yet another nuclear war, and no certainty that he finds his father, or he can destroy the submarine and eliminate a known threat, leaving himself stranded in Russia for the foreseeable future. There is no easy answer here, but in my case, I found that the selfless decision proved more satisfying overall: yes, Sam’s now stuck in Russia, but as he states in the epilogue, seeing people surviving despite the destruction means there’s hope yet, and Sam can at least rest easier knowing his decision did not just result in the return of nuclear weapons to a world that has already been ravaged by war.
Screenshots and Commentary
- For this play-through of Sam’s Story, I am on Metro Exodus‘ “Enhanced Edition”. Released in 2021, the Enhanced Edition brought overhauled real-time ray-tracing to the table, along with support for DLSS 2, ultra-resolution textures and optimisations to make the game run better despite the new improvements. As a result of these changes, the RTX 2060 was capable of running the Enhanced Edition with playable framerates, and folks with the RTX 2070 (or better) will have an optimal experience.
- As memory serves, the last time I played Metro Exodus, it was 2019 – back then, I’d been excited to see what Metro Exodus brought to the table, and upon finishing the game, I found myself thoroughly impressed. Previous Metro games had been purely set Moscow, primarily in the underground tunnel networks of the Moscow subway, so when Metro Exodus pushed the Spartan Order on a cross-country journey to find a new home for survivors, there was a chance for the developers to flex their creative muscles. The end result was especially impressive, with the game being set across all four, visually distinct seasons.
- On my original play-through of Metro Exodus, I managed to nail the good ending. The original Metro games had proven quite difficult in that earning a good ending required one to embrace a stealth-oriented approach. Patience is key to this, and it takes a bit of tactical thinking to move through areas undetected. The trade-off about stealth is that it offers little chance to actually try the weapons out, and in this area, Metro Exodus was a cut above its predecessors. Beyond providing a much more powerful means of weapon customisation, the game offers more opportunity for combat.
- In Sam’s Story, there’s even more opportunity for engaging in firefights. The only foes around are bandits, mutants and various creatures. The bandits aren’t aligned with Tom’s faction, so there’s no penalty for engaging them directly (beyond the occasional risk of taking return fire), and there’s never been a problem with blowing mutants and monsters away. As such, Sam’s Story really represents a chance for players to shoot things. In the beginning, however, ammunition is extremely limited, and every firefight left me wondering if I would have enough reserve bullets to survive what was next.
- I actually encountered this scenario early in the mission: after entering an abandoned school, hordes of mutants caused my assault rifle and pistol rounds to run dry, and this forced me to fall back on the throwing knives. In the end, I managed to survive, and upon reaching a crafting station, I immediately set about topping off on ammunition. I found that against mutants, the Ashot shotgun was especially effective – a single shell is enough to blow a mutant away, whereas with the assault rifle and pistol rounds, only headshots are ammunition-effective, and it takes two to three rounds to down a mutant.
- After meeting Eduard a second time, Sam has a chance to learn more about his distrust of Tom – Tom had seemed like a fairly affable and reasonable fellow upon Sam’s arrival, so I initially thought that it’d be a simple matter of convincing Eduard to help with the fuel rods. Once the truth about the nuclear submarine and its death-dealing missiles comes out, however, Sam has more incentive to listen to Eduard and his concerns about what might happen if Tom were to decide the missiles could act as a powerful bargaining chip. What followed was one of the most enjoyable bits of character building I’ve seen in a game, as Sam and Eduard swap drinks well into the evening.
- As soon as Eduard and Sam begin drinking, all seriousness evaporates. The pair manage to somehow get Eduard’s generator back online, and as more drinks are consumed, Eduard mistakes a dead mutant for Sam. The next morning, Sam awakes to a frightening sight, but it turns out he’d been sleeping on his stomach. Once Sam and Eduard clarify on what needs to be done, it’s time to head off again. From this point onwards, Sam will encounter both bandits and mutants, as well as the odd giant shrimp. Ammunition is of a secondary concern, but fighting mutants is generally a bad idea, since their movements or defenses mean it takes a large amount of firepower to down one, but at the same time, mutants and monsters don’t drop any useful resources.
- The seamless combination of storytelling and gameplay in Metro games are one of the highlights, bringing to mind how Half-Life had similarly dispensed with cutscenes to fully immerse players in the game. One small detail I noticed was that in Sam’s Story, cups actually contain a drink in them. In Metro: Last Light, whenever Artyom took a drink, the cups were always rendered as empty. As memory serves, Metro Exodus similarly didn’t render the liquid in a cup, and I’m therefore left wondering if this detail was changed by the time Sam’s Story was released.
- Having not played Metro Exodus in quite some time, I admit that it was hard to tell whether or not the visuals I was seeing on-screen was touched up – the original game had looked amazing, and to play everything on high settings, a GTX 1070 was recommended. However, players have remarked that since lighting in the original was pre-baked rather than computed, the original Metro Exodus was darker because this had been a deliberate artistic choice, and Enhanced Edition was much brighter by comparison because light was being simulated more realistically.
- For my part, I found the lighting in Sam’s Story to be spot on, with dark interiors being just dark enough to convey the intended aesthetic. Prior to leaving Eduard’s apartment, I helped reset all of the traps, and earlier, I offered Eduard some food, as well as helped him to move the wooden board. Earlier in the game, I also lowered my weapon upon meeting Eduard for the first time. I had been thoroughly convinced that this should have been sufficient to earn the best ending, but since I ended up missing the part to search for some of Eduard’s men, this was enough to deny me the top prize of a perfect ending.
- The Seraph is one of the toughest foes in Sam’s Story, and early in the game, one will have precious little to deal with it. Conversely, once Sam acquires a Valve sniper rifle, the Seraph becomes much easier to deal with: the Valve’s high damage and accuracy means it is the preferred means of fighting it. With any other weapon, one must expend a large number of bullets in order to achieve the same, and here, during the second confrontation, the Seraph will fly off after taking enough damage. The Valve is Metro Exodus‘ sniper rifle, and early on, one will only be able to fire one round at a time.
- For most of Sam’s Story, the Sammy is best run as an assault rifle: although it’s slightly less accurate than the Kalash, sports a lower firing rate and cannot equip a suppressor, the Sammy remains versatile enough to function as a mid-range automatic weapon. With the Sammy being my general-purpose rifle, I equipped variations of the Stallion and Valve as my other weapons, occasionally switching out to the Ashot if I felt there’d be a large number of mutants and monsters to fight. Throughout my run of Sam’s Story, I didn’t get around to finding the green laser for the Sammy early on, but I was able to locate a red laser. The different laser sights offer similar performance gains, but the increased brightness of a green laser makes it much more valuable.
- I had heard there was a green laser sight in the derelict police station, but hadn’t found anything there. On my quest to gather more weapon attachments and customisation options, I ran into two brothers who were feuding over a jointly-owned car dealership. Out of curiosity, I wound up helping both out, whereupon they realised that they were duped and subsequently reconciled. Aside from world-building and showing that people were managing to eke out survival in the ruins of Vladivostok, I’m not too sure what in-game bonuses are conferred by helping the brothers out. With this being said, it was rewarding to see the two brothers sort things out.
- In the end, I never did find that elusive green laser pointer or the drum magazine for the Sammy. However, my other weapons were eventually kitted out more completely as a result of my exploration – I found a drum magazine for the Stallion, along with an array of sights that turned it into a pocket sniper rifle. Similarly, I would find the long barrel and suppressor for the Valve, although for most of my time in Sam’s Story, I didn’t have a magazine. The plus side about a single-shot Valve was that I was compelled to make every shot count.
- Upon reaching the boatyard, there is no turning back and exploring previous areas, so I decided to push on ahead in Sam’s Story. I originally purchased the expansion content to Metro Exodus back in November during the Black Friday sale, during which discounts brought the price down to five dollars. I had been intending to return to Metro Exodus at some point to see how well my GPU could handle the Enhanced Edition, and the expansion acted as a fantastic opportunity to revisit the game and give it a whirl.
- Throughout Sam’s Story, the ruined Zolotoy Bridge can be seen. This bridge began construction in 2008, and when finished four years later, became the world’s fourteenth-longest cable-stayed bridge. Today’s Vladivostok is a vibrant urban centre of around six hundred thousand residents, and being the terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the city is the cultural and economic centre of the Russian Far East. Sam’s Story presents a reasonably faithful recreation of the city: the game’s events are situated on the northern banks of the Zolotoy River.
- While exploring, I came into an area that was radioactive and therefore, demanded the use of a gas mask. The gas mask was an integral part of all Metro games, allowing one to move through contaminated areas so long as the air filter was periodically swapped out. In Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, filters were pick-ups only, but Metro Exodus introduced a crafting mechanics that allows one to make filters on the fly. It’s helpful in Metro Exodus, but in Sam’s Story, there actually aren’t too many areas that need filters early on. One touch I’ve always loved about the gas mask was that drops of water would be rendered on screen to really give the impression one was wearing a mask, and muck could accumulate on the gas mask, requiring one to wipe it down with a stroke of a button.
- Here, I managed to find a crafting station, and I subsequently capitalised on the moment to top off on filters, ammunition and first aid kits. Interspersed throughout Vladivostok, crafting stations typically also have a bed or chair one can use to rest. This heals up any damage taken, and allows one to dictate what time of day they’re out and about. Similarly to Ghost Recon: Wildlands, I most prefer to venture out during mornings, and with the sun setting here, I opted to take it easy for the night. While going out at night usually means foes are less alert, in Metro Exodus, mutants tend to come out in larger numbers.
- The day/night cycles in Metro Exodus were impressive, and the same level of effort went into level design and visuals for Sam’s Story. Here, I watch a sunrise with the sun’s first rays peeking through the ruined skyline at Vladivostok: for my play-through of Sam’s Story, I have everything set to the highest settings possible. Ray-tracing is enabled, and with DLSS set to favour quality, the game runs at 60 FPS. My monitors are old, so to prevent screen-tearing, I enabled v-sync in games wherever possible. Without DLSS, the improvement to visuals is negligible, and I saw a slight hit in performance: the game still averages 60 FPS, but there are a few moments where framerates drop to 48 FPS.
- While DLSS 2, which comes with the Ampere line of NVIDIA video cards, has been excellent, I have heard that DLSS 3 offers superior performance overall. However, the caveat is that all of the Lovelace GPUs’ benchmarks are done with the assumption that DLSS 3 is enabled, and while improvements to architecture mean the Lovelace series offers tangible benefits with its flagship GPUs, the prices do not justify the upgrades: the RTX 4070 Ti, for instance, offers RTX 3090 level of performance with lower power consumption, but the 4070 Ti has less memory and costs only 400 dollars less at my local retailer. The gains are, in short, not worthwhile from a price-to-performance standpoint, and the mid-range cards will presumably command similar pricing.
- All of this translates to my being doubly pleased about having made the decision to pick up an RTX 3060 Ti when I did. While this card isn’t anywhere near the performance of NVIDIA’s best cards, it is more than adequate for my needs. Back in Sam’s Story, I ended up finding a suppressor for the Stallion, and this meant I now had a near-silent weapon, perfect for sneaking around. I managed to clear out an entire bandit camp in this way, marvelling at how one could dispatch one foe without a nearby foe even noticing.
- Somewhere along the way, I found a five-round magazine for the Valve, and this gave me increased DPS with the sniper rifle. This came just in time for the final fight with the Seraph, and fortunately, I had the foresight to craft additional sniper rifle rounds ahead of this segment. For folks who aren’t prepared, bodies scattered around this grove provide additional ammunition. The Seraph itself is relatively easy to fight, but the swarms of bats it controls can deal considerable amounts of damage. I ended up evading them and returning fire on the Seraph, but some players have noted that a single shotgun shell will disperse a swarm and prevent them from injuring the player.
- With the Seraph beaten, Sam meets up with Eduard, and the two head into the submarine pen to retrieve the fuel rods. Here, Sam’s Story introduces the electric spiders, which can disable electronics and possess above-average durability. Eduard helpfully mentions that these spiders are vulnerable to fire, so incendiary ammunition and Molotov Cocktails become an asset for this segment of the game. I had wondered when spiders would appear in Sam’s Story, as spiders are a core part of the Metro experience, and seeing the spiders return brought back old memories of being swarmed by these grotesques monsters in the underground tunnels.
- The combination of darkness and a highly-damaging foe resulted in some gripping moments of gameplay, and this change of pace in Sam’s Story was quite welcome. In a manner of speaking, Sam’s Story represents the entire Metro experience condensed down into a six hour experience, and this lets players experience familiar gameplay elements with an all-new story. Here, once Sam powers the generators back up, the electric spiders show up in force, and the time has come to put my stockpile of incendiary ammunition to use.
- In most games, I tend to save my most powerful resources and assets for when I really need them, and this approach means that whenever unexpectedly challenging segments appear, I have an easier time of getting through them. The sheer number of electric spiders here meant I burned through my entire inventory, but by the time I ran out of incendiary rounds, I’d also whittled the spiders down enough so Molotov cocktails and standard rifle fire was enough to deal with things. Here, Eduard uses the crane to lift the fuel rods onto his barge, and with the prize in hand, it’s time to finally return to Tom.
- Tom has a full-scale rebellion on his hands: Klim’s overheard Tom’s deal with Eduard, and now intends to take over the submarine. In order to cast off, the hostiles must be downed, and Tom promises to commit his men to fend off Klim’s forces. However, Sam ends up decimating Klim’s forces on his own. It is here that players can unload with their weapons. The close quarters of the map meant I ended up discarding the Valve and picking up the Bastard SMG. Similarly, since I had no more need for stealth, I swapped the Stallion out for the Ashot.
- At close and medium ranges, having the Ashot and Bastard allowed me to cover off most ranges. In place of the Valve, I reconfigured the Sammy with a semi-automatic trigger, a 6x scope and optimised it for accuracy over handling, transforming it into a marksman rifle with a thirty round magazine. For this last part of the game, I managed to find a green laser, and with this loadout, I smashed a path through Klim’s men, sparing them no quarter. The weapon mechanics in Metro Exodus are satisfying, and one thing I’ve come to notice is that there are a number of first person shooters with technically excellent mechanics, but whose gameplay and story favour stealth to the extent that players are punished for going loud, versus giving players options to approach a situation in their own manner of choosing.
- The Bastard submachine gun has very limited utility in Metro Exodus owing to the fact that it fires pistol-calibre ammunition, and one has a cap on how much pistol rounds can be carried. Weaker damage makes the Bastard less useful against mutants, but here, ammunition is plentiful, and a well-placed headshot is enough to neutralise any threat. When I first picked the Bastard up, I thought it was a heavily customised Stallion; it wasn’t until one moment, when I was caught flat-footed, and emptied out half a magazine in a moment of panic, that I realised I was holding an automatic weapon rather than a semi-automatic.
- A thrilling firefight was a pleasant way of wrapping up Sam’s Story, and once Sam reaches Klim, a brief fight ensues. Sam reveals that he has a strong sense of morality: after overpowering Klim, he decides that Klim’s fate must be decided by trial, but Klim seizes the pause to attack Sam. Sam ends up kicking Klim into the harbour, and at this point, all that’s left is to make the decision of whether or not Sam should accompany Tom back to the States, or detonate the charges and preclude the possibility of Tom using the nuclear missiles as a bargaining chip.
- I ended up choosing to destroy the submarine on the grounds that it was more valid to make a decision where the possibility of war was lessened, even if it came with a personal cost. Sam’s Story gives players more insight into Eduard’s thought process and background, and in this way, it becomes easier to make the call. I do get why players might see merit in having Sam return home, too: there is no right or wrong answer in this case, and people with different priorities will gravitate towards different endings. With Sam’s Story in the books, I do have plans to play through the other expansion, Two Colonels, in the near future. Originally, I hadn’t planned on playing the Metro Exodus DLC missions, but a good sale and a curiosity to finish the Metro Exodus experience has led me to reconsider. I am glad to have done so, as Sam’s Story was highly engaging, and if Two Colonels is similar, I am very likely to have a swell time with things.
From a gameplay perspective, Sam’s Story is identical to that of Metro Exodus: this is, after all, an expansion to the original content. However, the self-contained nature of Sam’s Story allows this excursion to offer players with an unparalleled experience. As Artyom, there is incentive to stick with a stealthier, non-lethal playthrough. However, because Vladivostok’s foes are mutants and bandits, Sam is free to go loud: Sam’s Story is a traditional first person shooter experience, where the option of firing one’s weapons is not met with the caveat of incurring a moral penalty. This allows players to really let loose and make full use of the available firearms. Sam’s Story introduces two new weapons: the Sammy is a custom assault rifle modelled on the AK-12 and owing to its superior craftsmanship, can fire incendiary rounds. It is a versatile weapon that can be converted into a makeshift marksman rifle or light machine gun. By kitting the Sammy out with standard options, it is a serviceable all-around performer, leaving one to equip other weapons in their loadout. The other new weapon is the Stallion, a modified .45 ACP Stallion Special chambered to fire .44 magnum rounds. In its base form, the Stallion behaves as an ordinary pistol, but it can be outfitted with a suppressor that gives it unparalleled utility in stealth scenarios. On the other hand, fitting the Stallion with a long barrel, drum magazine and optics transforms it into a pocket marksman rifle. Metro Exodus‘ weapons customisation system allows for creative combinations, and in Sam’s Story, players are given an environment to use said weapons and experiment with different setups draws out the best aspects of Metro Exodus and its combat system – it was a refreshing experience to be able to go loud and engage in firefights which, while possible with Artyom, is nonetheless discouraged thanks to the moral system. Here, a self-contained story means a better chance to try out some of Metro Exodus‘ weapons with more freedom, and together with the narrative, which challenges players to consider whether or not individual or collective goals are more important in a given moment, Sam’s Story becomes a worthwhile addition to Metro Exodus.