Metro Exodus on PC gives new Nvidia RTX laptops a workout

The controversial new apocalyptic shooter feels at home on the highest-end gaming PCs.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
4 min read
Deep Silver

The three games in the Metro series, inspired by Russian sci-fi novels of Dmitry Glukhovsky, have long been favorites of the PC gaming crowd because they took advantage of whatever the top-end PC graphics technology of the time was.

Both Metro 2033 (2010) and Metro: Last Light (2013) were frequently used to benchmark gaming laptops and desktops (including in the CNET testing labs). The same may happen with the just-released Metro Exodus, from developer 4A Games and publisher Deep Silver, which is one of the first games to take advantage of features supported by Nvidia's new RTX GPUs, like real-time ray tracing, which better simulates light reflections and DLSS (Deep Learning Super-Sampling), which uses cloud-based AI to simulate games at insanely high resolutions and teaches your GPU how to mimic that level of detail.

But, playing Metro Exodus on your new (or not-so-new) gaming PC requires jumping through a few more hoops than you might expect. The biggest controversy about the game is how its publisher pulled the PC version from Steam, where it had been available to preorder for months, and declared the little-used Epic game store as its exclusive place to buy the PC version of the game. (Yes, you can get the game on your Xbox or PlayStation, but really, this is a keyboard-and-mouse PC game at heart.)

Gamers waiting to return to the ruins of Moscow's subway system cried foul, not just because the lack of consumer choice, but also because Epic's online game store has been used for little besides Fortnite up until now, and it shows. The Epic platform lacks most of Steam's social features, and worse, it does not support cloud saves, so you'll be back to finding a saved game file and loading it on a USB stick if you want to start on one PC, then pick up later on another.

Deep Silver

Of course, none of that mattered to me when, as the series' protagonist, Artyom, I was calmly rowing my one-man boat across a canal until a giant mutated shrimp monster leapt from the water and landed right at my feet. Were I not a 20-plus-year vegetarian, my comrades and I would have been enjoying wasteland shrimp cocktails all night.

And that's how at least the early hours of the game play. Stretches of exploration across seemingly deserted country, punctuated by sudden attacks from dozens of mutants, animals, monsters, or other survivors. It's familiar in some ways, in others a clean break from the claustrophobic atmosphere of the first two games, which were largely confined to underground subway tunnels and short excursions to the twisted ruins of Moscow, where the poisoned air kept exploration to a minimum.

Surprising no one, the game launched for PCs in a buggy, unoptimized state. It was likely only because we were testing it on the highest-end new laptops with new Nvidia RTX graphics that we ran into relatively few issues besides occasional stuttering and freezing. The multiple patches and fixes released in just the last week show just how much extra work this game needed post-release. Publisher Deep Silver says the latest PC patch should better optimize for lower-end PCs and improve overall stability. We'll be testing it on older gaming laptops soon, but in the meantime, the performance has at least become more predicable since the latest patch (delivered automatically via the Epic Games app store).

Deep Silver

In our first attempts to benchmark the game, scores were all over the place, changing wildly between runs. Since Thursday, benchmark runs have been much more stable, with three runs at a particular setting coming in within a few frames per second of each other. Our most recent testing used the Asus Zephyrus GX 701 ($3,299), a slim 17-inch gaming laptop with an RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU, and the Razer Blade Advanced ($2,349), a 15-inch laptop with the RTX 2060. We have many more runs across different classes of laptops planned, but we're tossing any results before the latest patch and these are the first two laptops we've tested.

Metro Exodus: Ultra settings

  • Razer Blade Advanced (RTX 2060) -- 41fps
  • Asus Zephyrus (RTX 2080 Max-Q) -- 61fps

Metro Exodus: Medium settings

  • Razer Blade Advanced (RTX 2060) -- 67fps
  • Asus Zephyrus (RTX 2080 Max-Q) -- 97fps

Metro Exodus: RTX settings

  • Razer Blade Advanced (RTX 2060) -- 43fps
  • Asus Zephyrus (RTX 2080 Max-Q) -- 51fps

The RTX version isn't showing a big difference at this stage, as DLSS doesn't really kick in unless you're playing at 4K, and anecdotally, I suspect the gray, washed-out exteriors of the Russian wasteland don't lend themselves to a lot of shiny, real-time ray-traced reflections.

We're continuing to test Metro Exodus on more systems and will report more complete scores when available. In the meantime, while I was as annoyed as everyone else by the last-minute jump to the Epic Games platform, and especially by the lack of cloud saves, I'm enjoying the game enough to overlook all of that, at least for now. The final proof? For the past week, I've been doing it Sneaker-net style, walking around with a USB stick in my pocket containing my precious game saves.