4A Games deliver the inaugural slice of DLC for their marvellous post-apocalyptic shooter, Metro: Last Light. The Faction Pack introduces new characters, new weapons and a chance to help the Poles establish the first post-doomsday museum. At a penny under four queen pounds, what could go wrong?
Everything. Man overboard. Mayday. Good grief. There’s a reason the Metro: Last Light Faction Pack DLC crept out with the fanfare reserved for a turd departing HQ. It’s not pretty.
Comprising three missions, a handful of new weapons and a trio of characters, the events of the Faction Pack run parallel to those of Last Light but, save for the opening mission, it’s hard to gauge just what relevance they have to the core tale or the world of Metro. Which makes it very hard to care for this taciturn bunch of soldier men.
The good times begin deep underground in the company of Heavy Squad. You’re plonked into the slippers of a Reich shock trooper in a replica of Last Light’s closing mission (one of its lowest points; tantamount to a turret scene). Corralled into a four by eight meter box, you, clutching a minigun, aim at a trench from which obliging Russians spill incessantly. You shoot. They die. At one point you reload. Midway through a tank thunders in, followed by a cabal of centurion-like bad guys safeguarding a heavy trooper and I’ll stop here because you’ve heard this one before. It’s a shameless facsimile, and it’s over in five minutes.
Mission number two, set in Metro 2033’s vaguely iconic Library, shifts the focus away from mindless shooting and on to the grand art of hunting doodads. While the world-at-large totters on the precipice of absolute annihilation, the Polish have embarked on an Easter egg hunt and it’s your job to brave the festering carcass of doomed Moscow to bring them a tricycle and some traffic lights for I don’t know.
(As an aside, it’s endearing, if nothing else, just how pumped the character is for this mission. “So this is it”, he croons at the outset. “I’ve finally proven that I’m worthy of becoming one of Polis Kshatriya. I am worthy of carrying out the mission of retrieving the artifacts.” Meanwhile, a station away, Russian and German troops are playing mutual-genocide with guns and tanks but hey, museums are important too buddy!)
Jesting aside it’s a decent idea, setting the stage for a mission more concerned with survival and a touch of horror than endless pew pew pow. With a strict limit on ammo and gas mask filters, it demands to be played bashfully and with a nervous eye set laser-like on the clock. The Poles, seemingly unconcerned with matters like not fucking starving or asphyxiating to death, reward you lots of money for trinkets returned, which you use to buy their better weapons, gasmask filters, ammo and the like. It boasts the air of a micro-campaign and fans of 2033 will appreciate a special cameo.
But while it sounds like a party on paper, the only party it can fairly be compared to in execution is a one-man pants party. Chief party-pooping culprits here are the awful bashy gorilla baddies from Last Light, who have established their base of operations within the library and set about continuing their mission of PUNCH EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME ALL AT ONCE FOREVER UP IN YO’ GRILL. (They’ve found allies too, a breed of big dangling penis-monsters native to the library. There aren’t a great many opportunities to cry “I’m being accosted by giant dangling cock-monsters!” in videogames, so chalk that up as a positive.)
Worse than their mere continued existence, each time you return to your sanctuary-cum-museum to dump a new batch of trinkets they all bloody respawn.
The last mission is a sniping gauntlet in the mould of Ghillies in the Mist where you shoot people in the correct order or you GO HOME. Straying from the righteous path almost always causes the klaxon alarm to ring, which triggers the last checkpoint. The year is 2013. This is still happening.
Quite often 4A’s first offering feels like a mocking criticism of first-person shooter tropes, such is the laborious and hackneyed nature of it all. But if it is a joke then the punchline to each mission is the same: “and if you thought that was bad…”. The disappointing brevity of Heavy Squad is, ultimately, Faction Pack’s métier.
More than anything, it stands in sharp contrast to Last Light proper, where players were afforded room to dictate the pace and where 4A’s meticulously elaborate world, rich, sombre mood and kick-ass shooting merged to create a game of, at times, monstrous quality. Here, everything is dictated and Last Light’s intoxicating and melancholic side seems to have taken a blindfolded hike along a pier, while the lack of any story beyond MAN WITH GUN SHOOTS OTHER MANS WITH GUNS ALSO POLES FOUND FIRST POST-APOCALYPSE MUSEUM robs it of any gravitas.
The full game was spasmodic, a first-person shooter bedevilled by tactless enemy design and a final act that descended a little too eagerly into wanton shooter territory. But at its peak it was a rich and thumping shooter that did a belting job of both empowering and tyrannising the player. The Faction pack brushes that aside, hones in on the game’s shortcomings and demands you pay for the privilege of enduring it a second time round.
Last Light deserves better.
This review was originally published on BeefJack.