Editor's Note: Click the title links for a detailed analysis of each add-on, or enjoy the abbreviated reviews below.
The Faction Pack is not the content fans would expect of a developer after the chilling, tightly woven narrative that unraveled during Metro: Last Light proper. The Faction Pack is not a spin-off, and neither is it an origin story. Bearing no mention of Artyom or the Dark Ones, the tales told here are a cheap excuse to revisit the subterranean tunnels of pestilent Moscow.
Normally, any story add-ons would pull me back in for more assassinations, sightseeing, and vodka drinking in the Metro universe, but there are foul things amiss with this DLC. The Faction Pack extends a glimpse at three other three sects inhabiting post-apocalyptic Russia, but 4A Games breaks the gameplay into stealth, exploration, and running and gunning across an equal number of chapters, whereas these components formed one fantastic, cohesive whole previously.
The first mission puts players in the body armor of a Reich soldier proudly defending his station from invading Reds. Reminiscent of Last Light’s frenzied conclusion, the only thing new about the experience is your arsenal. The minigun turns Russian communists into Swiss cheese, a railgun discharges ball bearings at lightning speed, and a grenade launcher's shrapnel perforates multiple enemies at once. While I loved the final confrontation in Last Light, my frustration with the Reich's defense grew rapidly, specifically during the tank segment. I welcomed the chaos initially, though the mayhem tended towards overwhelming.
Thank 4A Games that the ambush only lasts ten minutes. The second chapter strands survivors in the boots of a Polis scavenger, who must brave Moscow’s radioactive surface and bring back books, toys, and electronics from the museum. The catch: The protagonist's backpack only holds five items, yet the level design ensures players can always retrace their steps via hidden shortcuts. The hunter/forager aspect proved to be Last Light's principal strength, and that goes double here. You're often lacking in ammo, health, and money, which puts the onus on you to conserve priceless resources. The second mission is the most atmospheric, too. From the satanic roar of otherworldly creatures to the mournful piano playing of fellow rangers, I fell into a perpetual swing of panic and awe.
The third chapter contains everything ninjas could ask for: observing enemy patrol patterns, shooting lights and lanterns, and creeping through corridors while victims gossip just inches away. As the Red Line’s top sniper, you must infiltrate a fortified Reich base. It might be redundant in saying players should be as silent as possible, given Last Light's accessible stealth system; however, the game does not afford much choice. In essence, the mission is a Modern Warfare sniper segment minus the Modern Warfare name.
Metro: Last Light succeeded because the gunplay, stealth, and exploration effortlessly entwined. When analyzing those parts individually, the Faction Pack cannot match the grimy splendor of Artyom’s campaign. There still reside as many soldiers in the underground subways as yet untold stories. Sadly, for five bucks, just one of the faction's tales is worth hearing.
I cannot reiterate Metro: Last Light’s merits often enough: convincing characters, accessible stealth, atmospheric suspense – the list goes on. Even its trivial interactions, such as manually recharging flashlights and wiping gunk from gas masks, were all done in service of building a more believable, more putrid dystopia for players to immerse themselves in. The combat, or at least the way it’s presented in the Tower Pack, ruins that illusion.
I do love Last Light’s gunplay ... as a last resort. When confronted by a dozen armed guards, sneaking keeps you alive longer, preserves ammo, and builds tension – the very antithesis of the Tower Pack. A mix of wave-based challenge rooms, Last Light’s second post-launch add-on casts a light on the inferior shootouts.
The firearms still kick like branded mules, but the combat in close quarters is just as stubborn. To be blunt, it sucks garbage. The captain has the resilience of plywood in a hurricane, and nosalises (the mutant dog-mole-creature things) tear him to shreds as he flails with his pocket knife. The DLC is intolerably brutal. Masochists might brute force their way to the final arena on Hardcore, yet the payoff is negligible. The big emphasis is on leaderboards – harder difficulties promise higher ranks.
The Tower Pack only includes five missions, which you can power through in thirty minutes. At least players can select their weapons between missions and buy ammo mid-wave. I even felt a real duty to protect my AI comrades, because they lack self-preservation. Still, I would prefer a co-op mode; the misery of others might make some glitches more bearable.
Opponents blink out of existence, disappearing momentarily. They also fall straight through solid ground when shot – not killed, mind you – a real problem when players must kill every enemy to proceed. The game crashed no less than five times (once per mission), freezing my PC in the process. You cannot revisit arenas, either. You must restart from the beginning, and honestly, I would not risk additional bugs.
Metro: Last Light’s DLC has been consistent in one regard: the price. But what might fans for a dollar less? Besides a virtual shooting range, not much. The Developer Pack integrates unique, well, developer tools, like bot battles and an interactive museum, while its lone single-player mission (Spider Lair) embraces arachnophobia and all its jittery, eight-legged revulsion.
Two “stalkers” (looters?) turn up dead after investigating uncharted tunnels, though their buddy escapes his stringy prison before territorial spiders melt his insides into fresh gelatinous smoothies. The relief is short-lived, of course. Tenacious cobwebs ensnare unlucky survivors, mutant bedbugs linger outside the flashlight’s protective rays, and the developers keep ammo scarce, eliciting nerve-wracking unease as the protagonist stumbles around passages searching for the exit.
The arachnids' domain provides a new makeshift weapon: a flamethrower. Nothing barbecues chitinous insect hides faster than several thousand degrees of man-made inferno, yet my heart nearly skipped a beat when the fire died out – the gauge's needle nesting firmly on empty – amid a sea of agitated canine-size scorpions.
The mission, from beginning to end, is undoubtedly short, but 4A Games does a solid job of steadily broadening your arsenal while building set pieces of suspense and dominance. One moment I’m hanging upside down, cocooned alive; minutes later, I’m torching rooms full of xenomorph eggs.
The rest of the Developer Pack’s features – novel as they may be – yield to low expectations. The shooting range boasts ten timed challenges that test your accuracy, yet I saw no need for firearms other than my minigun when targets consist of wooden bullseyes, metal dummies, and undead infantry. In the arena, combat is a bit more hectic. Waves of enemies encircle their victims while darting between cover, but I still used Last Light’s minigun exclusively.
The arena also pits AI bots against one another in endless four-on-four matches, like a stripped down, better-looking version of Garry’s Mod. I laughed every time a giant shrimp crushed some poor soldier’s skull, except some creatures, such as winged demons and zombie bears, sit this deathmatch out.
With Mero: Last Light's Chronicles Pack now available for purchase, 4A Games brings the release of season pass add-ons to a close. It would appear, however, that the developers have simply gone through the motions here, separating gameplay into mundane sessions of exploration, stealth, and panicked shooting yet again. The Chronicles Pack still contains Metro’s best-in-class ambiance, however, and the emphasis on less hollow secondary characters celebrates these bonus missions as the definitive (and least buggy) Last Light DLC.
Pavel’s chapter begins some time after his battle with Artyom, where humanity’s voiceless savior spared the Russian commander. Captured by Nazis or independent mercenaries (which remains unclear), Pavel improvises an escape from a militant sector of the station Venice. The inclination towards stealth (shooting light bulbs, waiting in shadows, etc.) illustrates Last Light’s appeal better than the other two missions, though players may open fire on their kidnappers at any time.
The conclusion allows gamers to browse Venice's market as well. Have your fortune told, enjoy a private dance, or eavesdrop on citizens before retreating to the Red Line. I would have gladly paid $4.99 for an extra hour-long glimpse into Pavel’s origins, but as soon as the mission settles into a comfortable rhythm of sneaking and sightseeing, it ends.
Rather, Khan’s mission gets the cryptic backstory treatment. After his transportation came to an explosive stop following Last Light’s train sequence, Khan rendezvoused with Uhlman for a shared dose of the supernatural. Haunted by anomalies, ghosts, and thousands of flesh-eating rats, efforts to avoid the paranormal put me on the edge of my seat while filling in the blanks about Khan's past, revealing mistakes the mysterious Ranger made as a young station recruit and the regrets with which he now lives.
After two otherwise exceptional episodes (given Last Light’s DLC reputation), Anna’s assignment is the most throwaway of the bunch. Players provide covering fire for Artyom during Last Light’s prologue, assisting the hero in his hunt for the sole surviving Dark One. That sounds more exciting on paper. Anna’s bodyguard duties barely last ten minutes, and your objective requires little interaction beyond peering through a rifle’s scope and squeezing the trigger.
So it ends, not with a cliché whimper, but with an above-average boom. As with Last Light itself, the season pass add-ons have been a source of pratfalls and titillating surprises, both of technical achievements and defects. Few of the missions (the Faction Pack’s scavenger hunt, the Developer Pack’s Spider Lair, etc.) will leave a lasting effect, but those that do will be discussed by Metro fans for months to come.