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. The Faction Pack is not a spin-off, and neither is it an origin story. In fact, Last Light’s first season pass offering features no reference to Artyom or the Dark Ones. Instead, the tales told here become a cheap excuse to revisit the subterranean tunnels of pestilent Moscow.
Normally, that short description would be enough to 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 does not falter because 4A Games extends a glimpse at three other sects inhabiting post-apocalyptic Russia. It staggers because the team breaks the gameplay into three disparate elements (stealth, exploration, 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. The shootout is reminiscent of Last Light’s feverish conclusion, right down to the wave-based fighting, phalanx of riot shields, and bastard tank battle. The only thing new about the experience is your arsenal. The game grants immediate access to the minigun that turns Russian communists into Swiss cheese, then provides a railgun that discharges ball bearings at lightning speed. The final weapon is a grenade launcher – nothing intrinsically novel, though the shrapnel lays waste to enemies all the same.
This is fairly representative of the view throughout the Reich resistance.
While I loved the closing confrontation in Last Light, my frustration with the Reich's defense rapidly grew. Players are thrown into the fire without any buildup, and my many restarts never unveiled an objective, specifically during the tank segment. Did I miss something, a trick to bring down the iron beast faster? No, I was not spamming nearly enough grenades – not that I could see the flames gradually consuming the vehicle through all the gorgeous lens flare, laser sights, explosions, or turret fire. I welcomed the chaos initially, though the mayhem tended towards overwhelming.
Thank 4A Games that the ambush only persists for ten minutes. The second chapter strands survivors in the boots of a Polis scavenger, with an inventive assignment no less. You must face Moscow’s radioactive surface and bring back artifacts from the museum, including books, toys, and electronics, at which point comrades reward your troubles with currency for protective suits, weapon attachments, gas mask filters, etc. There is a catch: The protagonist's backpack only holds five items, but the level design ensures players can always retrace their steps via hidden shortcuts.
The developers also implement roguelike randomization. Whenever your character sleeps (saves), several collectibles switch locations, asking wanderers to leave no faintly glowing stone unturned. The hunter/forager aspect proved to be Last Light's principal strength, and that goes double here. You may lack ammo, health, and money, which puts the burden on you to conserve priceless resources, perhaps by avoiding combat entirely. 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.
No gas mask filter is too costly for a piano solo.
The third chapter contains everything ninjas could ask for: observing enemy patrol patterns, shooting out lights and lanterns, and creeping through corridors while victims gossip just inches away. As the Red Line’s top sniper, you infiltrate a fortified Reich base. It might be redundant to say 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 omitting the Modern Warfare name. Although you have some freedom in choosing a route through derelict apartments and industrial yards, a siren sounds the moment a guard spots you. Instant failure. The strict “my way or the highway” methodology annoys, because the clumsy few cannot fall back on the exceptional shooting.
The Faction Pack succumbs to bugs and design snags, too. Bullets and missiles visibly pass through cover during the tank's assault, and the scavenger mission does not save progress automatically. You must return to the safety of your bunker and do so manually, which I learned the hard way. A one-sided brawl with a Librarian cost an hour of my life, as did the trip into the museum’s sewers. There, it remains a dice roll whether the monsters walk away peacefully or rip your throat out. Also, the Faction Pack limits players to one save between all three chapters, erasing checkpoints unless the current mission is completed. It is nothing short of idiotic to penalize fans who want to pillage exhibits, conquer communism, and slink around enemy camps simultaneously.
Metro: Last Light succeeded because – minus the engrossing world – 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, only one of the faction's tales is worth hearing.
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: 4A Games
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Like the review? Follow me on Twitter.