(PC Review) Metro: Last Light – Faction Pack

Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Players: 1
ESRB: Mature
Reviewer: Philip Smith

Overall: 7 = Good

Minimum Requirements:
Dual Core CPU (2.2+ GHz Dual Core CPU or better), 2 GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 512MB

Metro: Last Light – Faction Pack is the first downloadable content pack for 4A Games’ atmospheric post-apocalyptic first-person shooter. The drop contains three single-player missions, each focused around one of the three main factions: the Polis Rangers, the Reich, and the Redline. The missions task players with defending against an assault by the Redline as a Gatling-gun-toting heavy soldier for the Reich, collecting relics and artifacts for trade as a Polis Ranger, and taking out a Reich outpost as a Redline sniper.

The missions can be played in any order, but I chose to go through them in the order in which they are listed. That almost proved to be a mistake. The mission at the top of the list is Heavy Squad, which puts players in the role of a Reich ‘heavy’ as he stands alongside his compatriots against three waves of attacks by Redline soldiers. Similar to the final sections of Last Light, players are restricted to a fixed position and blast away at everything that comes within their line of sight. The first wave consists of standard infantry and a few snipers along the perimeter, which wasn’t so bad. But things quickly go downhill as the next two waves, consisting of shield-toting soldiers protecting a Redline heavy and then a tank, add little in the way of variety and can be incredibly frustrating. The chaos, which proved to be quite cathartic after the increasingly building tension of Last Light, feels very sloppy here as the Reich soldiers are stuck in a much smaller area than in the original campaign, constantly getting in each other’s way as the AI units frequently get in the player’s line of sight, and attacks are received from unseen enemies. I also had some technical issues, with framerate dips, present in all missions and worse than in the base game, and several instances when the equipped weapon wouldn’t fire. At only 10 to 15 minutes long—and packed with bland action—this is easily the worst of the lot.

Kshatriya, the next mission on the list, is a remarkable turnaround from Heavy Squad. In many ways, Kshatriya is Stalker done in the Last Light engine. As a newly recruited Polis Ranger, players must venture out from an underground base through a network of sewer tunnels, battling mutants, scavenging loot from corpses, and grabbing rare artifacts to return in exchange for money (bullets). Items gained during each excursion can then be exchanged for cash with which players can buy new weapons and weapon upgrades, health packs, air filters, a combat suit, and a radiation suit. Light bulbs are also given so that players ‘can make the place feel more like home’ by inserting them into working sockets, which, along with torches that can be lit, provide the only reliable light in the tunnels. After a while, players will get to venture out onto the surface, rummaging through a ramshackle building before making their way through a dangerous storm and eventually into the library from Metro 2033.

What makes Kshatriya so good is that it is incredibly tense. The low-hanging fruit is picked quickly, with the ammo and money from corpses, desk drawers, and shelves being the first items looted. The real money is in the two dozen or so artifacts that are earmarked for recovery, ranging from a computer keyboard to a tricycle, and finding one out in the wild is like running across rare gear in a role-playing game. The excitement isn’t just from the fact that each one found is another notch down in the progress bar, but also because the money they net is desperately needed. If there is one fundamental rule in Kshatriya, it’s that everything costs. The biggest expenditure is the air filters, which are not found in the wild and become increasingly expensive with each filter purchased during an excursion. But here’s the rub: only five artifacts can be carried at any given time. This means that, even if the player has a great artifact run, they still must return back to base to drop off their items, and all of this takes up precious air filters; the money needed for those filters eats into the money needed for better armaments, health packs, and protective suits. There were several moments when I had to make desperate blind runs without a mask because I couldn’t afford to run down any remaining air-filter time but still needed money; at other times, I had to sell nearly everything to the point where all I had left was a handful of bullets and a few minutes left on my last filter. This approach, with income restricted to set items scattered around the world, can be almost too puzzle-like at times due to expensive protective suits needing to be purchased in a proper order; there simply aren’t enough artifacts to exchange or gear to loot to afford any serious purchasing mistakes, and doing so before overwriting a previous save in the single save slot can cause serious problems. That said, the save limitations does ratchet things up, making Kshatriya quite nerve-wracking and easily the best of the bunch.

The final mission on the list is Sniper Team. This is another short one, but in terms of both length and quality, it is far closer to Kshatriya than Heavy Squad. As a Redline sniper, players must take out a Reich outpost by first sniping the tower and perimeter guards, and then making their way inside for close-quarter combat with a silenced submachine gun and knife. There’s not much else to it than that, but having to sneak around a heavily patrolled outpost during a storm while constantly looking for wandering guards and spare air filters makes for a nice change of pace. One thing about Sniper Team that stood out in particular was the shift in tone due to the use of the term “Nazi,” which has a more grounding effect, making the setting seem more real than science fiction, as it was more implied than directly stated in the original game. Then again, the Redline has never been known for their subtlety.

Faction Pack bodes well for the remaining upcoming downloadable content planned for Metro: Last Light. Although the three missions are all great in theory, offering a nice array of combat and objective types, they are not all winners; however, it’s priced right ($4.99) and offers a few solid hours of gameplay. The Reich’s Heavy Squad is a massive dud, while the Redline’s Sniper Team is a nice diversion, leaving the Polis Rangers’ Kshatriya as the clear winner, offering the kind of Stalker-like experience that the base game always hinted at. And while I encountered more technical issues here than I did in the original game, that shouldn’t stop anyone from letting out their inner ranger.

(This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher.)

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