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Metro: Last Light – Faction Pack

Metro

Metro: Last Light fell short of greatness. A follow up to 2010’s Metro 2033, this was the rare occasion when a sequel had room to improve upon a concept and execution rather than cynically milk what made it special into a possible franchise. It came close to doing so but in the end lacked the conviction to fully realise Dmitry Glukhovsky‘s fictional world in an interactive form. 4A Games’ have chosen to sidestep Artoym’s story and the Dark Ones to give breathing space for new perspectives within the Metro. Told as an anthology, there are three isolated stories that tell the tale of other survivors.

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“Three isolated stories”To better identify with where Faction Pack ends overall, the worst and best stories must be dissected and explored as individual parts of a great whole. Most anthologies have an enervated segment that lowers the totality. Faction is no stranger to this mistake, and in Heavy Squad, we see a slice of a final battle. As a heavily equipped member of the Reich, a National Socialist party of the Metro that believes in maintaining a pure bloodline free of mutation, the approaching communists must be prevented from gaining any further ground at all costs.

The waves of enemies – and they are generic seen-this-before waves – that flow forward do showcase the technical highlights of the 4A Engine. Sparks fly from metal, particles float through the air, bodies tumble, all revolving together into a visual feast for the technical connoisseur. What a shame then that the penultimate assault was without a doubt the most frustrating piece of design encountered year-to-date.

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“Generic seen-this-before waves”A wall of communist soldiers carrying protective shields slowly approach. They’re guarding a heavily armoured soldier sporting extreme firepower. A comrade shouts to use the railgun against armoured foes. Grabbing this high powered rifle enters a slow, forced animation that led to death in the first instance. The second time was successful. The key target was a juggernaut. If he got too close it’d be over. The railgun did little good. And then bam – a sudden explosion took us out.

After the same path played out for the eleventh time patience began to dwindle. The solution was to watch and see if there were any cracks in the system to exploit. As it would happen, there wasn’t any. Death was not coming from the advancing horded but from a missile volley that was unavoidable, triggered when the walking shield got too close. What a cop out. Ignoring the advice of fellow brethren, a Gatling gun and endless pipe bombs were put to use. It worked. As it would happen, the requirement was to clear the row of men carrying shields, upon which the main threat would automatically be defeated.

The remaining two stories are a welcome improvement, though to varying degrees. Red Line Sniper embraces the false ideology that if you’re spotted then having to restart a checkpoint is engaging, whilst Kshatriya is robust and focused, and therefore worth exploring as to why this holds up an otherwise passable expansion.

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“An eerie joy within the decaying library walls”Metro’s strength has always been the world the survivors inhabit; the real character of the story. Seen from the point of view of the latest member of the Polis Kshatriya, keen to impress on his first trip, the outside sewers and above ground must be scoured for relics and artefacts of the world before. Each trip out leads deeper into the outside world, re-exploring locations from Metro 20133, as treasures, be it old guitars, posters or children’s toys, are brought back. Financial compensation for the work then allows equipment to be purchased that grants access to new, dangerous areas.

This is wall-to-wall atmosphere. An optional moment leads to an effective scare as I leapt out of my seat and swore. There’s an eerie joy within the decaying library walls. The limitation to how much can be carried is an obvious design choice, forcing repetition in trekking back to sell, buy and head back out, and whilst it may hamper the larger scope, there’s no denying that this is where Metro excels: alone, gas mask on, mutated beasts howling close by and limited bullets left in a final magazine.

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Ill conceived and illogical if following orders, Heavy Squad is the weakest slice of this anthology. Kshatriya on the other hand proves 4A Games’ eye for detail in environments and an exploration of intelligent, semi-open spaces. Faction Pack peels the main body of Metro: Last Light apart and moulds individual tales. This proves to be problematic, and not surprisingly so, as it comes off as a self-aware attempt to test and shine a flashlight on reactions to each part. The chaotic gunplay that lazily leans back on traditional blueprints doesn’t do enough to support itself as it falls flat, and stealth missions with forced restarts should be sealed in concrete and dropped in a toxic dump. Kshatriya, then, is the one reason to come back to Last Light.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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