I love the guns in the Metro games. Awkward, ruthless, post-apocalyptic testaments to the harsh reality of scavenging. Namely, that a good gun isn’t a pretty gun. These so-ugly-they’re-beautiful Frankenstein firearms are the most memorable weapons you’ll find this side of your Borderlands locker. The first round of downloadable content for Metro: Last Light, called the Faction Pack, has some grand new additions, like the Reich’s pneumato-electro-whatever sniper rifle (pictured) and the last-resort single-shot flare gun for the Polis ranger. Firing these ungainly beauties was nearly enough to make me not care that two thirds of the Faction Pack is brainless shooting minus Metro’s somber storytelling. I’m here to shoot funky fugly lovely guns and chew bubblegum, and the apocalypse burned up all the bubblegum.
After the jump, say hello to my ugly friends
Most of the Faction Pack consists of 1) the last mission of Metro Last Light, but played from the perspective of the Nazis, and 2) a new sniper mission, played from the perspective of the Stalinists. The former is mowing down hordes of dumb enemies and the latter is, well, a sniper mission. You’ve done this stuff in pretty much every other shooter, including Metro: Last Light itself. Now you’re doing it in paid DLC featuring new guns (you won’t soon forget the sheer glee of spraying ammo from the Reich minigun like water from a firehose). Now you’re doing it in Metro’s richly atmospheric engine. Too bad it’s full of the usually frustrating scripted difficulty boondoggles like snipers instakilling you and inscrutable fail-states instafailing you. From a gameplay perspective, you could just as easily turn your brain off in a Call of Duty game starring boring ol’ licensed firearms and Sam Worthington’s voice.
The one-third of the Factions Pack that isn’t brainless shooting nearly makes this is a must-have piece of DLC for a must-have shooter. The Polis scavenger hunt manages to pull together a lot of what makes Metro special: tone, characters, suspense, the dark lonely ruins. And now a special focus on the forgotten detritus of a lost civilization and a new system of stakes. This is very nearly a roguelike except that nothing is randomized, there’s no permadeath, and it’s a Metro game. The idea is that you set out into the level to find artifacts and scrounge resources, which you can then cash in to buy more ammo, health syringes, air filters, weapons, upgrades, and even suits to get you past irradiated areas. Screw in lightbulbs along the way to track your progress and unlock shortcuts to get around easier. Do you push ahead for a little more progress, or do you fall back to save the game here? Someone at Metro developer 4A Games likes Dark Souls. There’s even the hint of invaluable equipment lost when previous rangers died in the field. Can you find the fabled crossbow?
Unfortunately, the answer for me is “no, I can’t find any fabled crossbow, much less make any progress”. Metro Last Light is a ruthlessly checkpointed game with only a single checkpoint available and the Faction Pack does nothing to work around that fact. So after rogueliking my way through irradiated ruins to recover relics like a doll, a clock, a tricycle, and a science textbook, I decided to give the sniper mission another try to see if I could figure out why I kept triggering the godawful stealth failstate. At which point I realized I had to start the sniper mission over again because it had overwritten my checkpoint. Bah, I thought, it’s not worth it. So back to my roguelike scavenger hunt in progress. Except that it was no longer in progress since the checkpoint had been overwritten and everything reset.
As a storyline about a guy working his way along a subway tunnel, Metro Last Light’s checkpoint system works fine. But in a set of three separate and distinct missions that should each track your progress separately, Metro Last Light’s checkpoint system is a real killjoy, forcing you to play only one set at a time, and don’t you dare entertain the idea of checking out anything else in the game until you’re done. I appreciate that 4A Games has provided this much variety, and I really appreciate the survival-oriented scavenger hunt they’ve crafted with the ranger mission, and especially how much personality and atmosphere they’ve given it. But without a more effective delivery system than a single checkpoint overwriting all your other progress, the Faction Pack is a frustrating example of death by linearity.