I was raised during a time of great expansion packs, when $20 disc addons were the true symbol of an expanding game world. The internet age has bequeathed us with a different type of expansion these days; affordable chunks of content that come in all shapes, sizes and, most importantly, prices.
The Factions Pack for 4A’s awesome Metro Last Light comes in at a very reasonable RRP, but it sadly offers very little quality content to go along with this. Split into three chapters, the expansion lets you inhabit players from some of the others groups and clans that Artyom encounters during his travels in the main game but, converse to what you might expect, very little of the world and lore of the Metro is elaborated upon.
The first chapter sees you taking control of Hans, a heavy weapons expert for the Third Reich army. It was in this chapter that I almost gave up hope. Taking place during the battle for D6 at the end of the Last Light campaign, this chapter is a re-run through the single dullest section of Metro Last Light from the other side. You just gun down enemies of various types for about fifteen minutes. It’s dull as dishwater on normal mode, and frustrating beyond belief on hard and ranger modes.
The liberty was at least taken to add in a few new weapons. A gatling gun and grenade launcher finally grace the roster of Metro, and they are about as fun to wield as you might expect. Your Nazi companions also make a big deal about the rail gun sniper you can find on the map but, aside from a cool visual design, it didn’t feel all that different to any of the other pneumatic weapons you could find in the original game.
Another chapter sees you taking control of a Red Army sniper as you clear out a German outpost. It’s a step in the right direction, offering a much more cerebral style of gameplay that Metro fans will be more at home with. It still isn’t all that deep a game experience though. You’re decked out with a silenced automatic and an equally quiet sniper and, as you fail the mission instantly if you set off any alarms, it offers a decent challenge for fans of the cloak and dagger approach. It sill fails to feel meaningful though, ending abruptly just as you begin to become invested and curious about the communists’ mission.
The Polis chapter is far and away the main attraction, casting you as a Polis fighter venturing into the Moscow library for artefacts from the old world. Yes, as in that Moscow library. The return of such a memorable part of Metro 2033 is delightful and terrifying in equal measure. Far from being a linear romp as in the other chapters though, this one offers an open ended map you need to explore.
You need to stock up on gas mask filters and a radiation/heavy armour suit before you can venture too far though, so it’s a case of exploring the sewers beneath the library for loot that will get you the currency you need. It makes for an oddly strategic style of play and, with tonnes of short-cuts you can create back to your base, the clever map design gives off a pleasant whiff of the Metroidvania genre that works surprisingly well with Metro’s gameplay.
The biggest element of the Polis chapter is the fear factor. Free from the shackles of linear level design and pre-spawned enemies, it’s one of the first times I truly felt fear in the Metro. Nosalis stalk you from all angles, coming at you from hiding places you could never imagine, and the knowledge that you need to be at home to stock up makes you all too aware of how vulnerable you are as you push further into the great library.
It’s nerve-wracking, but also rewarding and exhilarating in a way that the vanilla Last Light campaign simply cannot be. The weapons available for purchase at the Polis base are the only annoying part of this level, with a very limited selection dumbing down your combat decisions considerably.
I suppose one can’t really expect much from a pretty cheap chunk of DLC, but there is no denying that the Factions Pack is a case of one step forward and two steps back. The return of the librarians in amongst a new style of gameplay is a cause for celebration, but the dull and meaningless Third Reich and Red Army levels are truly disappointing.
The pack is mostly enjoyable but, when you consider the opportunities available to expand upon Metro’s fascinating game world through the new character perspectives, it’s hard to see the Factions Pack as anything but a mostly missed opportunity.
This game was reviewed on PC.