Earlier this year, 4A Games’ Metro series took an ambitious step forward, as it shed the linear, claustrophobic nature of the first two beloved games in the series, and attempted to deliver something more vast and open. It was a move that mostly paid off, and Metro Exodus was yet another excellent entry in the series. But while the more open-ended sections of the game were mostly well done and added plenty to the experience, Exodus was still at its best when it was delivering its linear set-piece moments.
The shooter’s first expansion, The Two Colonels, goes all-in on that linearity, shedding the base game’s semi-open world trappings to go back to the series’ roots in what feels like a love letter to fans- but it doesn’t leverage its linear nature as well as the series has done in the past. There’s nothing offensively bad about The Two Colonels – in fact, in the storytelling department, it’s pretty much toe-to-toe with the base game, and even better in some ways – but all said and done, it’s a thoroughly unremarkable expansion.
"There’s nothing offensively bad about The Two Colonels – in fact, in the storytelling department, it’s pretty much toe-to-toe with the base game, and even better in some ways – but all said and done, it’s a thoroughly unremarkable expansion."
Storytelling is where The Two Colonels is at its best. The actual story told here is solid enough, if nothing special, but it’s the way it’s told that makes it so special. The Two Colonels acts as a side story running alongside a particular section of Exodus and as a collection of flashbacks at the same time. Colonel Miller heads into the depths of the Novosibirsk metro with Kirill – a character you’ll remember from the base game – providing support over the radio as the colonel looks to retrieve some green stuff for his ailing daughter. But the bulk of the DLC takes place in the past, with this being used as a framing device to tell another story.
That story is that of Colonel Khlebniko, Kirill’s father, and the story of how this particular metro settlement tore itself apart when things went south. The Two Colonels draws some interesting parallels between Miller and Khlebniko, and does so without ever resorting to heavy-handed techniques. While doing so, it juggles a few other important plot points, such as the relationship between Khlebniko and Kirill, and the way the leadership of the metro deals with a civil uprising when the situation turns dire, and the morally troublesome situations that leads to.
The Two Colonels successfully delivers on all fronts as far as the storytelling is concerned. The voice acting is still a bit spotty, but I expect that’s something Metro fans have grown used to by now, and honestly, it doesn’t affect the experience that much. The relationship between Khlebniko and his son is developed very well, and The Two Colonels also handles the uncomfortable nature of the metro’s leadership resorting to authoritarian methods and militaristic force against its civilian population with surprising deftness. What also elevates the storytelling is the fact that the main playable protagonist, Colonel Khlebniko, is not mute, unlike series protagonist Artyom. Having an actual character – and one that’s developed and written pretty well – as the leading man does wonders for the story, and just drives the point that Artyom’s unwillingness to speak in the main games is unnecessary even further.
"Having an actual character – and one that’s developed and written pretty well – as the leading man does wonders for the story, and just drives the point that Artyom’s unwillingness to speak in the main games is unnecessary even further."
If The Two Colonels were being judged solely on the merits of its storytelling, this would be a much more positive review. Unfortunately, in other areas, the DLC falls short. The most obvious flaw working against it is its length- at just two (or three, at most) hours long, there’s not a lot of content here, and it ends far too quickly. There simply isn’t enough time to allow players to actually immerse themselves in any gameplay aspects.
The other big issue is, the gameplay aspects are nothing to write home about. On paper, the biggest thing The Two Colonels has going for it is its return to linearity. Its claustrophobic and grimy environments are something series fans will be very happy to see. But unlike Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, The Two Colonels doesn’t use that claustrophobia very well. The horror vibes are noticeably absent, and in their absence, what’s left behind – the trademark heavy movement, the methodical gameplay, and the quieter moments – end up feeling like a slog.
The first major chunk of the DLC sees players heading into the tunnels to burn away an infestation of slime and huge, mutated worms, but there’s no urgency and threat of danger here. Some worms occasionally attack you, but a huge portion of this section sees you doing nothing but walking through extremely linear corridors, burning stuff on the walls with your flamethrower, and occasionally doing other stuff like turning off valves or cranking your weapon. Even the exploration and crafting mechanics are heavily pared back, which means there isn’t much to do in this section, and what’s there is, frankly, a little boring.
"The horror vibes are noticeably absent, and in their absence, what’s left behind – the trademark heavy movement, the methodical gameplay, and the quieter moments – end up feeling like a slog."
Things do pick up in the second half, which is a lot more action-packed, but none of it lasts long enough to make any kind of an impact. There’s also the fact that, like the base game, The Two Colonels’ shooting isn’t the best, so to have an important chunk of the DLC be more action-oriented instead of horror-oriented in spite of the claustrophobic environments feels like an incongruous choice. The poor usage of linear, underground environments just feels like a major missed opportunity all around.
By the time The Two Colonels ended, it had done very little for me. I enjoyed the story and the way it was told, and going into it with prior knowledge from the base game of what happens to the metro settlement made for a tragic tale. Sadly, actually playing through the DLC was boring at worst, and completely unremarkable at worst, not to mention the fact that it was over far too quickly for any of it to make any sort of impact. Fans of the series and the base game will probably enjoy what’s on offer here, but even so, I wouldn’t recommend The Two Colonels with much enthusiasm.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Too short; Dull gameplay, for the most part.