HIGH Spider's Lair is an excellent, atmospheric piece of content.
LOW Many missions end before they really get going.
WTF I've still no idea what the deal is with Anomalies.
Metro: Last Light was one of the better offerings of 2013, and it received an admirable amount of support over the months following its release. I covered the first add-on downloadable content (DLC) titled Faction earlier, and now that the last three installments have been released, here's my take on the rest.
Consumers: be aware that each piece is available separately, but all four come as a package for players who purchase the Season Pass for a discounted price.
The Tower Pack
The Tower Pack involves taking control of a wounded soldier recovering from an unspecified injury. A gunshot wound, presumably. Or a mauling from the countless marauding beasts within the Metro. Or radiation poisoning? However it happened, he's on the back bench, so what better time to test out a natty VR training machine those crafty, post-apocalyptic scientists have cooked up?
Our nameless invalid may be recovering from wounds, but that doesn't mean the eggheads are going to go easy on him—quite the opposite. The Tower Pack challenges are brutally difficult and, dare I say it, not particularly well-thought-out or balanced.
Slung into a room with sealed enemy spawn points dotted around the perimeter, survival was an intensely tough battle of attrition that led to me cowering in a corner and blasting anything silly enough to pop around for a look.
The main problem is that ammo is in short supply, weapons are limited to the bare essentials, and every time they run dry it's a sprint out into the open to retrieve some more—and if there's a bunch of goons poking around and looking for something to shoot, it's easy to be blasted to ribbons from countless angles with no real hope of retaliation.
To be fair, the combat itself is still fine. Last Light's gunplay is vastly improved over Metro 2033's, and that still holds true here with satisfying mechanics and hefty kickback to weapons. It's just that each encounter can become overwhelming, and these opponents can soak up more damage than is strictly necessary. The stealth approach is also impossible in this DLC—enemies know exactly where to shoot at all times, and will come out of their spawn points aiming in the direction of the player even if he's hidden behind a solid concrete wall.
The Tower Pack is a decent piece of DLC, but it also ignores some of Last Light's greatest strengths—atmosphere and world building—in order to focus on run-of-the-mill combat encounters. Playtime: 1 hour.
The Developer's Pack
A personal highlight of the Season Pass is the mission "Spider Lair" which comes as part of the Developer Pack. Arachnophobes will probably develop a bout of spontaneous bladder leakage whilst playing through this section, but the new pressurized flamethrower provided should at help even the odds a little. It's a reasonable length, less linear than many of the other DLC snippets provided and—with no exaggeration whatsoever—provides the finest "Aliens" vibe I've seen in the past five years, putting Colonial Marines's efforts to black burning shame. Wandering around looking for the exit, cooking eggs with jets of flame and avoiding scuttling carnivorous monstrosities hungry for human flesh… it's genuinely brilliant and reinforces my opinion that an open world Metro game would be a thing of absolute beauty.
The other part of the Developer Pack isn't quite as interesting; it's a museum showcasing the character models, a gun range to test weapons and participate in skill-based challenges, and a mock battle scenario where various enemies can be pitted against one another with a scorecard keeping track of each team's kills. I was disappointed to see that the exotic enemies are unavailable, and a team of miserable, boring old humans will routinely slaughter their mutated adversaries with little effort. Players do get to pick up a minigun (always fun) but the Museum is little more than a fleeting distraction. Playtime: 45 minutes.
The Chronicles Pack
This final piece of DLC showcases some of the more interesting side characters from the campaign. Sadly, they're all uniformly short and come to a crashing stop just when they should really be getting going.
Pavel's been captured by the Nazis and must make his escape—while he can storm in and kill his enemies with guns blazing, he's short on ammunition. Stealthing his way through might be the safer approach this time around. It does offer up a stark reminder of how overpowered stealth is in Metro, however—guards can look right at Pavel skulking in medium light and completely fail to spot him lurking there.
Khan has a flashback to his earlier days in the Metro, though the mission begins during an incident with a train that occurs during Artyom's storyline. As the most spiritual character in the series, it's appropriate that Khan's segment involves dodging anomalies and trying not to get killed by ghostly echoes of the Metro's past. Again though, it's too brief to get immersed in.
Anna's chapter is simply the beginning of the main game as played out from her point of view, providing sniper support for Artyom before engaging in a quick scuffle with some of the Reich. It lasts about ten minutes, and has nothing going for it other than some neat jumping between rocks as seen from a first person viewpoint.
None of these episodes took longer than twenty or so minutes to finish, and despite the occasional neat moment—accidentally getting eaten by a swarm of rats whilst exploring, for example—they don't offer a great deal that the main game doesn't do better elsewhere. I was unsatisfied, and these characters deserve better. Playtime: 1 hour.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately five hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed one time) and there are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood, intense violence, nudity,sexual content, strong language, and the use of drugs and alcohol. It's obviously not one for the kiddies.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: While there are subtitles available, situational awareness through audio clues will be lost such as the distinctive sound of enemies scurrying around in the darkness. There are plenty of subtitles for most of the NPC's, and enough onscreen indicators detailing information like the direction of bullet impacts that the game should be at least largely playable throughout—though some audio information, such as hearing eggs full of spiders bursting open nearby, will be lost.
The chance discovery of a muddy, burnt out copy of '50 Shades of Grey' in a hunting pit gave him an appreciation for complex plots, characters and overarching narrative, and the unexpected gift of a Spectrum 48k allowed him to indulge in these newfound sensibilities with intelligent, highbrow games such as 'flee from the badly animated spinning turquoise dolphins' or 'avoid the deadly glowing bricks of doom'.
The fusion of both these interests finally culminated with Darren teaching himself how to write by basically guessing at what words might look like when jotted down on paper as opposed to being howled inarticulately at the skies.
Now others occasionally get to read his scribblings. Lucky them.