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The player first encounters Bourbon in Riga station, where he requests Artyom's help in travelling to Dry station so that he can repay an old debt. In return he promises to give Artyom his AK-47 upon reaching Dry station. While he may seem easy going and somewhat inept due to his drunkenness and wisecracking Bourbon is actually a very capable and experienced man in the world of Metro 2033, showing proficiency with firearms, knives, hand to hand combat and a good knowledge of the dangers and factions within post apocalyptic Moscow.
Bourbon is responsible for introducing the player to several important gameplay elements including stealth (not only staying hidden but also avoiding objects which cause noise and give away your position e.g tin cans or broken glass), using/reclaiming throwing knives, avoiding and disarming traps, scavenging for ammo, finding ranger caches above ground as well as the dangers of radioactive water and demons (which he comically refers to as bitches).
When the two finally reach Dry station they find that the previous leader of the bandit's (whom Bourbon owed money) has been replaced with a new leader who holds a grudge against Bourbon, who is dragged away and beaten. Despite the players attempts to rescue him both Bourbon and the bandit leader are killed, leaving the AK-47 Bourbon promised Artyom free to be claimed. Khan's comment on the incident is that Bourbon's death was "regrettable but not entirely unexpected", perhaps hinting that he knew Bourbon. While he may seem surly, he appears to genuinely like Artyom, and guides him almost paternally.