Operation: Linear Combat
Returning you to the Capital Wasteland and letting you jump right back into the boots of the Lone Wanderer, Operation Anchorage is the first of the Fallout 3 DLC packs. When you pick up a radio transmission from a group of Brotherhood of Steel outcasts you find that they have stumbled upon an armoury of valuable equipment and are willing to share some their stash with you should you be able to successfully aid them in opening the door to the armoury. It’s not as simple as it sounds though as the only way to open the door is to complete a computer simulation of Operation: Anchorage, the American campaign to liberate Alaska from the Chinese. The idea that this door’s security system is a video game seems somewhat of a ridiculous premise but this can be easily overlooked if the rest of the DLC pack delivers, right?
The best thing about Operation Anchorage is the new setting; far from the dreary browns and greys of the Capital Wasteland, Alaska provides a white and snowy landscape with a blue star-filled sky looking down on it, a welcome change from the main game. Sadly this is one of the few good things I have to say about Operation Anchorage, like a U.S. Trooper staring into a blizzard I struggle to see anything but environment here.
Operation Anchorage is almost entirely made up of very linear surroundings peppered with combat. Fans of the main game will remember the extensive building complexes that existed throughout Fallout 3 and the many different directions that the game would let you explore, with its narrow mountain pathways and simplistic communist bases it seems Operation Anchorage only ever wants you to go one way and that’s forward. As you are in a simulation you have also been stripped of all weapons and are forced into using whatever the game gives you making the whole thing an even more predictable experience. Furthermore the game never gives you any real choices to make and there are no meaningful conversations to be had with anybody, in fact there aren’t really any interesting characters to be found in this DLC pack at all, it seems the defining characteristic of every ally you meet is that they hate Chinese communists and they’re not shy about expressing it.
Even if the idea of a DLC pack of linear combat experiences does fill you with the joy of a child on a Christmas morning there aren’t a great number of different enemy types to face; the stealth-using Chinese soldiers are somewhat unique and there is a tank which appears some way in if you happen to be a fan of switching to frag grenades and repeatedly hitting the right trigger but apart from that you will find communist with assault rifle, communist with flamer, close-range communist and sniper communist as your primary targets. The DLC isn’t very long either, lasting only a few hours before you are ejected from the simulation and get to claim your prize. In fairness you are given some legitimately useful rewards for completing your video game-in-a-video game experience or that is they are at least useful if you wish to continue playing Fallout 3, but is all this enough? No.
Operation Anchorage sees the return of Fallout 3’s combat system with some original environments thrown in but with linear missions, cardboard characters and a short play time this DLC pack doesn’t justify its 800 Microsoft points price. If you have it as part of the Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition install it and play it by all means but don’t expect to get a great deal of enjoyment from Operation Anchorage.