electricboogaloo's Fallout 3 (Xbox 360) review

Reviews for all three pieces of DLC

Operation: Anchorage

Fallout 3
was one of the best games of 2008. Even after eighty hours of play it’s a difficult task to find everything there is to do in the Capital Wasteland, so it’s nice to see Bethesda are working on downloadable content to extend the playtime even further. Operation: Anchorage is the first of three packs of DLC being released over the next few months, and it takes the game in a distinctive, new direction. But is that a good thing? Especially if you’re going to be spending 800 points on it.

There’s not really a straightforward answer to that question, so let’s delve into it.

Once you’ve spent your Microsoft points and booted up the game you’ll eventually receive a new task on your Pip-Boy. It seems some Brotherhood outcasts need help with the discovery of some advanced technology, so they’ve sent out a distress signal meant for certain ears only. Luckily you’ve picked up the signal, so a marker has been added to the map showing you where they’re held up. As you make your way there you’ll need to help the outcasts take down some Super Mutants. Once that’s done you’ll be allowed into their facility where they’ll ask for your help in unlocking some goodies from a sealed door. Your Pip-Boy holds the key, allowing you to enter a simulation to gain access to the door and the subsequent prizes inside.

If you’re up to date on your Fallout folklore you’ll recognise that the simulation depicts the US push to free Alaska from the Communist Chinese. Back in the day it was essentially used as a training exercise for the US troops, but with real-world implications; meaning, if you die in the simulation, you die in real life. You’re tasked with completing the simulation, with the incentive of taking a share of the goodies yourself. So away you go.

Once you’re inside, the first thing you’ll notice is how different the landscape is to the Capital Wasteland. It’s still essentially a wasteland, but the drab, brown and greys of D.C. have been replaced with the stark, whites and blues of snowy Alaska. It’s quite a departure from the norm, and one that definitely gives us a refreshing take on the world of Fallout.

But there’s no time to admire the view as after a brief introduction you’re thrown straight into the action, and it will rarely ever let up. Operation: Anchorage plays like a straight up first person shooter - with VATS, of course. It essentially takes out half the game, as exploration, looting, speech and so on, are virtually non-existent. This is just action, through and through.

Some will like this approach whilst others may find that the missing features are what make Fallout 3 such a joy to play. The exploration is certainly missing as each quest takes you down a linear path to your objective, and the map isn’t particularly big - especially by Fallout 3 standards - as the new environments do run out of steam after the first few quests are completed.

New weapons and enemies do shake things up a bit though. Overall, your foes aren’t too difficult to deal with, especially if you’re character is at a high level; and you nearly always have squad mates with you, taking down a fair amount of enemies as well. However, the new Chinese Dragoons are fun to fight. They use stealth suits so they’ll often catch you by surprise, hiding in corners of rooms that look seemingly empty. And the giant Chimera tank is pretty cool, but once again it was way too easy to take down. A bit of an anti-climax, in the end.

The new Gauss rifle is a lot of fun to use though, and you’ll stick with it through most of the pack. It deals out a high amount of damage, and has an awesome zoom for picking off enemies from a distance. It’s definitely an incentive to pick up Operation: Anchorage, as you pick up the weapon at the end of the simulation for use in the rest of Fallout 3.

You’ll also unlock some new T-51b winterised armour, and the aforementioned Dragoon stealth armour that provides active camouflage whenever you go into sneak mode. It’s all extremely cool to use outside of the DLC, and could be a selling point for some people.

Operation: Anchorage is a bit of a disappointment though. At 800 points it’s very short at roughly three hours, and it’s difficult to extend that time as exploring is non-existent. If you go into it expecting anything more than a straight up shooter, you’ll feel let down. There’s not much of a story, and it does lose it’s steam towards the end - despite the short playtime. It also falls to the same criticism as Fallout 3’s main quest: ending rather abruptly. However, if you don’t mind paying money to go in and shoot some commies for three hours, then go ahead. But it might be worth waiting for the third DLC pack; the Shivering Isles of Fallout, if you will.

The Pitt

The Pitt didn’t get off to a good start. Within hours of going up, message boards were filled to the brim with angry gamers complaining of myriad glitches and crashes with Bethesda’s latest piece of downloadable content for Fallout 3. It was eventually taken down due to a corrupt file and put back up again about a day later much to the pleasure of many. Those that patiently waited will find a much more enjoyable expansion than Operation: Anchorage, even if it’s still relatively short and un-polished in a few areas.

Like Operation: Anchorage before it, The Pitt won’t begin until you activate the quest within the wastelands of Washington D.C. You’ll receive a distress signal on your Pip-Boy, and must investigate the cause of this particular disturbance. Within no time you’ll meet a character pivotal to this new story, as he sends you on a journey to Pittsburgh; a city that didn’t catch the full brunt of nuclear fallout, but one that has definitely seen much better days.

Travelling by train, the first thing you’ll notice upon arrival is the murky orange sky. It sets the tone right away as dark, gloomy skyscrapers rise overhead; their broken structures reminiscent of those tragic images seen on 9/11. As you head deeper into this industrial city, the steel mill becomes the main focus; workers everywhere, using their tools under watch of the terrible slavers.

You see, Pittsburgh has become a slave town - think of Paradise Falls, but on a much larger scale. An evil warlord has imprisoned the majority of the population, forcing them to carry on working in this industrial behemoth with little room for anything else. And if that wasn’t enough there’s also a plague doing the rounds, turning people into vile creatures known as trogs. You’ll meet a few soon enough, with the brand new auto-axe coming in very handy.

You may have seen it in screenshots before. Essentially it works like a chainsaw and can cut through flesh with ease - particularly handy when you lose most of your weapons on arrival. If you haven’t guessed already, The Pitt takes place within your Fallout world, unlike Operation: Anchorage which was treated as a simulation. This means that you’ll go in with all the equipment you would normally use, adding to your repertoire with some new treats along the way. There’s nothing as good as the gauss rifle here, but the auto-axe is a lot of fun to use, especially against the trog - your most common enemy.

But don’t fear, The Pitt is nowhere near as combat-heavy and linear as Operation: Anchorage. Instead, it’s more like your typical Fallout 3 quest, as you explore, talk to people and eventually make some gut wrenching decisions. It’s much more varied and enjoyable, especially when you go off to explore some of the bigger areas Pittsburgh has to offer.

There are four new achievements to pick up, one of which encourages exploration to find 100 pieces of steel in one particular area. Even if you’re not an achievement fiend you’ll want to complete this task as it really pays off in two ways. First, you’ll get some cool new items, but best of all you’ll navigate around some of the largest structures in Fallout 3 so far. These buildings are absolutely huge, holding you up high above the whole city. It’s a breathtaking view from the top, and making your way down is a joy as well. Operation: Anchorage was disappointing with its invisible walls and straight-forward paths, so it’s nice to get some room to breathe here and properly dedicate an hour or so to exploration.

But even if you do that, The Pitt is still pretty short. Everything can be completed in about three to four hours; however this time you can move back and forth between Pittsburgh and the Capitol Wasteland - something that sadly wasn’t an option with Operation: Anchorage. It’s always fun to go back and try out different things, so it’s great to have the option this time.

The Pitt may not have gotten off to a good start, but along the way it managed to redeem itself. It’s still not particularly polished, however, as I experienced a couple of crashes and some audio glitches with character speech, but other than that this is a fairly solid expansion that captures what makes Fallout 3 so good. It still might be a bit pricey for some, considering its short length, but at least this time there are plenty of opportunities to extend the longevity and meet some new, interesting characters. Enter The Pitt if you dare.

Broken Steel

This is the one we’ve all been waiting for. Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt were decent expansions to the Fallout 3 universe, but Broken Steel has always been the big one everyone has looked ahead to. While it’s not quite the Shivering Isles of Fallout 3, it still offers plenty of hours of gameplay, and more importantly, increases the level cap and extends the game beyond the disappointing and abrupt original ending.

I’ll be talking about that ending here, so you have been warned; spoilers ahead.

If you haven’t completed it yet then now is the time to do so. I held off before because I still wanted to continue exploring the Capital Wasteland and finish the myriad side quests on offer; but the Broken Steel DLC can only be accessed upon completion of the main game. Many people were a bit peeved by this ending, mainly because it was handled rather awkwardly. Broken Steel rectifies this to a certain extent, but it’s still not as smooth as it could have been, and the ending with Fawkes still doesn’t make much sense even though it’s the most logical decision you can choose.

Nonetheless, after whichever ending you’ve chosen has happened, the game picks up two weeks later as you awaken in the Brotherhood of Steel’s Citadel. They still need your help dealing with the small pockets of resistance the Enclave have left, so it’s time to get down and dirty all over again. Along the way there are plenty of twists and difficult decisions to make that will affect your karma level. There’s also plenty of action and exploration on offer as the three main quests stretch out for around seven hours of gameplay.

This is the longest DLC so far and one of the most entertaining. However, it only takes place within the Capital Wasteland; so if you’re bored of the drab, brown and greys of Washington D.C. by now then the exploration aspect may not be as appealing as both Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt were with their new areas. New weapons shake things up a bit though, mainly in the shape of the awesome Tesla Cannon. This is one of the most powerful weapons in the game and can take out most enemies in one shot - including the big, helicopter-style Vertibird’s. Once you reach the massive Adam’s Air Force Base you’ll be unleashing this lethal piece of kit on whoever gets in your path, and it’s extremely satisfying.

The biggest new aspect of this DLC is definitely the increased level cap, though. Most players would have reached level 20 a while back, so Broken Steel ups the cap to 30. This introduces plenty of new perks and enemies to the fray, and provides the perfect opportunity to go back and maybe finish some side quests or tasks around the wasteland you never got to before; extending the playtime even further.

It’s just a shame that everyone will have to pay for this level cap, especially since PlayStation 3 owners won’t even see this DLC unless Bethesda change their minds. However, those with the ability to shell out will find a long and difficult new batch of quests - including a few side quests - as well as a way to get a hold of some cool new perks, weapons, armour and of course, achievements. Put simply, Broken Steel is the most complete piece of DLC for Fallout 3 so far, and the one most worth purchasing. Even after you’ve finished the extended campaign there’s plenty to go back to with the new level cap, including a way for all you dog lovers to bring Dogmeat back from the dead - Awww.

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