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.