Giant Bomb Review


Fallout 3 Review

  • PC

Adding an alien invasion to the bleak, post-apocalyptic world of Fallout 3 is conceptually quite pleasing, though Mothership Zeta suffers from its narrow path, and it leans more on combat and less on character than it should.

Spacemen! Look out!
And with Mothership Zeta, we reach the fifth and (supposedly) final downloadable episode for Fallout 3. If this is indeed the end, it's a fairly fitting summation of both the highs and lows of how Bethesda has handled the expansion of its post-apocalyptic role-playing game. Previous episodes have taken us outside the confines of the Capital Wasteland, but Mothership Zeta represents the greatest departure from that familiar place, both literally and figuratively. As agreeable as I find the premise of a good old-fashioned alien abduction story filtered through the gallows humor of Fallout 3, I'm disappointed by how combat-focused Mothership Zeta is. It's not without a few interesting characters and some good set-piece moments, but the constant corridor crawling can be fatiguing.

As per usual, Mothership Zeta slips itself into the Fallout 3 continuity by way of a mysterious radio signal that you pick up, one that leads you to a crashed alien spaceship in the Capital Wasteland. Approach the ship, and the next thing you know, you're being held captive as a guinea pig miles above the Earth in that titular mothership, a massive starship full of marauding little green men and their test subjects. You'll form an interesting little rag-tag group of abductees as you make your way through the ship and try to figure a way off it, though you'll be spending most of your time running solo through the ship's winding corridors, murdering wave after wave of ill-tempered aliens and blowing up every power generator you can find.

These are the two aspects of Mothership Zeta that I take issue with: structure and variety. Once you're on the ship, your sole concern is getting off the ship. There are a few distinct steps to this process, but they usually come down to fighting a bunch of aliens and then blowing up a power generator. The whole thing plays out a little more predictably than I'd hope, without any of the terrific left-field twists or the queasy bad-or-worse moral choices that have been the hallmark of Fallout 3's best missions. The aliens are formidable foes, and the sleek energy weapons they drop will serve you well once you return to the wastes, but there's effectively only three types of enemies that you'll face in Mothership Zeta, and you do enough fighting that you definitely could've used more.

And you thought things looked bad from the ground.
Aesthetically, Mothership Zeta tries to do for the 1950s sci-fi vision of an alien invasion what Fallout 3 did for the 1950s sci-fi vision of the future, a task that it's intermittently successful at. The aliens themselves look like slightly more sinister versions of your traditional little green men, and all the smooth stainless steel surfaces and indiscernible alien technology are unlike anything you've seen in the Capital Wasteland. It doesn't feel like you're looking at a lot of recycled content, but it also doesn't feel so much alien as it does futuristic in a different way from the rest of Fallout 3. That's not to say it isn't a fully realized location, but the fingerprints of human design are all over Mothership Zeta.

What's most interesting to me is the interplay between the alien abduction premise of Mothership Zeta and the savage, nothing-to-lose world of Fallout 3. Usually when you're dealing with an alien invasion, the whole world is at stake, so what happens when the aliens arrive and we've already blown the place up? These are two sci-fi staples that rarely co-exist, and Mothership Zeta provides a different perspective on the world below.

There's something so audacious to me about stacking aliens on top of the apocalypse, and Mothership Zeta does it well enough that I'm willing to excuse some of its structural bluntness and over-reliance on combat. It's not the best Fallout 3 DLC, but it's still pretty interesting, and not a bad way to spend four or five hours.
Posted by Izick

Great review!

Posted by Tirrandir

About right.  The really compelling end of Fallout 3, to me, was in Broken Steel.  This would have been way better as something folded into the main game than the last thing I'll probably ever do in that world until New Vegas.  Oh well.  It wasn't bad, just .. maybe a bit squandered.

Posted by SpaceButler

I liked the characters, but you didn't get to do a whole lot with them.   The alien combat was too repetitive, with the shield ones being very hard and the non shield ones being way easy.  I had more fun with it than I did with Project Anchorage.

Posted by Turtlemayor333

I haven't played through Zeta yet but I'm already inclined to agree with the review just after playing through the others. Broken Steel and Operation Anchorage left me with that "I might as well be playing Call of Duty" feeling, and this pretty much looks like the same thing but with Halo instead. The Pitt tried to have a story but the whole thing was still too linear. All in all I think these Fallout 3 packs I mentioned "just got by" so the three star rating seems justified. I guess they can't all be Point Lookout.

Posted by stallion74

i know many people wait to play this and i will not get into details but it was the most disappointing DLC for me.I wanted  answers based on some findings in the Capital Wasteland and i never got them...i found myself on an alien Mothership orbiting the Earth, abducted for the same general reason as to why aliens abduct people(to experiment on them). I tried to find a way out successfully even though it was my first contact with this kind of technology...well the review was very good for a DLC that has nothing to do with the RPG genre...

Posted by rjayb89

Yay, friendly aliens!

Posted by spazmaster666

Pretty much the same sentiment that I had after playing through the game: they really should have put more focus on the characters and the story. There's so much potential in this DLC that's squandered.

Posted by Deusoma

Great review, Ryan, but I thought I'd mention, if just for the record, that the crashed alien scout ship has always been there in Fallout 3, it's where you find the Alien Blaster.

Posted by DerekDanahy

Nice review Ryan, and quick look was awesome.

Posted by KinjiroSSD

Good review. Is this the first DLC to be reviewed?

Posted by MattBodega

DLC reviews! What Fun!

Posted by RHCPfan24

Hey, sweet!! DLC Reviews!!! :D
I like this trend!!
I have not played it yet (FREE CODE PLEASE!!) but it sounds like it is a bit too short and linear when compared to others. Still, it must be fun in the long run.

Edited by TeflonBilly

Nice review, but I would consider the mentioning of how the weapons are good for when you return to the waste land a minor spoiler :/
I was kinda curious if you die/get whisked away further into space or something like that in the end.
Well, I should dl this and Point Lookout then since they're not gonna raise the level cap. I saved Operation Anchorage and the Pitt for when Broken Steel was released so I didn't wastXP


Played it for a half hour and was underwhelmed by the "been there, done that" feeling of it all. Another one of Bethesda's great ideas that promptly got shoved into the same old box. It suffers from the same short- coming that plagues so many video games; the lack of a good writer to author a decent story to go with the great graphics.
Posted by DrRandle

I disagree. I felt this was the better of the DLC packs. It was a great side story and the Aliens were actually built as an enemy I could honestly hate. By the end of it I felt a burning need to take them down, as opposed to everyone else. Even the Enclave has this sense of "Well they're trying to do good, but they're twisted inside." And everything else is just a wild creature. The aliens were the only villains in this game that gave me a sense of hate.
And those audio logs made for a very chilling experience. Yeah there was a lot of combat in this, but there was a lot of combat in the whole game. Is that combat bad? No. It's not great, but it's no where near bad, so why should the game be taken down for having combat?
This felt like one of the better missions in the entire game, and maybe it wasn't the best "wrap up" for the game, maybe Broken Steel should have waited to be the very last, but in terms of "Just another DLC," I thought it was great. I highly recommend a buy.

Posted by DaemonBlack

I dont know how you have a DLC pack in Fallout 3 without it being "combat focused." Have it be nothing but dialogue and speech options? Fetch quests? Pass. Although I do agree that the action wasnt very varied and the story was a little predictable. But either way, I like the DLC review...keep em comin'!
Posted by Th3_James

loving the 3 star ryan pic, that neutral indifferant look

Posted by Terjay

I think this DLC was broken, for beginning characters anyway. I just started the game for the last time to plow through this and Point Lookout and in a bout 10 minutes I got the one of the best energy weapons in the game. I could kill every frigging thing on the UFO and I was level 6 when I got out.

Posted by Kohe321

Great review! I might get this...

Posted by Terjay
@TeflonBilly said:
" Nice review, but I would consider the mentioning of how the weapons are good for when you return to the waste land a minor spoiler :/ I was kinda curious if you die/get whisked away further into space or something like that in the end.  Well, I should dl this and Point Lookout then since they're not gonna raise the level cap. I saved Operation Anchorage and the Pitt for when Broken Steel was released so I didn't wastXP "
Well it would be interesting if you could permanently die in a DLC that you can play in any part of the game.
Posted by skrutop

I liked this review.  I'm waiting for a GOTY edition to come out so I can get all of the DLC at once.  This review didn't change my mind - I am getting Mothership Zeta - but at least I know what I'm getting myself into when I do get around to beaming up.
I have a question, though.  Do you think that you would've been as disappointed if this weren't the final DLC pack?  Also, does it benefit Bethesda to pick certain aspects to focus on in each DLC, or should each pack try to cover a little bit of all of the bases?

Posted by InsanePotato

Ryan, this is mainly for your website admin, your picture representing the 3 star rating (more precisely your hand in it) is overlapping some of the text for the summary. I'm running Chrome

Posted by Media_Master

Sounds like an accurate review

Posted by DazMoo

lil too much easy button for my taste, but story is supposed to be solid