Operation: Anchorage Review
Operation: Anchorage is the first add-on Bethesda has released for their blockbuster hit Fallout 3. The game starts off with you receiving a mysterious radio transmission from some ex-Brotherhood of Steel soldiers and making it your job to track their location and find out what's up. Turns out, there's a hidden bunker filled with weapons and armor from the conflicts in Alaska. Of course there's a catch; The only way to access the locked room is by going hooking yourself up to a computer that will transport you to alternate reality Alaska, and complete the training exercise. So how is the trip to Alaska? Well, the answer to that question largely depends on how you've built your character.
Operation: Anchorage was built with a certain type of character in mind. If your character is skilled in small-arms, explosives, and other combat oriented skills, then chances are you will enjoy what Operation: Anchorage has to offer. However, if your character is more the cunning type who normally provides diplomatic solutions rather than combat ones, then Operation: Anchorage isn't for you. Combat is the name of the game here, as your objectives largely consist of fighting enemies and flipping important switches. Having a high skill in Speech or Barter isn't going to help you. This is a departure from the side quests found in the main game, which could be solved in multiple ways, depending on your play style. The ability to solve problems and accomplish tasks in a way that suited your specific play style was one of the things that made Fallout 3 great, and is why it's so disappointing that Operation: Anchorage doesn't do the same.
The new DLC does offer a change of pace in some of the later missions, allowing you to select a group of soldiers to accompany you into battle, each with their own combat specialties. This allows for some interesting customization, and helps set Operation: Anchorage apart from the main game.
Perhaps the biggest change this DLC makes is to the environment. The dark brown and gray landscape you're used to is now replaced by white snow and vibrant blue skies. It's a welcome change that makes the little time you spend in Alaska unique and memorable. The game also does a good job of portraying the fact that you are in a computer generated world. Fallen enemies will teleport out of existence, and stimpacks are now replaced by "health stations" which you can use infinitely. Trying to convince your fellow soldiers that they aren't real was a particularly enjoyable experience that I won't spoil for you.
Once you have completed the training exercise, the vault then opens leaving you with a few new toys. From this DLC you will gain a suit of Chinese stealth armor, a powerful energy rifle equipped with a scope, and a beam sword, for those who like to get up close and personal. Unfortunately, there aren't extras, and you will need to find someone who can repair your items for you if you wish to continue using them. For those that don't remember, people who offer to repair your items generally don't have a high repair skill making your armor/weapons about half as effective as they once were. It's a shame, as the new weapons are powerful and fun to use, but quickly become obsolete and no longer worth using, hindering what little lasting impact this DLC has to offer. It's also worth noting that the only way to go back to CG Alaska, is either starting a new game, or reloading an old save, because once you complete the training exercise, you're done.
With the restrictive play style, brief campaign, and limited amount of lasting "new" content, it's hard to recommend Operation: Anchorage for everyone. If you like the combat in Fallout 3 and want a change of scenery, Operation: Anchorage might be for you. If you use your words more than your guns to solve conflicts, you won't enjoy what this DLC has to offer and would be better off skipping Anchorage entirely.