"Fallout 3" downloadable content

Game not over. "Fallout 3" offers five downloadable content packs for more game time.



Game: “Fallout 3” downloadable content (available via XBox Live)

Publisher: Zenimax Media, Bethesda Softworks

Cost: 800 Microsoft Points

Game systems: XBox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

“Operation Anchorage”

 

“Operation Anchorage,” the first of five downloadable content packs for “Fallout 3,” depicts the 2077 liberation of Anchorage, Alaska, from Red Chinese troops. A Brotherhood Outcast radio signal can be heard within minutes of exiting Vault 101 at the start of the game. It beckons any viable assistance to, well, assist them at Bailey’s Crossroad, west-southwest of Grayditch. You help win a battle with Super Mutants and are told that your Pip-Boy 3000a is compatible with a computer simulation, which, upon completion, will open a vault door to a room containing a cache of advanced weaponry. So you slip on the space blanket-looking Neural Interface suit and hop into the pod, an event reminiscent of Vault 112’s weirdness.

Instantly transported 200 years into the past and 2,000 miles northwest, you’ll have to sneak, snipe and slash Chinese Communist troops until the cows come home. Beginning with the sabotaging of three 650-millimeter guns raining thunder on the state’s capital, Operation Anchorage pits you and Sgt. Benjamin Montgomery against hordes of troops, who work together better than any group of Raiders. The Capital Wasteland’s general populace of marauding lunatics tends to merely charge, attack and repeat. The Red Chinese Army is a well-equipped fighting force whose strength lies in numbers. They surround, suppress and close in on you with realistic efficiency.

This instigates an ever-present sense of utmost dread, making the player feel as if a crushing offensive could zero in at any time. Also, the enemy throws two new, terrifying weapons: the devastating Chimera Tank and the elite Crimson Dragoon units. The latter are clad in the high-tech Chinese Stealth Suit, a red-and-black cyborg ninja-type apparatus that serves as a much-appreciated improvement over the pre-existing Stealth Boy. They’re like un-armored, sword-wielding Predators with no dreads, eerily fascinating in a way.

I love these little add-ons, and I can only look forward to later additions that elevate and expand my “Fallout 3” palate. It also doesn’t hurt that the folks at Bethesda and Zenimax have probably been thinking about stories like these for some years now, an act that cements the plot of said stories better than anything. Next stop, the Pitt.

“The Pitt”

The second installment from the digital Jedi at Bethesda, “The Pitt,” was a bit of a shock to me. And not exactly in a good way. I had heard, months before, that it was glitchy and received poor reviews. The show “X-Play” gave it a 3 when it came out, I think. But the only way to know how good or bad a game is to play it yourself.

So I got “The Pitt” and trekked out to Wehrner (a character from the game) as I heard his signal. I got sidetracked in the Wasteland by a reflex in my brain that “Fallout 3” hammered in: the “Stuff” sense. Stuff is great in “Fallout”; you’ll spend many hours searching every container you see looking for it. Anyway, I retrieved the essential supplies from my virtual house and we ventured to “The Pitt.”

Maybe I’m crazy, or maybe the notion of going undercover in a slave compound is just not very appealing. If your character is level 10 or less and has a low “Small Guns” skill, then you’re in for a wild ride. Luckily, the only things to fight in the Pitt are Trogs (humans mutated horribly by the virulent air), Raiders and tougher Raiders. You eventually earn a tad bit of respect from your fellow slaves and slave masters, and thus earn an audience with the slave master: Ashur, Lord of the Pitt. Of course, those poor reviews turned out to be oh, so, right.

I hacked and slashed and shot my way through the Pitt in a matter of hours, really, so when I got to talk with Ashur and literally couldn’t (I pushed the “A” button about 5 million times but to no avail), I just snuck around stealing things, fulfilled the objective and dipped out of there after giving the walls a nice coat of murder. I think “The Pitt” was fun and rewarding in the end, but not while I was playing it. Have a look at “Broken Steel” and “Point Lookout,” and please do comment.

“Broken Steel”

I recall when “Broken Steel” seemed so distant, ever so far away. That was last year in November when I had just gotten “Fallout 3.” I had yet to be drawn to its tantalizing glow.

The one aspect that completes “Broken Steel” is the raising of your level cap from 20 to 30. That doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, it takes a long time to get there.

You must actually complete the full game in order to begin “Broken Steel,” but that’s a small price to pay for a good 20 extra hours of leveling up and making those pesky little moral choices: Should I blow up Megaton for a sweet pad and 1,000 caps plus all the negative karma garnered from such an event? Decisions, decisions … That’s what “Fallout” has been about for more than 10 years.

“Broken Steel” follows the exploits of your tin can-clad brethren at the Brotherhood of Steel as they move to take the fight to the Enclave even further. The expansion actually gives “Fallout 3” a more war-esque feel than “Operation: Anchorage” did, on account of a higher number of comrades in your presence on all-out assaults, and the fact that you are now genuinely working for a higher calling.

This mission pack still provides all the fun of standard “Fallout” quests: Go to a new spot, hack ’n’ slash your way through anything that blinks, find some door/manhole/computer-whatever and open it, grab the loot that they wanted you to grab and then return with utmost vigor, aching for a Stimpack.

“Broken Steel” is also particularly difficult, even for a true “Fallout” paladin. There are several new perks, all of which are highly desirable. “Broken Steel” is tremendous to say the least; it’s definitely longer than any other DLC pack, being the actual continuation of the main story of “Fallout 3.” Get ready for some banjo-thumpin’ good times in “Point Lookout”!

“Point Lookout”

The peculiarity factor in “Fallout 3.” whose apex has perhaps been reached, is expressively articulated in “Point Lookout.” It’s my favorite of them all, having a spooky feel and murderously good level and character design.

Contrary to the scorched and dispiriting landscape of the Capital Wasteland, “Point Lookout” takes place in a swampy no-man’s-land of sorts. It fiercely contrasts with its larger brother in virtually every way with wild fruit growing everywhere and buildings that have genuine architecture. One of the first things I saw was a lighthouse as tall as Tenpenny Tower, and soon after I ran into Sloth from “The Goonies.” Good thing I had a Baby Ruth handy.

From the beginning of its advertising, “Point Lookout” was marketed as being a trippy, weird, surreal journey through what’s left of society. Luckily, Bethesda has a habit of actually telling the truth about things or just not telling things at all.

“Point Lookout” is indeed weird, trippy and surreal, somestimes all at once, but it wasn’t as crazy as I thought. Only one part of “Point Lookout” was as infinitely strange as I had hoped. I felt that there wasn’t enough strangeness to suffice for the tagline “And you thought the Capital Wasteland was weird.” But that doesn’t mean it was a letdown like “The Pitt.” In fact, I’ve enjoyed it just as much or even more than “Broken Steel.”

“Point Lookout” serves well as a deviation from the traditional in “Fallout 3,” and even better as a whole new angle on the game.

On a related note, I’ve also taken quite well to decorating my Megaton house with trophies of the Capital Wasteland: Deathclaw hands; Enclave goodies; mine, knife and gun displays. “Point Lookout” gave me the centerpiece of a room. That’s how good it is.

“Mothership Zeta”

Well, it would appear that we have reached the end of our “Fallout 3” road. We’ve beaten a military simulation and gotten the best Power Armor in the Wasteland, we’ve freed an enslaved and diseased community from a tyrant, we’ve gotten to level 30 and crippled the Enclave, we’ve stirred ourselves into the mysteries of a swampy wilderness and now we’ve taken the fight to outer space in “Mothership Zeta.”

In “Mothership Zeta,” the final DLC episode for “Fallout 3,” you are whisked off to an out-of-this-world locale that pits you against droves of alien scum. Earthly weapons don’t seem to be terribly effective against these greenies, but luckily the floor soon becomes littered with Alien Atomizers, Alien Disintegrators and the fickle new Drone Cannon. I was hoping for a roomful of Firelances, but you can’t have everything.

I love the new map and I’m still not done with it, but “Mothership Zeta” is excruciatingly short. I beat it in two hours. They were two of the best “Fallout” hours I’ve ever put into the franchise, though, and that’s something, coming from a decade of Vaults and Verta-Birds.

Like every other DLC pack for “Fallout 3,” I’d say “Mothership Zeta” is worth it in the end, only I wish there was more. And plus, those dirty aliens sound suspiciously like the ones from “Halo.” If Bethesda commissioned another DLC pack that raised your level cap to 40, then I’d be pleased.

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