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Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage DLC Review

by Michael "txa1265" J. Anderson, 2009-03-10

 

Horse armor.  Those two words are enough to get even the most staunch supporters of 'DLC' (downloadable content) riled up.  That is because what it offers - Colorforms for your horse for $2 in real money - felt like a rather blatant money grab.  It seemed that Bethesda and Microsoft teamed up and said 'let's test this system by holding out including something trivial from the game, then offering it for a small sum and see how many suckers ... errm, customers are interested'.  While the DLC for Oblivion and many other games has greatly improved (though in many other cases it has not), the fundamental question of the 'value proposition' dogs every DLC release - and with good reason.  With all of that in mind, let's take a quick look at the recently released Operation Anchorage DLC for Fallout 3.

Since Operation Anchorage is a plug-in mission for Fallout 3 and doesn't fundamentally change anything about the original, there is no need to examine all of the technical details again.  Instead I will quickly dissect the add-on looking for a single thing: value.  In these lean economic times everything is about presenting a compelling value proposition, and when you are a small add-on to a potentially 60+ hour game ... you are already fighting an uphill battle.

 

 

What's It All About

Operation: Anchorage starts off with a radio signal picked up on your Pip-Boy.  This leads you to track the signal across the wasteland using your map, and eventually emerge from the Metro in the midst of a battle between Brotherhood Outcasts and Super Mutants.  As I discovered early in the main game, it is very easy to try to get involved and have a stray bullet hit someone in the Brotherhood of Steel and end up with a load of enemies.  So I stayed out of the battle - after all, I had hit the maximum level (20) many hours before so there was no XP motivation to insert myself.

Once the battle concludes, you work your way through talking to a number of Brotherhood Outcasts before finally reaching the senior officer who tells you that there is a massive enemy armory they need to access that can tip the balance of conflict.  To unlock it, you need to complete a VR simulator.  If you do so, you will get a share of the contents.  The VR simulator, of course, is a combat-focused environment that is a recreation of a war scenario from the big war that ended up with the world becoming the wasteland you now roam.  After completing the primary mission, more missions come to you to resolve.  All of these happen in Anchorage, Alaska, where the Chinese have occupied the region and you need to disable their defenses so the Americans can come in and destroy the base.

As I said, the fundamental technology is the same as Fallout 3, so oddities in the graphics and especially the characters and animations persist.  That said, the game itself once again does a wonderful job of showing off beautiful wasteland vistas.  This time it is the stark arctic tundra of Alaska, with each area you explore looking nicely done and very distinct.  The setting and mission are nicely integrated, and since it is before the total nuclear war you aren't constantly distracted by things like car batteries running unattended streetlights for hundreds of years.

At the conclusion of the VR simulation, you get rewarded with a Gauss Rifle, special Powered Armor, as well as some miscellaneous items, and also the ability to unlock a perk for gathering a list of intelligence items.  And of course, completing this will give you a new Achievement and increase your Gamerscore on XBOX Live.

 

 

How Does It Play?

Well, once again everything plays like it does in Fallout 3 - the FPS action is sloppy, the VATS system feels like an exploit, and ... well, didn't I already spend a few thousand words talking about this?

The initial mission of the VR Simulation is based on stealth, so naturally within a couple of minutes I was blasting through like Rambo!  Sadly that is a true statement - I had tuned my character to be a wrecking machine, and to me that was more fun than stealth.  I suppose that is good in that the game doesn't enforce its' own set of rules upon you - yet it starts you thinking ... this makes no sense.  Actually, you probably started thinking that earlier.

If you are like me and many others, you are willing to suspend disbelief to let a game get a quest established in the hopes that it will start making sense after a while.  Unfortunately, all you get here is a silly nonsensical side-trip that never makes any sense at all.  For some reason these Outcasts need someone with a Pip-boy to unlock the armory.  Each little bit of information you get and requirement you need to fulfill forces you to abandon reason further.  And listening to the horribly over-the-top voice acting makes you think these folks are all as nutty as Moira anyway, so you really don't expect anything other than that they are putting you in a torture chamber for their own purposes.  But in the end the armory opens up and you can continue along your way.

 

 

What is the value proposition?

Whether or not I think you might find Operation Anchorage worth $10 depends on your opinion of Fallout 3.  If you absolutely loved Fallout 3, would give it a 5/5 and consider it great ... then my recommendation is 'only buy it if you are deciding between buying this or seeing Inkheart or flushing a $10 down the toilet, and even then re-read Inkheart first.

If you are either conflicted over Fallout 3 or really didn't like it - run away, run far, far away.  Should you buy it?  No, NO, absolutely-positively NO!

Let me put it this way - if you are like me and generally like the Star Wars prequels, but found the overexposure of Jar Jar, Pod racing and the boring political intrigue of Episode I to be the stuff you skip to get to the cool battles on the DVD, this add-on is like sitting down to watch 'Jar Jar's personal journey through pod racing and inter-galactic politics'.

Box Art

Information about

Fallout 3

Developer: Bethesda Softworks

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Post-apoc
Genre: Shooter-RPG
Combat: Real-time
Play-time: Over 60 hours
Voice-acting: Full

Regions & platforms
World
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2008-10-28
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

World
· Operation Anchorage DLC
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2009-01-27
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

World
· Mothership Zeta DLC
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2009-08-03
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

World
· Broken Steel DLC
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2009-05-05
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

World
· Point Lookout DLC
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2009-06-23
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

World
· The Pitt DLC
· Platform: Xbox 360
· Released at 2009-03-23
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

World
· Platform: Xbox 360
· Released at 2008-10-28
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

More information


Other articles

Summary

Pros

  • Still looks good
  • Combat system is identical
  • Several hours added gameplay

Cons

  • Combat system is identical
  • Lousy value in terms of gameplay for the money
  • Could have been a 'worst things about Fallout 3' featurette

Rating

Review version

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