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Fallout 3: The Pitt DLC Review

by Michael "txa1265" J. Anderson, 2009-04-23

I don't think anyone could accuse me of hedging in my opinion of the first add-on (Operation Anchorage) for Fallout 3.  I found it to be a waste of money and space and time and also thought that it brought all of the games' shortcomings to the fore.  In fact, after blistering that bit of DLC I was so 'done' with Fallout 3 I uninstalled it and was ready to trade it away on Goozex.  But when the next DLC (The Pitt) was released, since I was still in queue to send the game out, I suddenly found myself installing Fallout 3 again and entering the Wasteland with a new character to experience whatever was on offer - though I confess I had much lower expectations going into this one.

Once again, since The Pitt is a plug-in mission for Fallout 3 and doesn't fundamentally change anything about the original, there is no need to re-examine all of the technical details.  Instead I will once again 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?

As with Operation Anchorage, The Pitt starts off with a radio signal picked up on your Pip-Boy.  It is a personal call for assistance with a location off the top of the northern section of the map tagged.  If you have been playing for many hours, you would just fast-travel close to the action and quickly meet up with Wernher and start the quest immediately.  However, as I mentioned I was starting fresh, which meant enduring the 'growing up' scenes once again ... and as this was the fourth time I went through them, I can definitely say that those sections don't wear well on repeated playthrough.

Once I left the Vault, I knew I would need to gain some levels before getting too far into the wasteland.  At the same time I had little desire to go through Megaton and spend time with Moira again and so on.  So I just started trudging my way north, picking up minor quests and combat situations along the way.  So by the time I reached the northern border I was level 7 and ready to rumble ... or at least ready to deal with mutants without getting my butt handed to me!

Once you meet up with Wernher you learn of a place called 'The Pitt' where loads of people have been enslaved against their will and are working for greedy slavers in dangerous operations, which means many people die on a daily basis.  To make matters worse, these slaves are slowly dying of a degenerative disease that can eventually transform them into sub-human monsters called Trogs if they don't die first!  Compared with Operation Anchorage, this quest setup had me thrilled.  I was told that a direct assault was suicide so I needed to get some slave clothes from a holding camp nearby and sneak into The Pitt.  I'm not sure how I was supposed to accomplish this peacefully, because the slavers I encountered who were holding slaves ready for transfer had no intention of letting me do this without a fight.  No matter, I freed the slaves, killed the slavers and got my slave garb from a dead slave.  I met up with Wernher again and we were on our way.

Once we transitioned through the tunnels and into the Pitt things start to change.  We learn a bit more about Wernher and begin to suspect that perhaps his halo is a bit crooked after all.  We also learn what everyone already saw in the promotional screens that have been shown everywhere including while downloading the add-on: The Pitt is actually Pittsburgh.  Now, just checking my map puts the trip from Washington to Pittsburgh at ~250 miles, which when taken on a hand-powered rail cart would take some time - but we can manage to suspend our disbelief for this.  After crossing the Liberty Bridge we get to suspend it again as we infiltrate the slave zone and the observant guard takes us for an escapee who got scared crossing the bridge and is returning - this despite the massive arsenal of weapons strapped to my back.

After I am inside The Pitt, the quest is simple - make connections and get to meet in person with the leader of the slavers, steal the cure to the disease they have been working on, and return to Wernher.  Naturally things aren't as simple as they seem, as gaining trust and access require taking on a mission that generally leads to death and gaining access requires earning credibility by succeeding in the combat arena.  I don't want to spoil either of these, but the critical mission you take on makes no sense whatsoever and if I wasn't really enjoying the combat action I would have stopped right there - I had once again become full-up with the nonsensical writing and design.  However, the fact that I'd been playing exclusively turn-based strategy and RPG games recently allowed my blood-lust to carry me through.

Once you have completed the required tasks, you can gain access to the slaver leader, which involved crossing the city on an oddly designed series of catwalks and platforms between buildings.  When I say 'oddly designed', what I really mean is 'these things are here to force me through a certain path and potentially interact with characters along the way but otherwise are just nonsense'.  From here on out you hit the end game stages, which I won't spoil other than to say you hit a choice based on things you have seen coming for quite a while based on the ham-fisted writing, and eventually get to the end and return to the wasteland.

When you complete your tasks in The Pitt, whichever way you choose, you end up with two new weapons - the Infiltrator and the AutoAxe.  The Infiltrator is a silenced assault rifle with a scope, and the AutoAxe is a rotary tool used by the slaves to break down items for the foundry, but of course it makes a wonderfully gory weapon as well!  Most other stuff is just alternate versions of armor and other weapons, and you pick up a few new perks if you complete everything.  And of course, completing this will give you yet another new Achievement and increase your Gamerscore by 100 points on XBOX Live.  WooHoo!

 

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 hundred words talking about this?  It was interesting to me having been so immersed in turn-based games lately that I barely used VATS this time.  It isn't that the FPS action worked any better, I just found myself thirsting for the visceral thrill and willing to reload on occasion.

Once again the first real mission is suggested to be done using stealth and diplomacy and once again I just blasted everyone to bits.  I was concerned that one of the slavers would use a radio and it would change the course of events throughout the add-on, but then I remembered I was playing Fallout 3, and so naturally there were no consequences beyond the tunnel.

The flow of the overall game works much better than in Operation Anchorage - I have highlighted some annoyingly nonsensical moments, but most people won't get hung up on those.  You get your quest, you move from task to task until you get to a fork in the road, make your choice, then proceed to the conclusion.  Everything wraps around your central mission, and the pacing is set nicely to keep you on the edge of action at all times.  The game design seems centered around providing enjoyable combat throughout at the expense of well thought out level design, so you get areas that are great in terms of pinch-points and vantage-points but fall apart badly when you turn around and look at how it is all laid out.

Of course, the whole point of it is that you aren't supposed to turn around and think about things.  You are supposed to speed forward and just keep going.  You aren't supposed to wonder about your early conversations with your initial contact; you aren't supposed to wonder why all of your equipment gets separated and put into a nice little container for you to retrieve later; you aren't supposed to wonder about the apparent cognitive dissonance inherent in the few facets of the slave leader's personality that are revealed to you.  You are just supposed to accept it all at face value, look on your choice as some great 'moral decision' and be heartily impressed.  Sadly, it is those sorts of things that you might be able to forgive and forget once but that will make a replay all but impossible.

Another thing that is hard to ignore is the bugginess.  I have been impressed with the robustness of the original Fallout 3 and the Operation Anchorage add-on, but even though I waited a couple of days for the initial round of problems to settle down, I still ran into more slowdowns, freezes and crashes to desktop in this small module than in my entire time with Fallout 3.

 

What is the value proposition?

Deciding whether or not to recommend this is harder than with Operation Anchorage, because this add-on was actually fun to play.  I was not totally reviled as I was before, but at the same time there are a number of problems in terms of content and the module that I cannot ignore.  The bugginess might be enough to scare away some, but it isn't something I would consider a deal-breaker.  I lost very little time to restarting the game, and never needed to reboot.  I found the level design and writing to be much more problematic - they present a scenario that you really need to take at face value - any analysis and it all falls apart.  If you can manage that then you might be able to get some decent value, otherwise the add-on is good for a single time through.

Aside from the quality and depth of the writing and the general bugginess, there is the overall size of the module.  I spent ~6 or so hours playing, which seems pretty good until you remember what I said from the beginning of the review: I started fresh with a new character.  This means going through all of the gender, SPECIAL, perks, tag skills and so on from the start, not to mention suffering through the GOAT exam and other tediously long content before escaping the vault.  Then I had to manually cross the Wasteland and gain levels as I went.  I didn't note the time when I actually entered The Pitt, but suffice it to say that less than half my game time was with new content.  That would mean the module is ~3 hours long.

So you have a buggy 3-hour module with thin writing and transparent choices and questionable level design, but loads of combat fun and great visuals.  That is what brings me back to what I said about Operation Anchorage - whether or not you will be satisfied with The Pitt depends highly on your opinion of Fallout 3 ... and Operation Anchorage.  If you bought Operation Anchorage and were satisfied, rejoice - The Pitt is even better.  It you feel like 3 more hours of pretty much the same flaws from the original Fallout 3 but in a new setting are poor value, then feel good about skipping it.  My review score puts things pretty well in the middle of the road, because while I won't likely ever play this DLC again because of the annoying flaws, I have spent far more to play 4 hour single player campaigns in the past so I don't consider $10 a poor value for this one.  At any rate it has caused me to leave Fallout 3 installed so I will be ready for whatever comes next.

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

  • Plot makes some sense
  • Still looks good
  • Combat system is identical
  • New enemies and locations

Cons

  • Yet more nonsensical goings on
  • Combat system is identical
  • Contrived design
  • Only a few hours with little replay

Rating

Review version

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