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Ranking the Fallout 3 DLC

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageAugust 5 saw the final release of DLC (downloadable content) by Bethesda Softworks for their hit game Fallout 3.  For fans like myself, these have kept the game in our Xbox 360 consoles long after we've beaten the main quest several times over, completed virtually every side quest out there in the Wastes, and completed our personal collection of Vault-Tec Bobbleheads.  And Bethesda has learned from their mistakes with DLC in the past (no Oblivion Horse Armor or the like here); each of the expansions for Fallout 3 have included new quests, items, and areas to explore.  I've downloaded and played them all, and here is how I see them stacking up when judged against each other.


5. Operation Anchorage

While I applaud Bethesda for taking a chance and trying something new with the first update, Operation: Anchorage is a much more straight-forward first person shooter oriented expansion than the main gameplay of Fallout 3, making it sort of like Call of Duty with V.A.T.S., which let's be honest, might sound like fun in theory but doesn't work so well in reality.  The poor enemy A.I. and health & ammo refill stations scattered throughout levels combined for some uninspired play that was a little too much of a departure for many gamers, myself included.  Nice first try Bethesda, but please try again.

4. The Pitt

The second release of planned DLC, The Pitt got back to some of what players love about Fallout 3.  Namely, that involves exploring post-apocalyptic landscapes, questing, and obtaining cool, new items.  After answering a distress call, players travel to what is left of Pittsburg, PA (now dubbed The Pitt) and become embroiled in the local political scene.  The Pitt is run on the blood and sweat of slaves, and you are forced to choose sides.  Do you fight for their freedom?  Or do you let your greed align you with their masters?  While a vast improvement over Operation: Anchorage, The Pitt fell short in a couple of areas.  First, it wasn't nearly as big an area as it first seems.  The Pitt seemed to promise to allow players to explore a city spared the full impact of nuclear war, yet you get to see a disappointingly small area of the city.  Trogs seem a quick & dirty substitute for feral ghouls (with a different skin and only slightly different behavior), and I thought the gladiatorial combat portion of the action too short and far too easy.  But it was certainly a step in the right direction.

3. Mothership Zeta

The last of the Fallout 3 add-ons, Mothership Zeta expands on an Easter Egg of sorts in the main game.  Though not marked on your Pip-boy map (even after you discover it), in your explorations of the Capital Wastes you might happen upon a crashed flying saucer complete with a dead "little green man".  Initially all you get out of this close encounter is the devastatingly awesome Alien Blaster, but with this new DLC, the alien mothership has returned and you get beamed aboard.  The subject of some unwelcome probing, you must team up with other abductees and fight your way off the alien ship and find some way to get back down to Earth.  Aside from Operation: Anchorage, this is the most linear of the add-ons, and while the new environment, enemies, and weapons shake things up a bit, Mothership Zeta isn't really what Fallout 3 does best.

2. Broken Steel

Broken Steel immediately gets points for doing two things: changing the ending of the game and increasing the level cap.  Now don't get me wrong, part of me liked that players have to sacrifice their characters to "beat" the game, and I liked the post-game story that followed.  But if you want to continue to explore the Wastes after completing the main quest, the short answer is that you can't.  You would have to save immediately before the final segment, and explore with the main quest unfinished, which sort of runs contrary to the overall level of tension at that point.  Broken Steel fixed this by extending the main quest, resulting not in a resurrection of your character, but more a reprieve.  Plus, the level cap is extended from 20 to 30, and some new perks accompany these advanced levels.

1. Point Lookout

Point Lookout is my personal favorite of the various expansions for Fallout 3, and I put it here mainly for style points.  When a riverboat ferry shows up in the Wastes offering passage to the tranquil, seaside resort town of Point Lookout, how can you refuse?  Though there's no distress call, no immediate threat to be quelled, the call is still irresistible as one of exploration, one of the things about Fallout 3 that has appealed most to me.  And the atmosphere you discover once you arrive is so different from that of the Capital Wasteland it almost feels like you're playing a different game.  Though there is a main quest that will carry you through a good portion of the playable area, if anything there is even less pressure to complete it than in previous expansions, leaving you free to explore the swamps and bogs that surround Point Lookout.  While some variations on familiar foes populate these environs (e.g. swamplurks instead of mirelurks), the stars are the inbred denizens nearly right out of Deliverance known as swampfolk.  It all comes together for a truly eerie vibe that's a blast to play.