As promised, here’s my review of the new Fallout 3 DLC – Operation: Anchorage. Since getting hold of it is a less than simple process, I’ve also written extensively on how to buy it/get it running here.
Anyway. As you who were here at The Reticule’s founding will know, I really liked Fallout 3. As those of you who read my post the other day, I really hate GFWL. The latter is truer than ever. And in all honesty, Operation : Anchorage fails on almost all accounts to live up to what made Fallout 3 such a good game, even despite faults.
As everyone knows, a Fallout game is made up of a few crucial aspects. First, and foremost in my mind is the setting. Everyone knows that setting by now – it’s a bleak, stereotypically stylised picture of a world fallen, with hints of retro-futurism lost, juxtaposed with dark, satirical humour. The second crucial design point is the comparitive freedom by which you can approach the game’s various quests and situations. The 3rd is character design. For the most part, O:A either captures distant glimmers of them on the horizon, or fails utterly to include them.
The addon starts well actually. You pick up a distress signal from my favourite faction in the game, the Brotherhood of Steel Outcasts. After fighting off some supermutants with them in the ruins of DC, you come across a building site housing a bunker that has technology the Outcasts want to get at. The voice acting is of the average to good kind, and they’ve clearly made an effort here, with new textures and assets from the get-go. As soon as you jump in the virtual reality pod, you’ll either crash due to a corrupt save game (I can’t help but feel there’s a line of code in there by one beleagured developer screaming at you not to bother trying), or find yourself shivering on a cliff side with a flat, dull American soldier as your companion. You then proceed to move through a complex of cliffs, caves and commies. It’s by and large one of the least interesting levels in any modern FPS.
Escape this dull world of horrendous blue and grey, you’ll find yourself in… another horrendous world of blue and grey. Where Fallout 3 is pretty well stylised in this respect – it looks like a stereotypical barren wasteland – O:A is simply just horrific. The “squad choices” amount to little more than talking to that dull US soldier friend from the start of the simulation to choose what weapons they have. If you want squad control, go download the Enclave Commander mod. Hell, Bethesda even advertised it themselves weeks ago, clearly in anticipation of their failure. You then proceed to have the wonderful world of choice dangled in front of your eyes, only to realise you’re basically choosing little more than the order in which you follow a small number of linear paths. There’s a few nice touches along the way. It’s nice seeing the T-51b’s given their proper place once more especially. But nothing truly justifies either the financial cost. It’s not particularly long either – there’s a lot of people understandably annoyed at how short it is on the Bethesda forums. The rest are obviously having fun getting the darn thing running.
It’s not entirely without redemption. I love the new weapons and equipment. Especially the Gauss Rifle’s return. It’s easily my new favourite weapon. The Hei-Gei armour is similarily excellent, and I can’t wait to try it out a bit more in the main game. There’s the occasionally brief satire – though never more than a few lines from the characters. It has no sense of bombastic jingoism that’s so present in billboards and the like in the main game. It’s a missed opportunity by all accounts.
I think ultimately, the new gear and art assets will prove useful in the modding scene. In this respect, I’ll be quite glad I’ve got it. It’ll be nice to use some of the new stuff in the main game some more as well. But there’s not nearly enough, and the new levels are simply bereft of all that makes Fallout, Fallout. They tried to make an action RPG into pseudo-Call of Duty. By all accounts they have failed. It is simply not worth the £8.50 they charge, nor the extensive trouble you have to go through in order to play it.
As for future DLC, I’m sure I’ll still be getting it. I genuinely think the problem here was the decision to make a brief foray into the land of scripted shooters. Bethesda have shown this is an area they are not strong in. The Pitt and Broken Steel already look like they’re planning to return to Fallout 3‘s open world strong points. But Operation: Anchorage? Just don’t buy it folks. It’s simply not worth it.
If, you still think you want to get it, I urge you to read my second article of the day on this DLC which will cover the distribution and other issues that plague this release that will no doubt hinder the buying process.