Sunday, April 17, 2011

DLC review: Fallout 3 - Operation: Anchorage

Upon receiving a new radio signal, the Lone Wanderer journeys in search of the source, eventually discovering a group of the Brotherhood of Steel outcasts. It seems they have a virtual simulator that reenacts the battle of Anchorage, Alaska, where United States soldiers made their stand against invading communist Chinese forces. They are unable to properly interact with the device, however, and require the help of the Lone Wanderer and his/her Pip-Boy 3000.

When players first begin their trek through the snow-covered cliffs of Anchorage, they will not be given the freedom to use any of the weapons or items they’ve gathered from their exploration of the Capital Wasteland. Instead, they will be limited to whatever weapons they can find in Anchorage, or those that they receive from their allies. The environment can often mask an enemy’s location, so early on players must learn to be more perceptive and careful. With that in mind, new classes of enemies will be encountered periodically, so players will have to change up their tactics on a few occasions. Operation: Anchorage’s gameplay is more akin to the straightforward mechanics of an FPS than the RPG players have come to be so familiar with, and it takes time to get used to the changes.

While Operation: Anchorage is only meant to last players a couple of hours at most, it can take longer due to a lack of direction. Often the game will inform you of what the next mission objective is, but not give you much direction as to where it lies. As the Pip-Boy 3000 is of no use in Anchorage, players cannot access their map and are at the mercy of a trial-and error method of searching the area for their mission objective. This really only becomes a major nuisance during the second half of the mission, when things are less linear.

Ammo and health stations are glow a bright red, which, in the context of the mission taking place within a virtual reality simulator, makes perfect sense. In terms of gameplay, however, it feels like Bethesda is holding the player’s hand the entire way through. If they had only highlighted these in red upon the player first encountering these as a sort of tutorial to the differences between The Capital Wasteland and Anchorage, it would have made for a more intense battle experience.

There are a handful of characters players will meet during their time in Anchorage, but compared to the larger figures in the Capital Wasteland, most of the characters in Anchorage are forgettable. There is a bit of Fallout charm thrown in with their insistence that they are real people and not virtual images. Overall, Operation: Anchorage carries a much more serious tone than the main game of Fallout 3. While it is interesting to see first-hand the battle of Anchorage – something that is mentioned a number of times throughout the main story – the gameplay comes across as a bare-bones take on the formula of Fallout 3 and the story isn’t particularly engaging.

My rating: 6.5 (out of 10)*

*(rating applies solely to downloadable content, not its inclusion with the content on the original game disc or other downloadable content)

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