Fallout 3: Operation: Anchorage (Review)

After Broken Steel raised level caps to 30, PS3 players are totally ready to get their teeth stuck into some more missions. This time you’ll get to interact with a bit of Fallout history that you may be familiar with from scraps of info picked up along your travels.

Using a virtual reality pod you can get involved with the famous battle at Anchorage, Alaska where the US forces had to repel the Chinese invaders. It’s not just a game though. Some members of the Brotherhood of Steel Outcasts need you to beat it so they can gain access to a sealed vault in a bunker, promising you a share of the spoils. Free stuff? Plug me in kiddo.

The most notable difference is the setting. After the arid wastelands of the main game you find yourself amidst snowy mountains on a narrow path with a dizzying drop at the edge. This is your first mission, where you and one other soldier need to take out the massive artillery guns hidden away near the frosty summit.

Other missions involve clearing bases, blowing up fuel tanks and preparing for an assault. For the last three missions you are the leader of a team. You can even select what sort of weapons you want them to have. It’s not Brothers in Arms though, so your tactical choice with them is slim (stay, follow, shoot).

Almost straight away you’ll notice how different everything feels. Stripped of your weapons and items you will have to rely on what you’re given and what you can forage from bunkers. Extra ammo and health are only available from top-up stations as any enemies you defeat melt away in a pixelated breeze, you’re in a simulation remember. That doesn’t mean you can’t die though.

Not that you will though to be honest as this is Fallout at its easiest. In fact the overly simplistic nature and lack of extra things to do and pick up make this episode of Fallout 3 feel a bit dumbed down. You can play it like any shooter, opting for run and gun tactics without having to use the paused, selective shooting, VATS system.

The Chinese forces consist of soldiers, sentry turrets and spider-like walking mines. The cunning, ninja-esque, elite soldiers have a Predator-style invisibility camo and wait until you have wondered past them before they attack, meaning you’ll be checking the corners of every room. The tank vehicle you may have seen in the trailer is a disappointing adversary and puts up less of a fight than a caged Super Mutant Behemoth.

There’s a cool new weapon, the scoped Gauss rifle that fires long range shots, but ammo is miserly thin for it, so you’re generally going to be using an old assault rifle. Once you finish these missions though you are handsomely rewarded some cool gear to use as you want back in reality, just make sure you have plenty of baggage space before you start this episode.

Apart from collecting ten optional Intel briefcases, you feel obliged to hurtle through the missions quickly as there isn’t anything to do at your usual sauntering rate. The whole thing can be over in a little over two hours. To make it worse, you can’t even replay the ‘simulation’ once you’ve completed it. So unless you start a whole new game you’re buying a ‘one use only’ product. Cheers Bethesda.

The brevity of this DLC could almost be forgiven were it not for the fact that it’s riddled with bugs. Many of you will have experienced crashes in the main game before. Well, at times it gets even worse here, as the frame rate can drop hideously, often leading to a complete crash from the game, so save often. Not everyone will experience this, but it is a regular occurrence for many and a reminder of how broken the otherwise excellent Fallout 3 can be.

The snowscape setting is an enjoyable alternative experience, but you never really feel like you’re in the big battle which it’s been built up as. There’s a lot resting on ‘The Pitt’ episode now, which by most accounts will at least provide a longer experience and see a return of the moral choice system too.


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