Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Guns of Anchorage

The ‘ol blog has been rather quite lately, owing in no small part to the loss of both my PC and my day job. At any rate, I’ve got a shiny new laptop now, and I’ve been brewing up a storm in a few stories I’ve been writing. Some are about everyone’s favourite Vindicator, Howard Gregg, and a few other ones as well, set in an established sci-fi setting.

In any case, here’s a review of the new Fallout 3 DLC, Operation: Anchorage, released today.

Seems like having a wrist mounted computer makes you a very special person. Of course, being able to pause time and target individual body parts is no small skill either, but that’s not what matters in Operation: Anchorage. The Brotherhood Outcasts (a rebel organization obsessed with old world technology) are having a bit of a problem, and only you, the intrepid Lone Wanderer can help them.

By downloading Operation: Anchorage for 800 Microsoft Space Bucks, you’ll be given access to a previously locked part of the game world. No clear indication is made as to where this is right away, but after waiting a few minutes, you’ll get a distress call on your Pip-Boy (the aforementioned wrist computer), pointed you towards the DC outskirts to assist the Outcasts in capturing a recently uncovered military base. Fighting your way through droves of Super Mutants with the Outcasts at your side opens up this content pack with a bang; charging through the streets blasting Super Mutants while power-armored soldiers move forward with you is always a thrill, something you experience only a few times during the regular story line.

Upon reaching the base, you’re greeted by a few Outcasts who, in their trademark surly manner, direct you down an elevator and into a recently uncovered vault. After a short introduction to the setting, you’re strapped into a simulator pod, and warped to Anchorage, Alaska during the time of the Chinese invasion. (For a little summary, the current year in Fallout 3 is 2277. The Operation: Anchorage content pack takes place during 2077, two hundred years in the past)

The missions contained within the pack a fairly straight-forward. Being a military simulation, your objectives have only one clear outcome: the complete destruction of Chinese bases and the troops contained within. That being said, it’s still enjoyable to take out Chinese forces; your objectives are always fun, and this being Fallout 3, combat is a blast, even if half your enemies are completely cloaked and armed with pretty nasty sniper rifles.

After completing your first mission, the destruction of some fairly gigantic artillery guns, you’re warped back to the US Army HQ, where stereotypical US General Constantine Chase gives you a briefing on the three tasks he wants completed.

Here’s where Operation: Anchorage tries to differ from the Fallout formula. In addition to choosing your weapon load outs, you can also command a small strike team. You get five token to spend on your team, and each team member has a different cost. If you want a big bulky robot, you’re going to have fewer chits to spend on the rest of your team, so choose wisely. Ideally, you want numbers on your side, but it’s up to you.

Once you’re thrust into the Alaskan wilderness, you realize how much this looks like the Capital Wasteland, only...Whiter. Bethesda tried to distinguish the Alaskan front line from the ruins of DC, but you can see certain similarities if you look hard enough. That being said, the environment is still beautiful in its starkness, and after so much brown, blinding white is a nice change of pace.

The DLC introduces a new weapon for you to use, the Gauss Rifle. It’s a very powerful weapon, but the ammo is in short supply, forcing you to use it wisely. Fortunately, ammo for regular weapons and health are in abundance, so you don’t have to worry about that.

Upon exiting the simulator, you get a few nice treats, along with a nasty surprise. If you managed to collect ten pieces of intelligence inside the simulator, you also gain a new Perk, Covert Ops, which adds +3 points to the Small Guns, Science and Lockpick skills. (Skills which you should already have maxed out, if you’re a savvy Wastelander, making this Perk rather superfluous.)

Clocking in a two hours, Operation: Anchorage may be a bit short for your tastes, especially if you’re the kind that likes to complain about the pricing for DLC; however, for the Fallout 3 fan, this is worth your time and money, if only to squeeze a few more hours out of an excellent game.

No comments: