[Join Christopher Matulich and Chris Carter, as they both review Fallout 3's Operation: Anchorage pack for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Chris M's review was written months ago when the DLC dropped on the 360, and Chris Carter's is brand new. Intro by Christopher Matulich.]
Operation: Anchorage, set during the liberation of Alaska shortly before the nuclear fallout that shapes Fallout 3, has officially been available to the public for over 72 hours. Aside from my hardware problems, I had Operation: Anchorage up and running with a character fresh out of the vault.
I quickly entered Megaton and massacred the town for the measly amount of weapons, ammo and armor to hopefully be able to fend for myself against the Super Mutant Brutes attacking the Outcast’s base.
Christopher Matulich (Xbox 360):
Once successfully within the building, you learn of the Outcast’s motives, much like the Brotherhood of Steel preservation of technology, and they need your help in securing combat equipment sealed in an armory that may only be accessed by a PipBoy, and a PipBoy that has completed the Anchorage simulation. This is where your character comes in.
As you enter the simulation, you’ll find all of your equipment gone, and you’re left simply with a silenced 10mm pistol and ammo, winterized combat armor and accompanying helmet, a combat knife and a stealth boy. Because of this quest’s virtual nature, you may not loot corpses or interact with anything for that matter, unless if flashes red. Finding more equipment is fairly easy, as it lies around in set points, alongside both health and ammo dispensers.
There are no stimpaks, no purified water, or foodstuffs. The first part offers a decent selection of weaponry, as well as allowing you to test out the Gauss rifle, which provides absolute devastation. Essentially an energy sniper rifle, the gauss rifle packs enough punch to knockdown your enemy on every successful hit, as well as nearly obliterating them in the process. Even at level 6, I was turning Brotherhood Outcasts into piles of ash with an energy weapon skill below 25.
However, when you first encounter the rifle, its only for a short period of time as you infiltrate a Chinese military base to get you familiar with your icy surroundings, which aren’t much of a change from the Capital Wasteland’s barren landscape besides a difference in color. I was not too impressed with the choices Bethesda made for Anchorage; in the Fallout universe, Anchorage is an oil hub, providing much of America’s oil supply. Not once did I see an oil refinery, or for that matter, an expansive town or any civilians. You’d think a military simulation would incorporate some form of interaction with the people your protecting and fighting for or the surrounding cities and towns.
As you finish the infiltration of the Chinese outpost with your trusted companion Benji, you’ll flash forward to the meat of Operation: Anchorage with a three part quest. As you prepare for the upcoming assaults, you’ll be given the chance to prepare yourself for battle. Equipment once again is scarce; you must choose between certain sets that only grant you one or two weapons, as well as grenades and mines.
You’ll also have the opportunity to acquire a strike team, with units ranging from an infantry unit to a Mr. Gutsy. I’m not going to get into the missions, for they aren’t exactly the longest quests in the game, nor do I want to get flamed for spoilers.
All in all, Operation: Anchorage provides an entertaining experience, but does not nearly live up to the “4-6 hours” of gameplay that was promised. I explored the simulation very thoroughly and completed all quests, both mandatory and optional. Including my expedition to the Outcast base, the DLC couldn’t have take me longer than two and a half hours, yet, the quest rewards you receive for completing the simulation are pretty damn good, but not worth the $10 price tag. Hopefully The Pitt will introduce some new elements, if not, then we’ll just have to wait for the “official” expansion that will be Broken Steel.
Note: I experienced a glitch after completing the extra content. In a previous post, I mentioned I had formatted my HDD and lost all of my save files, including Fallout 3. I had completed the game in full, acquiring the achievement for completing “Picking Up the Trail” and receiving power armor training. After completing Operation: Anchorage with a new character and no previous save files, I was able to wear power armor of any variety.
I found this a little peculiar (well, not that much, this game IS riddled with bugs) but shrugged it off as a nice coincidence. I wonder if this is because of the DLC, or because I already have the achievement?
Christopher Matulich gives Operation Anchorage a 6.0/10.
Chris Carter (PS3):
Well PS3 owners, it’s time to buckle down and figure out what DLC you’re getting (besides Broken Steel, of course)! At the time of this review, every last level pack is out for Fallout 3, and you no doubt want some assistance in figuring out what to get. So without further ado, read on for my review of Operation: Anchorage!
First off, the premise of this DLC pack isn’t particularly exciting in the slightest. After answering a distress signal from your radio, you’ll descend into a Brotherhood bunker. It seems like the inhabitants are having trouble opening an old weapons cache, so they need you and your pip-boy to open it by completing a VR simulation of the battle of Anchorage. Almost immediately, I raised my arms in disgust at the incredibly cheeky premise, seemingly ripped out of a Saturday morning cartoon. It doesn’t really get much better from here, folks.
Since you’re playing the role of a VR Soldier, all of your equipment will remain in the real world, and you’ll start with a silenced 10mm pistol and trench knife. After trekking through part of the level, you’ll find familiar, boring weapons you’ve seen numerous times before like Chinese Assault Rifles and Missile Launchers, but eventually you’ll find the Gauss Rifle. While the Gauss Rifle was a bit of fun, it operates, and feels almost identical to the Enclave Plasma Rifle, which really detracts from the allure of the Anchorage weapon-set.
While the scenery is beautiful, Anchorage is an incredibly linear experience that’s broken into two “acts”. Part one takes place on a mountain top trail with little to no exploration allowed. Part two has three branching paths, but with numerous “VR Walls” impeding free movement, you feel incredibly restricted, and it only feels like a slightly bigger version of act one. It almost feels as if Bethesda had laid the groundwork for a number of other VR simulation DLC packs, but due to the overwhelmingly negative response, canned the idea.
The mission just felt like a standard “Golden Eye 64 FPS” level, which is really uncharacteristic of Fallout 3. Instead of healing through the typical water source or sparing stimpak (which makes Fallout 3 feel more unique), you use “VR health stations”, which even furthers the “arcadey” feel of the mission. The fact that it only took me two hours to beat it didn’t help very much either.
So if the mission itself isn’t worth the price of entry, are the rewards worthy of a $10 purchase? Well…at the end of the Anchorage simulation, you gain access to a small armory, including a new Metal Gear Solid looking Stealth Suit that gives you…well…stealth when you sneak, a unique Shock Sword, the Gauss Rifle, and a special Winterized T-51B Power Suit. In short, you don’t really get anything that’s particularly exciting outside of the stealth suit, so it’s completely your call.
Ultimately, I think Operation: Anchorage is the second worst piece of Fallout 3 DLC, just behind Mothership Zeta. It’s just too linear and rushed to really feel authentic, and I think Bethesda may have learned their lesson from fan feedback, because nearly all of the future installments have made significant improvements on Anchorage’s shortcomings.
Chris Carter gives Operation Anchorage a 6.0/10.