After delving into the large open-world of Fallout 3 playing in a smaller, simulated encounter seems bit claustrophobic. You see, while the player gets to take an integral role in the Battle for Anchorage, it is done in a computer simulation with some strict barriers. We downloaded the expansion pack via the new Games for Windows client. The process went very smoothly and we hope this is just the start of a true PC analog to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. After the download was complete it detected the base game and automatically installed it. We started Fallout 3 up, signed into our Games for Windows LIVE account and began playing.
Getting to the new content of Operation Anchorage is fairly simple. Upon entering the D.C. Wastes you will receive a new radio station to listen to. This radio signal is basically an emergency transmission from a group of Brotherhood of Steel Outcasts calling for reinforcements. A new location will appear on your world map (although you will not be able to fast-travel there until after your first visit. Stumbling upon a group of Outcast members on the way to the location, you accompany them as they fight through a band of Super Mutants blocking the way. Once to the Outcast’s base, you find that they have stumbled upon a cache of advance technology that can only be unlocked by completing a computer simulation of the Battle of Anchorage. This historic battle is where the US Army forced back Chinese invaders prior to the nuclear exchange which effectively ends life as we know it. Due to your Pip-Boy 3000’s capabilities, you seem to be the Outcasts best chance at finishing it. In return, they promise you all the advanced tech you can carry.
Which brings us to the sim itself. The landscape of Anchorage, Alaska is sufficiently bleak with snow and high-winds racing through the land. Once you complete the opening bits of combat and setup, you will make it to the US base in the region. Your mission is to lead a strike team to three different locations before you clear the way for a big T-51b power armor-equipped push towards the Chinese base. Health and ammo will be given via stations scattered throughout your path, while enemy corpses and items just vanish into thin air with a transporter-like blue energy. As this is a simulation, you are not able to loot anything in the normal manner. Also among the war-torn tundra, you will find ten scattered pieces of intelligence in the form of briefcases which, when collected, give you the new Covert Ops trait.
The Chinese soldiers come in two main flavors: stealth suited and not. The Chinese regulars carry assault rifles and sniper rifles while the stealth-suited ‘Crimson Dragoon’ troops can become invisible ala the Predator and carry a variety of weapons. These stealth troops are a neat new foe to fight and present the player with a challenge not seen in the base game, namely: fighting nearly-invisible bad guys.
My biggest complaint with this DLC pack is that when you finally reach the Chinese base, the story is abruptly stopped after a small, final bit of fighting. It feels extremely jarring and anti-climactic as you are yanked out of the simulation and back into the present. Perhaps this was Bethsoft’s design, I do not know. Thankfully, not all of the story feels so jarring. During the course of the missions, you recover several holodisks featuring some personal stories from the battle which helps set the tone of what you are re-enacting. Also, I would have like to have seen a larger number of enemies throughout the operation. For one of the largest battles in US history, it feels a bit too empty and, frankly, easy. I was able to get through the entire thing at level ten without too much trouble.
After the sim is completed, you are able to open the locked door to the advanced tech room and you will be able to loot pretty much everything in it. You will be able to pick up the new Gauss Rifle, stealth suit, and electrified sword to name a few items.
Is this DLC pack worth picking up? For 800 Microsoft points, or roughly $10 dollars, sure. While the pack does not feature any one thing that you will not be able to live without, it does offer a few nifty technologies as well as a relatively fun diversion during its short duration. Plus, it gives gamers a chance to continue supporting the developer, hopefully paving the way to their development of a full-fledged sequel. Let’s just hope that Bethsoft learns from our criticism about Operation Anchorage and gives us a bit more to chew on with ‘The Pitt’ and ‘Broken Steel’, which are due out sometime in February or March.