Name: Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage
Genre: Action RPG
Platform: Xbox 360, PC (Reviewed on 360)
Operation: Anchorage is the first of three planned downloadable add-ons for Bethesda’s epic open-world RPG, Fallout 3. Focusing on the historic events where American soldiers liberated Anchorage from a Chinese invasion, fans of Fallout 3 are treated to a very different gameplay experience than they are used to. As someone who doesn’t put 60+ hours into a single-player non-sports game very often (read: ever), I was super-stoked when this DLC was released. Having finally helped liberate the great state of Alaska from the Red Menace, I can say that this three-hour tour was totally worth it.
The content is available to anyone who has left Vault 101, though I wouldn’t recommend attempting locating the mission starting point until you’ve picked up some decent weaponry and armor. Anyhow, once you leave your vault, your PipBoy receives a distress signal from some Brotherhood Outcasts calling for backup. Once you arrive, you’ll find that the Outcasts need your help to access an armory they’ve recently requisitioned. In order to get inside, someone needs to pass a virtual training program that re-enacts a few major points of the battle for Anchorage, Alaska. Playing a video game inside another video game? How meta. Once you agree to complete the simulation, you leave all your belongings behind, and hop into a giant egg, which will transport you to the cold northern wasteland.
The gameplay of Operation: Anchorage is a bit different from the gameplay of the standard Fallout 3. That’s not to say Bethesda changes the fundamentals, but many of the aspects of the game are quite different. For one, all your weapons and armor stay in perfect condition. Though that trait does come at a small price. You see, you’re not able to take weapons or armor, or any items for that matter, off of fallen enemies. Since this is a virtual battle, bodies de-rez as soon as they hit the ground. That includes whatever items those bodies were carrying. There are select points where the simulation makes more weapons available to you, but for the most part, you’re stuck with what you start with, which isn’t much. The first mission gives you nothing but a knife, a silenced pistol, and a stealth boy. Later missions give you a choice as to which weapon set you want, but no more than three weapons are available to you at a time. The exception is the Gauss Rifle, which you can obtain by sweet-talking the Quartermaster. Ammo and health can be obtained at checkpoints scattered throughout the world. Like I said, you can’t pick up any items other than what the simulation allows.
When I played through, I loaded up a save just before the end of the game to access the DLC, so health wasn’t really an issue for me until the very end of the simulation. V.A.T.S. still works as well as it does in the regular game, but Operation: Anchorage is much more action-packed than most of Fallout 3 was, so you may find yourself running and gunning a bit more than normal. With so much health and ammo spread out across the battlefield, combined with the fact I was level 20, I was able to take on most of my opponents without help from the few soldiers who were tagging along with me. No matter what you do, you’ll be playing along with Benjamin Montgomery for a great percentage of the campaign. There is an opportunity to select a team of soldiers to tag along as well, but they’re pretty useless. Unlike Montgomery, who like many of the followers in the game (Fawkes, for example) has an otherworldly amount of HP, the soldiers you take with you die rather quickly, especially when up against the elite Chinese force, the Crimson Dragons.
The Chinese aren’t very tough to take down individually, but they tend to hang out in packs, so there are quite a few lengthy firefights. The standard soldiers are just about all equipped with Chinese assault rifles, making them quite formidable in large numbers. The Crimson Dragon ninjas are tough bastards. First of all, as long as they’re crouched, they’re completely cloaked. Secondly, they all mostly brandish swords and sniper rifles. Oh, and they’re quick. They are ninjas after all. Of course, a few shotgun blasts to the face is really all any enemy in the Fallout 3 world needs to be laid to rest. Pending you having that equipped (hint, hint). In fact, the only time I had any difficulty at all with the game was during the final boss fight, but that was more due to my not taking my opponent seriously than it did to him being difficult to beat. Once you defeat the boss, the simulation comes to a close and you’re back out in the real world. There are some really decent spoils for you to grab once you open up the armory. In fact, just about everything you encountered in the simulation will become available to you.
There’s not much different graphically with the DLC. The only actual presentation difference issue I had was with the amount of slow-down that occurred when there were more than 10 guys on the screen at once. My game pretty much slowed to a crawl once faced with having to render that many soldiers at once. Other than that, Operation: Anchorage runs just as smoothly as the normal game. The only other issue that I can see some people having is there is a chance you could blow through this content in under an hour. I don’t know why you would rush through something like that, but it is possible. Though, if you’re the guy who blew through the main game in 12 hours, I don’t think you’re too worried about downloadable content to start with.
There’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had here, and the content you get at the conclusion makes it even more worth the price of admission. Operation: Anchorage plays like a giant action movie taking place in the Fallout 3 universe, and those of you who enjoyed the main game but haven’t tried this out yet are really missing out. I’m even more excited for the next two installments now, and can’t wait to jump back into this world again. Especially now that I have that sweet-ass Crimson Dragon armor.