x360a Review: Fallout 3's Mothership Zeta
Written Wednesday, August 12, 2009 By Nate Gillick
Bethesda has done a great job of making each piece of DLC feel unique from the others. So far, Wastelanders have had the opportunity to visit the Battle of Anchorage, the corroded industrial hell of the Pitt, the swamp land of Point Lookout, and continued the main storyline in Broken Steel. Now, Bethesda has Wastelanders boldly go where none has gone before; the cold, remorseless void of space. In Mothership Zeta, the aliens have not come in peace, and it will be up to the players to survive and escape back to earth. Presumably the last DLC quest for Bethesda's award-winning RPG, can this astral adventure provide the finale a game of Fallout's caliber deserves?
We're not in Kansas anymore...
After tracking down a mysterious signal to a crashed UFO, players will find themselves surrounded by light and beamed up to an alien ship, where they'll undergo a friendly probing, and then get sent to a holding cell without so much as a "Thank you," or a "I hope that was as good for you as it was for me." Escaping from your cell is a pretty simple task, and from there it's a straight-up battle across the ship. Mothership Zeta's story had the potential to be hilarious, as it's filled to overflowing with references to Sci-Fi classics like Star Wars, The Twilight Zone, modern comedies like Mars Attacks, and virtually every 1950s Sci-Fi cliche you can think of. Sadly, all this devotion to science fiction ends up working against Mothership Zeta, as the story feels flat and lacks any identity of its own. Rather than enjoying the narrative, it quickly becomes more interesting to try to figure where they borrowed ideas from, as this whole DLC pack feels more recycled than innovative. Add in the painfully linear nature of the proceedings, and the fact that Mothership Zeta utterly lacks any moral problems to spice things up, and you have a DLC pack that feels out of sync with the rest of the game.
The blandness of the story is also a trademark of many of the alien ship's environments. Bethesda clearly took pains to mimic how alien ships looked in old Sci-Fi movies, but that aesthetic doesn't make for a particularly engaging gaming environment. Too many areas of the ship look like each other, and some of the areas with the best scenery aren't utilized to their full potential. For example, the brief space walk on the outer hull of the ship would have been the perfect spot to stage a memorable set-piece battles. Instead, it's wasted walking around pushing a few buttons to activate a teleporter. Yawn. In fact, virtually all of the action of Mothership Zeta revolves around going to a certain point to push a button to disable something. Surely Bethesda could have come up with something more stimulating than that?
True to form, this new DLC adds a few new weapons to the mix, which will probably serve more as novelties than serious additions to your arsenal. The Alien Atomizer is the extraterrestrial equivalent of a handgun, which shoots pretty energy bolts but generally doesn't deal enough damage to make it worth serious consideration. More powerful is the Alien Disintegrator, a rifle with a 100 round clip, which will allow players to shoot continuously, with respectable damage. When the time to reload comes, the Alien Disintegrator boasts a very fast reload time, meaning this weapon does have the potential for regular use. Looking like the drill off a Big Daddy with electrical power added to it, the Drone Cannon looks cool, but isn't a great weapon. Feeling like the alien version of a grenade launcher, the weapon packs some power but isn't the most user-friendly weapon to shoot in FPS mode, and VATS targeting doesn't help much. I test fired about a dozen rounds with it and then went back to my Tesla Cannon.
Nice warp core! How's the gas milage?
Mothership Zeta adds 100 more points to bring the total to 1550, and anyone could have predicted these achievements. You'll net three achievements for completing the quests that make up Mothership Zeta's story, similar to every other DLC pack. The other 20 points come from collecting all the alien captive recordings in the ship. Normally, I hate collectables, but since these audio recordings provided some of the best small glimmers of originality in the DLC, I'd call hunting them down a fun task, and not a chore, in this instance. Completing the DLC and snagging these achievements will probably take 4-6 hours.
While Mothership Zeta's use of classic science fiction cliches could have been great, it feels flat and soulless in its execution. With a paper-thin story, bland environments a little too similar to old Sci-Fi movie sets, and none of the moral ambiguities and decision options that make the core game so great, Mothership Zeta simply lacks the impact of great expansions like Broken Steel or Point Lookout. Clocking in at 4-6 hours, with little to nothing to do upon quest completion, this piece of content can only be recommended to completionists and die-hard Fallout 3 fans.