x360a Review: Fallout 3's Operation Anchorage DLC

Nate Gillick
Operation Anchorage releases as the first of three announced content packs for Fallout 3, Bethesda's latest masterpiece, and our pick for the 2008 Game of the Year. The downloadable quest line starts after you've spent a short time wandering the wastelands, and will begin with a strange transmission. After helping out some outcasts in need, you'll soon find yourself called upon to hop into a simulator to relive the Battle of Anchorage, as the only way to retrieving some high value tech. The Battle of Anchorage is a famous battle in the Fallout universe, where the Chinese have invaded Anchorage in full force, looking to control Alaska's oil supply, and it'll be up to you to teach those commies a lesson.

Stylistically, Operation Anchorage is something of a departure from the regular game. The action takes place in a simulation, and Bethesda does a great job of working with that setup. Slain enemies will fizzle out of existence, as will fallen comrades, and holographic walls will periodically show the limits of where you can tread, enhancing the feeling of existing in a virtual reality. Instead of looting ammo off dead bodies or using medkits, players will find health and ammo dispensers to heal and resupply, in keeping with the videogame feel of the simulation.

Prepare to face a new type of enemy.

While players get to keep the perks they have, ammo and items don't transfer over (you're supposed to be simulating someone else's experience, after all). That means you'll have to make do with what you can find, but weapons for all player types eventually become available, so you won't feel restricted for long. New additions to the game include the Gauss Rifle, the awesome energy sniper rifle, stealth armor, and more. The addition of the rifle is great for the game's balance, as energy weapon specialists finally have a long-range weapon of their own, and thus don't require skills with Small Guns to have sniping capability. The Chinese enemies have some interesting tactics and abilities that came as a surprise to me, which I won't spoil here, and combat against them is a refreshing change of pace from the Super Mutants, to say the least.

As should be expected in a mission simulating a military campaign, there's quite a lot of combat to be had here. Players can expect to be in combat for the vast majority of their time in Operation Anchorage, moving from one battle to the next with little time to pause for breath in between, making this one of the most intense quests in the game. Objectives can be handled in numerous ways, as players will eventually get to choose what weapons they take into battle with them, and who (if anyone) will go with them, allowing players to tailor the action to their skills. It's nice to see that player choice, which made the core game so compelling, continue to be an important part of the DLC.

Say hello to the awesome Gauss Rifle.

The only complaint that could be leveled against this quest pack is its length. Clocking it at 3-4 hours, Operation Anchorage isn't extremely long, and some gamers may wish for more for their 800 points. However, most of that time is spent in combat, and the quest line feels intentionally designed to provide the best experience, with absolutely no fluff or filler to artificially pad the expansion's length. All the achievements come from quest completions, and thus can't be missed, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Once again, Bethesda has delivered a high-quality experience, setting our expectations high for what the next quest pack will bring.

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