BAD INTEL: Other than the change of scenery, there’s not much to recommend Operation Anchorage as a stand-alone purchase.
How is it that Fallout 3, last year's most densely packed game, still left many players wanting more? There was so much content that it was possible to start a session with a goal in mind only to realize, several hours later, that you'd not only failed to accomplish it but hadn't actually done anything except wander around slaying Super Mutants and gawking at decrepit national monuments. Also, that the sun had come up and you needed to be at work in 45 minutes.
|Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage | For Xbox 360 | Rated M for Mature | Developed and Published by Bethesda Softworks|
Yet most Fallout players I know, myself included, reached a point, usually after 50 or 60 hours of play, at which they sadly concluded that there was little left to be done, so they pressed ahead to the end of the game. Now there's Operation Anchorage, the first of three promised downloadable expansions. In essence a new quest line, it takes the form of a computer simulation within the larger story of Fallout 3. Your character enters a virtual reality that depicts the battle of Anchorage, one of the events that precipitates the nuclear holocaust in Fallout mythology.
The new content has the advantage of providing a different æsthetic, its gleaming white exteriors a stark departure from the yellowish-brown tinge of the post-nuclear Capital Wasteland. Of course, about half the game still takes place in the same repetitive, industrial interiors that could be found inside most every building back in the DC ruins. And other than the change of scenery, there's not much to recommend Operation Anchorage as a stand-alone purchase.
Of the many great things about Fallout 3, one was simply how weird it was. Some of the objectives were off-the-wall wacky — in particular the quest where you try to steal the Declaration of Independence from a robot wearing a powdered wig. Operation Anchorage, on the other hand, plays like a generic first-person shooter. Your goals are to place explosive charges and kill everybody you see. The addictive exploration and character-building elements of the main game are absent. Your pilfering is confined to searching for 10 silver briefcases containing unspecified "intel." You can't even ransack your fallen enemies' corpses for loot, because they flicker and vanish. The simulation also offers ample opportunities to replenish your health and ammo. The whole thing doesn't feel very much like Fallout at all.
Worst of all, for those who've finished the main storyline, Operation Anchorage is all work and no reward. You already know that it comes to a hard stop at the end and doesn't allow you to continue roaming the wasteland. You'll need to reload an earlier save in order to play the expansion at all. It feels like a loss of progress. Although you do earn some rewards for finishing the new quest, like a bitchin' suit of armor and a high-powered energy weapon, these are helpful only if you want to repeat the end of the game again. But why would you? Better to start all over with a different character.
If you're not too deep into a playthrough already, it might be worth grabbing the expansion for those spoils alone. Shorter in duration than most side quests and with greater rewards, among them several new achievements, this download could be helpful to someone with a lot left to do. If it had shipped as part of the original game, Operation Anchorage would be perfectly serviceable. As a $10 add-on, it comes up short.