Four Things* You Need to Know About Fallout 3's Operation Anchorage DLC

Nathan Grayson

(*And a conclusion that, I guess, could be considered a fifth thing, but that’d really be reaching.)

Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage is the first drop in an irradiated stream of DLC that Bethesda has planned for its fantastic revamp of the Fallout universe. It sees your wastelander – presumably, by this point, an Iron Man-esque mishmash of cutting-edge weaponry, cold steel, and a 40’s-era radio – stripped right out of his/her tin can and flung (via simulation) into the future’s past that’s still technically our future. Once there, it’s your job to play border patrol for Alaska, keeping China’s Communist government from nabbing Democracy’s swank American job. And make no mistake, son – this is war. But is it a war worth fighting? Well, yes and no. Here’s why.

1. Installing it is like giving birth – Er, not that I’d know what giving birth is like, but I’ve installed Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage, which I’ve heard is a comparable experience. So here’s the rundown: Remember when you feverishly chucked GFW Live into computer limbo because, right after buying Fallout 3, you just wanted to play Fallout 3? Well, that’s actually important now. In order to purchase and subsequently install Operation Anchorage, you must rent out a portion of your precious hard drive to GFW. Then, if you don’t have a GFW or Xbox Live account, you have to snooze your way through some paper work too. Next up, purchasing Microsoft Points. No, your hard-earned dollars are about as worthless as bottle caps here, so you’ll need to have them irreparably mangled into Microsoft Points. After passing Microsoft’s battery of trials (note: I still haven’t said “finally”), you’ll be deemed worthy of downloading Operation Anchorage. Oh goodness, what’s this? Why, has this amount of ridiculous hoop-jumping necessitated a paragraph break – the first in “Five, or Four, or Whatever Things About’s” history?

Yes it has.

Because you’re not done yet! Now you’ll need to open your Fallout 3 game save folder, copy your save files, and jam them into a new save folder for GFW-related things. Otherwise, your old saves won’t work with Operation Anchorage. Presuming you haven’t rage-quit by now, you should be good to go. BUT, at least in my case, Fallout 3 and the DLC still wouldn’t play nice together, so I had to lure the DLC files into Fallout 3’s data folder and treat Anchorage like a mod.

Approximate amount of time spent installing Operation Anchorage: 70 billion years.

2. Shoot first, ask questions never – Communists don’t speak American, and it’s just as well, because Operation Anchorage is about making war stories – not trading them. Fallout 3’s deliberate pacing and scavenger-friendly environment, then, disappear under a blanket of blood-stained snow in Anchorage, as do a number of the game’s tropes. Gone are stimpacks and other health items – replaced by health stations scattered throughout the simulation. Similarly, ammo and weapons can only be acquired at select areas, as enemy corpses evaporate into a neato blue glow as soon as they hit the ground. As a result, the game’s pacing becomes more like that of a first-person shooter, which is pretty cool, at least in theory. There’s precisely one problem with that, though: Fallout 3, as an FPS, sucks. Executive Producer Todd Howard even acknowledged it in an interview with MTV Multiplayer. Thus, what makes Fallout 3 special – that is, exploring a world littered with tiny flecks of history and intrigue – finds itself completely obscured, ironically enough, by a simulation that actually allows you to experience one of the game world’s greatest historical events. Bummer.

3. Again, again! – Gotta hand it to Bethesda; after years of painting on the canvas of gigantic sandbox worlds, the developer handily sketched out a well-paced, multi-pathed FPS mission, with a few touches of RPG-lite to boot. The result: Anchorage is a highly replayable piece of DLC. One problem, though – once you’ve beaten the simulation, there’s no going back (sound familiar ?). Anchorage remains trapped forever in history books, or tattooed on the side of a negligent Vault-dwelling student’s face, never to be lived again. So, before you do anything else, save after hopping into the saddle of your pod-shaped battle chariot. Otherwise, your life will be filled with regret and sorrow.

4. So, what’s new? – Well, aside from the aforementioned health and ammo pods, there’s a short time during which you kinda control a squad. “Kinda,” because the squad has two speeds: “wait” and “disobey your order about waiting.” Depending on how many squad bucks you’ve spent, you can box up your proofs of purchase and send for more troops, but it’s not really worth it – especially because, thanks to ample health and ammo stations, Operation Anchorage is pretty easy. Of more interest are a few new pieces of equipment, of which the Gauss Rifle is easily the coolest. Wildly powerful yet equally unwieldy, the Gauss Rifle only serves to make Anchorage feel even more like an FPS. See, in VATS, it’s decent, sure – but aimed manually from long distances, the thing’s basically a Deathclaw gun. If one of its booming strikes doesn’t blow an enemy into bloody chunks, it’ll at least send them flailing into the snow. How embarrassing! You can also nab, among other things, some totally broken (in a good way) power armor, a Chinese stealth suit (makes you look like the dude from Crysis), and a badass lightning sword – but only after you’ve finished the simulation.

But is it worth the money? – Not really. Operation Anchorage completely ignores everything that made Fallout 3 so special and, in doing so, nukes away much of the game’s fun factor. However, I still think you should buy it – not for the content, but for the idea behind it. See, vanilla mission packs are all well and good, but in Operation Anchorage, Bethesda sprinkled all kinds of spicy flavors throughout Fallout 3’s original design. Along with games like Burnout Paradise and Mirror’s Edge, Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage manages to bust through the constraints set by its base game, cross a few wires, and experiment a little. More of this, please.

“Five (or Four) Things You Need to Know About…” is a fairly self-explanatory whenever-I-feel-like-it feature in which I highlight anything game-related – game, engine, company, etc. –  and break it down into five (or four) easily digestible pieces. It’s not meant to be a review (except for when it is), so much as it is a discussion platform. So give my opinions a few minutes of your time and then voice your own. Or tear mine to shreds.

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