Ignoring the absolutely, hilariously awful second movie, the universe of Vin Diesel vehicle Richard B. Riddick is undeniably fascinating. Each of its good entries dishes out only as much juicy info as Riddick and a small cast of supporting characters see fit, creating a potentially infinite playground for Diesel’s be-goggled antihero to bully around. And, as with any well-constructed sci-fi setting, no trip to Riddick’s take on the final frontier is complete without a liberal helping of the four W’s. What’s the deal with this planet? Why is Riddick performing fistic genocide on half of its population? Who made these totally rad mechs? And where can I get one?
The answer to all of these questions is simple in Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena -- explore.
Or at least, that’s the logical solution, and in a universe where even a quick moment of hesitation is liable to end with someone on the receiving end of a knife to the eye socket, it’s probably best to avoid asking too many questions. So, during my still in-progress playthrough, I’ve been plumbing the grimy depths of Alcatraz’s out-of-this-world cousin, Butcher Bay. Unfortunately, as of now, the only reward I’ve received for all my exploration is a pack of smokes. And by “a pack,” I mean somewhere in the upper double digits. Suffice it to say, it’s a good thing Riddick doesn’t use the same cigarette storage methods as Solid Snake.
But for me, this literal smoke stack still presents a problem. Sure, I’m being rewarded for my constant exploration, and yeah, the Special Surprises inside each carton – ranging from concept art to behind-the-scenes tech demos – are pretty neat, but after a while, everything just becomes so predictable. Under those crates? A cigarette carton. On that ledge? A cigarette carton. Behind your ear? Well, you get the idea. And really, isn’t the main appeal of exploration – and, to an extent, gaming in general – discovery and subsequent mastery of the unknown? Why take a hike off the beaten path when I already know what lies just around the corner – especially when, in all likelihood, said main path will provide me with far more varied rewards for my trouble?
If Fallout 3’s Operation Anchorage DLC was its electro-sword-swinging, happily ending “A New Hope,” The Pitt is its “Empire Strikes Back.” Full of depressing realities and potential backstabs, The Pitt isn’t exactly the best place for a vacation if Fallout 3’s gray skies and grayer morals were getting you down. The DLC’s plot sees you dropping your mechanical trousers, donning slave rags, and infiltrating Pittsburgh’s disease-riddled remains, with the hope of freeing its enslaved citizens. Or cracking the whip even harder, if you’re playing a heartless ne’er-do-well. But is it really worth your time to save Pittsburgh when you could be saving $10? Well, here’s our verdict in five easy points. (Granted, we could’ve given you a simple yes or no, but what fun would that be?)
1. Now with made with 100% real Fallout! – Despite its first-person trappings, Fallout 3 isn’t an FPS. Unfortunately, developer Bethesda seemed to have forgotten that when it released Fallout 3’s first run-‘n’-gun-heavy piece of DLC, Operation Anchorage. With The Pitt, though, the game has kicked its identity crisis to the curb. No more snow, no more identical Chinese soldiers, no more strangely out-of-place cyborg ninjas – Metal Gear Solid this ain’t. Instead, The Pitt sends you on a veritable Wasteland safari, full of open areas, colorful characters, and optional side quests. And for the most part, another few hours of the same things Fallout fanatics have been doing for the past 50 make for an enjoyable – if somewhat familiar – experience.
There are a lot of things we could say about Fallout 3. Sure, it’s Elder Scrolls: The Mutant Years, but damn, it’s still a brilliant piece of role-playing design: a wide-open world with amazing sights and challenges at every turn.
Rather than descanting at length upon stats and perks, I want to talk about the single most mind-blowing part of the entire character creation system: facial hair. Fallout 3 opens a new era in beard and mustache design. You have never, ever seen such an assortment of whiskers in any game, ranging from the pathetic wisps of a teenager’s first attempt to huge Burnside sprouts and styles not seen outside of movies like Gettysburg or Tombstone. And these aren’t just the paste-ons from Oblivion: These are complete, textured moving models.
No one makes a big open-world role-playing game like Bethesda. That’s what the Elder Scrolls games are famous for, and that’s what the company has brought to the post-nuclear-holocaust milieu of Fallout 3. The game takes you to the world outside Vault 101, the charred remains of the Washington D.C. metro area 200 years after the nukes flew. Truly, Bethesda has built an amazing world.
And this world is the star of the game. Fallout 3 is massive—closer to a single-player MMO than a traditional, linear single-player RPG. As you explore the Wasteland, which surrounds D.C., you’ll meet hundreds of people, many of whom have their own stories to tell, and find hundreds of locations to explore. These range from fully fledged towns to survivalist outposts to ammo caches to camps for the various factions that populate the land. As in Oblivion, you control your progress through the game. Should you choose to skip the main quest, you can explore the world and look for adventure, completing quests and reaping the rewards along the way.
Well, that’s that. Every single inhabitant of the Capital Wasteland – be they man, woman, or part-man, part-tree, with-another-person-in-there-somewhere-maybe – has gazed upon our newly acquired invisibility suit, badass lightning sword (technical term), and gauss rifle, and felt envy’s green tendrils grip the Do Want lobe (again, technical term) of their brains. Hell, we even created a separate Fallout 3 save file in order to murder all of said people with said badass lightning sword. Long story short, we’ve encountered the Wasteland’s most intimidating foe: boredom.
But sadly, we might just have to expose our virgin minds to other games, because Bethesda recently sent word that Fallout 3’s remaining DLC packs, The Pitt and Broken Steel, have each been delayed for a month.
The Pitt will now go live in March, while Broken Steel and its ten levels-worth of new content won’t emerge from the vault until April.
(*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?
Jump past the break to, er, find out? Really though, I think the answer's kind of obvious.
A bit of good news for those forced into a Twilight Zone-esque loop of reliving the Fallout 3 main quest’s final, anticlimactic seconds ad nauseam: the game’s upcoming “Broken Steel” DLC pack will remove its game-halting point-of-no-return.
And, as if the opportunity to spend eternity wandering an irradiated hell weren’t enough, Bethesda also intends to sow some growing room into your character’s jammies. Ten levels of growing room, to be exact.
"We plan on raising [the level cap] to level 30 - but it will be a long, hard climb to get there," Bethesda lead DLC producer Jeff Gardiner told Eurogamer.
The apparent increased leveling time should have many players sighing with relief, as ascending mountains of fallen foes to an absolute peak of level 20 wasn’t exactly difficult in a game of Fallout 3’s scale.
However, we have to ask: Why release the Broken Steel content pack – or at least a few of its features -- in March, after the other two content packs, titled “Operation: Anchorage” and “The Pitt,” have already come and gone? After all, many players have characters mired in save points near the game’s currently inescapable ending, while others hit the level cap long ago. Will they now be forced to resist the DLC’s allure until March if they wish to enjoy it to its fullest?
If you’re reading this right now, it means that 2008 just settled into its final resting place inscribed across its own grave stone, and that you’re reading this right now. I think we both have reason to celebrate. How to celebrate, though? Well, that’s your call. If you want to know which game – of the thousands released this year – is quantifiably GAME OF THE YEAR, then go here, here, or here (then everywhere else) and have a few repair hammers standing by for your reading glasses. However, if your 2008 -- like mine -- was defined by a number of exemplary moments in your favorite games, then why not get your gears turning with my favorite gaming moments of 2008? Enjoy!
Left 4 Dead’s Opening Cinematic – Sure, L4D is a meticulously sown-together Frankenstein monster of moments that both bring players together and blow them apart, but snuffing out Smokers and playing whipping boy while my buddies tangoed with Tanks wasn’t what impressed me most about the game. Instead, it was L4D’s subtle, yet utterly potent opening cinematic that really snuck its hand into my cranium-shaped cookie jar. As pointed out by the always fantastic Offworld blog:
“It wasn't until I actually started playing Left 4 Dead about a week ago that it all clicked for me. I popped the disc into my 360, decided to watch the opening cinematic again, and found myself just as unimpressed as I had been the first time. But when I actually started to play the game, I discovered that I somehow already knew how to play the game. I knew what abilities the zombies I had. I knew what strategies were effective. I knew that a pipe bomb was good for getting the horde away from your group; I knew that when I heard crying, I should shut off my flashlight; I knew that I had to help up fallen team mates, and that I wasn't surprised that I could should my guns when disabled.”
“Without once having booted up the game, I knew how to play it. “
Think Bethesda shouldn't have spilled so much Oblivion into the good ol' Fallout formula? Think you can do a better job? Well, here's your chance. After heralding its arrival a couple weeks ago, it's our pleasure to inform you that the G.E.C.K. (Garden of Eden Creation Kit) is here! Break out the irradiated champagne bottles!
On top of that, Bethesda has also blown the cover off its G.E.C.K. wiki, a "community-run site where you'll find everything you need to use the The Garden of Eden Creation Kit and make mods for Fallout 3." Or, if you only have text-reading eyes for Maximum PC, you can ride the Internet over to Bethesda's blog, where you'll find a number of handy video tutorials.
Now, if you'll excuse us, we're off to craft the Fallout 3 equivalent of a child's first macaroni drawing. We sure hope our mom likes it enough to tape the computer to the refrigerator door. That'd just be tops!
Yuck. It's one thing to give the spotlight over to piracy and other dirty deeds on a bi-daily basis, but after seeing it all culminate, well, we're going to need to lie down for a little while.
Torrent-tracking blog TorrentFreak recently scoured the undersides of gaming's most illicit tables, putting together a list of piracy's greatest hits. The bottom line: Spore, as expected, took home the golden failboat ticket, while three of EA's other titles made the top five.
Meanwhile, big names like Call of Duty 4, Fallout 3, and Far Cry 2 also felt significant disturbances in their sales. Check out the full list below:
Spore / 1,700,000 / Sept. 2008
The Sims 2 / 1,150,000 / Sept. 2004
Assassins Creed / 1,070,000 / Nov. 2007
Crysis / 940,000 / Nov. 2007
Command & Conquer 3 / 860,000 / Mar. 2007
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare / 830,000 / Nov. 2007
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas / 740,000 / Jun. 2005
Fallout 3 / 645,000 / Oct. 2008
Far Cry 2 / 585,000 / Oct. 2008
Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 / 470,000 / Oct. 2008
Remember kids, only you can prevent PC game piracy. Otherwise, we'll light you on fire. Don't mess with us. We're crazy.