IMPORTANT NOTICE! The following preview contains SPOILERS relating to the ending of Fallout 3. Consider yourself warned.
Everybody makes mistakes. I do, you probably do, and game designers most certainly come a cropper from time-to-time. We’re all human, after all. The important thing is to learn from your past errors, and to fix your missteps wherever possible. Now, with its forthcoming Broken Steel DLC expansion, Bethesda is addressing one of the biggest flaws of Fallout 3: it's rewriting the messed-up ending.
As anyone who’s played the game will attest, Fallout 3 is a game of choices. At any given time you can decide to be a hero of the post WWIII wastelands, a psychopathic villain, or perhaps someone just trying to survive; you can choose to do the right thing, the wrong thing – or even just the most profitable thing. This freedom helped to make Fallout 3 one of the most absorbing experiences of 2008 which is why quite a few people felt rather short-changed by the game’s brief and surprisingly restrictive conclusion. In a nutshell, the climactic do-or-die task involved entering a sealed room chamber to enter a code into an unstable water purifier – the catch being that the room in question was flooded with lethal levels of radiation.
It was one hell of a sticky situation. You could go in yourself, or you could send in a young woman named Lyons, but either way one of you was doomed to become glowing wormfood (unless you did nothing, in which case everything blew up and you both died). These three choices also came in “Good” and “Evil” flavours, depending on whether you chose to infect the water supply with a nasty virus, but the end result was always largely the same: a brief slideshow accompanied by a rather preachy voiceover… followed by a wave of crushing disappointment, as you realised that post-ending exploration wasn’t an option. Game over man, game over.
Now, after what seems like an extremely long wait, you’ll soon be able to resume your patrols of post-apocalypse Washington DC. Or at least, you'll be able to provided that you're not playing the game on a PS3 - like Bethesda's previous two DLC expansions, Operation Anchorage and The Pitt, Broken Steel is only coming to Xbox 360 and PC. This time around the exclusion may be a particularly bitter pill to swallow, since this third DLC pack will also extend the game's much-lamented level cap, giving fans a whopping 10 extra experience levels to grind through.
One of the really irritating things about the water purifier dilemma was that it wasn't strictly a difficult decision. Most players reach the end of Fallout 3 whilst accompanied by a friendly mutant named Fawkes – a companion who just so happens to be radiation-proof. Bizarrely, Mr Fawkes would refuse to help you out, making some lame excuse about “not interfering with your destiny” - when he said this to me, I immediately unloaded a shotgun into his face. Once Broken Steel is installed, he'll suddenly be more than happy to oblige. In fact there are three companions who'll be able to input the all-important code for you, and if you go in to the chamber yourself you'll still be able to survive. The only situation in which you'll still die is if you sit around doing nothing, and now there's very little reason to do so.