IMPORTANT NOTICE! The following review contains SPOILERS relating to the ending of Fallout 3. Consider yourself warned.
Everybody loved Fallout 3 for different reasons. Some loved it for its morally ambiguous quest lines. Some loved it for its gruesome VATS system. Some loved it for the Fat Man. Me? I loved it for the world. Fallout 3's post-apocalyptic Washington DC was a joy to explore. It was a joy to survive in. So huge was the city that, even after pumping 90 hours into hunting down as much of its virtual innards as possible, there were still scores of locations on the map yet to be revealed. For me, the Capital Wasteland was the star of the show. From its wonderfully depressing retro-futuristic design to the feeling of dread you get from creeping about the underground Metro tunnels, Fallout 3, perhaps more than any other game ever released, had a truly immersive living, breathing, convincing world.
However, it was not without its problems. For some the many bugs were of most annoyance. For others, the tone of the dialogue grated, at least in comparison to the previous two Fallout games. For me, the two biggest problems with Fallout 3 were the low level cap (it was set to 20, reached all too quickly) and the frankly awful ending (cue spoiler alert).
At the end of Fallout 3 you were forced to make a choice: sacrifice yourself by venturing into a radiation-filled chamber to turn on a water purifier that would fill the Wasteland's basin with clean water (or sabotage it), or get your buddy, a Brotherhood of Steel knight called Sarah Lyons, to do your dirty work for you. As far as RPG quest decisions go, it wasn't too bad. But… BUT... if you had as your companion the great big super mutant Fawkes, the decision seemed obvious. As a super mutant, Fawkes was immune to radiation. Great! Talk to Fawkes and send him in. Everybody lives. Everybody goes home happy. Right?
Wrong. If you asked Fawkes to activate the purifier, he would refuse, spouting some nonsense about it being your destiny to do it yourself. What a load of rubbish. With Broken Steel, Bethesda's third round of premium downloadable content, Bethesda has righted both those wrongs. It's upped the level cap to 30, introduced a raft of new perks and Achievements in the process, and fixed the ending so that, yes, you can send Fawkes into the radiation-filled chamber, just as you should have been able to do in the first place.
Broken Steel is evidence that Bethesda admits it got the ending of Fallout 3 wrong. But I'm not going to sit on that point: at least it's done something about it. How many developers out there are willing to invest as much in extending the life of a game as Bethesda? It might not have got it right with Operation Anchorage (combat-heavy snorefest), but it damn-well got it right with The Pitt (wonderfully atmospheric journey into post-apocalyptic Pittsburgh). If nothing else, Broken Steel shows just how well learned those lessons have been.