Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage Review for PC

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The icy scenery looks nice, but Operation Anchorage is quite a shallow experience.
The icy scenery looks nice, but Operation Anchorage is quite a shallow experience.

The icy scenery looks nice, but Operation Anchorage is quite a shallow experience.

While we've (hopefully) come a long way from the days of Oblivion's ridiculous Horse Armour, it's still hard to judge the true value of DLC packs. Anything would seem good value when compared to that ridiculous £4-for-one-item fiasco, and yet large expansion packs are still relatively rare, so there isn't much scope for making critical comparisons. On the one hand, 800 MS Points is roughly the cost of an adult cinema ticket - so that seems like a reasonable price for three or four hours of additional gaming. But from another perspective, those 800 points could also buy you an entire game from Xbox LIVE Arcade.

From a reviewer's point of view, it's hard to discuss such small portions of gameplay without ruining the few genuine surprises that they may offer. While we'll do our best to avoid too many spoilers here, the fact of the matter is that we'll have to be quite specific about Operation Anchorage. This is not just a more-of-the-same expansion to Fallout 3's post-nuclear role-playing, but an unusual attempt to take the game in a different direction. And unfortunately for all concerned, it's not one that entirely works.

After you've coughed up your cash and downloaded the new package, you may be at a bit of a loss as to what you're supposed to do. For some reason Bethesda gives no indication of where your new content can be found, an oversight that will no doubt cause immediate panic in nervous gamers across the land. As it turns out, all you need to do is to load up any of your saved games: within moments you'll get a mysterious distress call that summons you to a new location called Bailey's Crossroads, in the south of the map. Once you get there (we had to go via underground Metro tunnels from Marigold Metro station) you'll find a group of Brotherhood Outcasts fighting off a few Supermutants. Help defeat the muties, and you'll complete the first of OA's four missions - netting yourself some XP, and an Achievement to boot. Consider this your reward for just showing up - and in the case of PC players, for wrestling with Games For Windows.

Once the mutants are dead, the Outcasts will ask you to help them crack open a weapons storage facility they've been trying to break into. The only way to get in is to complete a military training simulation of Operation Anchorage - a famous historical battle that saw US troops defending Alaska from invading Chinese troops. The Outcasts warn you that this is a "safety off" simulation, so if you die in game you'll die for real; but if you survive you'll get a share of the loot.

There's plenty of Commie-bashing to enjoy, if you're still vaguely concerned about the Red Menace.

There's plenty of Commie-bashing to enjoy, if you're still vaguely concerned about the Red Menace.

What this essentially means is that you get to play through roughly four hours of Fallout 3 vs Call of Duty: Winter Edition. All role-playing elements of the game are completely scaled back, resulting in a simple first-person shooter with added VATS. There's very little in the way of pick-ups: ammo and health are now dispensed via little machines dotted around the maps, and because your enemies disappear when they die, it's impossible to loot corpses. As a result of these changes, and the fact that you are now fighting Chinese soldiers, it's quite remarkable how different it all feels from the Fallout 3 we know and love.

Unfortunately, in this case being different isn't a particularly good thing. Aside from the fun and games of VATS, combat was never Fallout 3's strong suit. Your enemies are as brain-dead as ever, and the chances are that you'll cut through them like a hot knife through butter. While you don't have access to any of your old equipment, your in-simulation character retains the same stats as your "real-world" adventurer - and indeed it's possible to level-up while you're playing. If you happen to be at a reasonably experienced stage when you join Operation Anchorage (we used a save at level 15) then you'll barely bat an eyelid, never mind break a sweat.

Indeed, you'll find Operation Anchorage a particular cakewalk if you make use of its shiny new toy - the gauss rifle. As veterans of Fallout 2 will know, the gauss rifle is a super-destructive weapon that uses magnets to accelerate its bullets. In this incarnation, the rifle is a scoped single-shot weapon that does even more damage than the UFO Handgun. It also boasts a rather neat shockwave effect that sends your opponents flying - so in the rare event that they survive a hit, they'll be in no position to fight back. You'll pick up the gauss rifle in OA's first assignment, a mission that sees you sabotaging three artillery guns at the summit of a clifftop base.

After a brief and half-hearted attempt at encouraging stealth tactics, everything goes Rambo and Bethesda teams you up with a NPC who fights alongside you. In truth you don't really need his help, but his anti-Commie tirades are quite entertaining. Then in the second phase of Operation Anchorage you're placed in charge of a squad of up to four soldiers and/or robots. You can choose what weapons they take, and what you yourself are armed with, but other than that your control over the squad is very limited. Your task in this second stage is to attack and capture two locations; you can tell your men to meet you at either one, and then you can tell them to attack or to wait for a bit. That's pretty much it - you can't give orders once an attack has begun, but you can order in new troops if any of your guys kicks the bucket. This certainly has its uses: when our sniper stubbornly refused to leave a building, we simply executed him then went outside and asked for a new one.

These gimpy-looking guys are the best-looking of the new enemies.

These gimpy-looking guys are the best-looking of the new enemies.

Once you've captured both locations, your squad is taken away from you and you're sent on one last assault. And then it's over. You leave the simulation and go back to the wasteland, whereupon you gain access to new weapons and a few other toys. Aside from the gauss rifle, the best of these presents is the cool-looking Chinese stealth armour that cloaks you when you crouch. The Crimson Dragoon warriors who wear this gear are actually the most interesting opponents you meet during Operation Anchorage - sneaky melee fighters who attempt to take you down in Predator fashion. Unfortunately, these guys also show off a slight lapse in gaming logic: while cloaked, the Dragoons can just about be seen as weird vision blurs - yet VATS is unable to target them. This results in a weird situation when you have to randomly spray at them until they show up. They'd probably be a bit easy if you could VATS them straight away, but it feels like a bit of a gaffe, nonetheless.

There are other things that don't make sense (a training simulator that kills you?), but the larger problem with Operation Anchorage is that it simply lacks the immersion-factor that makes Fallout 3 so addictive. The Alaskan scenery is admittedly very nice to look at - particularly the cliff-based sections - but the actual gameplay itself is pretty shallow. The battles are longer and larger in scale than your standard wasteland scrap, but they're far less involving. You're no longer playing a role, you're simply going through the motions of yet another FPS. The whole experience will last you about three hours, and once it's complete the simulator locks itself off. There's a minor perk you can gain by collecting intelligence files dotted around the maps, but if you're going for it you'd better do it first time, since there's no going back.

This all sounds a bit doomy and dour, but the truth is that Operation Anchorage is neither brilliant nor terrible: it's simply a sidestep that doesn't quite work. It's linear, simplistic and extremely un-Fallouty, but it does have couple of decent items and it offers a fresh change of scenery. If you think that's a fair swap for 800 Points, then go ahead and try it. Personally, we're not entirely convinced. Let's hope that the next two DLC packs, The Pitt and Broken Steel, fare better.

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TurdFerguson's Avatar
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TurdFerguson

Seems like a fair and accurate review to me. Due to how things play out, many of you might have missed the fact that you can rummage around in the base camp and also get some NPC conversations going there. The command center holds quite a few items you can pick up, and in the medical tent there is a recording to pick up.
Posted 17:25 on 06 February 2009
Dolts's Avatar
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Dolts

Uh, why not crank up the difficulty if it is too easy?
Posted 14:15 on 06 February 2009
Patriot's Avatar
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Patriot

finished in 2.5 hours.. linear a to z : rubbish.
Posted 17:29 on 05 February 2009
J Mc's Avatar
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J Mc

does anyone know when the other 2 game downloads are comeing out
Posted 21:45 on 04 February 2009
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wittzi

6/10 is flattering and I guess it's due to the critic's loyalty to Fallout 3 as a complete package. I love fallout 3 and think that it was easily the best game of 2008, but this is absolutely useless. It also shows that the combat system is actually quite poor, which the normal RPG aspect of the game compensates for.

It's as minor as the nazi zombies sub-game in COD-WOW, but not as fun and costs £7!
Posted 11:10 on 01 February 2009
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jijkk

Was looking forward to playing OA, the simulation sounded intriguing. You would get to go back and experience some pre-fallout Fallout. But I agree with Neon, once it started I was reminded of Call of Duty. Went through it in about 2 hours and couldn't believe it was so short, the missions seemed like a warm-up for real content.
Posted 08:22 on 31 January 2009
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chris

i was pretty excited when i first saw OA on the dashboard, but i was a little dissapointed, it just felt very dulled down. and i was pissed that most of the new items were just basic re-skins of exsisting ones.
Posted 20:57 on 30 January 2009
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MikeDev1

Hmmm... a bit of a mixed response to this Fallout 3 add-on. My view for what its worth is this - the main game of Fallout 3 is huge with many side stories to also get your teeth into. Anything that comes along to keep me playing it that bit longer is good news. There may very well be a few issues with Operation Anchorage here and there but its an add-on, plain and simple. You choose if you want it and enjoy what you get! Me, I enjoyed it! Now then, about Fallout 4...lets have a vehicle in that one guys - my shoes have worn away!!
Posted 22:47 on 29 January 2009
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RobSoLF

looks like I was wrong, or the number of hours creeped down since they were first breaking news of it. Most sites now are saying OA would have about 4-5 hours of gameplay.
Posted 19:49 on 29 January 2009
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RobSoLF

I liked it, but it was alot shorter than I expected. I polished it off in about 2-3 hours. I thought this was designed for about 8-10 hours of gameplay? Thought I saw that in an interview... maybe they count the idea that you can use the new elements for the GECK.

The game does explain why you die in the sim, via the technician and the terminal nearby.

My thoughts were pretty similar to Mr. Kellys. It's interesting how very different the game seemed just by adding snow and simplifying loot. It confirmed for me, though, that a large bit of what makes Fallout 3 so special is the setting, itself.
Posted 17:58 on 29 January 2009
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Stu

I downloaded it last night but haven't tried it yet. Too bad that it sounds like it's very easy. I was hoping they would put out something you needed to be a level 19 or 20 to get through without a lot of trouble. I don't think I have any saves old enough to not just be able to walk right through this.
Posted 15:00 on 29 January 2009
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MrPositive

I think the expansion is great so far. It just feels good to play but it is short but also worth the 800 microsoft points. To Michael, I suggest you try it at a friends house or something before you say anything about it, you might be surprised =D
Posted 03:14 on 29 January 2009
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Michael

If fallout DLC ever makes it's way to PS3, please don't include operation anchorage. Sounds about as fun as clearing a subway full of molerats that have inexplixably shut theselves into small cupboards. :-)
Posted 21:55 on 28 January 2009
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Wido

*shoot myself in the foot* Online I don't have for my 360. offically gutted.
Posted 19:09 on 28 January 2009

Game Stats

6
Out of 10
Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage - No boxshot available.
  • The gauss rifle is excellent fun.
  • An interesting concept, albeit a bit of a weird one.
  • A rather shallow experience.
  • Lacks the sense of adventure that made Fallout 3 so enjoyable.
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 01/01/2009
Platforms: PC , Xbox 360 , PS3
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: RPG
Rating: TBC
Site Rank: 12,907 213
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