Friday, April 16, 2010

Fallout 3: Point Lookout (Xbox 360) Review

After taking a break from Fallout 3 for a time, I recently went back to play through another DLC offering, Fallout 3: Point Lookout. Set in the swampy remains of Point Lookout, Maryland, Fallout 3: Point Lookout offers players an environment not yet seen before in the Capital Wasteland.

Like most of Fallout 3's DLC, the Lone Wanderer receives a message upon leaving Vault 101 about a mysterious boat found on the southern shores of the Capital Wasteland, starting the DLC's initial Quest and allowing players to venture there with a brand new or existing character. Once you make your way to the boat, the Duchess Gambit, players can buy a ticket and travel to the new location.

Unlike most of the previous DLC, Fallout 3: Point Lookout is open ended and closely resembles the traditional gameplay of the core title. Point Lookout itself is a large area to explore, between one fifth and one sixth the size of the Capital Wasteland itself, and contains the boardwalk "town" that players are first introduced to, as well as the exterior swamp areas and additional key locations and random landmarks. Players are also free to return to the Capital Wasteland whenever they wish, though they do need to purchase another ticket to do so.

Initially, once players arrive at the Boardwalk, Tobar the ferryman suggests going to check the nearby mansion for treasure and fortune, thus properly beginning the DLC's main Quest line. Of course, in traditional Bethesda Game Studios' fashion, players are more than welcome to ignore the main Quest and venture about the swamps as they wish, seeking side Quests or simple exploration. There are the usual fare of merchants to be found throughout, as well as enemies new and old to fight.

While Maryland wasn't hit directly with any bombs, like much of the area around the Capital Wasteland, it's been exposed to extensive amounts of radiation which wrought its own changes on the survivors and wildlife. Mirelurks thrive in the coastal area of Point Lookout, and are brought to us this time in the Swamplurk variety (mainly just a skin change), and Feral Ghouls are ever present. Fallout 3: Point Lookout was actually my first introduction to the new Feral Ghoul Reaver, a foe more deadly and resilient than a Deathclaw (shudders).

This increased difficulty comes as no surprise, as being the first of the DLC add-ons to be released after Fallout 3: Broken Steel, which was originally going to be the last of the DLC available for the game, Bethesda wanted to make sure that Fallout 3: Point Lookout would challenge veteran characters who could be as high as Level 30. To this end, enter the locals of the swamps of Point Lookout: the Swampfolk. Coming in several varieties, the Swampfolk are mutated, inbred hillbillies who use Double-Barrel Shotguns, Lever-Action Rifles, Axes, and Shovels to butcher any trespassers on their land, and without any exaggeration, they are very challenging opponents.

I entered Point Lookout around Level 15 on Normal Difficulty, and my first encounters with Swampfolk ended with me victorious but heavily damaged, and on several occasions they'd kill me outright. I simply could not believe that a skinny hick with a Shovel could cause so much damage when I'm wearing Power Armour and am able to go toe-to-toe with the technically advanced Enclave. I mean, I understand that Bethesda wanted to challenge gamers, but I honestly found that I couldn't suspend my disbelief here. While I ultimately found it best to use V.A.T.S. to target and knock out the Swampfolk's weapons so I could finish them off, their durability and shear power simply doesn't fit into the rest of the universe, and regrettably, Fallout 3: Point Lookout suffers from several other odd imbalances of this nature.

Smugglers, Point Lookout's version of Mercenaries and Raiders, were more traditional enemies until I passed Level 20, and once I did so, I not only began finding them randomly appearing on the Boardwalk, what's supposed to be a safe haven, but appearing with superior weapons like Plasma Rifles! Again, it just doesn't fit, and hurt my overall experience for the DLC.

The main Quest itself is alright, as you do find something very interesting up in that mansion, which launches you on an adventure involving Tribals of a cultist like nature, and a twisted experiment of bygone years. Once the main Quest is completed, you'll have gained some good Perks and have access to some decent weapons (I was very disappointed with the slow rate of fire and reload of the Double-Barrel Shotgun and it's uselessness against Swampfolk), but there wasn't anything overly spectacular, not compared to previous DLC at least, and the main Quest's story was average at best lacking the real moral dilemma or even the charisma of the story found in Fallout 3: The Pitt.

I can honestly say that the side Quests offered by the DLC were generally more interesting, and one of them, depending on how you approach it, can even lead you back to the Capital Wasteland to one of the more unique buildings there that was simply a place to visit before. That was a cool little tie-in that I quite enjoyed.

Visually speaking, the art design of Fallout 3: Point Lookout is all new, with the Boardwalk looking like the rundown amusement park that it used to be, and the swamps looking properly marsh like, but still drab and grey. I suppose this is to be expected, as Maryland is in ruins as well, but after spending so much time in Fallout 3 I'd very much like to see a little colour added here and there simply for a change of pace. You also won't be hearing any changes in the DLC's music, as like previous entries, there's no new music what-so-ever, so be prepared to listen to the same tunes once again for hours on end. The voice acting, however, is up the usual standards for the rest of the franchise, which is a very good thing.

Another downer for Fallout 3: Point Lookout is that it contains many annoying bugs. Not only does this DLC's addition add in a frustrating clipping bug to Fallout 3: The Pitt (so it's best to remove Fallout 3: Point Lookout if you can while playing through that earlier adventure), but there's some new texture loading issues I experienced. On multiple occasions, I had a new mud texture fail to load properly, which rendered certain parts of the ground as a basic, flat, brown/grey texture. I also had some water textures in the swamps fail to load immediately, causing me to look at an off-orange flat texture with stuff bobbing in and out of it for about 15 seconds before the water would load in properly. One of the side Quests, the one I mentioned involving heading back to the Capital Wasteland, can also be randomly bugged where a certain character will not appear, leaving you with officially one option mentioned to complete the Quest, and this happened to me. Thankfully, you can still complete the Quest the other way, you just need to consult an online guide to find what to do.

All in all, I spent about 15 hours traversing the swamps and bogs of Point Lookout, so in terms of a time factor, I certainly got my 400 Microsoft Point sale price's worth. Despite that sizable amount of time, the same as many retail games, would I recommend you pick up this DLC? At a full 800 Microsoft Points, you will get your money's worth, but personally, I simply did not enjoy Fallout 3: Point Lookout. The overpowered enemies, while understandable from a gameplay perspective, just didn't fit into the universe and the extra bugs present helped to suck a lot of the fun out of the DLC. Fallout 3: Point Lookout is my least favourite DLC yet, and I'd recommend you take a pass at it unless you're desperate for some more Fallout 3 goodness. If you do decide to pick it up, I strongly recommend veteran characters only given the level of difficulty present from the outset.

No comments: