Sunday, May 09, 2010

Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta (Xbox 360) Review

The last of the DLC released for Fallout 3 takes us in an interesting new direction, allowing players to rise far above the Capital Wasteland. Once the DLC is downloaded and installed, upon leaving Vault 101 players pick up an unintelligible radio transmission which begins the Quest entitled "Not of this World." Follow the signal and you'll come to the Alien Crash Site, a location I missed in my original playthrough of the retail game. The difference with the DLC installed? Once you approach the Crash Site, you're abducted by Aliens, and Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta begins proper!

Taking a departure from the more traditional Fallout 3-styled exploration offered in the previous DLC, Fallout 3: Point Lookout, Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta takes more of a nod from Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage. The DLC is far more shooter-oriented and while there certainly is some decent exploration, the mothership is a fair sized game world, you're not free roaming like the franchise's norm.

Once beamed up to the mothership, you'll come to strapped to a chair with Aliens performing experiments on you. After a brief period, you black out and awaken in a holding cell stripped of all your gear. There, you meat the first of the DLC's NPCs, Somah, and you can work with her to begin your escape.

One thing I honestly felt that Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta did better than its predecessors is the NPC interaction. You might find that hard to believe seeing as how the series has been very consistent in its use of NPCs and has done so quite well, but the people you meet trapped aboard the mothership are not only interesting characters that I generally came to care for, but they're also quite useful and really do help you out. Once you and Somah escape, you quickly come across Sally, a trapped little girl who's been there since before the War. Once free, she can help guide you through various parts of the ship, and she can also unlock doors for you. While this isn't a character trait you can call upon on demand, it happens at scripted points, the DLC is structured in such a way that it feels like she is helping you and has a greater purpose than just tagging along.

As you progress further through the different areas of the ship, you learn that the aliens have been visiting Earth for some time and that many of their abductees are held in cryo. Some prisoners, like Somah, are recently arrived, and others go all the way back to the wild west or earlier! This makes for some rather interesting relations not only in the dialogue you'll get to engage in, but also with the idle conversations between NPCs themselves.

The enemies you combat generally get repetitive very quickly. You basically have Aliens, and a few different kinds of Drones (robots) who try to thwart your advance using a variety of new weapons that you can equip and use against them as well. From simple Shock Batons to more powerful Alien Disintegrators, the weapons are fun to use, but I honestly barely touched them. You see, you get your gear back very early on in the DLC, which means I almost immediately had my powerful armour and weapons, and unlike Fallout 3: Point Lookout, the standard enemies aren't unrealistic behemoths who test your patience, the Aliens are actually fairly easy to defeat. So while the DLC isn't very challenging, it is fun but I feel it would have benefited from returning my gear at the very end, forcing me to rely far more on the scavenged alien items I kept coming across. Why use an Alien Disintegrator when I can simply get a one hit kill with my Gauss Rifle? On occasion you will come across more powerful enemies, such as Abominations or even Super Mutants and Ghouls held in Cryo, but still, unless you're heading into Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta with a new character, your existing gear will likely be more than enough.

In terms of items, as exploration is light, you can come across Small and Large Alien Crystals which can be sold for a fair amount of Caps back in the Capital Wasteland, and you can also come across some Alien Food that restores a bit of health. Alien Biogel, or later on, Adapted Biogel restores even more health, and the best new item you can find is Alien Epoxy. Use this and the weapon you're currently holding will immediately be repaired to full condition. Very, very handy. You can also find a lot more Alien Power Cells, and combined with the Alien Epoxy, this will greatly increase the life of your Alien Blaster if you already recovered it from the Crash Site.

You'll also come across various Alien Captive Recorded Logs in terminals scattered all over the mothership. Through them you can slowly piece together what the Aliens have been doing, and finding them all will net you one of the DLC's four Achievements. These Recordings actually help to bring a light survival horror element to the DLC, but be warned however that some areas of the mothership will be blocked off to you as you progress, so if you miss a Recording, you may be forced to play the DLC again to earn this Achievement. Thankfully, I found the Recordings easy to spot, and only needed assistance finding one of them.

Visually the DLC looks just like Fallout 3 always has, though of course the Alien ship itself uses new textures. The character models are all detailed and well done, and some of the more panoramic vistas you'll be treated to look very nice. Without giving too much away, you'll find yourself outside the ship at one point, and looking back at ruined Earth is very, very cool.

The DLC once again features no new music what-so-ever, which really is beginning to wear on me after having spent so many hours with Fallout 3, but the NPC voice acting is spot on as per usual, and the aliens certainly sound both interesting and hilarious.

I didn't perfectly time my playthrough of Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta, but I'm going to estimate that I clocked in between 8 to 10 hours since I really took my time looking around. For a very simple DLC offering, Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the characters and the different setting offered to us, and certainly had no issue with the play time. The DLC could have had a little more enemy variety and could have been a bit more challenging, but these are minor quibbles for something that provided me with some really solid entertainment.

Of the four DLC add-ons that I've played thus far, Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta is the second that I would say is worth the full cost of admission. There is enough here that's different from what's come before to warrant the cost, yet it still feels unmistakeably like Fallout 3.

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