Does Fallout 3’s official expansion content go out with a bang or a whimper?
Even numbers are great. They represent balance & equilibrium. Evenly matched sides in a conflict, be it in love, war or sport, will often have a hard time overcoming each other. Four is a particularly nice, even number when gaming is concerned. For example, the best Call of Duty game (so far) has clearly been the fourth one. When a large number of downloadable expansion packs for a game are released (such as, oh, Fallout 3), an even number makes it nice and simple to divide them up for retail release.
Which begs the question, why did Bethesda bother with the horribly dull mess that is the fifth downloadable expansion pack for their post-apocalyptic RPS, here on referred too by it’s name, Mothership Zeta?
After a shaky start with Operation: Anchorage & the palette-shifted experience of The Pitt, Broken Steel opened up the wasteland for high-level characters and Point Lookout gave us the first example of Bethesda really flexing the same creative talent that can be eked out of the corners of the main game. Whether the problems with MZ boil down to deadlines, bad management, a dearth of creativity or just this reviewers over-exposure to the Wasteland, it doesn’t change the fact that it has little too offer either the vault-fresh newbie or the seasoned veteran.
Aliens have always been hiding behind the scenes in the Fallout universe, often cropping up at in random encounters, but never before has there been direct contact – Bethesda set out to mix things up a bit by introducing the Lone Wanderer too them in the only way they seem to know how – by pressing the odd button and shooting things in the face until they die!
Yep, seriously, that’s the entire of Mothership Zeta summed up. You can stop reading now if you want
After a brief ‘abduction’ sequence triggered by approaching the crashed alien ship already present in the wasteland (a new, stronger radio signal will lead you there if you haven’t found it yet), your character wakes up in a cell, once again bereft of all your hard earned/stolen kit and cornered by some angsty raider-type named Somah. She seems pretty belligerent and just wants to escape, which is not entirely unsurprising as a giant mechanical claw has just extracted a helpless human from the next cell for experimentation.
Within minutes, you and your new partner start a fist fight and over-power the guards using the games awful melee combat and swiftly set about working your way through the guts of the space ship, shooting many hundreds of your captors with both your (swiftly recovered) original inventory and additional alien weapons of much deathly-ness.
Exploration is limited, no thanks to an over-abundance of shiny metal corridors straight out of Doom 3 and a number of locked doors that are either closed as plot devices (too be unlocked later once the appropriate magic button has been pressed) or require the assistance of Sally, the resident child tour guide, to crawl through conveniently-placed vents too open them from the other side.
Mothership Zeta isn’t without reproach however. The many identikit corridors may be, well, samey, but the few open areas that serve as quest points and hubs are visually interesting and the audio work in the pack is pretty good. Your bespoke companions for the trip are also pretty interesting – A samurai warrior, a cowboy and a soldier from Anchorage, all stolen from their respective time-periods, frozen for eternity (well, until you intervened anyway) with their own foibles, abilities (most of which involve shooting aliens) and back-story, will accompany you for a small portion of the quest and respond to the situation in their own unique ways.
It’s just a shame that more wasn’t made of the whole environment that some Bethesda artists have meticulously created. Apart from recovering a number of recordings of the aliens archiving trips (which forms, surprisingly, a achievement-granting fetch quest), no attempt has been made to expand on the alien civilisation short of them being short, angry ugly Noah’s who throw their weight around and threaten lesser beings with their death ray – I suppose that Bethesda needed a reason for you to obliterate them all.
As it stands, Mothership Zeta holds even less net worth to the Fallout meta-verse than Operation Anchorage. Whilst it doesn’t break quests as the initial effort did, it’s much more offensive that the decision was made too charge for it, especially as the promise of your own personal alien space ship to explore after the pack is done is also a half-truth, as a good deal of the ships content is blocked off, leaving you with just two areas when you return. Bethesda are only offering it via download or the up-coming Game of the Year release, meaning it’s easy to ignore for the masses.
Still, I suppose it does bring the wonderful Alien Epoxy substance to the game, which finally allows me to repair my Gauss Rifle and cap some of those fucking Albino Scorpions from a mile away. That alone is worth an extra point, giving Mothership Zeta a hardly deserved…