Review: Fallout 3 DLC Special

January 29, 2010, Author: Brian Gourlay

So Fallout 3’s lengthy catalogue of DLC began with Operation: Anchorage and ends here, with Mothership Zeta. Or as they shall hereafter be known, the Bookends Of Missed Opportunity. It’s bad enough that this title is one letter away from being an acronym of Bono (which I’m sure you’ll agree has gruesome enough connotations), but after the standard was set so high with Broken Steel and Point Lookout the final installment leaves nothing but a bad taste in the mouth after you’ve finally vacated the Wasteland. It’s evident throughout Mothership Zeta that Bethesda had quite simply run out of ideas by the time it reached the development stage, as the final installment brings absolutely nothing new to the experience.

Mothership Zeta suffers from two main shortcomings (although a series of smaller failings build up to compound the situation), the first of which being it’s identical structure to Operation: Anchorage. After being beamed up to the mothership, violated by some nameless aliens and imprisoned with a fellow Wastelander called Somah, you make a hasty prison break with the aim of getting back to ground level. What follows is simple running and gunning down a series of corridors until you can free some fellow prisoners, after which you’re given a few entirely interchangeable objectives to complete before a final push against your captors. There’s no flexibility in the play at all, and the only karmic changes that I found myself triggering involved deciding whether to spare or kill the unarmed workers on the ship. After a split second of contemplation, I decided that being anally probed at the start of the expansion was a good enough reason to blow their heads off.

To further intensify the lack of variety in the play, the ship is inhabited by droves of the same few enemies for the entire duration of the mission. While the introduction of the Abominations (surgically altered humans with what looks like brains where their stomachs should be) freshens things up briefly, it’s too late by that point to break up the mind numbing tedium that is forced upon you by killing the same enemies with the same guns over and over again.
The alien weapons that you can pick up on the way are pretty funky, although they’re too similar to each other and none get anywhere near the destructive power of the Alien Blaster that you can pick up on the Wasteland itself. It just seems like the expansion has been rushed so much that Bethesda haven’t had any time to create any interesting new content, with all of the explorable containers on the ship containing more or less the same thing every single time.

My second gripe with Mothership Zeta is that while it promises a lot with the story it delivers precisely zero. The opening to the expansion raises a lot of questions; why are they capturing me? What are they saying to each other? What’s the alien’s endgame here? Why is that spikey metal contraption pointing at my ass? (Although that question got answered a lot more promptly than I would have liked) Unfortunately none of these issues are addressed at any point, which is only exacerbated further by the fact that you’re never given the opportunity to translate the alien’s high pitched warblings. Clearly, a plotline wasn’t able to travel through the vastness of space and as a result the Lone Wanderer spends three or four hours activating teleporters and killing faceless foes without any motivation other than getting of this damn hunk of metal.

Even the end of the conclusion of the expansion offers no closure, with captain rambling on in his own language for a few seconds before meeting his maker in gory slow motion. There’s a few indications throughout the ship of what the aliens are doing (freezing people, experimenting on people, blowing up planets) but it’s all left up to speculation on the part of yourself and the other survivors you come across, with none of these ideas ever combining to form a cohesive narrative.

Mothership Zeta isn’t entirely without merit, although I have to say most of it goes hand in hand with another problem, and it’s a sad day when I’m clutching at straws trying to find something positive to say about a Fallout product. The environment itself is very nice to look at, with the Cryo Chambers in particular looking absolutely lush. Unfortunately though the different areas start to all look alike towards the end, and some of the more interesting looking parts of the ship are usually found to be nothing more than cosmetic with no way of interacting with them. I like the fact that your fellow survivors are an Anchorage medic, a centuries old Samurai and a Cowboy who have all been in stasis prior to your arrival, while surviving a massive onslaught of aliens inside the ship’s docking bay is a highlight. I also appreciated the use of references to the best retro alien flicks around, with Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Star Wars, Aliens and much more all getting some kind of homage paid to them. Unfortunately these positives are just too few and far between and act as reminders of what the experience as a whole is; brief flashes of inspiration that are connected by lengthy spells of utter boredom.

I can almost guarantee that you’ll be rushing through this one as fast as you can after half an hour, and now that I’ve reached dry land again, I really wish that I hadn’t bothered shelling out for this little jaunt to the edge of the galaxy.

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