Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage

Bethesda Game Studios' first expansion pack release for Fallout 3 is a contrary addition to the rad-blast landscape. Operation Anchorage junks the scavenge root dynamic of the main game, instead focusing on bread crumb action adventuring. Drawn to a lethal military simulator by a strangled distress call, players enter an impression construct of a decisive pre-nuclear exchange battle. Inside the total immersion video game, players are treated to a wilfully limited culture clash sortie: weapons are distributed and maintained by red blinking vending machines, enemies digitally crumble after defeat, and invisible walls prevent off-mission exploration. Is Operation Anchorage an interactive critique? An attempt to expose action game survival furniture as spell-breaking distraction? Or just a series of easily identifiable signposts to mark the game-within-a-game structure?

The contrast between Anchorage's assistance sign-posting, and The Capital Wasteland's desperate scrounging couldn't be blunter. Bethesda have pared their explore engine down to a tight Black Ops jaunt, players emboldened by a generous difficulty nose-dive and access to overwhelming force. Coupling time-freeze VATS aiming with low-yield Chinese armour makes Anchorage a lubricated jaunt, full of head-popping anti-resistance. This is the problem: by presenting Operation Anchorage as a separate sale expansion item, Bethesda have asked the user to judge the title on its own, limited, merits. Anchorage would have been best served as an on-disc side-quest. There, this brisk homage to tactical espionage would have shone as a welcome narrative diversion.

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