America - Front
America - Back
By DKII 12th May 2009 | 1,850 views
Broken Steel finishes off the trilogy of downloadable content originally planned for Bethesda's Fallout 3, following up on previous releases Operation Anchorage and The Pitt. Like those releases, Broken Steel has a $10 (800 Microsoft points) price point, and is exclusive to Xbox 360 and Games for Windows Live (sorry Playstation 3 owners).
The similarities end there, however. Whereas the first two pieces of downloadable content show up as a radio signal out in the wasteland, leading you off on an extra side quest that can be completed at any time, Broken Steel can only be accessed after completing the main storyline of the original game. In fact, it replaces the original ending, which had caused some controversy in that it didn't allow the player to continue playing after the credits rolled.
Now, after you hear the narrative describing your actions in the wasteland, you'll wake up in the Brotherhood of Steel's Citadel two weeks later, regardless of which ending you chose. The fact that, no matter what decisions you made throughout the game, you begin Broken Steel in the same place kind of cheapens the significance placed on those decisions and the impact that they have on you. There were a lot of complaints about the way the ending was delivered - in a sudden, anticlimactic manner - but the plot itself was powerful and has been watered down by continuing the story as if none of the player decisions had mattered.
Without spoiling too much, you're immediately conscripted by the Brotherhood of Steel to help them wipe out the remnants of the Enclave in the aftermath of the main storyline. The plot from there is surprisingly linear, at least until the very end, at which point you can make a seemingly random decision to either continue along the path you were forced upon or make a sudden, unexplained reversal. There's very little dialogue throughout the quest line, and fewer decisions on what path to take. Overall, the story was a bit weaker than even Operation Anchorage - though other aspects of Broken Steel more than make up for it.
In terms of gameplay, you start out with a brief, large-scale battle that mostly amounts to watching Liberty Prime once again tear apart the enemy. Once that's over, you'll find yourself plodding through a handful of indoor environments that will look very familiar - a sewer, a ruined office building, a metro station - along with a few others that offer a little something new, such as a Tesla power plant. The final quest in the Broken Steel line culminates in a large-scale, lengthy outdoor battle at an air force base that feels fresh and exciting, surpassing the gameplay given to you in either previous downloadable content pack. The overall gameplay is definitely more action-focused in an enjoyable way, and there Broken Steel succeeds where Operation Anchorage fell short.
Like Operation Anchorage and The Pitt, Broken Steel comes with some new weapons and armor, though only one item really matters. The Tesla Cannon is a big, powerful energy weapon with a relatively large area of effect for a projectile weapon, making it effective at long range. It doesn't have quite the sniping ability of the Gauss Rifle obtained in Operation Anchorage, but it is more effective on moving targets and is capable of shooting down the Enclave's Vertibirds in one shot. Like the Gauss Rifle, the Tesla Cannon only holds one round at a time and is rather slow to reload, making it less effective at close range. The other unique weapon is the Incinerator, which uses flamer fuel as a projectile that explodes on impact but doesn't do as much damage. There's also a set of unique armor from the Enclave Hellfire Troopers that has similar stats to the Enclave Power Armor, but with added fire resistance - useful when fighting enemies armed with the aforementioned Incinerators.
The main quests offered in Broken Steel will last about five hours, depending on how much exploring you do and how much traveling you have to do in the wasteland between checkpoints (if you've explored the wasteland fully already, you'll be able to warp to a much closer point on the map to your next destination). Five hours is already a lot longer than what was offered in Operation Anchorage and The Pitt, but Broken Steel doesn't stop there. There are three additional side quests offered at the site of the final battle in the original storyline, and while they are each pretty short (roughly 15 minutes) and don't offer much reward besides some caps and equipment that you probably don't need at that stage of the game, they do provide an interesting perspective on life in the wasteland after the events in the main storyline have been completed. There are some smaller touches as well, such as the Galaxy News Radio broadcast including new bits on the news from the final events - though it seems that either Bethesda couldn't obtain the same voice-actor for Three Dog, or said voice actor couldn't quite recreate the same voice effectively.
Even with all that content, Broken Steel offers one more thing that will be highly welcomed by Fallout 3 enthusiasts - the level cap increases from 20 to 30, complete with 14 new perks to get along the way. As in the main game, most of the perks will be useless - particularly given your capabilities at that point - but there are a handful of gems in there, such as the ability to raise all of your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats to 9 or detonate in a nuclear explosion if you take too much damage. To go along with your increased abilities, there are four new powerful enemies that you'll randomly encounter in their respective groups - the previously-mentioned Enclave Hellfire Trooper, an Albino Radscorpion, a Super Mutant Overlord, and a Feral Ghoul Reaver. You'll come across many of the Enclave troops in the course of the Broken Steel quests, and at one point you'll have to face a pair of the incredibly fast and deadly Feral Ghoul Reavers - which are so powerful that they take down even the Sentry Bots in a matter of seconds. If you haven't done everything there is to do in the main game already, the increased level cap will add to the enjoyment you get out of it, as the previous cap of 20 could be met less than halfway through your exploration originally.
Broken Steel gives you the same production values you've come to expect from these downloadable content packs by now - identical visuals (both good and bad), mood-setting music, and fully voice-acted dialogue. Unfortunately it also comes with the same kinds of technical issues on both platforms - freezing and crashes, graphical glitches, logical hiccups that prevent storyline advancements, and even some problems with achievements getting properly recognized. As usual, the PC version sees less graphical problems than the Xbox 360 version, though it has more freezing/crashing issues. There was also a DRM issue that initially prevented installation of the PC version, but after a delay of only a couple of days that issue was resolved.
Overall, Broken Steel is a quality experience that demonstrates how DLC can be done right. Some will argue that some of the extras that Broken Steel brings should've been in the main game all along, or released as a free patch, but the fact remains that an increased level cap and a new ending that allows you to freely roam after you've completed it adds value to this package, while detracting from the value of the main game. On top of the extras, Broken Steel has a strong balance of depth of content and enjoyable gameplay that easily surpasses that found in previous Fallout 3 DLC experiences, though a weak narrative and further technical issues continue to hold it back. Given these facts, Broken Steel is not a clear must-buy for everyone, but it is the first Fallout 3 DLC that I can safely recommend as being worth your $10.