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03/24/09 Bethesda Softworks
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03/24/09 Bethesda Softworks

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Review: Fallout 3: The Pitt

By DKII 09th Apr 2009 | 1,968 views 

Fallout 3's second downloadable content pack takes you into the ruins of Pittsburgh. While it's a good representation of Fallout 3 gameplay, ultimately it falls a bit short.

The Pitt is the second of three downloadable content packs for Fallout 3, following on the heels of Operation Anchorage, released a couple months earlier. For $10 (specifically, 800 Microsoft points), Xbox 360 and Games for Windows Live players can download what is essentially an extra side quest tacked onto the game.

As the name implies, The Pitt will take you into what's left of Pittsburgh. You start the new quest line off in the same manner as in Operation Anchorage - once you enter the game after activating the new content, you'll discover a new radio signal that will add a new quest to your log. The radio broadcast doesn't really offer any kind of direction on where to go to actually advance the quest, so you'll need to rely on the ability of your quest log to show you the location on the map to which you'll have to go to advance the story. From there you'll soon unlock the ability to effectively warp to The Pitt (though it's presented as riding a hand-powered cart along a set of train tracks that are somehow still functional amid all the wreckage in the Wasteland).

The narrative centers around a two-sided conflict in the Pitt, with a group of Raiders forcing a bunch of slaves to work in the only known still-functioning steel mill. The reason slaves are required, rather than laborers paid a living wage? Well, the steel mill has this unique radiation-related attribute that turns everyone inside into mindless trogs (which amounts to a faster, lankier version of feral ghouls that never actually challenge you, a wasted opportunity to introduce a "new" enemy type). You've been brought in by a runaway slave in order to steal the cure for this transformation, which the Raider boss has supposedly been keeping under wraps.

From that initial launch point, you have a few different ways you can complete the quests, trying to charm, sneak, or fight your way to the end. The progression still feels fairly linear whatever option you choose, but is a lot more open than Operation Anchorage and feels a lot more like a true Fallout 3 side quest. You'll get two main options for how to play out the story - basically, siding with the Raiders or with the slaves. Fortunately, The Pitt offers you a choice that isn't so black and white as to make you choose between playing either a saint or a psychopath - you're basically trying to figure out which path will have the best consequences, or at least the fewest bad ones. In the end though, you'll feel like nothing's really changed in The Pitt after you complete all the quests, no matter which path you take, so there's a bit of a let-down once you're done.

There are a couple of well executed gameplay elements you'll encounter in the course of completing the quest line. There's a collect-a-thon where one of your first task will be to collect 10 steel ingots. There's actually a hundred of these things scattered over a couple of areas to find, and for every 10 you collect you'll unlock a new equipment item as your reward. The ingots are also found in bunches and confined to a couple of areas, so you're finding them at a faster and less tedious pace than it might initially seem. The rewards aren't all that great, though there are a few unique pieces of armor and weapons that may appeal to some players. There's also an achievement for collection all 100 ingots. If you're on the PC and feel like cheating yourself out of finding all the ingots or are just overly frustrated with finding the last few, you can use the debug console to cheat and give yourself as many as you need.

Early on in the story you'll be forced to (temporarily of course) give up all of your equipment, effectively making you feel like you have to scavenge for supplies in order to survive. The tactic is effective in drawing you into the narrative, but ultimately new supplies are a bit too easy to find and you'll get your equipment back very quickly. It would've been interesting to have a more drawn-out piece of gameplay where you really had to scrounge up materials.

There's also one point in the quest line where you'll fight in a crude arena, with radioactive waste thrown in to act as a time limit (win before you die from radiation poisoning). These battles are actually pretty fun, but there's only three of them with no option to repeat them. This aspect, if fleshed out a bit more, could've bloomed into a full side-game feature that would've added a lot of value to the product.

Speaking of value - there's a bit more life and replayability to this content pack than Operation Anchorage, with the collectible ingots and the ability to return to The Pitt any time after completing the quests, but ultimately you can complete the main storyline in just two or three hours, with barely another hour spent collecting all the ingots, depending on your luck and skill in finding them. With no shops or developing NPCs or storylines once you complete the quests, there's really no reason to return to The Pitt once you've finished everything there is to do there, either.

The quest line rewards you with a few perks that give small stat boosts and some unique weapons, but nothing as special or interesting as those given in Operation Anchorage. The highlighted new equipment is the auto-axe, a powered melee weapon that is essentially a long bar with rotating axe blades on the end. If you're into melee weapons this is an okay addition, though it seems to be more effective in VATS than in real-time. There's still no change to the level cap or ability to play further upon completing the game's main storyline - that's supposed to come with the third piece of downloadable content. If you're already at the level cap, The Pitt is a bit more worthwhile than Operation Anchorage since it has a much smaller focus on combat, so you won't be missing out on a lot of experience points. Despite the extra collection quest thrown in here, it feels like there's even less reason to purchase and complete The Pitt than there was for Operation Anchorage.

The visual and audio presentation aspects are consistent with the rest of the game. The steel mill is a new-looking environment with some cool fire effects, but the only really new characters - the trogs - are a bit of a throwaway, as they aren't at all either interesting or challenging. As with Operation Anchorage, the dialogue is fully voice-acted.

There are, unfortunately, still a lot of technical issues in both versions of the game, with the Xbox 360 problems so severe that the content had to be re-released twice. There are a number of new freezing and crashing problems, particularly on the PC, though not as severe as the ones introduced by Operation Anchorage. The only new item models are the steel ingots and the auto-axe, and both have problems. The ingots have smaller interactive areas than their visual size would indicate, which can give you problems when trying to select them to add them to your inventory. The auto-axe has a serious graphical glitch that can cause the end of the weapon or even the entire object to vanish from your view when it's equipped, whether you're in first- or third-person view. As I mentioned in the review of Operation Anchorage, it's a real problem when new content introduces new serious technical issues when a number of old issues have yet to be fixed.

Overall, The Pitt is a small improvement over Operation Anchorage. If you don't mind spending $10 on a three hour experience, you'll still have a good time, but there are still a lot of problems and missed opportunities and it's hard to recommend The Pitt for everyone.

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