Being barred from the Wasteland at the end of the phenomenal Fallout 3 was more than a little painful. Considering the huge wealth of exploration, VAT’s assisted pain administration and questing on offer, the conclusion made about as much sense as hunting Deathclaw’s with a baseball bat at level four.
So having the ending altered to accommodate further exploration was excellent news for Fallout fans, though it’s perhaps an inclusion shrouded by the chants of ‘why has it taken this long?’
Regardless, Broken Steel continues events two weeks after the drama of Project Purity. Rather than lying in a crumpled, radiated heap you’re recovering in the Citadel and the Enclave, having been thrown into disarray, is causing minor chaos with pockets of resistance marring the Wasteland. Liberty Prime has been assisting the Brotherhood in erasing these pockets but the Brotherhood need you to sever the head of the Enclave threat. Etcetera etcetera.
The main quest line, somewhat disappointingly, doesn’t maintain the diverse visual and thematic trend of the former two instalments of downloadable content. Rather than the pristine mountain tops of Anchorage or the dirty orange haze lacing the Pitt, Broken Steel takes place within a distinctly familiar environment. The first two levels, one of which takes place in Old Olney, come off as somewhat complacent. They offer interesting new weapons (the Heavy Incinerator in particular), and variations of familiar enemies, but you’ll recognise the dull metallic corridors and brown hue caves instantly. Coming from the team who graced last years most memorable list with missions like Oasis and Tranquillity Lane these missions are, at a most charitable, discouraging.
Luckily the final mission is more remarkable. Travelling through the Presidential Metros leading to Adams Air Base, a location outside of DC, is a challenging prospect, made all the more demanding by the new Feral Reavers. They’re resilient and versatile with their own brand of grenade; fighting more than one is a recipe for death. The fresh level of difficulty is maintained at Adams Air Base, which plays part to one, if not the, most testing battle past punching Butch. Fighting the resistant army of Enclave Soldiers, including the new Hellfire Solider, is a seminar in tense, cover-essential FPS tactics. Careful management of Stimpaks is essential.
The inclusion of the Tesla Cannon makes these battles more frantic. A gigantic single shot energy weapon capable of destroying Vertibirds in a single shot, it’s perfectly capable of dispatching multiple Enclave soldiers, but its overwhelming power is countered by a long reload time. Skirmishes at the air base are the tensest in the game as you dart between cover, in and out of VATs, cursing every missed shot, celebrating each dismembered corpse as another stride toward victory.
Raising the level cap is another overdue inclusion, one that will inspire far more exploration amongst the many DC landmarks. With the cap now stretched to thirty, and new perks to boot, any missions left over from DC are a must if you want to reach top level without frequent visits to the Deathclaw Sanctuary.
If there were reason to criticise Fallout 3 it would be its cordoned finale. With Broken Steel repairing that flaw, whilst furnishing the Wasteland with new quests, enemies, weapons, and locations there’s absolutely no reason not to pay Fallout 3 the credence it deserves. Broken Steel is a must have for any fan of Bethesda’s masterpiece.