Blue skies and snowy mountains are a far cry from the gloomy decadent world of Fallout 3. So after a brief battle amidst Super Mutants and Brotherhood Outcasts, it’s pleasing to be greeted by such a scenario.
Operation Anchorage is, apparently, a computer simulation designed by the US government before the nuclear apocalypse, designed to train recruits in the very same operation they’d later undertake in the real world (sort of). You’re tasked with pushing the Chinese out of Alaska so that the Outcast Brotherhood can gain access to a locked room filled with high tech equipment and weaponry.
As such, much like the fantastic Tranquillity Lane level from Fallout 3, the RPG elements have been entirely removed, a risky decision and one that doesn’t always lend itself favourably.
Anchorage is a combat weighted series of quests, there are no side quests and little in the way of exploration so once it’s over, it’s over. Instead looting corpses for ammo and stimpacks, ammo supplies and health dispensers litter the linear levels. It’s artificial, but the whole thing is.
Luckily there are enough new weapons and enemies to keep the combat fresh and interesting for the most part. The new Gauss sniper weapon is particularly brilliant, more often than not dispatching enemies in one shot, though compensated with a long reload time after each shot. The Chinese soldiers are the enemy and they uphold the humour liberally spread across the DC wasteland.
If you’re knocking at the door of level 20 Operation Anchorage isn’t going to offer much of a challenge, especially with the VATS system to hand. Even with enemies wielding some extremely large weapons, only the final boss is likely to cause any death inspired grief (and that’s only due to some questionable ‘friendly’ AI.)
The quests are all rather similar, which is disappointing after the imaginative and rarely dull quests on offer in DC. They mostly consist of destroying gun emplacements, clearing out areas that the Chinese soldiers have captured, and eventually taking the fight to their leader. VATS saves these battles from becoming a chore, and an interesting ability to choose a team based on how you want to accomplish the latter missions keeps things fun toward the end. Play quiet with a team of snipers or charge all guns blazing with a team of witty robots. It’s a clever inclusion, one that serves to alter the gameplay somewhat from the ‘one man army’ style in DC.
There are intelligence briefcases scattered through Anchorage and the infrequently placed holotapes do a great job of providing some back-story to the operation, but beyond the main quest there’s little else on offer. Once free from the simulation most of what you played with inside Anchorage is available in the unlocked room so it can all be used outside in the DC Wastelands.
In the end Operation Anchorage is worthy of the time of any Fallout 3 fan – it’s an intriguing, if slightly shallow, look at the Fallout world before the apocalypse. Whether or not it’s worth the 800-point asking price comes down to how much you personally enjoyed the FPS elements of Fallout. They warn that it’s titled toward the combat before you start, and five hours in there’s no room for disagreement.