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Fallout 3: The Pitt Review

By Jeff Buckland, 3/29/2009

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It seems Bethesda is trying their hardest to keep us coming back to the world of Fallout. If it's not for the interesting and increasingly complex mods from the community that will pique our interest, it's the DLC addons that Bethesda has been releasing that have us dusting off our installs and giving the game a fresh look. Bethesda's second add-on, The Pitt, takes us to a new area once again - but this time, our characters aren't stepping into some simulation. Instead, we'll be going into the ruins of Pittsburgh to look into finding a cure for the effects of both massive pollution and radiation.

The Pitt, much like Operation Anchorage before it, works for a character of any level and finds a new way to strip you of your gear (temporarily) so that you feel like you're getting a fresh start. Or you might feel like all your gear is unjustly being taken away - depends on how attached you are to your stuff, I suppose. Either way, you'll have to pose as a slave to get entrance to The Pitt and will work your way from there (and at some point you'll get your stuff back, too).

The first impression you might have once you get inside the gate is that this is somehow an even more oppressive environment than the Capital Wasteland is. The color scheme swaps that greenish gray of the DC ruins for a much more Quake-like brown, and this takes place entirely in a tight urban area. That's not to say that this is some kind of linear first person shooter like turned out to be: it's more open than that, and gives you more choices than just what to shoot at next.

There's also a really fun optional easter egg-hunting quest that gives you a unique piece of loot for each milestone you achieve. This can be done shortly after you get into The Pitt and you can come back to it at any time to try and find more pieces. (And don't click on it yet because it spoils the premise, but keep this link handy for if/when you give up on finding them all.) This is all set in the midst of an interesting little plot that serves as a great baseline for what a paid add-on should look like.

While The Pitt can be blazed through in less than two hours, speed runs aren't really the best way to play - I thoroughly enjoyed myself over the course of four to five hours in exploring, finding the secrets, finishing the main thing, and then going back through it to catch anything I missed. Then I took the loot I got back into the Capital Wasteland to serve up even more hot death to the Super Mutants in the DC ruins. Unfortunately, though, the loot to be had from The Pitt isn't quite as good as the couple of key pieces you'd get from completing Anchorage. They look and sound good and are a lot of fun to use, but don't expect any game-changers. For me that's where a lot of the depth of DLC should come from - not only in adding a new adventure, but letting the gear and perks that you get from completing it change the way you play the original game as well as future DLC and even user-made mods, and in that sense, The Pitt is a bit of a disappointment. Overall, though, if you found Anchorage to be worth your ten bucks, you will likely find this one to be an even better buy.

Bethesda is also clearly getting back into the swing of content creation here. There is some really interesting design here, from the huge verticality of the Steelyard to the attempt at grandeur on the part of the Pitt's leader. All of it shows Bethesda are breaking free of the mold they set in the original game, but they've still got a ways to go before they impress the types of people who think that Fallout 3 is an abomination compared to its late-90s predecessors.

Sadly, a few technical issues with Fallout 3 have been building - all of which were around when Operation Anchorage was released. They're still here a couple months later, and Bethesda really needs to address them. First, the 1.1 patch for the game broke four VATS perks and for some added some really annoying delays when using VATS, and even though there's been a patch since, nothing has been done to fix it. The Gauss Rifle from Operation Anchorage has a VATS damage issue that a modder was able to fix but Bethesda so far hasn't bothered to look at. On top of that, I've had the distinct displeasure of experiencing microstuttering on a quad core PC with 4GB RAM and dual (or single) ATI 4850 video cards. This issue is affecting a good number of users if the forums are to be believed, and no community fix would work as well as Bethesda doing a little work on the engine they built their game on. Finally, Games for Windows Live is still a really bad platform upon which to sell PC downloadable content, requiring users to spend extra money on MS points in order to buy DLC and in some cases fiddle with the files once they're downloaded. And this was all set up so players could get get achievement points, something most PC gamers still don't care about.

So while there are some technical hurdles you may have to hop over (and that Bethesda should work on if they're going to ask people to continue to buy this content on the PC), none of it diminishes how much fun The Pitt is. I think maybe adding an hour of solid gameplay on top of what we got might have been nice along with some more ground-breaking loot and perks - something that the next DLC seems likely to address - but for what we're getting right now, I like it. If you really enjoyed Fallout 3 and are ready to take your adventures beyond the Capital Wasteland, then The Pitt is a great place to start.

Overall: 81%



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