Fallout 3: Point Lookout Review
Bethesda's fourth DLC pack for Fallout 3 is called Point Lookout, and like its three siblings, this pack is full of new adventures for your intrepid explorer from Vault 101 to experience. It starts with a steamboat ride down the Potomac River to Point Lookout State Park in nearby Maryland. There's a story about a woman's daughter who's disappeared into the wilderness of Point Lookout, but quickly extends on to new plots about a Chinese spy who was infiltrating some sensitive areas of US security just before the bombs fell, moves on to collecting items to make moonshine with, and has you battling a selection of the original Fallout 3 enemies - robots, ghouls, and wildlife - as well as some new enemies, including what backwoods hicks would look like if they'd had to live in a radiation-infested swamp, cut off from the rest of the world.
Welcome to Point Lookout! You'll quickly find that this DLC pack includes a fresh, new look like Operation Anchorage did, but also has the open feel of the Capital Wasteland as well. The swamps aren't exactly the most original of design ideas and trudging around in irradiated waist-deep water is a real drag, but Point Lookout keeps things fresh with original characters, wacky quests, and a few surprising moments that really help to push the limits of what you might expect out of Fallout 3.
You'll get a lot of the same choices you're used to from the original game: side with the bad guys or... the other bad guys? Take on combinations of enemies with up-close or distance weaponry? Grab the perks (maybe from leveling past, say, 25 after the Broken Steel pack) to increase your combat efficiency or make non-combat roles a little more convenient? What I like about Point Lookout is that it serves as a follow-up for Broken Steel's increased level cap and conclusion of the Enclave storyline nicely, and with this DLC pack's landmass being much larger than you might expect, there's plenty to explore. Of course, if you only do the main quest and then run back to the Capital Wasteland, then you might be disappointed in the overall length of Point Lookout - it just doesn't last as long unless you're willing to poke around the new acreage to find the additional side quests and out-of-the-way areas to explore. One nice thing for those who haven't finished the original game is that unlike the previous DLC pack, Point Lookout works for characters of all levels, although I recommend you stock up on ammo and make sure you can field repair your weapons easily - not being able to quickly pop back to your Megaton shack is a bit of a drag.
While the enemies combine old content and new art and design well - many of the original game's denizens made it over to Point Lookout, but some have a new look and act a little differently - the gear you get during your trip is decidedly low-tech and a little underwhelming. The first two DLC offerings gave us a lot more in terms of powerful whiz-bang items, but I do think that Bethesda is better off keeping things balanced rather than falling into a routine of having to provide more and more powerful gear for every new add-on. The only real consistent downside I see is that the weapons, much like the new ones in previous packs, can only be repaired with identical weapons. That'd be fine if you could carry around every single one you found in Point Lookout, but since your carrying capacity is limited and you may want to have some fun back in the Capital Wasteland when you're done with the DLC, you'll probably only make it back to the DC area with one or two of any new weapon and it'll inevitably fall apart with use. Sure, the merchants can repair them, but usually to just barely past 50% condition. The solution would be to allow common items like Scrap Metal to repair these weapons and armor, and the Repair Rethought mod does do that, but it should be in the real game.
And that's where part of the nagging problem I have with Fallout 3 DLC starts to pick up - it seems like even though Bethesda has been getting more and more solid with their downloadable offerings from a design perspective, there just seems to be a lack of focus on player fun and usability for the hardcore and/or PC gamer. Sure, the artists, level designers, and quest creators are getting work, but what about the programmers? What about fixing bugs or adding handy new features? At this point, Fallout 3 still has hundreds of bugs that have been very well-documented by fans, but no efforts have been made in months to work on them.
On the Xbox 360 there are no mods and for the most part the bugs are rather innocuous, but on the PC, getting all the DLC packs to work with many of the best user-made mods out there requires a ridiculous method of reordering mods in a third-party tool, using a script extending utility called FOSE, uninstalling and reinstalling the game to patch it to an older version and then "fake patching" the game with what amounts to yet another mod to make it compatible with the DLC packs, copying the DLC data from the Games for Windows Live directory into the game's directory to run the packs like one would a mod, and more. Now, it turns out that many of the game's smaller bugs and issues have been fixed with third-party mods, but some can only be truly addressed by Bethesda - and in their last patches, they've done very little for this. I'm still waiting for Bethesda to look at the "micro-stuttering" on some PC setups, a rather diverse array of crashes to desktop, and flickering when enabling HDR lighting on an ATI Crossfire setup. And that's just to start.
For most gamers, mods don't play much into their style and the bugs still left in Fallout 3 aren't really killing the experience. If you haven't experienced a problem yet, then you won't with Point Lookout either. What you will get is a solid story that delivers several hours of interesting dialogue and familiar FO3 action - but make sure to explore a little to dig up the rest of what this add-on has to offer. Point Lookout isn't going to change the way Fallout 3 is played, but it's a welcome trip outside Bethesda's comfort zone and we look forward to further expansion of the scope of the Fallout experience. And if you guys at Bethesda don't mind, we PC gamers would also like to see a patch that actually addresses some issues as well!