Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta Review
If you're looking for samurai, aliens, a good old fistfight leading to a prison break, and a new off-world setting for your adventurer from Vault 101 to explore, well, wait a minute. Clearly this is not what you were looking for, so that setup doesn't really work. But that list is exactly what you'll get with Bethesda's fifth DLC pack for Fallout 3, and that's just in the first few minutes.
Zeta beams you up for a little bit of the ol' alien probing, and from there you'll have to get free and fight your way through the ship to escape with your life. If you're wondering where aliens came from, well, clearly you haven't played enough Fallout - and yes, there was a dead alien for you to find in the third game, as well, complete with unique weapon. Well, you'll get a lot more than that with this $10 package, as it delivers a mostly linear dungeon-like experience with plenty of action and lots of angry green aliens (and their droids) to fight.
Unlike the last DLC pack, Point Lookout, this one gives you little in the way of choice on how to do things. You won't find much exploring of the alien's ship to do, but what you will get is a good few hours of action and a solid ending full of fireworks to enjoy. It's nice to see a complete change of scenery for once. When it comes to completely pulling you out of the Capital Wasteland element, no DLC has gone quite this far, not even Operation Anchorage - you haven't seen something quite as tripped out in this game since your trip down Tranquility Lane.
But with the linear action and mostly combat-related solutions to just about everything, some of the issues with that first DLC pack have returned. Fallout 3 is at its best with a wide-open expanse, the signature atmosphere, and a need to go out and find your own way through the world. Here, the experience is very carefully scripted to make sure that you've got a good few pieces of gear and weaponry, and the new alien weapons - as you probably expected - are good but not amazing. We've gotten used to that since the overpowered Gauss Rifle and Chinese Stealth Armor, so you'll likely find older weapons from the original game or another DLC pack to be your favorites even after Zeta.
If Broken Steel gave us better closure to the original game's storyline (along with new perks and levels) and Point Lookout set us up with an entirely new chunk of real estate to explore, what does Mothership Zeta offer? Well, that's a difficult question to answer. It plays more like Operation Anchorage than anything else, although it's not in a "sim" so it's 100% your character, and its striking visuals and entirely new artistic style are very unique, but I don't feel like this DLC pack does a whole lot else. There are a few interesting characters in the form of other people abducted by the aliens, but you'll only scratch the surface of their personalities.
And now that we're up to the fifth DLC pack, I think it'd be interesting to look at what you get with your first $50 with Fallout 3 - namely, the whole original game - and what you'd get by spending the additional fifty bucks on all five DLC packs. And when you add it up, well, the original game is definitely where you get the most value. It does help that we'll see a Game of the Year edition of FO3 in October that will include all five DLC packs included (where Games for Windows Live and MS points can be avoided), but still - if I had to choose between just the DLC or just the user-made Fallout 3 mods available on the PC, I'd definitely go with the latter.
Not that console gamers have that choice, though, and admittedly, $10 gets you pretty good value on the 360 (or soon, PS3) considering what some other DLC packs for other games cost. It's no help to PC gamers who expect a bit more for their gaming dollar, but the majority of people playing Fallout 3 are on consoles, and they're getting some great action at a solid price.
As an endcap to the DLC saga for Fallout 3, I admit that I'm a little disappointed overall in Mothership Zeta's return to linear, corridor-style FPS action, lack of choices for the player, and flashy but ultimately mediocre gadgetry to bring back with you to Earth. It's still a damn fine add-on that you simply must buy if you've already picked up the four previous ones, but just like before, if you feel burned by past DLC, this one's not going to become a sudden revelation for you. Aliens, cowboys, robots, zombies (sorta), and samurais are included and do spice up the experience, but if you really want to crank up the craziness, Bethesda, we'll need some pirates and vikings, too.