'Operation Anchorage' Makes You Rethink How To Play 'Fallout 3'

There aren't just new missions in "Operation Anchorage," Bethesda Softworks' first downloadable expansion for "Fallout 3;" after just one hour in Alaska, I saw a concentrated effort to push "Fallout 3" players to rethink how they play.


You're not done with "Fallout 3," gamers.

Bethseda Softworks unleashed "Operation Anchorage" last night, the first of three pieces of downloadable content for the studio's post-apocalyptic RPG, and after spending an hour exploring chilly Alaska, I've impressed with how much thought was put into "Operation Anchorage."

"Operation Anchorage" is a new setting for "Fallout 3," depicting part of the world before nuclear bombs wrecked havoc on the landscape. It's the polar opposite -- only a slight pun intended -- of "Fallout 3" and a refreshing change of pace from the dreary, depressing world you're normally traversing through.

But it's not the visuals that stood out in the short time I spent with "Operation Anchorage," but how much the gameplay has been tinkered with. While the fundamentals remain the same, Bethesda's made some serious changes to player interaction with the world. When an enemy's killed, their body vanishes in a "Matrix"-style flash, preventing you from searching them for items.

Searching downed enemies is a common survival technique in "Fallout 3," which is why "Operation Anchorage" has auto-recharge stations for health and ammo. Combined with an ample weapon selection discovered in the first few minutes and a NPC's subtle suggestion to try experimenting with both guns blazing and stealth, maybe it's time to rethink how you once played "Fallout 3."

It's no longer frustrating to fail at laying down some frag mines to an approaching group of enemies -- take the enemies out with a gun, hit the recharge station, move on. There's less of an impulse to load up the menu screen and revert back to a save from a few seconds prior.

"Operation Anchorage," at least in its first hour, is more action-focused than "Fallout 3." You try being stealthy, sure, but that's probably not on your mind when the game hands over an ultra-power Gauss Rifle.

I knew Bethesda's downloadable content would be a different experience, but I hardly expected them to toy with gamers expectations for how they should play "Fallout 3." If that's the approach they're taking with each of these downloadable expansions, I need to buy some more Microsoft Points.

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