…if the script for a bad episode of The X-Files somehow got mixed in with the Fallout 3 design documents and made it all the way through production without anyone noticing. Back to see if the fifth time is a charm, Mothership Zeta is yet another batch of DLC for Fallout 3. Despite a successful departure from the formula in the open-worldy Point Lookout, MZ brings back the very linear style of the earlier expansions. This time it’s a strange radio signal that leads to our intrepid vault dweller being beamed up into an alien spaceship. If right about now you’re thinking, “Seriously? Aliens? WTF!?” well yeah, kinda, yeah. Wouldn’t have been my first choice either, but here we are. What comes next is a lot of shooting aliens, looting some pretty freakin’ awesome energy guns, and…umm…did I mention shooting aliens? Well that’s pretty much all there is for a few hours and then it’s over. Woo! Go team!
There really isn’t a whole lot here that can be counted as a huge success. There are some creepy voice recordings from previous abductees that you can listen to that make it pretty clear these particular aliens did not come in peace (though they will most certainly be going in pieces). It’s a trick we’ve seen (or rather heard) plenty of before, but it’s still effective. I would have rather a little more (and better) humor mixed in, but chalk that up to personal preference. If your character is an energy weapons enthusiast you’ll feel like a kid in a candy story, or at least a candy story specializing in hot plasma death, and if there’s one really great thing about MZ that’s probably it: seriously kick ass energy weapons. Beyond that, not so much.
What Doesn’t Work
What doesn’t work is pretty much everything else. MZ is extremely linear, with only a few chances to deviate into side areas which in and of themselves aren’t anything to write home about anyway. The whole adventure takes place inside the spaceship, which could have been kind of cool, but after a couple hours of unremarkable silvery corridors and rooms with big weird looking machinery chances are you’ll be ready to get back to the wasteland. Almost overwhelming throughout the entire episode is the feeling of missed opportunity. I mean once you’ve decided to go to the crazy alien place you might as well reap the all bets are off benefits with some truly crazy shit you couldn’t get away with otherwise, but sadly there’s none of that here. If the rooms were redone in brick and steel and all the enemies transformed into raiders the whole thing could still work with only minor modifications to the story, and that just ain’t right.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that Mothership Zeta is about as much of a miss as Bethesda has ever been responsible for. A few hours of linear romp through boring corridors fighting boring enemies is frankly a shocking disappointment from such a successful development group. Sure it’s aliens instead of the usual wasteland rabble, but that’s as likely to turn off their core audience as it is to serve as the intriguing novelty that it was clearly intended to be. However you may be predisposed though, the resulting experience is a dud, and the story elements not nearly strong enough to elevate it in any way. Hardcore Fallout fans may still enjoy it as just simply more, albeit substandard, Fallout to dive into, but it’s tough to recommend this to anyone other than the truly fanatic for $10 of your cash money, hard earned or otherwise, and a few hours of your time. The only legit selling point may be for the alien arsenal, which is seriously no joke. Otherwise, send a couple red shirted ensigns in your place on the away team and skip the whole thing entirely.