For those who do not know, for those who have not yet completed Fallout 3, here’s a quickie spoiler: Fallout 3 ends at the end of the primary mission tree. Unlike, say, Oblivion, where after completing the final primary mission you were free to continue to wander the countryside killing random monsters, searching dungeons, and fine-tooth combing for side quests you may have missed, Fallout 3 rolls a movie, some credits, and ends. Operation Anchorage does nothing to change that. You can’t take your completed Fallout 3 game and continue that character into Operation Anchorage (OA). You have to instead use some earlier save game and play with that. OA does not move the level cap beyond the present 20 either. In every sense, OA is just an extended side quest, not as long as saving Timmy from the fire ants, which tells the story of the liberation of Alaska from the Chinese by an American counterattack just prior to the nuclear war.
I had been hoping that the liberation of Alaska would be a massive affair involving battalions of soldiers hammering away at each other. Alternately, I had been hoping for an intense entrenched battle similar to the engagement in front of the Washington Monument in Fallout 3. Alas, OA is neither of those games. Instead, you get a small squad to command, only up to about half a dozen units depending on the type of soldier you select for your squad (you can load up on regular infantry soldiers, recruit fewer snipers and rocket guys, or essentially just one Mr. Gutsy). The Call of Duty series (which I realize is an FPS) does a much better job of making you feel like you’re part of a larger battle.
The story of OA does not cover a lot of new ground from a gaming perspective with respect to either environments or enemies. It does take place in mountainous, snowy regions, which is new. The engine is adequate for snow, but not exceptional. The mountain vistas are pleasantly vertigo-inducing. Inside the Chinese territory there are foxholes and pillboxes and tunnel systems, all of which we did see in Fallout 3. As for enemies, you unsurprisingly run into a lot of Chinese, which you’ve already seen if you found the pasta factory near Arlington in Fallout 3. There are also Chinese camouflage troops, which are new. They use a light distorting effect akin to Predator or Crysis, which looks OK but is relatively easy to see in good lighting.
Bethesda says Operation Anchorage takes 3-4 hours to complete. I’d put that number at more like 2-3, but for only $10 it represents moderate gaming bang for your buck. I’m hoping future DLC will be much better.