In the Pitt! In the Pitt!
For the many scores of gamers who anxiously downloaded the Xbox 360 version of Bethesda’s second Fallout 3 DLC installment on March 24 and dove into the gameplay with great fervor, wading only several minutes in to the gritty underbelly of Pittsburgh’s decimated industrial landscape quickly became an exercise in frustration and futility.
The experience ground to a halt amidst a barrage of game-stopping crashes and heinous glitches – namely, strange rainbow textures and large red exclamation signs where portions of the city should have been. With that mess finally remedied and a fully playable version now up on Xbox Live, it’s safe to say Fallout 3: The Pitt was worth the wait.
Bethesda’s first Fallout 3 DLC expansion, Operation Anchorage, was a major departure from the gameplay and visual setting of the main game. Thrust into a historic VR military simulation set across the icy tundra and windy mountaintops of Anchorage, Alaska, the first expansion played out more like a linear standard first-person shooter than the open-ended, action-shooter/RPG hybrid of the main title. While the drastic change in setting and the payoff for completing the mission made it worthwhile, it’s good to see The Pitt wastes no time in getting right back to what makes Fallout 3 such a fun game in the first place.
This time, a mysterious radio broadcast calls you to the northernmost reaches of the D.C. landscape. If you haven’t already explored the northern stretches of the map, you’re going to be in for quite a hike. Arriving in this rocky region, you’ll encounter an escaped refugee from The Pitt, a nearby raider town located across the border into Pennsylvania. Rumor has it the raiders there are on the cusp of a breakthrough in researching a possible cure for a deadly mutation that is turning inhabitants of the slave colony into crazed abominations. Of course, the raiders have no intention of sharing their cure with the enslaved populace, and you’re recruited to infiltrate the city undercover in an attempt to help. After finagling a proper disguise, you’ll hop a railway handcart to the city. From there, you’ll still have some work ahead of you. Safely making your way inside The Pitt is no easy task.
Entering through the fortified gates thrusts you into a whole different world. It’s one that’s far more aligned to the general vibe of Fallout 3 than Operation Anchorage, yet there’s plenty of new post-apocalyptic eye candy to gaze upon. Made up of a dilapidated, heavy industrial network of run-down buildings, steel factories, and rail yards linked with patchwork causeways and security fencing, The Pitt is a sight to be seen. The city is broken up into different areas that offer an interesting level of variety in terms of visuals and purpose. For example, the downtown is where grime and disease-covered worker slaves wearing skimpy rags and wielding makeshift steel cutting tools called Auto Axes – also lovingly dubbed the “Man Opener” for obvious reasons – mill about. They labor under the watchful and punishing eye of their slave raider masters, who prowl the grounds. Some dangerous areas provide dark refuge for the Trog beasts (slaves who’ve mutated beyond a shred of humanity), and the higher building-tops serve as the operations center for the raiders. All around, The Pitt has excellent environments to explore and still manages to provide scenery that’s quite different from what you’ve experienced elsewhere in the game.
Being an undercover slave isn’t all that bad. You’re stripped of all your gear at the gate (don’t worry you get it back later), which forces your to once again become resourceful in locating alternative weaponry, health boosters, and equipment to stay alive. Considering many players have already amassed enough firepower to be considered a walking arsenal, being faced with this sudden vulnerability is actually rather exciting. It’s not long before you’ll find stuff to stay occupied with. Among various tasks, you’ll be stuck venturing into Trog-infested regions to recover steel ingots. This provides a nice momentary break from having to keep from blowing your cover (since even the raiders steer clear from these dangerous regions). It also gives you an opportunity to scavenge some higher-powered weaponry that comes in handy later on when you wind up potentially battling for your freedom in the arena. Things also heat up in the latter portion of the expansion, and you get a chance to pull out all the stops and jump into battle.
The Pitt certainly offers some really enjoyable, story-driven content and different types of situations to explore, but it is slightly lacking in terms of new goodies and adversaries. The Trogs are nasty, slathering beasts that you’ll run into in large numbers often when you’re poorly armed. Unfortunately, they’re the only real new creature you’ll face and are easily dispatched with the Man Opener’s spinning saw blades. You can also pick up some new armor variations and a cool, high-powered scoped machine gun, among other things. Since Operation Anchorage left you with access to a treasure trove of powerful weapons and armor, it makes sense to find The Pitt reward players with its overall experience instead of a mere loot dump.
Adventure-wise, the gameplay is also more open-ended than the first expansion. Whether you choose to focus on helping the slaves or helping yourself is largely up to you, and Bethesda cleverly throws in plenty of opportunity for you to explore the lighter and darker options. Even so, much of the decisions available to you encompass a moral gray area, and sometimes even the more obvious paths lead to surprising results. Also, completing the main quests opens up some minor missions to explore, and you can return to The Pitt any time after venturing back into the main world.
The quality experience in The Pitt makes Operation Anchorage feel like even more of a misstep than it might really have been. Both offer some interesting additions to the main game and definitely provide additional play value in different ways. The Pitt is certainly the superior of the two in most regards. Get over the fact it was initially launched as a broken mess, this is one expansion Fallout 3 fans will truly appreciate.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
The Pitt sports some killer visual environments and excellent design. 3.8 Control
Everything is fine and in working order here. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Yup, sounds good too. 4.1 Play Value
A vast improvement over the first expansion. Lots of variety and a return to form make this several-hour romp a real treat. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.