Review: Fallout 3: Point Lookout (XBL)
It's comforting to trek through the swampy bogs of Fallout 3's fourth downloadable content pack -- it's just like the Capital Wasteland, only with (slightly) more inbreeding.
That feeling of being at home within the game is Point Lookout's strongest asset. Unlike the uneven experiences in both Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt, this DLC effort takes a page out of the core Fallout 3 experience. Players are given a familiar set of rules and goals: explore, scavenge, kill and quest. Even Broken Steel, which was a remarkably solid piece of extra content, timidly reproduced the basics of Fallout 3. But with Point Lookout, Bethesda Softworks has created a real sidestory to remind us why its rendition of the Fallout franchise is so supremely addictive.
Point Lookout is an entirely new area of irradiated United States soil set apart from the Capital Wasteland. What was once a vacation hot spot -- based on the actual Point Lookout state park in Maryland -- has become a haven for mutated hillbillies 200 years later. This is as close as we're getting to Deliverance: The Game...thankfully.
Players arrive via the Duchess Gambit, an old paddleboat captained by Tobar the Ferryman -- one of those characters who's too nice to be trustworthy. Point Lookout is separated from the Capital Wasteland by a loading screen; the boat serves as the link to the island just like the rail cart in The Pitt. After a slick arrival cutscene and departing from the rickety old boat, most players will likely head straight toward the burning mansion on the hill. It's a good thing the house is so visible: it marks the starting point of the add-on's main quest.
Point Lookout is unquestionably the most visually appealing addition to Fallout 3: There's always something new to draw your gaze while traversing the swamps. Notable sites include a massive lighthouse and the run-down boardwalk, complete with Ferris wheel and bumper cars. There's an interesting set piece on every horizon; even on top of the rocky coastline of the park players can spot treasure-laden ships and a few buoys in the mist marking hidden weapon stashes.
Rusted ship hulls, beached hundreds of years ago, eerily litter the coast like misplaced trash spat out by the sea. Each vista in Point Lookout tells a story with its warped steel, charred trees, scattered litter and bleached skeletons. Although Fallout 3 did a fantastic job of creating an expansive and fulfilling landscape to sift through, Point Lookout's compact size and hazy wetness create quite the environment to get acquainted with.
It's all about small surprises in Point Lookout. Finding a dead Chinese spy in a hotel room leads to a roundabout but thrilling quest involving safety deposit boxes, a submarine, double-crossing and cryptochromatic spectacles hidden in the water tank of a toilet. One of the better sidequests in Point Lookout, the sheer fun of it makes up for duds like "The Dark Heart of Blackhall," a fetch errand with an inconsequential endpoint -- 1000 caps does not a good quest make. What does make a good quest, however, is what Bethesda puts players through in the main plot of the DLC, starting with "The Local Flavor."
Beginning with Calvert Mansion and the temperamental, curse-prone ghoul Desmond, the main questline is one of the most winding chains seen in the Fallout 3 universe. Your new and angry friend sends you, the Lone Wanderer, to uncover the secrets of a tribal cult attacking his house. The tribals worship the punga fruit, a mutated plant that provides enough sustenance to keep their community going. From there the entire thing devolves into serious "What the hell?" territory: Giant mother punga fruit, unwanted brain surgery, house explosions and the holographic mind of a diabolical scientist all stem from this singular quest. Without spoiling too much, this sole quest is just about reason enough to purchase Point Lookout. It won't disappoint you.
Those hoping for smashing (pun slightly intended) new weaponry will be moderately satisfied, as Point Lookout adds a few new items. As far as weapons go, the lever-action rifle is a fantastic replacement for the hunting rifle, and will finally put to use all that extra 10mm ammo. The double-barreled shotgun fits right in with the backwoods setting, as does the two-handed axe; though melee characters don't seem to do much damage with it.
Unfortunately, the clothing options leave a bit to be desired: a Confederate hat is the most prevalent piece of gear. Really, it seems like a missed opportunity for a full-on, hick-like outfit considering the rusted car, bear trap and moonshine atmosphere. Instead, Point Lookout's enemies wear their plaid with pride.
The most notable opponent inclusions are the disfigured, Sloth-like hillbillies of Point Lookout's vast swampland. Skinny creeps, aptly named Creepers and Scrappers, move fast and shoot accurately, while the burly Brawlers and Trackers/Bruisers (two variations on the same model) hit incredibly hard. Watch out for these guys: apparently the generations of inner-familial intercourse led to super strength. Who knew?
Point Lookout is simply a joy to play through. It's thoroughly disturbing and rewarding at the same time thanks to an adherence to its Fallout 3 roots -- unlike Operation: Anchorage, which suffered in quality because it deviated so awkwardly from the core experience. Bethesda has finally learned that additional content works best when it shares common ground with the game it descended from.
- Fallout 3 completionists, of course
- Players turned off by previous add-ons like Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt, which did little to play like "vanilla" Fallout 3
- People like me who have lived near small town/hillbilly people; I had quite the laugh at the swampfolks' expense
- One of the greatest questlines that can be found anywhere in Fallout 3
Not Recommended for:
- Weapon enthusiasts looking for the next Gauss rifle or Auto Axe. While the weapons in Point Lookout are nice, they're not super-powered
- If inbreeding hits a bit too close to home for you
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