Review: Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta (XBL)

Here we are, dissecting the final downloadable addition to the Fallout 3 universe.

Throughout the year, Bethesda Softworks has given gamers a grand total of $50 worth of extra content to one of 2008's finest games. The finale, Mothership Zeta, is certainly a bold move on the studio's part to try to go out with an edge-of-your-seat bang. Putting Fallout in space, even with the series' trademark exorbitant scenarios, is definitely a head-tilting decision. But cosmic setting aside, don't expect any climactic end to the story of the Lone Wanderer here; the developers are smart enough to realize that after rectifying Fallout 3's ending with Broken Steel, setting a finite conclusion to the mythos would kill the immersion.

Unfortunately, the end is nigh...and not that great. Zeta is a linear and uninteresting bookend to a fairly massive collection of expansions. It's not as bad as Operation: Anchorage, but that's not saying much.

Thanks to Zeta, most gamers are going to feel like their wallets have been probed. Take me to your refund counter, please.

Domo arigato, soon-to-be-exploding roboto

To be absolutely clear, Mothership Zeta isn't bad DLC, it's just unimpressive and extremely devalued when compared with its immediate ancestor, Point Lookout. After crafting an expansive, intriguing and thoroughly disturbing trip to the swamplands of Maryland, Bethesda decided to next release what amounts to a repressed collect-a-thon of powerful weaponry.

Sure, most fans won't complain when by the end of Zeta they'll have a suit of samurai armor, a cowboy outfit and roughly a metric ton of alien weapons, crystals and worm food (disgusting but nutritious!) to pad their hidden caches -- but for $10/ 800 it amounts to a lot less content than Point Lookout. This isn't a complaint about the overall value of the downloadable content market; it's about a company setting expectations high with one title, and then somehow failing to deliver on those expectations a little over a month later with the next (and final) release.

The problem with trying to review Zeta as a piece of individual content and the final piece of Fallout 3 DLC is in what each individual may think is worthwhile about it. Like I mentioned, the items and weapons are fantastic. But on the other hand the plot is boring and practically non-existent. Even Anchorage, which I've harped on numerous times, had the overarching war between the United States and China to lend a bit more credibility to the entire scenario.

This looks way more interesting than it actually is

It's disappointing in many ways to be left with Mothership Zeta. The alien captive audio logs are Zeta's steel ingots, and while they aren't nearly as tedious to collect, the fact that another achievement is tied to finding easily missable items is frustrating.

The quests themselves are hard to distinguish from one another, and you'll only happen to notice when one transitions into the next by the popping of an achievement. The singular quest chain sends players around the massive spaceship to do the same thing over and over again: blow up alien generators. Even the ship's massive death ray (which can be pointed earthward and fired to produce a massive, Texas-sized nuclear explosion -- easily one of the best moments of the DLC) is effortlessly conquered by shutting off four generators. Let me reiterate: you shut down generators to get to the death ray, and then to turn the beam off, you do the same thing four times over again. Extremely lazy design? Absolutely.

Perhaps the best thing Zeta has going for it is its scenery. While you're trapped in the spaceship for the entirety of the add-on, the interior at least looks like a corny, classic sci-fi movie. Lots of "beep boop" lights and big red buttons contrast well with the silver and stainless steel look of the walls, ceilings and floors. The aliens themselves are stereotypical little green men, and speak in a harsh gibberish reminiscent of Mars Attacks!.

Zeta is more or less an homage to 1950s sci-fi, just like much of the Fallout universe. References to probing, human experimentation and abducting cows (though they're brahmin in this case) are all over Zeta, and they're good for a few laughs. It's a cheeky add-on for sure, but it's easy to wish Bethesda had gone farther with the idea of killing aliens in a spaceship than it simply being "cool."

Hey, I can see my charred ruin of a house from here!

Take it or leave it, Mothership Zeta will always be the last piece of Fallout 3 DLC Bethesda released. It's not perfect by any means, but it's not the worst add-on for the game. Bethesda accurately created a 1950s-type of alien abduction story, but managed to leave out the plot, fun and excitement. The finale will impress, but that's not enough to make this a for-sure recommendation.

If you must absolutely have every expansion to the core Fallout 3 title, then you've already made your choice. But if you're on the fence about how worthwhile Mothership Zeta actually is, ask yourself this: Is $10 is worth it for what boils down to a four-hour, super weapon shop-till-you-drop marathon? Save those Microsoft points and get Point Lookout instead. Or, pick up Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition, which includes all five DLC packs, when it drops on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC this October 13th.

Recommended for:

  • You crazy people who need each piece of Fallout 3 DLC
  • That one Mars Attacks! fan who's been waiting for someone to remember the movie, and as a result will go and buy the game right now

Not Recommended for:

  • Value-conscious gamers
  • Fans of Point Lookout expecting Mothership Zeta to be equally as good
  • Someone with only $10 to spend: Go grab The Maw or 'Splosion Man instead!
  • Humans who've been traumatized by probing at some point in their lives

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