Review: Fallout 3: Broken Steel (XBL)

Apparently the third time is the charm as Broken Steel is unequivocally the best of Fallout 3’s downloadable content packs.

Broken Steel succeeds because it caters directly to Fallout 3’s central plot without weakening it. There are no diversions or trips to less-important locales in this add-on—players are brought back to the Capital Wasteland, continuing the quest that led them out of Vault 101 in the first place.

Truly, Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt were fleeting crescendos meant to build up to Broken Steel. It’s just a shame it took two tries on Bethesda Softworks’ part to get everything right.

Before Broken Steel, Fallout 3’s major flaw was its ending. After successfully pumping fresh water into the parched landscapes of the Capital Wasteland the game cruelly fades to black. The decision makes little sense considering Bethesda’s track record with its Elder Scrolls series—in the games, players could continue exploring the surrounding world at their leisure. Thankfully, Broken Steel rectifies the disappointing ending and fulfills players’ innumerable hours of investment in the main plot.

The waters of life return to the ruins of D.C.

The waters of life return to the ruins of D.C.

Players can now see the pay-off of chasing their digital father’s dream to offer fresh water to the people of the wastes. Barrels upon barrels of “Aqua Pura” are carted out to the surrounding communities by way of Brahmin caravans. No need to rely on a voice-over movie to fill-in the blanks anymore.

After finishing Fallout 3’s main quest, players wake up under the care of the Brotherhood of Steel and Elder Lyons. The aging leader explains that two weeks have passed since Project Purity came to fruition, and Enclave forces, outside of a few pockets of resistance, have been largely dealt with. For once in a Fallout 3 add-on there’s no distress signal to tune into—the new content begins right away.

Broken Steel’s first mission takes players to one of the remaining Enclave strongholds outside of the regular wasteland map. The combat starts immediately with full units of both the Brotherhood and the Enclave exchanging an array of bullets, beams and bombs. Along for the destructive ride is that shining beam of Democratic pride Liberty Prime, who shows up to vaporize what it (always) thinks are Communist Chinese forces.

Unfortunately for the Brotherhood’s robotic super weapon, an Enclave orbital strike makes short work of the propaganda machine. Funnily enough, Prime’s decapitated head stops just short of the player’s feet to gasp out its poignant last words: “Death is a preferable alternative to Communism.”

Thus begins the main quest of Broken Steel: find the Enclave command center responsible for ordering the missile strikes. This is how players end up in the brand new (and final area) map of Adams Air Force Base, reachable by a tram system located underneath the White House.

Battle at the Adams Air Force Base--the Vertibirds lose.

Battle at the Adams Air Force Base--the Vertibirds lose.

The Air Force base is a sizable chunk of land, though it’s mainly a bunch of hangars and fortified Enclave positions. If anything, Bethesda could have done more than offer an extremely wide and flat section of land. It’s also easy to fight through thanks to usable artillery strikes and tons of cover.

However, actually reaching Adams Air Force Base isn’t a simple proposition. Broken Steel is a difficult piece of downloadable content in most other areas thanks to new enemies like the Enclave Hellfire Troopers and Feral Ghoul Reavers, who aren’t pushovers even at higher levels. The Reavers in particular are quite challenging, but it’s a welcome shift in difficulty from otherwise being able to kill most enemies in one to two rounds of V.A.T.S.

Broken Steel’s main story, lasting around six to seven hours depending on the player, is a strong addition to Fallout 3’s core plot. At it’s most basic, Broken Steel is not much more complicated than letting players become Rambo, essentially going all-out to get revenge on the Enclave; even so, it’s a perfect fit with story threads left unwoven in the regular game.

The last mission objective in the DLC is to storm the Enclave’s gigantic Mobile Crawler, and what a finale it is. Special squads of soldiers, numerous Vertibirds and deadly turrets guard the outside and inside of the base. The interior of the crawler offers a vast treasure trove of supplies to plunder for those who can carry the load–scrounging has always been one of the most satisfying parts of the Fallout experience, after all.

Once players have shot their way to the control center and discovered the computer used to order the orbital strikes, they are once again confronted with difficult choices. One payload of missiles remains, and there are several targets to choose from, including the Citadel. As always, each choice has its consequences. But really, who hasn’t thought of bombing those righteous Brotherhood bastards?

Tesla Cannons don't take no mess

Tesla Cannons don't take no mess

Broken Steel is enjoyable because it returns players to the Capital Wasteland and adds content without changing the overall cosmetics. The new weapons, the Tesla Cannon in particular, are superb. Enclave Vertibirds aren’t at all safe from a projectile beam of electricity, but it’s curious that players don’t receive XP from destroying the aircraft. Unfortunately any additional armor selections are quite lacking outside of the new Enclave units’ equipment.

The new level cap of 30 introduces some fantastic perks. “Puppies!” prevents Dogmeat from really ever dying as his offspring spawn outside Vault 101 to take his place. It’s little additions like that which show Bethesda’s commitment to improving their game. Another useful perk, “Quantum Chemist,” converts every 10 Nuka Colas into one Nuka Cola Quantum—a very desirable option for high-level explosives experts.

On the surface not much has changed in Broken Steel, but that’s what makes it Fallout 3’s greatest DLC. It’s all about preserving the feel of the Capital Wasteland while opening up an endless story for players and their personal Lone Wanderers. The quests, weapons, armor and level cap are just bonuses. And while it may sound unfortunate to have to pay $10 for the simple luxury of continuing characters’ journeys, Broken Steel is worth it.

Hopefully Broken Steel will be Bethesda’s model for future Fallout 3 content. It might have taken the development team a few attempts to deliver a quality gameplay experience in-line with the best parts of Fallout 3 proper, but what matters most is gamers and fans finally have an add-on worthy of the Fallout name.

Now if we can just get Liberty Prime up and running again, that would be great.

Recommended for:

  • The best Fallout 3 DLC Microsoft points can buy; a significant value as well over Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt
  • Being able to play past the original game’s ending
  • Fun weapons and entertaining quests
  • By buying this, hopefully you’ll encourage Bethesda to make better and better DLC packs for Fallout 3

Not Recommended for:

  • $10 for new content still sounds high to you
  • Fallout 3 doesn’t mean anything to you…you savage!
  • Low-level characters not close to the end quest really don’t need to purchase this content until they’re at that point

Read our policy on reviews here.