Review: Fallout 3: The Pitt (XBL)

Fallout 3’s second add-on, The Pitt invites players back to an oddly comforting but desolate world, one where mutations, slavery and murder are expected factors of life. And as bad as all of those things sound, they’re what make Fallout an interesting series of videogames.

This time around, Bethesda Softworks ditches the virtual reality pods and simulation gimmicks seen in Operation: Anchorage; instead, the developers have crafted their interpretation of a post-apocalyptic Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in the process manage to create a locale as equally nightmarish as any seen in the Capital Wasteland.

It’s a satisfying return to the best parts of the Fallout 3 world, and despite The Pitt’s technical flaws, it’s a significantly more impressive experience than Anchorage.

Just like in the last DLC, players begin The Pitt’s content by receiving a broadcast distress signal from an unknown source. After reaching the source of the message, the DLC introduces its quest-giving main character, Wernher. This mysterious new character recruits the player into saving his people–slaves forced to work for Ashur, the boss in charge of the Pitt’s foundries and building projects–by infiltrating the slavers’ town and stirring up some trouble. To do that, the eye patch-wearing rogue asks for help stealing a rumored cure to the genetic mutations running rampant across the slaver-occupied town.



Although Pittsburgh wasn’t nuked during the war, 200 years of three separate rivers drumping in other cities’ radiation mixed with an incessant cloud of industrial toxins have created a special kind of degeneration for humans in the Pitt. When exposed long enough, people begin to morph into “Trogs,” which look like Fallout’s version of Gollum. Trogs are also the new Super Mutants of The Pitt, replacing them as the main flavor of enemy, and it’s actually a welcome change.

The story and setting are clear tonal shifts from Anchorage’s vision of American wartime prosperity, and though the plot is still razor-thin (it’s hard to believe even evil characters would care enough about a town of slaves for a few lousy caps), players are likely to accept The Pitt’s content because it feels like Fallout 3.

Pollution's never been so pretty

Pollution's never been so pretty

If Operation: Anchorage was a serene landscape of blues and whites, The Pitt is a hellhole colored with oranges, reds and yellows–both inside and out, Pittsburgh’s ruins look like one continuous foundry pumping rust, blood and smog into the air. It’s a perplexing (and cool) sight to gaze upon active industrial smoke stacks in what’s supposed to be a de-industrialized waste of a world.

Reaching the new area is as simple as activating a railroad handcart located outside of a train tunnel, though players are warned they will be stuck in the Pitt until the main quest is finished–a nearly five hour commitment. Travelers will want to be sure they’re ready for the Pitt before taking off. Once inside, Wernher informs players that their equipment will be temporarily taken from them. Wernher does offer to hide either a gun or knife on the Lone Wanderer (don’t ask where), so players won’t be entirely unarmed.

The first and last time you'll see the word "welcome" in The Pitt

The first and last time you'll see the word "welcome" in The Pitt

Getting to the slaver camp requires traversing one of the more impressive pieces of architecture in The Pitt: a bridge leading into the ruined city. And although it’s technically nothing out of the ordinary, the haunting “Welcome to The Pitt” sign along with the husks of cars, dozens of frag mines and a new type of rabid dog make for a superb introduction to the new content. The experience continues to be largely solid throughout, though the occasional technical problems hamper an otherwise more-improved example of DLC.

Twice during the first mission alone the game froze in the middle of using V.A.T.S., and it crashed again a handful of times during various loading screens. It’s been widely noted that The Pitt had significant problems at release, but many seem to persist.

At the time of this review, a few textures and random geometries noticeably stick through buildings and the odd clipping of character models appear here and there. That said, The Pitt is still a fantastic-looking piece of DLC thanks to Bethesda tweaking the engine’s lighting effects. The characters may still look rather lifeless, off-colored and poorly textured, but gamers have been dealing with Bethesda’s style of modeling since Oblivion.

What The Pitt does best is adhere to the example set by Fallout 3’s main content: force players to make tough choices and give them ambiguous answers. Without spoiling it for readers, the “cure” referred to by Wernher and his accomplice Midea isn’t just a simple item to steal. In fact, if players don’t listen to some key holotapes they might believe they’re making the right decision, only to regret it later. The Pitt is by no means a masterpiece of emotional storytelling, but it does a much better job of providing complex options to problems and offering realistic consequences. But, who really cares about “feelings” when there are things to kill, right? Right.

The Auto Axe: A favorite of the post-apocalyptic Tim "The Toolman" Taylor

The Auto Axe: A favorite of the post-apocalyptic Tim "The Toolman" Taylor

The most impressive piece of weaponry found in The Pitt is the Auto Axe, which is basically what a mad scientist would create if he fused a lawnmower and power saw together. Non-melee characters might not replace their projectile weapons with the brutal Auto Axe, but weed-eating a few dozen raiders and Trogs to death is grotesquely satisfying nonetheless. Unfortunately, no type of additional damage modeling for characters made it in into the DLC, as limbs still come off like they do in Fallout 3 proper. It would have been a great time to introduce more complex dismemberment animations with such an excessive weapon available.

Clothing in The Pitt receives better tending to than in Anchorage, as there are 18 new wearable pieces ranging from headgear to body armor. It’s great that characters have more opportunity to explot the “role-play” aspect of Fallout 3’s RPG side, whereas before the costume choices felt limited to a few decent options that weren’t post-apocalyptic belly shirts.

Perhaps the Pitt wouldn’t be this enjoyable if it wasn’t preceded by Operation: Anchorage’s weaker content. Still, on its own The Pitt simply works because it’s a faithful extension of the Fallout 3 world’s gritty fantasy.

With a larger and more interesting area to explore, better quests to complete and an overall impressive experience to be had, it’s not hard to recommend The Pitt, even when taking Broken Steel’s significantly more robust additions into consideration.

Players with Broken Steel will still get a lot out of The Pitt. Outside of experience points, weapons and armor–equipment useful even in Broken Steel–The Pitt’s quests, while separate, compliment Broken Steel’s if for no other reason than they both act like Fallout titles are supposed to. And that’s exactly what any DLC should have done from the beginning, anyway.

Recommended for:

  • Those burned by the other DLC’s content; The Pitt steps things up significantly
  • It’s Fallout 3 presented in a new light, and that’s what makes it work
  • New weapons, armor and a view of somewhere other than the Capital Wasteland
  • One interesting quest involving a so-called “cure” for the Trog mutations

Not Recommended for:

  • There are still bugs, and mileage will vary from gamer to gamer. Still, make sure you don’t rely on autosaves–corruption does happen
  • Some shoddy design here, with textures being out of place, buildings clipping into each other and so on
  • Gamers on a budget that have to choose between this or Broken Steel. The Pitt’s almost as good, but this isn’t so much a negative element as a practical judgment call

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