Operation: Anchorage was the first downloadable content available for Fallout 3. Fallout is far too complex a game to explain here; suffice it to say that the paranoia and jingoistic patriotism of the 1950s became a permanent way of life due to the escalation of nuclear war between communist forces and America. Operation: Anchorage fills in the back story of the game by thrusting the player into a pivotal moment in Fallout’s history: the liberation of Alaska from communist China.
Because this downloadable content is part of the Fallout universe, it’s a game within a game. Brotherhood of Steel outcasts need your help to reach a stash of pre-war technology in a bunker (dangling the promise of loot at the end of the simulation). But getting in requires a user with a Pip-Boy interface – an interface only the player possesses — to successfully complete the virtual simulation.
This isn’t really an addition to Fallout so much as it’s a complete mini-game more in the vein of the Tom Clancy sneak-and-shoot games. The mission involves a series of escalated attacks against Chinese forces in a windswept arctic climate. There are soldiers that can be commanded to fight on your behalf, enabling some rudimentary squad tactics. There are no mutations and therefore no mutants, no irradiated wasteland and thus no radiation concerns, and only the equipment Anchorage supplies you. It’s a completely different game with a similar interface.
Even ammunition and healing are doled out in unlimited dispensers, just like a virtual game. There’s no scavenging; corpses fizzle out in virtual sparks and there are no crates that can be opened. In short, this is Fallout stripped down to sneaking and shooting.
And sneaking is critical here. It was a shock for my 20th-level Fallout character, stripped of his huge arsenal of drugs and equipment, to be regularly outmatched by sharpshooters who often had a tactical advantage. In fact, all of the opponents are considerably more difficult, including the invisible Crimson Dragoons. I faced down several threats by staying near a health dispenser and clicking it every few rounds as I was pounded by Dragoon fire. There were several points in the game where I died multiple times using the brute force approach, eventually forced to sneak my way through much of the content. In short, Operation: Anchorage gave me a good dose of humility.
The conclusion involves a final push against Chinese forces. Judicious use of a high Speech skill ended the battle quickly with minimal bloodshed. I didn’t even bother to use any of my squad. But it was all worth it. What lies in the vault is some of the sweetest weapons and armor this side of the apocalypse…and a good measure of skullduggery to boot.
Anchorage provides two items that will change your Fallout 3 experience. The first is the Winterized T-51b Power Armor. One of the most powerful armors in the game (DR 45), it never gets damaged. The other standout item is the Gauss Rifle, which has a scope, uses microfusion cells, and causes creatures to be knocked down for four seconds on a critical hit.
Words can’t properly express how satisfying it is to hit a Deathclaw full in the face and watch it go flying off a cliff. Those four seconds can be a lifetime on a battlefield, bestowing a critical combat advantage to the player’s companions who continue to pound away at the prone target; players using VATS and the right perks can knock an opponent around like a hockey puck.
Operation Anchorage isn’t like the rest of Fallout 3 and that might be a turn off for some. But the Gauss Rifle and Power Armor make it all worth it.
For more info: See my review of Fallout 3.