Fallout 3: The Pitt (XBOX 360)

Finished Fallout 3? Well even if you haven’t, the chums at Bethesda have churned out the second add-on pack. The Pitt.
What did I think? Find out over at Acegamez

Full text deep within the Pitt under the cut:

Fallout 3: The Pitt

Considering the vast amount of time that can be sunk into Bethesda’s mighty Fallout 3, and the fact that it is without doubt one of the finest games of the decade, it’s no real surprise that the second of the three promised expansions to the main game has been wanted so badly. However, after the middling response to the first piece of downloadable content – Operation Anchorage – it’s with some trepidation that we approach The Pitt. Thankfully though, our concerns proved to be unwarranted.

Much like the first expansion, the content of The Pitt occurs in a new map section. Downloading the game sets off a radio broadcast from a Wernher, a swarthy but lovable rogue who bears an uncanny resemblance to Naked Snake of Metal Gear Solid 3 fame. Upon finding Wernher and saving him from a group of raiders, he tells the woeful tale of The Pitt; a ruinous, radiation-afflicted hellhole, filled with diseased slaves who are being worked to death in the furnaces of the last industrial steel-manufacturing plant. You soon become embroiled in Wernher’s desperate plan to free the slaves and find a cure to the disease that ravages them. At this point it’s up to you to get some slave-togs by either buying them or freeing some nearby unfortunates and nicking their gear; from here onwards it’s out through a railway tunnel and into the Pitt.

As with Anchorage, this new section of Fallout 3 exists entirely independent of the main wastelands and, once entered into, it’s impossible to return until the main quest has been completed. Mercifully, unlike the earlier downloadable content, the Pitt gives you a little bit more of a chance to change your mind beforehand and it’s only once you’re through the main gates and into the hands of the slavers that you become committed to finishing this side quest. Without ruining the plot and mentioning some of the bizarre and morally dubious decisions you’re called upon to make throughout, The Pitt plays out like a Fallout reworking of the movie Gladiator, as the vault-dweller must first become a slave to become a gladiator and defy an empire (albeit without any of the pomp, ceremony, or tigers). As you’re foisted into this bleak and depressing position then herded through various hoops to complete the goals of the missions, it’s very clear that Bethesda has learned from the feedback from Operation Anchorage; this add-on is the antithesis of the boringly linear plod-and-shoot of the Alaska campaign and there is active encouragement to take your time and explore the Pitt. What’s more, the city of Pittsburgh, while nowhere near the size of the main game, is comparable to larger city centres in the Wastelands, sprawling over a large square and surrounding buildings in a shantytown above the industrial complex. In other words, there’s plenty to see and do here.

If the plot was cribbed from Gladiator then the art direction has been stolen from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome; from the first moments when you arrive at the Pitt, it’s clear that this is another unique area of the massive game, in terms of both visuals and plot. The entire city seems to be steeped in a thick layer of pollutants and decay, as vast pillars of filthy, brown smoke spew forth and billow across the sky, highlighted only by the occasional belch of flame from the chimneys and rooftops. This dark and brooding atmosphere is further compounded by the intensely bright light of the molten metals and furnaces of the steelworks below, all accompanied by the relentless grinding and moaning of the machines, as well as the odd motivational crack of a slaver’s rifle firing at an unfortunate worker.

This is a technique that pays off, as the end result is that you never feel entirely comfortable in the Pitt. The oppressive look of the levels – especially as a slave, surrounded by armed raiders and barbed wire – make you feel uneasy and somewhat motivated to help these unfortunate souls with their desperate plight. Conversely, this is where the game itself lets the situation down, as there just isn’t anything built into the Fallout engine to implement becoming a slave. Sure, you can’t get out of the slave quarters or back to Washington, but there’s nothing to stop you just wandering aimlessly around talking to everyone, or just sleeping for hours on end on a mattress in plain view of the supposedly brutal taskmasters. The only work you end up having to do takes the form of hunting down precious ingots of metal in the abandoned Steelyard. This sprawling complex of rail yards, factory-buildings and corrugated rust as far as you can see, is one of the most brilliantly constructed areas in the Fallout universe, with walkways and bridges leading to untold heights and creating a labyrinth across the yard. Strewn around the area are occasional piles of ingots, usually beside the unlucky corpse of their bearer, torn to pieces by the creatures that have made this place uninhabitable – the Trogs.

Despite being a decent addition to the Fallout universe and providing an interesting new challenge to the game, it’s unfortunate that the Trogs are the sole addition to the enemy range in The Pitt. Unfortunate victims of the radiation-based plague afflicting all of the Pitt’s inhabitants, they look like a cross between Gollum and a gremlin, skittering around the floor on all fours and trying desperately to maul and eat anyone who crosses their path. They provide a fair amount of challenge early on in the expansion, as they tend to hunt in groups and are both fast and inflict a high amount of damage. Of course, this is largely because you lose all of your gear upon arrival to the Pitt (you get it back later, don’t fret!); when you are clad in the nearly worthless armour values of slave outfits and armed with only the auto-axe, the Trogs are a real threat, but later in the game when you are tooled up, and armed to the teeth, they merely come across as an irritation.

Thankfully, this brief sojourn into the depths of Trog territory is littered with armaments – and the yard-keeper gives up armour and weapons in exchange for the precious ingots, which is damn useful, as the other unusual component of The Pitt is the gladiatorial battles that are necessary to secure your freedom and complete your mission. These take place in a radiation-filled arena deep in the bowels of the complex, where you are thrown against three sets of champions. Luckily, the bouts need not be taken on at once, so it’s possible to rest and hunt down some new gear and guns between battles. It’s also encouraging that the defeated champions can be looted for increasing amounts of armour and weaponry. This is a nice deviation from the usual running and shooting of the game but it’s still ridiculously easy if you’ve come by some decent guns in the Steelyard and, as such, could have been better. After that it’s business as usual, as the entire Pitt is now your oyster, as the newest freedman on the block. Like the rest of Fallout 3, it’s possible to run ahead with the main quest at hand or spend time getting to know the place, and again there’s plenty to do in the Pitt, with a wealth of slaver characters to chat to and some fun to be had clearing out even more Trog-infested areas around the upper regions of the city.

The main quest itself does lie invitingly open and, to their eternal credit, Bethesda as usual offer no easy answers. The entire plot of The Pitt is one of the most morally dubious ever approached, which is saying something for a game like Fallout 3. There is scope to approach the resolutions from a variety of angles, suiting your karma-flavour of choice. In any case, there are a whole host of great items to be gained, regardless of what decisions you decide to make, and the resultant lay of the land persists, as the Pitt can thankfully be returned to after completion as a fully working location in the world, meaning that it’s just as playable and vital to newly started players as it is to those who’ve already completed the game and want more to spend more time in the universe.

There’s little more that can be said without ruining the fantastic story and the events within this latest expansion to the game’s ever growing universe, but it stands that The Pitt is an absolute must buy for anyone who enjoyed Fallout 3 and a smashing return to form from Bethesda after their first lukewarm offering in Operation Anchorage. And the news that the third expansion, Brotherhood of Steel, also allows you to continue past the story’s close should only make the thought of having The Pitt all the more enticing.

 

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