When it arrives on 5th May, Broken Steel will be the third piece of DLC released into the wilds of Bethesda's irradiated Washington. You'd think by this point the development team could have found the time to include that appearance by the mutated cast of the West Wing (chirpily arguing over seatbelt legislation or bludgeoning vagrants with radioactive trinkets) I've been requesting for so long now in the rambling handwritten letters I've sent them daily, but once again they've chosen to look elsewhere for inspiration.
Luckily, even if Bethesda isn't listening to me it has been listening to everyone else. The result is the game's latest care package has at least one feature everybody will be pleased with.
It's always a shame when a good thing comes to an end, particularly when that good thing is a game so stuffed with side-quests and distractions it's inconceivable to reach the conclusion without a few threads left hanging. So when Fallout 3 reached its abrupt finale, banishing the protagonist from its wastelands in a haze of reactor smoke, a lot of players felt miffed.
DLC to the rescue. Broken Steel reverses Bethesda's original decision before the first gunshot's been fired, flinging the doors to the Capital Wasteland open again. The action kicks off two weeks after the end credits originally rolled as you wake up back in the Citadel.
Even more promisingly, unlike Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt, the narrative doesn't then send you off on a parallel plot. Nor does it set you rummaging through old simulations in order to find you something to do. Instead it dumps you back into Washington itself, where old rivalries are still brewing and fresh mysteries await.
In some ways the city's changed since you've been away. Project Purity is now up and running, and offering a range of side-quests that see you distributing clean water to the outer reaches of the wastelands.
In other ways it's business as usual; the main storyline zeroes in on the ongoing fight between the Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave. Liberty Prime wasn't enough, it appears, and the Brotherhood has a new mission for you: tracking down the pieces needed to build an entirely new weapon. Titled the Tesla Cannon, it's designed to turn the tide once and for all.
What ensues is a sizeable trek in search of the necessary components - a radioactive riff on Supermarket Sweep that plays out in a now familiar mix of puzzles and combat scenarios. You'll travel across the map from Olney to Adams Air Force Base, an entirely new DC location. There things must either get really exciting or simply conclude, as that's all Bethesda's revealing at the moment.
To get to the base, you'll first need to navigate the forgotten Presidential Metro system running under the nuked remains of the White House. It was the venue for a pitched battle between sentry bots and armies of ghouls when I dropped in to visit. Watched over by a mysterious computer system named Margot, a ride through such shadowy confines is a tempting notion, and another claustrophobia-inducing chunk of intrigue from a game that uses its world famous setting to endlessly good effect.
Bethesda's also thrown in the requisite toys. New enemies include a fresh breed of super mutant named The Overlord, and the heavily-armoured Feral Ghoul Reaver who, from what's been shown so far, is a bit handy with grenades.
New weapons start with the Tesla Cannon itself, which fires extremely powerful blasts of electricity. Its ballistic strength is balanced with a relatively long reload - a fact you can forgive as it appears to be capable of knocking aircraft out of the sky in a single shot.
Tesla's not the only new gadget; The Overlord has his own make of laser and there's a new flame weapon of some kind. It seems to work like a kind of mortar, lobbing fire over its target in lazy arcs. On top of that there's a range of new perks, the only one revealed so far being Puppies, which allows you to collect a fresh (and identical) relative of Dogmeat whenever you're careless enough to let him get killed.
You can also expect more Achievements, new armour, and, most excitingly for Matthew Perry, if the recent news stories are to be believed, the upping of the level cap from 20 to 30..
Bethesda's promising it will be a struggle to work your way up those last ten levels. While the main quest of Broken Steel will most likely weigh in at around four or five hours, rendering it the longest piece of extra content yet, levelling and completing the various side-quests are designed to make it well worth the 800 Microsoft Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60) it will cost.
There's no reason not to believe that will happen: from even the most cursory of developer-led guided tours, this latest DLC already feels more substantial and relevant than either The Pitt or Operation: Anchorage. It's not quite as elaborate an expansion as Oblivion's Shivering Isles, but in many ways it's something more important. By rectifying the problems many people had with Fallout 3's original ending, Broken Steel won't just expand on the game's world - it will reopen the doors for those who never got to see everything the first time around.
Fallout 3: Broken Steel will be available on Xbox 360 and PC from 5th May for 800 Microsoft Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60).