Version tested Xbox 360
As marvellous as Fallout 3 was, there can't be many players who were happy when it closed off the Wasteland once you finished the story. For a game with so many interesting side-quests, and such a vast map, there were plenty of incentives to keep coming back. The recent addition of the Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt DLC merely re-emphasised that.
But the more immediate problem with playing Fallout 3 beyond, say, 50 hours was the level cap, which ensured that you couldn't gain any more experience or upgrade your perks and stats once you hit level 20. For me at least, this took away one of the key reasons I'd spent so many hours meticulously checking out every last nook and cranny. Once you'd hit that ceiling, much of the 'clean-up' process of finishing all the remaining side quests was less exciting than it could have been.
Fortunately Broken Steel goes a long way to fixing all of that. By raising the level cap to 30, and introducing 14 new perks, suddenly there's a greater sense of reward. Better still, Broken Steel changes the game ending to allow players to carry on playing for as long as they like, which is particularly helpful for those who didn't dash through the game when it first came out, and should also tempt a few who got bored when they hit the level cap.
I'll avoid spoilers for those of you who haven't reached the story conclusion, but suffice to say you wake up two weeks later in The Citadel, where the Brotherhood of Steel is looking after you. It turns out that pockets of Enclave resistance are still posing a serious threat, and predictably it's up to you to mop up the remnants. But what seems like a straightforward clearout operation down at a secret southwestern Enclave base hits a major setback, and you're forced back to The Citadel for a rethink.
At this point, Broken Steel already feels more in-keeping with the better moments of the main game, with a trio of missions that take place in distinct and separate parts of the Wasteland, as opposed to keeping the player hemmed in. That said, the first two of the three new missions aren't exactly taxing, and take place in the same kind of environments you've seen hundreds of times before, facing familiar enemies.
A couple of hours in, it's hard not to be bored by more of the same. Exploring the shattered innards of the Old Olney power plant is a distressingly familiar exercise, while the underground exploration in the Presidential Metro under the White House barely feels any different to the dozens of other subterranean journeys you'll have taken under DC. Fighting yet more identical ghouls and sentry bots feels like a cut-and-paste exercise, and this lack of inspiration is disappointing after all the initial promise.
But all is not lost. Towards the end of the Presidential Metro section you finally meet the bastard-hard Ghoul Reavers, who are not only handy with grenades, but evidently resistant to almost anything you can throw at them. Sadly, their appearance is all-too fleeting, but it sets the tone for the rest of the game. Once you've emerged from the Presidential Metro at the Adams Air Force base, you'll grab the super-powerful Tesla Cannon energy weapon, and discover an elite band of Enclave Hellfire Troops laying in wait.