Fallout 3 Operation: Anchorage

Bethesda's Jeff Gardiner talks us through the DLC.

By now you've probably all conquered the all-conquering Fallout 3, Eurogamer readers' number one game of 2008 and one of our favourite RPGs set in a post-apocalyptic American city where Qui-Gon Jinn's your dad. But that's no reason to stop playing it - or at least Bethesda Softworks hopes so, because the developer is busy crafting three discrete bundles of downloadable content for Xbox Live and PC users as part of a Microsoft exclusivity arrangement.

The first of these, Operation: Anchorage, is due for release this month, with two others (The Pitt and Broken Steel) to follow in February and March respectively. Anchorage pops players in a "military simulation" within the world of Fallout 3 that replicates the Battle of Anchorage scenario from the game's back-story, with players heading a stealthy squad across a wintry Alaskan environment seeking to oust Chinese Communist invaders. It's got new toys, gamerpoints and all sorts, and is set to cost 800 Microsoft Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60).

Although the official release date has yet to be set, Bethesda's clearly in the final stages, so when we were offered the chance to speak to Jeff Gardiner, lead producer on the DLC, to dig out some more details, we jumped as high as our irradiated legs would allow. Here's the result, along with three new screenshots of Operation: Anchorage.

Eurogamer: Jeff! Can you describe what we're seeing in our sexy new screenshots?

Jeff Gardiner: All three of these shots are taken inside the 'simulation.' One is a shot of the approach to a Chinese base. Another is a shot of a player, donning a winterised version of combat armor looking out over a lake. The third, and most sexy shot, is a "Chinese Stealth Suit". If worn, it will greatly increase the stealth rating of a PC while crouching. It makes for a quite interesting fight when equipped by enemies as well...

Eurogamer: Operation: Anchorage takes place in a simulation. Was that because you wanted to tell the story of Anchorage, or because it gave you the chance to experiment?

Jeff Gardiner: A bit of both, but mostly we were always intrigued by the Battle of Anchorage. It's a very compelling bit of Fallout lore, and we figured we could really do it justice.

Eurogamer: Given the military sim setting, would you say the balance in Anchorage swings more towards gameplay than storytelling? Or have you tried to remain consistent with the way the two are interwoven in the main game?

Jeff Gardiner: There definitely is a story here - the Brotherhood Outcasts are trying to acquire advanced military technology, and the only way to open the vault containing these relics is by completing a tactical simulation only the player can enter. The bulk of the gameplay in this DLC is gunplay and stealth, along with some 'team building exercises.'

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The approach to the Chinese base, says Gardiner.

Eurogamer: Having stripped out resources for Anchorage, how do you tackle the potential for players to feel weak again having become so empowered in the latter stages of the main game?

Jeff Gardiner: Since Operation: Anchorage can be entered at anytime, we've made sure that the player will feel challenge no matter what their level is in the main game. And, since it's a simulation, we've taken liberty to add some traditional game elements to it since it's justified in this context - health and ammo replenishing stations, for instance.

Eurogamer: Can you tell us anything more about the way the Strike Teams under the player's command work, or elaborate on any of the "exotic gadgets" mentioned last week?

Jeff Gardiner: The player will be able to choose, from a limited resource pool, what type of team members will accompany him or her on several missions within the simulations. These choices include different troop types like snipers or heavy weapons troops. They'll also be able to make tactical decisions on how to deploy these troops in certain situations. The Chinese Stealth Suit was what I was hinting at last week - it works similar to stealth boy every time you crouch!

Eurogamer: Did you have a sense of what you'd do with the DLC during development of Fallout 3? Or did you sit down at the end and go, "Right, what the hell are we doing?"

Jeff Gardiner: "What the hell are we doing?" is much closer to the mark. We opened up to ideas from the whole development team, and Operation: Anchorage is just one of several that rose to the top.

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