Fallout 3: The Pitt

Not Brad.

If Operation: Anchorage was the equivalent of a war film - a wasteland rendition of The Guns of Navarone - The Pitt is a prison movie. You enter its bleak red-brick confines in as a slave, bereft of your weapons and equipment, and mingle with an imprisoned workforce which has revolution on its mind.

Wherever you go there are reminders of films like Fortress and an atmosphere borrowed from that most brilliant of prison-set games, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Sure, during the filming of The Shawshank Redemption Tim Robbins never had to crawl around a ruined factory grinding the limbs off scuttling Nosferatu-style mutants while searching for ten quest items - but that spirit of jailhouse revolution is certainly what Bethesda is after.

Having played what I'm told is a little less than a third of The Pitt, I can report this round of DLC is a lot more like the Fallout 3 we know and love. Seeing as I played it with a low level character with decent gun and melee skills, I can't comment on whether the difficulty has been ramped up for the level 20 perk-fiends among us - which was a primary concern with Anchorage, alongside the stripped down roleplay features.

But when you're rummaging through the desks and cupboards of Downtown Pittsburgh, or looting a solitary butter knife from the mangled corpse of a Trog mutant, the health terminals, dissolving bodies and non-interactive environments of Anchorage become a distant memory.

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Trogs continue the venerable tradition of gaming creatures that say ‘Thank You’ when you slaughter them.

It begins, as Anchorage did, with a distress signal. A chap called Wernher has escaped from The Pitt with the knowledge that someone deep in its bowels has discovered a mutation cure. They're not keen on sharing, seeing as the majority of the slaves there have rotting faces and are on their way to becoming the half-human trogs that roam unguarded areas. As such it's a remedy that could do with liberating. (There's a potential for profit too, if you're slightly more inclined towards evil.)

Once Wernher has been rescued from some raiders, and once you've dressed yourself in some sweaty clothes from a nearby corpse in a slave pen, you'll see FO3 map now features an underground railroad. You'll be travelling the 191 miles from Washington to Pittsburgh on the back of a lever-pump-powered Handcar; a feat that could have proved exhausting, yet thankfully a brief tap of the 'use' button will do much the same job.

After a brief scuffle beneath the smoking red-brick chimneys of the Pitt, you're left on your own - instructed to find a lady called Midea who's somewhere beyond the Pittsburgh bridge. At first you wonder why said bridge is such a pain in the arse to navigate; mines scattered everywhere, piled-up cars getting in your way, a lone sniper sitting high up in the gantry...

But as you approach the gate, and see escaping slaves pelting towards you, exploding in hilarious ways, it becomes clear the Pitt is designed to keep people in, rather than keep strangers like you out. For me, all it took was the pretence that I was a returning slave and the sacrifice of every single inventory item to gain access - to the obvious delight of my new acquaintance Mex the guard.

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The King Kong diet plan has clearly not worked well...

I won't ruin the experience by presenting a laboured 'What I done on a third of my holidays' linear account of The Pitt; but that word 'linear' is worth analysing. The Pitt is linear in that it's a sequence of linked quests in different areas of a map, much like Operation Anchorage and the more location-based affairs in the main game. But there's no doubt you feel less funnelled and less hurried as you pootle around the outskirts, primary foundry hub and early trog-infested 'dungeon' area.

Bethesda also promises there will be different ways to play the conclusion too, as you access the areas that are initially off-limits to you while you're wandering about the place pretending to be all humble and slave-like.

Well, as humble and slave-like as you can be while foraging for steel bars with a looted assault rifle and a tool called a 'Man Opener', that is. A tool that's frankly more gory and over-powered than anything yet seen in the wasteland.

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The Steel Mill shows that Fallout can be a hive of industry, as well as crumbling factories.

Quite whether you can use said weapons in non-combat areas, the parts populated by slaves and guards, I can't say - due to a remarkable lack of journalistic prowess I didn't try to use my three-bladed shredder on the Pitt's persecutors. If I had been able to do so, much like when you use it on scuttling trogs, I can guarantee the list of critical injuries inflicted would still be refreshing at the top left of my screen by the time I'd walked ten metres away from their constituent parts. Other new items in the game, meanwhile, include a scoped, silenced assault rifle called The Infiltrator and some decent bits of Raider armour.

I suspect that the playtime won't greatly exceed that of Operation Anchorage, and that difficulty for maxed-out players may again be an issue (this time around I'll certainly be making sure I've notched my difficulty settings up onto 'hard' from the off), but so far things are looking up content-wise. It should also be noted that parts of the Pitt raise the graphical bar too; entering the steel foundry with its heat haze, molten steel and floating embers is a remarkable experience.

What's more, as my time in the Pitt came to a close, I got a sneak peek at the grass roots of the content. At the heart of dystopian Pittsburgh lies a combat arena - the almighty pillar of Bethesda's past work in the Elder Scrolls series that, thinking about it, was conspicuous by its absence in Fallout 3. In there, it can be assumed, you'll be able to show these bastard slavers what you're made of. Remember: you're not locked up in there with them, they're locked up in there with you...

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