Upon your arrival it becomes apparent that the rapidly mutating slave population is desperate to turn the tables on its despotic ruler, Ashur, as well as find a cure for the condition that's causing many of them to turn into feral Trogs. Early on, a simple fetch-quest for steel ingots turns into a valuable scavenging exercise, with many of the weapons, ammo and armour items you've been stripped of scattered around the sprawling, multi-tiered factory complex. It's worth taking the time to explore, too, because before long you find yourself in several fight-to-the-death arena battles against a series of opponents. It goes without saying that coming prepared helps, but if, like me, you're already a level-20 character, none of it presents much of a challenge.
On the plus side, the addition of new weapons provides much-needed novelty. The Infiltrator scoped assault rifle certainly comes in handy, but the star of the show is definitely the Auto Axe, a weapon fashioned out of car parts with a spinning blade that carves through Trog limbs with delightful efficiency. Other odds and ends, such as a one-off pistol, a special gauntlet and some new armour types flesh out the already long list of weapons in the game, but in terms of new enemies (or variations on them) The Pitt offers just one.
For new features, then, it comes up a little short, but it makes up for it in other ways. The quest is lot more interesting than Operation: Anchorage, offering greater variation, scope for non-linear exploration and degrees of NPC interaction. While still linear in terms of the order you do the tasks, the hub-like environment is more atmospheric and immersive, and graphic tourists will be delighted that Bethesda has once again provided a set of magnificent locations to explore, rich in detail and intrigue. The further you progress, the more enjoyable it gets.
That said, it's an uneven experience. After an interesting introduction, the decision to force you to basically dungeon-crawl against identical (unchallenging) enemies until you get bored is a questionable one. Of particular concern is how easy it makes things for players, and given how long most of Fallout 3's audience will have been playing the game by this stage, you might have expected a sterner test from Bethesda. Make sure you crank up the difficulty if you're visiting with a maxed-out character.
As ever, the journey is a moral tightrope, where self-interest and profiteering steers you away from what you'd prefer to do under normal circumstances. It's not simply a case of good versus evil, but sometime bad versus downright despicable, when even the karmically 'good' thing to do can feel like a dreadful choice. But that's where Fallout 3 and other Bethesda titles have always succeeded - that inherent curiosity they inspire in players to see how things pan out in all directions. The number of options give it a degree of replay value that was sorely absent from Operation: Anchorage, and even offer consequences that cleverly feed into the main game. This is especially relevant with the level cap being removed and game ending set to change in the next round of content, Broken Steel, due out in April.
Priced once again at 800 Microsoft Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60), The Pitt undoubtedly provides far more value for money than its predecessor, with around four solid hours of entertainment for the first run-through, and probably at least double that if you feel motivated to explore the quest from all the intriguing angles it throws up. Obsessives can even busy themselves seeking out all 100 ingots, with increasingly rare and useful booty on offer for every 10 that you collect. It's little things like this which keep me coming back to Fallout 3 long after I finished the main storyline, and will tempt players into purchasing yet more content further down the line.
8 / 10