They, and their new Heavy Incinerator weapons, are more than a match for your best efforts. For probably the first time since you first come across the Deathclaws, you're forced back into hiding, frantically reaching for the stimpacks and returning fire whenever the brief opportunity arises. With only one shot per reload - and a long reload time - the shockwave blast of the Tesla Cannon might be your best bet, but it's also a real headache if you can't quite get a bead on your foe.
For the next hour or more, the game never lets up, with wave after wave of Enclave attacks, hunting in packs and flushing you out at every opportunity. If you're willing to crank up the difficulty level, you're in for arguably the toughest section in the entire game, and savegame management is a must. It's tense and it's tough. You'll breathe a sigh of relief almost every time you see these armoured death machines crumple, which is exactly the way it should be at this stage of the proceedings.
On top of all this, Broken Steel also houses six additional side-quests, none of which will be apparent until you talk to specific individuals, and all relating to the newly purified water available to the Wasteland. In trademark Bethesda fashion, there's a fair bit of moral hand-wringing over the right thing to do, but your karmic leanings will inevitably be your guide. As ever, the fun part is working your way through the permutations, and usually the hardest option is the most fun. None are particularly rewarding in terms of loot or XP, but it's always fun to have extra tasks on the go. Sadly, none of them award any Achievements, unlike the three main missions.
Elsewhere, two other notable new enemies add an extra challenge for those doing a bit of exploring. The Super Mutant Overlords are of particular interest, and often come armed with the lovely new Tri-Beam Laser Rifle, while the deadly Albino Rad Scorpion provides another challenge with its recharging health abilities. Cheating sods.
For those of you scouring for new Achievements, Broken Steel's may well be the toughest yet, especially for those of us who start the pack on level 20. By the end of my five-hour runthrough, I'd barely ranked up to level 24, so getting to 30 will likely take hours of patient Wasteland-wandering for the determined player.
With any luck, Broken Steel won't be the last portion of DLC that Bethesda serves up. If it could perhaps combine some of the novelty value of previous DLC packs with the kind of challenge it serves up toward the end of Broken Steel, there's still going to be a healthy audience for continuing expansions. What we don't need, however, are any more lazy cut-and-paste missions, which merely repeat what we've already experienced several times over. While it undoubtedly reinvigorates Fallout 3 overall, the first half of Broken Steel demonstrates a worrying degree of complacency.
Even so, Broken Steel is an essential upgrade to Fallout 3 that any committed fan will want to grab immediately. If you've held out buying any DLC for the game so far, we'd advise you start with this before getting the others, because the process of acquiring new perks and skills will enrich the game no end. Sadly, for those of you who've kept up to date, you might want to consider going back to an old savegame before you played Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt to really make the most of what Bethesda has unlocked with this release.