I won't spoil the three missions that follow, but in all honesty there's little to taint. There are three prongs to the second half of Operation Anchorage: you can go left or go right with orders to blow further things up, and when you've done both of them there's a final assault that has you charge straight ahead through a variety of trenches, gun emplacements and worried Chinese folk. It's made fun by the fact you're allowed to pick a specific weapon load-out and take along a set of companions and/or robots, and the pyrotechnics are as impressive as ever, yet the whole experience feels simple and heavy-handed.

Sad to say, but remove the role-play dynamics from Fallout 3 and you're left with a slightly duff shooter (hey, even Todd Howard agrees). Operation Anchorage could have got away with it if it had been clever and more knowing, like the Tranquillity Lane simulation in the full game, but as it is it just feels shallow. For example, expositional holotapes are found in dull, obvious closets directly on your path and behind the easiest of locks; hacking into computers never really goes beyond redirecting the attention of a gun turret; hardly anything can be picked up or ferreted around in. Just so much of what makes the Fallout 3 experience such a complete and all-encompassing one is stripped away, and if you've already spent a fair proportion of the past four months in the DC wasteland you'll feel like you're only playing half the game you love.

Even Operation Anchorage's best and most subtle moment, which again I won't sully through explanation, is ruined by a nearby tongue-between-teeth character hammering home a comment that's along the lines of, "Coo! Just imagine that might have an effect on the geographical design of the future. Nudge, nudge! Is she a go-er? Wink, wink!" Oh, and the ending shares a lot of the problems that beset the full game's finale to boot - it's abrupt in the extreme.

This is the way you dress to wrap up warm in Alaska. Take it off indoors though won't you, else you won't feel the benefit.

Operation Anchorage, then, through the simple fact that it is not as much fun as it the game it leeches upon, is not a resounding success. Of course, it could be argued that it's not supposed to feel like the full game and that all of my complaints are to do with its 'simulation' setting; but this is before we get round to the pricing. After all, 800 Microsoft Points (despite the best efforts of a turbulent economy) still comes in at the best part of seven quid. I played through the download, at my own pace and in no particular hurry, and completed it in a smidge over two and a half hours. Now, it's not up to me to decide what you can or cannot afford - you're the one that knows your secret internet banking code, not me. But I will say that if my girlfriend were ever to find out that I'd spent seven quid out of our joint account on 150 minutes of gameplay that I only half-enjoyed, she'd kick me in the face. She wouldn't even hesitate. This is why I shred the statements.

I love Fallout 3. I love it to an almost indecent extent. It was far and away my game of 2008, and doesn't look like being knocked out of my personal top spot for a good while yet. But when you sift out its role-play, the ammo-box inspection and the exploration and draft in a fleet of health and ammo regeneration points to compensate... well, affairs just feel shallow and somewhat naked. Hopefully a lesson has been learnt at Bethesda towers. Business as usual next time please.

5 /10

About the author

Will Porter

Will Porter


Will ‘Velvet Owl’ Porter is a roaming freelance writer who most recently worked with The Creative Assembly on Alien: Isolation. You can find out how cold/hungry he is by following @Batsphinx on Twitter.