This is one example where being a monster really does have its advantages. The Machinist, you see, is a very typical incidental RPG villain. You know what I'm talking about: the prick who's only tied to one quest, and exists solely to give you an opportunity to flex your good/evil muscles. He's in some abandoned tower, and sends thousands of minions roaring in your general direction before you finally make it to his sanctum. There, he suddenly becomes adorable, and starts droning on about how he only did it because he's trying to make sense of a harsh world and SHUT THE F*** UP. ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS JUST TRIED TO SHOOT ME IN THE EYE WITH A MISSILE, YOU WORTHLESS SACK OF TAPEWORMS. I take great pleasure in not having to worry about being Lord Merciful in this instance. I kill him, and then don his superhero costume - an irony for which I'm sure Frank Miller would congratulate me before resuming drawing Batman having sex with Osama bin Laden's ribcage.
That business finished, I continue in a southerly direction. No more bumbling around: I'm aiming straight for the Washington Monument. The heart of Fallout 3's DC is an unforgiving conglomeration of super-mutant armies, feral ghoul-infested subways and sewers, and, of course, the technology-worshipping, heavily-armoured members of the Brotherhood of Steel. I'm not going to say I'm excited about doing this - for one, I'm only level nine, and will probably be dissolved before I get my first glimpse of molested American iconography. (Seriously, why do you happy little puritans love doing that to your tourist spots? It's not like the English ever came up with a song about London Bridge falling doh.) I do have one radioactive ace up my sleeve, though - somewhere in the west of the Capital Wasteland, I stumbled upon a miniature powerhouse called the Alien Blaster. I've never tried it before on an enemy - it uses a unique, irreplaceable form of ammunition, and only carries 120 rounds - but from what I've heard, it's a useful tool, in a kill-enemies-in-a-single-shot kind of way. So beware, George Washington and associates, for I am packing heat.
There is another reason I'm not big on Downtown, though: in my opinion, it's one of the worst-designed sectors in the game. After hours of being able to wander around the post-nuclear openworld with impunity, you're suddenly forced into navigating Bethesda's first stab at a corridor shooter since Terminator: SkyNET, just to reach quest-relevant NPCs. Who thought was a good idea? Infinity Ward, probably, but it's not like anyone plays their games anymore!
I'm going to bear the subways, ghouls, and Mirelurks (horrible), though, because I think this journey needs a suitably explosive conclusion. Essentially, I want to kill Three-Dog and all his Brotherhood of Steel protectors. If you want to know what an Appalachian chestnut-picker in the twenties thought black people were like, Three-Dog is a rough approximation. The Wasteland's only living DJ, Three-Dog is the voice of all the civilised, peace-loving denizens I've exterminated; unfortunately, he communicates his message of love and brotherhood in a series of wisecracks and dog-howls. Actually, sorry, that's just the hormones talking. Three-Dog isn't entirely despicable. In fact, at times, it's almost comforting to hear him jive-talking while you're held up in some Super Mutant-plagued office complex. You feel like you're not alone, and that, I think, was roughly the idea of his inclusion.
Still, who better to knock off than the Wasteland's beacon of hope? And which more appropriate faction to decimate than the one that's most likely on the side of righteousness - and worryingly puissant, to boot? It's right up my alley. So on I trot. The city yawns before me, and I can hear the sound of some raiders skirmishing with a few Super-Mutants. Several raiders catch sight of me, and start shouting out things like "Ooh, fresh meat!" and "I'm going to make this hurt!" - outbursts that sound somewhat overdone in context, but hilarious if you close your eyes and pretend you're at a Skin Two Rubber Ball.
After finishing them off with Ol' Painless - I'm not wasting any Alien Blaster ammo until I find something that can actually hurt me - I head down, into the increasingly irritating Washingtonian subterrane. There, I'm confronted by more raiders, then ghouls, then mole-rats, then ghouls again - they're all pretty interchangeable, though, because I can't actually see them in the mood lighting. Entrails fly, I'm a little redder than when I started: you know the drill. After a while, I finally poke my head out of the DC subway network and meet my first Brotherhood of Steel unit. They're taking aim at a Super Mutant squadron, and, unsurprisingly, wiping the floor with them. Relaxing again, they offer me a friendly greeting.