Fallout 3: Point Lookout Xbox 360 Review
I’ve spent just over one hundred hours wandering Fallout 3’s lovingly rendered Capital Wastelands. One hundred hours of my life searching every nook and cranny, salvaging every last bottle cap and dishing out my own slightly questionable form of justice to those unfortunate enough to cross me. But for every Stimpak gained, for every successful speech option and for every severed head, I can’t help but crave more. This isn’t due to a lack of things to already do, but merely a longing to continue the adventures of Vault 101’s wandering hero/villain within this brilliantly realised world. Luckily Bethesda are aware of this, and following great success with Operation Anchorage, The Pitt and Broken Steel, they now bring us ‘Point Lookout’, a downloadable expansion with a bit of a difference: We’re not in Washington anymore, Dogmeat. While there’s plenty of diversity in Fallout 3, there’s no denying that after hiking across the wastelands for such an extended amount of time, things begin to look a bit samey. Thankfully Bethesda have remedied this by providing us with a steam boat to the titular ‘Point Lookout’, a far more vegetated area situated in Maryland. Minus the cookies.
The tone of Point Lookout is far darker than that of previous scenarios, taking into account both the main game and the expansions. Having been requested by a woman to find her missing daughter, you jump on the boat and make for the swampy setting having paid a fair sum for a ticket. A quick kip in a dirty cabin and the vessel soon arrives at Point Lookout Amusement Pier, though there’s little fun to be had anymore. There’s something incredibly sinister about Point Lookout, an ominous mist hangs in the air, and the run-down fairground gives way to a feeling similar to that of the Silent Hill series. It’s difficult to think back to the first time the door to Vault 101 was opened, but the impending doom felt upon approach to Point Lookout feels far from the sense of discovery that was brought about by access to Washington’s ruins. Post-apocalyptic Maryland is in a similarly dilapidated state as the rest of Fallout 3’s locales, the difference here is that most of it is made up of swampland, trees and tall grass. It’s still a vastly deteriorating environment, but the subtle change in the palette, with the added coastal scenery and inland bogs, makes a refreshing change from the dust and concrete.
This new setting also brings with it a few additions to the list of ‘things that want to pull your legs off’. For reasons that will be glossed over so as to avoid spoilers for all the slowpokes who still haven’t managed to finish the main storyline of Fallout 3, there aren’t any Super Mutants at Point Lookout, in fact there aren’t a lot of non-human enemies at all really. Aside from the trusty Mirelurk, and Bloatfly that seem to revel in the bubbling pits, most hostiles are made up of tribals – a group of spaced-out religious types who spend their days intoxicated from the Punga Plants that are native to the region, and swamp folk – inbred yokels with a thought capacity consisting of ‘eat’ and ‘bludgeon’. Most of these are basically recycled from the main game with different skins, but the latter do add a great amount of character to Point Lookout. Anyone who’s seen ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, or simply taken a stroll through Warrington town centre (home of Kerry Katona), will be well aware of the toothless, backwards, hit-in-the-face-with-a-brick-as-a-child sort of monstrosity that I’m talking about. Their human appearance coupled with an almost feral nature is quite frightening, and yet viewed from afar it’s often possible to watch them dancing around camp fires in a seemingly jovial manner. The lack of understanding of these characters reinforces the feeling of alienation that runs throughout the course of Point Lookout’s narrative, and successfully puts across the idea that you are the intruder on their homeland.
Speaking of which, Point Lookout’s ‘story’ is brilliantly presented, consisting of several threads that seemingly intertwine over the course of a variety of missions. There are numerous points on the map that will lead to another branch of the story, whether it be fleshing out Point Lookout’s history, or something far more immediate, and it can be surprising just how much one gives way to the other. Though on arrival it can seem a bit vague as to what it is exactly that you’re supposed to be doing, it soon becomes apparent that Point Lookout as a whole, rewards exploration over simply following the blip on the radar. There are missions that seem to be tucked away behind closed doors and in unassuming locations that bring a flash of excitement when their hiding place is discovered. The methodical habit of moving from objective to objective that can be all too easy to develop over the course of Fallout 3’s main game, although not done away with completely, is highly discouraged. The story itself is something of a bizarre journey, beginning with an all-out gun fight through an ageing Victorian mansion, and building steadily over numerous sub-missions to its ludicrous yet brilliant finale. It would be unfair to describe these in any real detail, after all; the best part of Fallout 3 is the vast quantity of surprises. Point Lookout is full to bursting with neat little ideas, things that couldn’t work outside of the video game medium – it toys with your mind, and plays on your preconceptions of how Fallout’s missions work.
The handful of ‘friendly’ characters within Point Lookout are equally amusing, and handled with a certain level of ambiguity. Though the main game was filled with dialogue branches and moral decisions, there was rarely a moment in which it wasn’t obvious which was the good choice and which was the bad. Here we have characters that seem to blur the line far more than any found throughout the main campaign. This makes it incredibly difficult to make decisions – encouraging a far more thoughtful approach, rather than simply choosing from black or white. Also similar to the mission structure, there are a handful of goodies to be gained from speaking with certain characters, and these are not always obvious. Instead it’s left up to your own thirst for exploration and discovery, if you simply skip all the bits that aren’t key to the main plot, then you’ll be rewarded respectively. Take a closer look around however, and there’s an absolute bounty of items and weapons to be found. There’s a few available from the beginning such as the double barrelled shotgun, and there are some that have alternative uses, which are also cleverly hidden within Point Lookout, but once again it’s the excitement of finding these new additions that adds to the enjoyment of the expansion.
Point Lookout is the most interesting of the Fallout 3 DLC so far. While there’s obvious little change in the general game mechanic, and combat is as it has been throughout, it’s the immersion within the newly created setting that sets Point Lookout aside from the rest of the available expansions. It suffers in areas due to its placement in the overarching timeline, and certain aspects of it would be far more beneficial to those just starting Fallout 3, and having the option to visit the area without certain perks, some of which can make Point Lookout a tad too easy. There’s also the fact that most of the new stuff on offer will seem a bit underpowered for those playing through post-completion. At the same time, the eerie forests riddled with their creepy dolls and skulls on sticks, the references to quirky religious cults and so-on, are far more effective as an opposite to the overly familiar wastelands, and as such it definitely helps to have a lengthy stint in Washington to contrast it with. Either way there’s something here for both parties, and as far as Fallout 3 DLC goes it doesn’t get much better. Seeing the places that Bethesda has taken Fallout 3 it now leaves the doors wide open for the next instalment: Mothership Zeta. Here’s hoping it lives up to the standards set by Point Lookout.