Format: 360, PC (version tested)
Release: Out now
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
When Mr Spock died of radiation poisoning in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, it took a whole other movie to bring him back. Then it took a whole other movie for him to remember who he was. Fallout 3 faces an almost identical challenge, with the added complication that its hero may or may not be a genocidal maniac. Such is the lot of a game that deals in massive binary choices, leaves the biggest one for last, and only later decides the story isn’t over.
In Broken Steel, Bethesda’s solution is a severe bout of collective amnesia. The Brotherhood Of Steel has seemingly forgotten whether you purified or poisoned the waters of the Capital Wasteland. The victims, if indeed there were any, have forgotten they’re supposed to be dead. And so, for that matter, have you. The Enclave, meanwhile, has retreated to its command centre at Adams Air Force base and left many of its smaller squads cut off from the chain of command. The Commie-hating uber-mech Liberty Prime is making light work of its smaller outposts, but its deadliest weapons are, as you discover early on, still very much in service.
Fallout has tried on a different face with each of its downloadable extra episodes. We’ve had the period satire of the short-but-sweet Operation Anchorage, an Escape From New York-style mosh in the gorgeous-but-shambolic The Pitt, and now a Crysis-style sweep and clear with a beginning, middle and end. Each has satisfied on a different level, Broken Steel being a rock-hard slog through the most dangerous corridors yet. Perks and buffs for action points and firepower are the orders of the day, the raising of the level cap to 30 playing right into the hands of newer, tougher enemies. You may have broken the back of the Enclave, but it hasn’t affected its individual members, who come equipped with giant napalm launchers and precision lasers.
Full of fast-flowing squad-based action, the opening couple of hours remind you just how versatile the game’s combat can be, if not in tactics then at least in appearance. Alone from thereon in, you learn more about the strengths of cover and the weaknesses of VATS than during the whole of Fallout 3, one weapon in particular proving a whole lot deadlier under manual control. In stark contrast to the previous expansions, though, much feels recycled and only two new venues – a secret train network and the aforementioned airfield – feel fresh.
Though it’s never dull, Broken Steel’s revisionist approach might upset those who value their place in Capital Wasteland history. It doesn’t offer much to those who’d rather star in campfire tales, either, its missions concerned with strictly military affairs. But while it lacks the scope or density of Oblivion’s The Shivering Isles, it’s the most you’re going to get out of Fallout’s current batch of DLC. And as a long-anticipated reopening of the game’s original map, it at least gives you something to live for.