It's getting to be truly impossible to stay out of the Capital Wastelands. Just about the time we finish exploring every nook and cranny of the last batch of DLC that Bethesda sends our way, the company puts out a new chunk, bigger and better than ever. Their latest offering, Fallout 3: Point Lookout, may well be the best yet, featuring a brand-new locale chock-full of secrets, treasure and danger around every bend.
This batch of DLC takes place in Point Lookout, MD, a swampy peninsula located a bit to the south of Washington, DC. Players are lured in by the promise of undiscovered riches and fortune beyond their wildest dreams, but instead get sucked into a centuries-old power struggle between two scientists for the very fate of the island. So much for a quiet vacation away from all those pesky Raiders and Super Mutants.
It's not as if the peninsula is particularly friendly anyway, as Point Lookout comes stocked with new baddies that would like nothing better than to bash in your skull and have a taste of the mushy goo inside. As you explore the swamps, your primary foes will be mutated hillbillies who've been rendered grotesque and violent by years of exposure to heavy radiation and what one of the game's loading screens explains as "poor breeding." These aggressive rednecks pack axes, hunting rifles and double-barreled shotguns, and their hide is about as thick as that of a rhino. Combine this with the fact that they're nearly always encountered in packs, and you'll find enemies that will prove tough for even the most grizzled Wasteland wanderer. Heed my advice: Bring plenty of bullets and Stimpaks with you on this trip.
As if the hilljacks weren't enough, Point Lookout also introduces new variants on the Ghouls and Mirelurks you've been encountering all along, and they're capable of giving you everything you can handle and more. As a testament to how tough this new bit of DLC is, just know this: I was wiped out by a pack of Ghouls with their new variants leading the charge … twice. If you've been playing Fallout 3 for any length of time, you know that's saying something. This is definitely an area for high-level characters only, so don't bother wandering into this region with anything less than your most impressive equipment.
You'll want to have your mainland weapons and armor in tip-top shape considering the fact there isn't a lot to scavenge out here. You can snag a shotgun or lever-action rifle from the locals after they're dead, but these new weapons aren't all that useful. The shotguns are slightly more powerful than what you find in the wastes but need to be reloaded so often that they really lose any advantage. The lever-action rifles are also decent, but if you've already got Lincoln's Repeater, then they're rendered useless. You can't even use them to repair Lincoln's gun, which makes them good for little more than trading. You do get a nice new toy for finishing the main story line, but it feels a bit light considering all the plunder you were promised to come out to this godforsaken land in the first place.
What Point Lookout may lack in innovative new items, it more than makes up for with an incredible amount of content. Furthermore, while it may not be teeming with quite the same number of missions as the Capital Wasteland, it puts up a solid showing. Outside of the main quest (which runs roughly four hours), there are five fully featured side-quests as well as a significant number of freeform quests and an abundance of new locations to discover. The missions have a great variety, too; at one point, you're defending a manor from a massive invasion by a group of cultists, while in another quest, you'll be out rummaging through the swamps looking for ingredients to make moonshine.
My personal favorite quest, "The Velvet Curtain," involved completing the mission of a long-dead Chinese spy. Even though my character showed up about a hundred years too late, I still felt like James Bond when I was tracking down a person whose molar contained submarine self-destruct codes or when I was using special glasses to discover a hidden bunker and uncover hidden equipment caches with items vital to my success. All of the side-quests are incredibly solid, and they give you incentive to stick around Point Lookout long after you've finished the work you came here to do. I'm still combing the map to look for new locations and rewards, as this place really is stuffed to the gills with adventure.
The DLC also features a completely different aesthetic, supplanting the vast emptiness and massive ruins of the Capital Wasteland with a lively, yet foreboding, swampland. Since Point Lookout was never directly hit by bombs, most of the flora is still alive, but due to the massively irradiated water, they've all become gnarled and deformed, growing strange fruit and supporting bastardized life. With its muddy waters, run-down shacks on the riverbanks and hideous locals, it's very clear that whenever you visit this place, Bethesda wants you to have the movie "Deliverance" at the forefront of your mind. There is a constant sense of dread and unease as you wait for the next threat to appear, holding your gun close and hoping that you've got the ammo and strength to stand up to whatever terror you're going to run into next. Fallout 3 has always had a sort of creepy vibe to it, particularly with its caverns and dilapidated buildings, but here, claustrophobia is nearly always a concern. Following blind paths through thickly wooded areas without knowing what waits around the bend makes the title scary without even trying.
With its copious amounts of content and impressive new locale, Fallout 3: Point Lookout provides a definitive reason to head back into the Fallout universe yet again. It's clear a lot of loving attention went into this release, and the end result is nothing short of amazing. Just remember to head into the new area with all of your weapons and armor repaired and ready to rock, and keep a voluminous amount of healing items at your side because this one's going to be a challenge. One last tip: If you should hear banjos while you're out wandering the swamps, then you should probably run.Score: 9.2/10
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