"Point Lookout is the most open ended DLC for Fallout 3 to date", proclaims Windows Live Marketplace proudly. Considering that Broken Steel expands on the main game, changing the ending and adding new levels and items, it's a pretty bold claim. Let's have a look at just how bold, shall we?
It certainly gives you plenty. A whole new land to explore, fact fans, full of missions to complete, characters to interact with, and new weapons to murder them with. Point Lookout is a backwater swampland in Maryland, which is reachable via a ferryman who's moored in the Wasteland. And a lovely friendly chap he is too (or IS he?), risking life and limb just to moor his steamboat in the radioactive waters of Washington. Indeed, the first time I met him I had Talon Company on my tale and he bravely took a rocket in the face to protect me. Fortunately for him, he can't be killed (or CAN he?).
Your first glimpse of this brave new world is that of a ruined pleasure beach, complete with dodgems and a Ferris wheel. Beyond this stretches wilderness with a lighthouse in the distance. Everything's shrouded in mist and the only sound is the eerie clanging of a buoy out at sea - it's brilliantly atmospheric and spooky. In fact the ambience all very Silent Hill-alike, which I consider to be a good thing.
This atmosphere is only emphasised further as you explore the area. The pleasure beach gives way to dark marshland and barren cliffs, and the landscape is dotted with dolls speared on sticks. It’s all rather disturbing and a far cry from the bleak, twisted cityscape of the Capital Wasteland. That’s not to say it suffers from the same detachment Operation Anchorage did though. This DLC retains the feel of Fallout and that’s evident through the characters you meet and the missions they send you on.
Talking of the characters, I both love and hate them. You see, it’s a hick freak show out there - everyone you meet has been the victim of some vicious inbreeding combined with radiation poisoning. The bad guys are toothy, lumpy yokels who sound like extras from a Simpson’s homage to Deliverance. While I do very much enjoy this as I pummel their arms from their shoulders whilst they cry “He done whack ma arms up, Bub”, or something similar, I can’t help but feel it’s a bit too comic. I kind of like the seriousness of Fallout. Yes, I know it’s not entirely serious – any game that lets you mangle a man in a shower of pulped gore from a single pistol shot is clearly not taking itself too seriously – but this is a bit over the top.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves with criticisms - I really enjoyed Point Lookout. While I do like the oppressive feel of the Capital Wasteland, the swamp and coastline is a welcome break and there’s a lot to see and do. The missions are interesting and involving and can be approached in multiple ways, and the swamp is so fantastically atmospheric that exploring is a joy. The chirruping of insects combined with the dim marsh lights provides a great backdrop to muck about in, and there are plenty of abandoned (or ARE they?) mansions, shacks and caves in which to scavenge.
The NPC’s you’ll encounter don’t suffer so badly from the cartoony stereotyping of the enemies. In fact, I really like them – they have personality – and I found myself wanting to help them out and find out a bit more about them. Obviously it helps that they reward you richly, with new, powerful perks and toys to play about with. Which is handy because, thanks to a bit of cheating by the PC, the gun fights can prove challenging even to a high level character (NPC weapons do an extra 35hp-worth of damage - damn hacking hick n00bs!).
So, a decent addition to the Fallout 3 stable then, and one that probably does just about live up to that bold proclamation. In fact, this seems closer to embracing the ideals of a full expansion pack. It’s probably not large, or long, enough to justify that grand title, but it adds more than any other DLC I can think of. At 800 Microsoft Points (hnnngh!), or £8-ish, this is a bit of a bargain. Especially if you want to extend that Fallout feeling whilst doing something different with your time. I done say y’all should give this here add-on a proper go.