Bethesda certainly knows how to show its Xbox 360 fans some serious loving. After the generous bounty that was Oblivion’s downloadable content, the company has come through with the extras for Fallout 3. True, it may all be well short of the immense amount of material that’s been created for PC owners, Fallout 3 on the Xbox 360 is still the game that keeps on giving. Bethesda’s latest offering is Point Lookout, and it follows the pattern of the previous bonus content in that it serves up a great helping of new environments and items. This resemblance also unfortunately extends to the skimpy plot that lasts only a few hours, but ah, what a great few hours they are.
Of the four pieces of content released so far, I have to say that I enjoyed Point Lookout the most. Broken Steel was nice in that it let players continue to explore after the game’s “end” and continue to level up, but it didn’t have that sweet, fresh smell that Operation: Anchorage and Point Lookout do. These last two content additions featured new scenery, which, as much as I love the whole Fallout 3 world, was really welcome. One can only take so many toppled monuments to democracy and blown-out buildings before it becomes depressing. The best difference here is that Point Lookout is a real place that has its own history and locals, something the Anchorage scenario lacked due to being a simulation.
The area of Point Lookout is deeply rooted in American history, most notably during the Civil War. References to that great American conflict are scattered throughout the adventure, and even the dead soldiers themselves seem to turn up often enough to be unsettling. It seems that the locals in Maryland have no problem with exhumed 19th century corpses littering the landscape. Of course, one only has to look at them to know why. Despite being spared the nuclear fire of the Great War, fallout and irradiated water have contaminated the area and wreaked havoc with the populace, most of whom are hideously deformed and highly aggressive. So remote are some of the locations that stumbling upon the occasional shack left me saddened that none of the hillbilly inhabitants had a banjo (some did have harmonicas though!).
The atmosphere is immediately present when players step off the ferry into this swamp-ridden world. Moonshiners run rampant, and the environment itself becomes as much a part of combat as any adversary, as its gas-filled bogs ignite with but a single gunshot, causing everything around them to go up in flames. Bottle caps are virtually meaningless here, save for the required ammunition store. No, in Point Lookout, Punga fruit is the currency of choice, and the ferryman who initially brings players here in search of a young runaway girl makes his living off it. The entire cast of characters is a great reflection of a remote location that knows little about the world around it and cares even less. Smugglers replace raiders, and perhaps the only real connection to the main Fallout universe is the decaying military base and those nasty feral ghouls.
The main quest can be finished up within four to five hours, but the sheer amount of side quests and exploration Point Lookout offers will last at least another ten. Caves, sunken ships, and all kinds of hidden areas will have gamers wandering all over the swamp, helping people and solving centuries-old puzzles. The world map is by far the largest of all the download releases, and Bethesda was confident enough in its size to even attach an achievement to exploring all of it. Though there may not be much in the way of new equipment, the new and awesome double-barrel shotgun is all that’s needed, especially if players have the “Bloody Mess” perk. By now, however, characters should be equipped well enough to handle anything they find.
If I had to consider a downside, it would probably be the one thing for which Fallout 3 itself isn’t to blame. The Oblivion engine is starting to show its age, and the draw-in tends to occasionally drop the frame rate to a steady chug when there’s a lot going on. I found load times to be considerably longer as well, but given the state of Xbox 360 hardware nowadays, I’m not entirely ready to cast blame on a downloaded expansion.
In the end, Point Lookout serves up another tasty helping of adventure and exploration for a measly $10. Head out to Maryland, meet and greet the locals, and enjoy the scenery. Personally, I would be content to have Bethesda go on releasing content like this forever, but since there’s likely to be only one more add-on, Point Lookout is definitely one to be savored.