Friday, November 29, 2013

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta"


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Hello, everyone! I’m sure you all enjoyed the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special as much as I did! And that seems like the perfect way to segue into the review for this week:  Mothership Zeta!

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I guess Major Tom couldn't hear them...
Y’know…because it has aliens.  Oh, nevermind…

In vanilla Fallout 3, the player can journey far into the north of the Capital Wasteland and discover a crashed alien ship with the fabled Alien Blaster – a weapon that not only guarantees a Critical Hit upon impact but also is one of the few weapons in the game that does Electrical damage – that can be looted from it as well as a few of the precious Alien Power Cells that power the weapon.  But, beyond that and an alien corpse, nothing can be found.  And, of course, the player has to actually find it, being stuck with nary a marker to it beyond a radio signal that comes in when the player comes into range.

Enter Mothership Zeta, where you can head there…but, unfortunately, you won’t be able to pick up your handy, dandy BFG (or, in this case, LFG) just yet because you’ll be abducted by aliens!  Seriously, that’s the whole set up.  You must lead a rag-tag group of abductees from across Earth’s history – all the way from feudal Japan to the Great War of 2077 and beyond – in gaining an edge over your captors, wresting control of the ship from them, and then proceeding to wipe out the alien scum.

The player gets a massive series of areas to move around in, all with a rather unique look that is more akin to an alien atmosphere than the radiation-scarred wasteland below.  It’s much easier on the eyes after all that green and brown, and is definitely a welcome change.  And, of course, along with the new setting comes some brand new alien weapons to play with.  Atomizers! Disintegrators! Electro Suppressors! Sonic, Electronic Ball Breakers! But, y’know…not in a stupid way.  Really, it pays to put a few points into your Energy Weapons skill just to get the best effect out of these weapons.  If only for the joy of seeing aliens splattered, disintegrated, or in most other ways obliterated in effects that are rather pleasing to the eye.

So, as for the plot, you lead an insurrection against those that probed Uranus.  With the help of a Raider, a little girl who’s far smarter than she lets on, some soldiers, a cowboy, and a samurai warrior, the player must disable sections of the alien ship in a brilliant act of subterfuge before storming the bridge and taking on another alien ship in ship to ship combat.  Of course, this creates a massive plot hole due to the fact that one of the last things you do is disable the ship’s weapons systems before storming the bridge – something that would make one think that battling other ships would be next to impossible.  However, this is something that can be looked past.

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I got your Earth shattering kaboom right here, Marvin!
What can’t really be looked past is the lack of endgame content.  A beacon is placed at the crash site (the ship now conspicuously absent) that allows the player to travel to and from the Capital Wasteland to the Mothership.  This would be all well and good, save for the fact that a great deal of the ship’s interior is closed off following your brilliant storming of the bridge and the reenactment of the battle from Wrath of Khan.  Why? What exactly is the point of that?

Even so, that’s the only real blemish that keeps this DLC from being a flawless gem.  But it’s still a gem and definitely worth playing through for a change of pace from the madness of the Capital Wasteland.  And, at last, we are brought to the final DLC of Fallout 3…and the one that I believe is of the highest merit out of all of them.  But, we will get into that next week.  So pack some extra Rad-X and RadAway, because we’re heading right into the Pitt…

Mothership Zeta is now available from Bethesda Game Studios and Bethesda Softworks for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

MadCap's Mad Rantings - "Brace Yourselves, Nuclear Winter is Coming."

Looks like the Survivor2299 message got a little simpler. Maybe Bethesda thought a mess of gobbly gook was too complicated.  Instead of the string of characters that are no doubt supposed to be in some code or cipher, the site now just displays a more straightforward message.

Nuclear winter is coming in 5days 6h 55m 27s

Continually counting down, of course.  And above the same clock as before, which is also counting down.  Fifteen days remain for the main counter, but the first is a clear indicator that we have only five days until an announcement concerning Fallout.  Perhaps 4 will finally be more than use announced in all but name?  It certainly seems that way.

There's apparently also some leaked audio floating around that is apparently at least professional grade.  However, at this time the video appears to have been taken down and I can't find any mirrors of it around. So, until it pops up again and I've taken a look for myself, I can't really say. Have any of you? Does it really seem like it will be a direct sequel to Fallout 3? 5 days remain until some announcement of some kind...


Sunday, November 24, 2013

MadCap's Mad Rantings - "Fallout 4?"

If Fallout 4 being teased?

It would seem that way, what with this new website that has mysterious popped up. "The Survivor 2299" would set the newest game in the Fallout franchise, if this is indeed Fallout 4, a full eighteen years after New Vegas.  With a timer going down that is - at the time of this writing - less than two hours, we eagerly await whatever the future may hold for the franchise.  In my opinion, Bethesda has done pretty good so far, and I only expect that they'll keep advancing the world that they have resurrected with the previous two games.

Let's keep our fingers crossed...

EDIT: So, the Morse Code message comes out as the following:

"MY DEAR SISTER. I'M HEADING TO THE INSTITUTE. GOD KNOWS WHAT HAPPENED TO THIS PLACE NOW. THIS OLD BASTARD WILL HELP US. HE MUST HELP US. —0321—"

Not very clear of a message.  However, "the Institute" was mentioned before in Fallout 3 as being in the Commonwealth, which is the Fallout World's remnant of New England.  Also, in the same vein, it has been mentioned by Erik Todd Dellums (THREE DOG!!!!) that he may have some involvement in the new Fallout game.  Now, whether or not it's as Three Dog or not, they has been hinting by him that Boston may be the location of the next game, so...this could possibly be where they're heading, which makes sense given the foreshadowing. But, as I say. We'll see.  Only about an hour and forty five minutes to go...

 EDIT 2:  Well...looks like we've got a little bit longer...about 16 days...oops...

STAY TUNED!

Friday, November 22, 2013

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Fallout 3: Point Lookout"



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[Insert "Dueling Banjos" here]

I would like to note that I’m reviewing the DLCs for Fallout 3 in the order that I played them, not the order that they were originally released (something that likely could have been brought up beforehand, so…oops).  That being said, I was far more pleased with Point Lookout providing a far better gaming experience than Broken Steel and Operation Anchorage did.  I’ll go ahead and say it, this is tied with Mothership Zeta for my second favorite of the DLCs of Fallout 3.  What’s my favorite? Well, we’ll get into that last, naturally.  So, if you haven’t figured it out between the ones I’ve done and the ones I’ve yet to do…keep guessing!

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Time to Axe these Mirelurks a question...
Meanwhile, I’ll get into Point Lookout.  This one has it all! Zombies! Rednecks! ZOMBIE REDNECKS! …oh, and something to do with a book that may or may not be black magic, which may or may not exist (probably doesn’t, though…maybe).  And the best part, of course, is that none of that has to do with the main plotline at all! It’s just there! An entire new area is opened up to the player upon leaving Vault 101 or reloading a game after installing the DLCs.  The player receives a message about a strange ferry piloted by a creepy man (who we learn more of later) that waits to take the player away to the Fallout universe’s equivalent of the Point Lookout State Park in Maryland.

And let me tell you, it’s pretty damn awesome!  I found it very pleasing that there was now an entirely new area to explore and make discoveries in. Sure, it’s only about a fifth the size of the main vanilla Capital Wasteland, but just the fact that it’s new is something.  As I said before, it allows new areas to explore and to make discoveries in.  And unlike the brown and gray rural world of the Washington, D.C. area, we’re treated to a lot of brown in Point Lookout.  However, this fits well because a great deal of the area is swampland – where aforementioned Rednecks and Zombie Rednecks can be found – even reaching out near into the coast.
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The Locals ARE a rather helpful bunch...

The main plot of Point Lookout involves an ongoing battle between a British zombie and a head in a jar, and no, it doesn’t make any more sense in context.  After braving an old Southern plantation house and aiding the zombie (who I could just swear is about to ask me about the cliff racer menace whenever he talks) defend it from Tribals, the player gets conscripted by him to infiltrate their tribe and discover who their leader is.  And it’s…you guessed it, the brain in the jar, or actually the hologram of a brain in a jar.  Of course, to get to that point, there’s one tiny little thing you have do…

Go across the map to get high off of irradiated fruit and have a part of your brain cut out.

...it’s a Tribal thing.

And eventually, it comes down to a final confrontation between your zombie employer and the brain in a jar…though that might not even come to be, depending on how you play it.  I don’t want to give away anything, but I’m very sure that everyone involved will be satisfied by the end…and by that I mean, the player, because they’ll be the only one left standing when it’s all said and done.

But even after that, there’s still more to do!

Again, the main plot – barring travel times – takes about as much time as Broken Steel or Operation Anchorage does.  But where those two were simply add-ons, Point Lookout actually feels like an expansion, with more content to go with all the new goodies you get.  There are also quests galore to be had within it as well. Such gems include: a quest where the player much infiltrate a coven of Rednecks to retrieve a book with a nearly unpronounceable name that may or may not be the source of ultimate evil in Fallout universe (or part of it, anyway), a quest where clues lead the player to finish the mission of a Chinese spy and blow up a submarine, a quest that involves finding the source of the legends behind a haunted cave that even the Tribals are afraid of, and much, much more.

Really, I can't say that I'm dissatisfied with Point Lookout at all.  It has many things that I found sorely lacking in the previous DLCs.  A new area to explore, a quest line that I actually do feel more invested in (they wanted a piece of my mind, after all)  and goodies to run around using on the local population.  Good times!

Point Lookout is now available from Bethesda Game Studios and Bethesda Softworks for PC, Xbox 360, PS3.

Friday, November 15, 2013

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage"


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Two hundred years ago...but somehow in the future...

Dear sweet baby Jesus, no.  I do not want to do this one.  This is the Hearthfire of Fallout 3.  It even has a plot, but it’s a monumental waste of everyone’s time!  Why the hell can’t I just hack the door?  What is so wrong with that? My Science skill is maxed out! C’mon!

…fine, alright, I’ll do it.  This is Operation Anchorage.
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Brace yourselves...winter is...nevermind, that joke has gotten old.

In wandering the wasteland, either by loading a previously saved game or starting a new one, the player’s Pip-Boy will pick up a distress call from the Brotherhood Outcasts, an offshoot of the Brotherhood of Steel that decided to stick with the Brotherhood’s missions of finding and cataloging Pre-War technologies.  Upon arriving at the outpost, the player is admitted into the facility because he or she has a Pip-Boy 3000, and thus can get into a simulation to unlock a door for them.

Yes, a military simulation can only be accessed by someone with a piece of Vault-Tec equipment.

Ignoring the involvement of the Enclave within Vault-Tec, this really makes no sense.  In fact, even with that in play, it makes no sense.  Why would a military simulation need a piece of technology that had not yet been put into use in any regular way be made the key to getting through a military combat simulation? More to the point, where did someone find the time to make a simulation of the Battle of Anchorage?  The Battle of Anchorage, by the way, which took place in 2077 and was the event that ended up triggering the launch of all the nuclear missiles belonging to China and the United States, which ended up being the key factor in making the Fallout world what it is.

In fact, this was almost right before that event, so one wonders when someone found the time to make a simulation of the Battle.

Massive plot holes aside, the player jacks into the Matrix, and returns to the year 2077 to fight in a rather boring, linear, and something with more focus on combat than on any sort of open world or storyline focus.  Oh, and the game strips you of all of your equipment for the simulation.  This makes sense, but it’s vastly irritating.

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Oh, so that's what's happened to Snake Eyes. He joined the Chinese...
The player isn’t given any reason to care about anything in the simulation.  Because it’s just that, a simulation.  You have no stake in these events beyond not dying.  It’s not like in vanilla Fallout where the player is directly responsible for seeing either clean water or clean diseased water (or a giant crater where the Jefferson Memorial used to be) given to the Wasteland, or even Broken Steel, where the player’s decisions directly affect whether the Enclave or the Brotherhood is wiped off the face of the map.  There’s no real way to get invested, and by the time you’ve even worked up enough to make an attempt, you’ve blitzed through the simulation and you’re done.

And then you get into the vault while the Outcasts fight each other over the spoils…which you’ve just stolen the best of and walked out with.  Goody.

You do get some excellent goodies for opening the vault, though, I will admit.  There’s the Winterized Power Armor which – due to a glitch – never breaks down and remains at one hundred percent condition forever, in addition with the player gaining the Power Armor Training perk after completing the simulation (in spite of never actually using Power Armor in the simulation).  There’s the Gauss Rifle, which is a laser-rifling sniper rifle and thus pretty kickass.  There’s the Chinese stealth armor, which is great for – you guessed it – stealth characters, pretty much being like wearing a Stealth Boy constantly when you’re sneaking. And there are several others that can all be taken without a Karma penalty.

…and that’s it, really.

Besides getting some new toys to play with, the entire thing is a massive waste of time.  There’s no real stake in anything that goes on, you run around in the Matrix, you watch as the Outcasts have their little schism, and you walk away with a bunch of loot.  This could work, if the vanilla game didn’t have quests that were more complex than this (“You Gotta Shoot ‘Em In the Head”? Anyone?).   So it’s a few extra hours that very easily could have been added into the main game and nobody could have told the difference for it.

Time spent on DLCs that have less substance than vanilla quests is time wasted, Bethesda.  So, no, this one does not get a recommendation from me.  It’s not enough substance, not really that much bang for your buck.

Operation Anchorage is now available from Bethesda Game Studios and Bethesda Softworks for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.