Fallout 3 is not a first person shooter. Fallout 3 is a first person RPG, a FPRPG if you will. In a recent interview with MTV Multiplayer, Executive Producer Todd Howard confirmed that Fallout 3 is at best mediocre when you judge it as a first person shooter. Why, then, did Bethesda feel the need to create the largely FPS-focused Operation Anchorage DLC? This add-on creates a new side quest in the ruins of DC, and puts you into a simulation of one of the great battles of the big war constantly referenced in Fallout lore. The issue is that Operation Anchorage strips out what makes Fallout 3 exceptional. It removes all of that pesky moral choice and becomes an exercise in "go from point A to point B."
Maybe the way I play Fallout is different. I am not especially interested in the combat aspects of the game. I like exploring the various environments and scrounging whatever is lying around. See, I'm a crafter. In MMOs it's the same way. I enjoy deviating from the main quests and crafting items to prepare for the journey ahead. Operation Anchorage strips you of your items and gives you a whole set of new objectives. You can no longer scour your environment for items to collect, you can only interact with whatever is blinky and orange. Here's a BIG FLASHING BRIEFCASE, maybe you should pick it up! The objectives here are akin to a series of quick time events. Effortless and ultimately unrewarding. The levels are designed to be linear and come off feeling like a level from the N64 classic Goldeneye. Unfortunately, Goldeneye was made to be a first person shooter. Fallout 3 just plain fails at it. That is not to say that Fallout 3 is a bad game. As a matter of fact, it's my favorite game in recent memory. It's just that this DLC focuses on the wrong elements and becomes an exercise in un-fun.
You know how Dreamworks animated movies tend to rip off Pixar movies? They take what they think makes Pixar movies work: madcap characters, semi-adult humor and state of the art graphics and animation. What they don't steal is what actually makes Pixar movies work: engaging, classic stories and themes, memorable and endearing characters and stunning artistic composition. Operation Anchorage is Dreamworks to the boxed content Fallout 3's Pixar. It's just taking the wrong elements. It is literally giving you a different game to play.
Remember the snowboard mini game in Final Fantasy VII? Imagine if that was stripped out of FF7 and offered to players later, as DLC. In a magical world where Playstation 1 DLC existed. Imagining the crapfest? That's Operation Anchorage.
Why? Why was this a good idea?
Now usually I'd say "Hey! More Fallout is more Fallout, right?" Being that I am so engrossed in Fallout lore at this point I obsessively read every dialog option and every single menu in computer terminals while looking at the Fallout wiki to piece every bit of lore together. Operation Anchorage's lore consists primarily of throwaway techno-babble, and after completing Operation Anchorage you really don't feel like the story has been expanded in any way. Add this to the fact that the end sequence is so glitchy once you exit the simulation chamber that I had absolutely no idea what was going on. There was some sort of mutiny and no one told me about it until it was over.
The ending does allow you to obtain a few choice items, however. The Chinese Stealth Suit is exceptionally useful, allowing you to have a bit of Metal Gear or Bioshock-esque active camouflage when crouching. The gauss rifle has a nice bit of knockback, and the Winterized Power Armor certainly is... winterized.
This should have been free DLC. The first DLC pack for Crackdown was more fun and added more to the game than this did, and it was offered gratis. Operation Anchorage is more Fallout, yes. But is it fun? No. No it is not. For completionists I highly recommend setting the difficulty down to "very easy" and ripping through it, nabbing the extra achievement points, the fancy new armor and continuing with your obsessive exploration of every nook and cranny of the DC ruins. Hopefully the final DLC offers more, as it raises the level cap and all... but I have my reservations about the DLC to come before that. If it's anything like Operation Anchorage... no thanks.