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As always, this review only covers the additions made by Mothership Zeta. It does not review the core gameplay. If you want to find out more about the gameplay and graphics of Fallout 3, then go to my wonderful Fallout 3 review.
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The weapons are a great addition to the game. The variety is just amazing.
To start with, there are several alien guns. Mothership Zeta features an alien handgun and rifle. The basic versions are just new energy weapons. The unique versions of these guns are the especially neat additions to the game. There is an automatic destablizer rifle, which fires globs of alien goo at enemies in machine gun fashion. I don't think I need to explain why that's cool. The unique version of the pistol has an incredibly fast rate of fire and low AP cost, allowing for great combos and cool pistol play. They are fairly respectable additions to the energy weapons stockpile.
There is an alien shock baton that is actually pretty cool, if you want a new melee weapon. The unique version provides a knockdown effect which should be helpful. It's fairly interesting and I like the way that it looks. I don't use melee weapons though, so I wasn't that excited.
A special drone cannon is also a welcome new weapon on the mothership. It fires a ball of energy that explodes after several seconds. It allows for some cool gameplay, such as richochet shots and very effective hit and run tactics. It feels like a truly unique addition and offers a great reward for players willing to learn a new combat style.
Finally, there are some other cool bits and pieces included in Mothership Zeta. Bethesda seems to have finally listened to the fans and made it possible to obtain a .44 magnum without a scope. There is also a samurai sword with a full set of samurai armor to go with it. A new plasma pistol is also cool enough to get a mention.
All in all, there are a lot of new weapons for you to enjoy. They are all fun to use, interesting, and also quite well rendered. The graphics of the new weapons are unique, alien, and perfect for the setting. It's a big step up from a reskinned rifle being a "new" weapon in Point Lookout.
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I feel like they are finally starting to realize that bullet sponges aren't interesting enemies. There are actually some interesting new enemies to fight on the UFO.
The aliens are the main enemy on board Mothership Zeta. They are actually a good idea for an enemy. Bethesda sticks to a standard idea for little grey aliens. The aliens can die after just a few hits from basic weapons. One shotgun blast can often take them out at close range. Their strength is that many of them carry powerful rifles and pistols that can rip through your armor in seconds. It's a nice change of the usual Bethesda system of reskinning an enemy and giving them 3 times the health. Only a handful of the aliens have special shielded suits, which make them absorb massive damage. This works surprisingly well though, since it provides an effective boss fight for several areas and serves as a looming risk for exploration.
The aliens also employ some drones. These are fairly simple in design, but they look nice and serve their role well. The function is quite similar to the sentry bots in the wasteland.
Abominations are also on board the ship, but they are basically just a new version of a ghoul. It still works though. I barely counted a dozen on board the ship, so they are almost a non issue.
These are the main enemies you'll face in Mothership Zeta. If nothing else, they really didn't add anything too annoying. The new enemies look good and they serve as a decent challenge. It feels like they found a good spot. There aren't a ton of bullet sponges. They all do a reasonable amount of damage, especially after the enemies' borderline cheating in Point Lookout. It just feels right. There is nothing to really write home about. That's why it is a 4 and not a 5. They finally didn't annoy me though.
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I feel a little torn on this one. I find it hard to give the quests a 5, since they only did one real quest. There are no true side quests and it feels like there was plenty of room for extra side plots. That said, the main plot was very unique and interesting and genuinely did a lot to carry the game. The unmarked quests also filled most of the hole from the missing side quests.
Let's start by taking a look at the main quest. After your abduction, you have to stage a prison break, thaw out some new friends, and storm the bridge. The beauty of this simple main quest is that it doesn't get too repetitive. It's not just a series of run and gun missions. For example, after the initial escape it is necessary to blow up 3 generators. Each one has a unique quest. One raid lets you use unfrozen soldiers to clear the way, another lets you evenually gain a drone ally, and the 3rd ends with a defense mission that requires you to use special pylons to knock aliens into a big pit. The final charge on the bridge is also rewarded with a ship-to-ship battle that you control in beautiful Star Trek format.
The unmarked quests are also fairly varied. You can go through an adventure in the waste disposal area to find the samurai sword. The cargo hold and the engine room also have some interesting tidbits and rewards if you are willing to explore and do a few little puzzles.
The only real downside was about 45 minutes of padding in the middle of the final mission. This along with the lack of organized side quests keeps it at 4 stars.
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The setting for the game was well done. The graphics on the ship are just perfect. It really looks like a sci-fi adventure. The textures are new, metallic, and genuinely alien. There are some really nice touches too. For example, I personally loved the door symbols. These floating markers on the doors and switches were vaguely readable for what they represented. It made it feel like you were in a foreign place trying to find your way.
It's also refreshing to see something so separated from the Wasteland. It's quite odd to not see a bunch of ruins and raiders everywhere. It is a welcome change of pace and it makes for a fun experience that actually feels unique. There are barely any textures that have been recycled and everything just feels new. It makes the add-on feel truly worthwhile and not just like a mod some player put together.
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The atmosphere is a little hard to describe. I'm leaving it as average, because your mileage will vary. The atmosphere is quite dark, at least in my opinion. The alien captive records that you find contain a number of frightening last words, cries for help, and emotional breakdowns. For a good example, there is a cowboy named Paulson in the first one. It's far from Blazing Saddles though, since his main conversation describes his wife and son being killed by the aliens while he was restrained. This is why he's fairly dark and sullen for the whole game.
This is fine. It just seems...off. I'm not sure what they are trying to do. Parts of Mothership Zeta are full of cliches, little references, and adventure. Paulson makes jokes about toy horses, there's a Samurai running around slaughtering aliens and some tapes have indignent senators, clueless abductees, and cows on them. They then switch to sad and dark without warning.
Perhaps they were trying to keep the player off balance, or maybe they just couldn't make up their mind. It just leaves the atmosphere a little odd.
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My final verdict is Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta is a fine piece of downloadable content. I'm a little disappointed to hear that this is the last DLC from Bethesda. It seems like they are finally getting it right. It still isn't really perfect and there are lots of things to nitpick, but overall it's pretty good. The fight for the UFO is fun, there are plenty of new weapons to get, and the characters and atmosphere are new and interesting. It's definitely worth the money for any fan of Fallout 3 who needs one last fix while they wait for Fallout 3: New Vegas.