While putzing around on the show floor, Alethea, Roku, and I got our mitts on a playable demo of Point Lookout, the next DLC release scheduled for Fallout 3. While Alethea was busy getting her sea legs, and Roku contented himself with playing the post-apocalyptic janitor, I took my work seriously and was prepared to thoroughly dissect this latest riveting plunge into the human psyche. Or just shoot mans with a gun. Yeah, mostly that.
Point Lookout takes place in the Fallout equivalent of the real state park along the Potomac River, one short boat ride away from the Capitol Wasteland. The park is now a thoroughly unwelcoming swampland populated by hostile raiders, ghoul survivalists, and other nasty things. So, basically it’s a lot like the Capitol Wasteland. The demo brings us to a rotting mansion under siege by surprisingly strong tribals, with its lone ghoul inhabitant desperately trying to fend them off.
The start of the demo mission gets right to the action as Desmond, a well-dressed ghoul packing considerable heat, opens fire on a pack of tribals breaking into the main hall. Backed only by trained dogs and a couple gun turrets, Desmond predictably asks you for help in scurrying about the mansion to fight them off. The demo didn’t give players the option to refuse; it’s unknown if it will be possible in the retail version. Anyway, a pitched series of room-to-room battles ensues, some of them alongside your ghoul compatriot. You’re led to key breaches in the structure and tasked with sealing them off, which usually involves destroying something so the hole collapses. Assuming one survives the assault, you do get the chance to ask Desmond more about what’s going on, and he offers you a reward in exchange for finding out what’s got the locals so riled up.
The attacking tribals are armed with a variety of simple weapons, ranging from pool cues and hunting rifles to more deadly combat shotguns and assault rifles. Still, their considerable health and large numbers make them a significant threat all the same, and some are armed with the newest additions to Fallout 3‘s arsenal: long-barreled shotguns and axes. While not as flashy as, say, the shocksword from Operation: Anchorage or The Pitt‘s Penetrator rifle, the new weapons do pack a punch. A badly-damaged shotgun pried from a tribal’s cold, dead hands does more damage per shot than the drum-fed variant you start with. The catch is that the new shotgun fires both barrels at once, which turns an enemy inside out at close range but forces you to reload immediately. Other weapons, creatures, and unique perks have been mentioned, but were not featured in the demo.
Set design remains one of the high points of Fallout 3‘s world, and that holds true for the demo. The derelict mansion doesn’t lend as well to exploration as one would hope, instead filled with scripted door-breaking entries and triggered spawn points. Still, what’s there is suitably unsettling when things aren’t trying to kill you, and frantic when they are. Desmond guides you to the important places, but there is room to poke around and explore the decaying halls and rooms. One of the developers, present during some of the demo, indicated that Point Lookout will be its own little world a la The Pitt. It will feature its own towns, random encounters, subquests, and other secrets. You will be able to leave and return later by boat, and although none of us got to explore the swamp, it is said to be more friendly to exploration than any DLC to date.
Point Lookout will be available from the start of the regular game. As with Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt, a radio beacon will guide the player to a transfer point by which they can access the smaller world map containing the new area. One Bethesda employee warned, however, that rushing to investigate it from the start is unwise. The demo sees players well prepared. One is stocked with enough stimpacks and firepower to keep even the most reckless Vault Dweller going, and you start with a score of useful perks, including the Mysterious Stranger and Grim Reaper’s Sprint. Tribals, however, prove relentless and dangerous foes, and a handful of them can be a challenge even when armed with nothing more than wooden sticks and blades.
It remains to be seen if Point Lookout‘s writing and scripting rank among the more capable of Fallout 3‘s sidequests, and if its vaunted exploration can match that of the Wasteland at its best. However, perhaps one of the strongest arguments in Fallout 3‘s corner came from Alethea’s turn at the wheel. After a crash course in the controls, she picked up the basics quickly, and the VATS combat system proved essential to her survival as she figured out how everything worked. This being her first time playing Fallout 3, she seemed impressed, and within minutes was popping heads and looting chests like a pro. It may be hard to see what’s so special about Point Lookout from a quick run-and-gun mission, but it’s hard not to admire Fallout 3 at large when a newcomer can jump in and have a blast with minimal hassle.
As for the DLC itself, it’s more Fallout 3, with all that that implies. Point Lookout is slated for a June 23 release for PC and 360, and will appear on the PS3 alongside the first three add-ons in the following weeks.