With five expansions released in six months, Fallout 3's downloadable episodes have had a solid and consistent run. Mothership Zeta brings Bethesda's planned content run to a close. Does it live up to its predecessors, or is the equivalent of an anal probe for your wallet?
The latest radio signal leads players back to the mysterious and highly irradiated UFO crash site in the wasteland. Once you arrive, you're beamed aboard the Mothership, where you're subjected to unspeakable experiments at the hands of aliens and later dumped in a cell with a fellow wastelander. You'll work together to escape your prison, locate other captives, and blow aliens into little green chunks until you find a way home.
The simple plot is fleshed out by your companions' stories, which include a cowboy, a samurai, an Anchorage medic, and a little girl named Sally. Scattered audio logs provide a record of past abductees' experiences, and some prove to be quite humorous. It's a more lighthearted journey without any moral dilemmas, replete with tried and true sci-fi tropes, like alien operating tables, and a trip through a trash compactor.
Mothership Zeta is more linear than the previous two episodes. There are no side quests, and only a few areas off the main path. You'll explore every conceivable section of the ship, from UFO hangars to labs full of frozen test subjects.
You can pack light since there's plenty of discarded Earth gear and a full range of new weapons, including alien pistols and rifles, cryo grenades, and drone cannons, which fire shots of energy that bounce like beach balls before exploding. You will want to bring the alien blaster found in the main game as there are several caches of ammo on-board, and the new weapons still don't pack quite the same punch.
Better than the weapons and platters of slimy entrees are tubes of alien epoxy. This space glue can be used to repair any weapon, and it's perfect for fixing up rare guns without spending a fortune.
You can complete Zeta in about six hours or less. A beacon lets you return to the ship, but frustratingly, most doors are sealed after you've completed the mission, forcing achievement seekers to reload save files if they missed any audio logs.
Mothership Zeta is all about blasting aliens, shutting down force fields, and blowing up generators. Your goal is to reach the bridge, but since the ship's teleporters are shut down, this involves scavenging an astronaut's corpse and taking a walk outside.
The aliens aren't hardy creatures, but many of them wear powerful shields and have a tendency to gang up on you. You also have to defend yourself against robotic drones and wasteland captives.
Your allies have different skills in combat, medicine, or repair, and each one will accompany you to a different area of the ship. There are a few stand-out sequences, including one that tasks you with surviving waves of aliens and drones by blasting them with shockwaves from a circle of lightning rods.
Zeta's more focused on action, but there's still some room for exploration. You never know what the aliens might have planned next: world domination through armies of toy ponies? Just maybe.
The mothership is an all-new setting for Fallout 3, with different labs and facilities bringing variety to the sometimes-monotonous metallic tunnels. The engineering hub you establish as a base certainly feels lived in after a while as your roommates progressively fill it with more gear, guns, and useless junk. Life on deck is mostly devoid of music, with the pulse of distant engines and sighing vents setting the tone instead. There are a couple of minor bugs, including one that will turn your allies' weapons upside down, but it's generally smooth sailing.
Mothership Zeta is a wild and humorous mission for Fallout 3 fans, but it lacks the breadth of Point Lookout or Broken Steel. It's a little disappointing as a final chapter, but players looking to explore the farthest fringes of the Fallout universe will have a blast.
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox 360.