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Fallout 3 Mothership Zeta Review

Written by The Dutch Ghost

Mothership Zeta is the fifth DLC in Bethesda's Fallout line-up and the last one planned for the moment; by chance it is also the most controversial one but more on that in a moment.

Like the previous DLCs Mothership Zeta introduces a new map for the player to explore and complete quests in and like Operation: Anchorage, The Pitt and Point Lookout it has an environment unique to itself. But unlike the previous DLCs which are Earth-based, be it a simulation of Alaska before the War or different parts of the Wasteland, Mothership Zeta takes place on a spacecraft of alien origin that orbits planet Earth.

Mothership Zeta causes a lot of controversy as its the first Fallout content that deals directly with alien intelligences. While during the previous Fallout games the player had encounters with alien ships and their dead occupants, these encounters were always gags or Easter eggs, little jokes or popular culture references the designers put in for fun, not something that was to be taken seriously.

It is life, but not as we know it

Mothership Zeta has its origins in the alien ship encounter of Fallout 3. Players who found that ship remember the radio message they picked up that was emitted by it, a call for backup from a larger mothership. This DLC revolves around that mothership responding to the distress signal, with its crew abducting the player as well as other residents of the Wasteland.

As with previous DLCs like Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt, the player is informed of the new available content by a radio transmission, in this case an unintelligible one, which automatically highlights the alien scout ship in case the player hadn't previously found it.

Once the player approaches this vessel he or she is automatically grabbed hold of by an alien tractor beam coming from the alien mothership and brought on board. After this the player is stripped of his or her equipment (again) before undergoing a rather painful-looking medical examination by the alien crew, which however does not have any temporary or permanent effects on the player.

After being thrown into a holding cell, the player regains control and meets a fellow abductee, a wastelander woman named Somah who like the player investigated the alien transmission and wanted to find out if a few caps could be earned. Again like the player she has been experimented on and wishes nothing other than to escape after having seen how other captives are dragged off by a mobile claw attached to the ceiling. She suggests that the player and she start a fight in order to draw the alien guards in and then overpower them in order to escape.

Once you are out of your cell the quests begin to escape the alien ship and try to find out what the aliens are actually up to. Some background is given from recordings made by previous prisoners that the player can find at alien terminals.

A little further into the ship the player meets Sally, a girl who was around during the War itself and who managed to survive with her sister before they both were abducted. Presumably due to cryogenics and the time dilation of space travel, she is still young.

Sally asks you to help her escape from her cell; in return she offers her knowledge of the ship which she has occasionally explored before being recaptured. She can also enter air ducts that are too small for the player and open previously locked doors. In addition, she points out that she knows several other prisoners the aliens have abducted during previous visits to Earth who might be able to assist the player in escaping the ship.

The player will have to travel through various sections of the ship such as the engineering section; a cryogenic section where other humans as well as Ghouls and Super Mutants are kept; a hangar bay where the crashed ship the player finds in the wasteland is now stored; a storage bay full of artifacts from Earth; and a robot assembly bay where maintenance and combat robots are being put together.

Most of these places must be visited in order to destroy a number of generators which prevent the player from accessing the second part of the ship where the means to escape are located. Sometimes, equipment can be used by the player to fight the aliens and robots, such as the forcefield emitters in the hangar bay which throw beings around once activated from the control room, or a cryogenic spray that can be used to freeze aliens in the examination room, or a robot control device which allows the player to recruit defense and maintenance robots. The player can also release some of the more aggressive captives on the ship who then take on the aliens without hesitation but will turn against the player once they have dealt with the alien crew.

Some help can also be asked of the number of captive NPCs the player can interact with: Somah for example can fix the player's equipment, while Elliot Tercorien, a military medical officer from the battle at Anchorage, can modify the aliens' medical biogel, increasing its healing capability. Paulson the cowboy only offers his help with fighting the aliens in one specific part of the ship while Somah and Elliot will fight alongside the player in other parts. There is also a Japanese samurai named Toshiro Kago, but other than some background setup he doesn't offer much aid and since he can't speak English he can't be interacted with.

My god, they really are from outer space

General opposition on board the starship consists of four types of enemies. First there is the alien crew themselves, stereotypical green men that are dressed in either a silver bodysuit or a spacesuit. They are usually armed with a type of shock baton, an alien pistol or an alien rifle and sometimes also use a type of shield that reduces the damage of your shots. Like most enemies in the Wasteland their tactics basically consist of attacking you head on and shooting until you or they are dead.

The second type of enemy is the robotic drones you find throughout the various parts of the ship; these are either maintenance drones that are equipped with arms and capable of a melee attack, or guardian drones that are equipped with a heavy mortar like the Drone Cannon, which you can salvage after you have destroyed them.

The third enemy type is the abomination: former humans captured by the aliens who have been altered through experiments into some kind of human/alien hybrid. They are hostile to both you and the alien crew so sometimes its useful to leave them alive to deal with the aliens or to serve as cannon fodder as you approach the aliens from behind. While their design seems new, they act like the feral ghouls and use the same kind of attack.

Last are the ceiling-mounted turrets which fire the same kind of charges as the alien pistols; the player cannot take control of them through consoles but can remotely destroy them.

The player will also encounter some enemies from the wasteland such as raiders, Super Mutants and Deathclaws but their design or behavior has not been modified.

We got tactical smart missiles, phase-plasma pulse rifles, RPGs...

The new weapons that have just been mentioned can be retrieved by the player for their own use in the battle on board the mothership.
  • The first is the so-called Shock Baton: a baton with an electrical effect.
  • Second is the alien pistol or Atomizer, this weapon is different from the Alien Blaster and uses a different type of ammo.
  • An upgrade to the blaster is the alien rifle or Disintegrator, basically a more powerful gun.
  • The Drone Cannon that can be retrieved from the guardian robots is a sort of energy mortar that launches a ball of energy that falls to the ground once it hits an opponent and then detonates.
As in the regular game there are unique named versions of these weapons which have slight modifications that make them different, like the Destabilizer, an alien rifle that can fire full auto.

There are also some unique varieties of weapons and armor from the regular Fallout 3 game that can be found on board Mothership Zeta: the Captain's Sidearm is another unique variant of the Alien Blaster, while the Novasurge is a more powerful version of the Plasma Pistol. Chase's unique Overcoat can also be found, but the wrong model is used in the game so it looks like Winterized Armor.

If the player takes Elliot, the military medic from Anchorage, along during a visit to the cryogenics section, he at some point gains the ability to make cryo-grenades and cryo-mines for the player, but only during this DLC.

My god, it's full of stars!

Graphically Mothership Zeta looks like something out of a 50s B science fiction movie, from the incomprehensible computer stations to the strange alien gizmos, gadgets and tools that decorate the various shelves and tables throughout the ship. Some people might be tempted at first to try to pick them up but other than decoration they do not serve any purpose.

Effort has been put into creating an extensive spaceship layout. Areas like the robot manufacturing plant, cryogenic storage and cargo hold have somewhat of an atmosphere of their own due to different lighting or the presence of dozens of artifacts from Earth that the aliens wish to study.

The aliens themselves resemble a cross between the stereotypical green men, minus antennae, and the Grays of abduction fame; the hybrid abominations look like a cross between humans and aliens but seem to resemble Grays more.

The robots... well, the robot design feels somewhat conflicting when compared with robots from the Wasteland such as the Protectrons, they seem more like something from the Star Wars game Knights of the Old Republic. Their Drone Cannon kind of looks like the drill of a Big Daddy from Bioshock when held by the player.

While everything may sound praiseworthy, in the end it really isn't. The problem is the constant repetitiveness: almost every room, every corridor resembles previous ones just like all sewers in Fallout 3 looked alike, resulting in a maze through which the player has to run in order to get the cheese, and not a location that will incite the player to exploration.

In space no one can hear you scream

Regarding sounds, music, and effects, very little really has been added. While Mothership Zeta has some sound effects of its own like the alien voices, weapon effects and some background effects, no new music has been added, and most of the wasteland background music tracks will be heard throughout the DLC.

The voices of the new NPCs such as Somah and Elliot are 'functional' but not really outstanding in general, though Elliot comes over somewhat more believable than characters like Paulson who barely have anything to say at all. Sally, the child NPC, becomes something of an irritation to the player, as the character seems unaffected by the alien abduction while continuing to tell the player what they have to do.

In contrast, the voices on recordings from previous kidnapping victims seem more realistic. For instance, the female linguistics expert, the university professor or the various scared people, with the exception of the occasional unaware person who does not understand the dire matter of the situation which again breaks with the atmosphere.

About the aliens there is not much to tell at all as the player never gets to interact with them other than shooting them while they speak unintelligible sounds.

I've got a bad feeling about this

There isn't much positive to say about Mothership Zeta in general: the main concept really breaks with the Fallout universe as it doesn't fit the post apocalyptic 50's-like retro future on which the series is built.

It even breaks with the lore of the games, which always gave the explanation that the nuclear war and its consequences were the result of human weaknesses such as greed and desire for control. Mothership Zeta suggests it was all part of alien manipulation, something that will most likely never be followed up as it sounds more like a throwaway line.

The NPCs the player meets are rather generic overall even with their different backgrounds, and despite some services they can provide the player he or she will likely have no lasting attachment to any of them. In some cases its even necessary to shoot them in order to get their unique clothing or weaponry, and once these characters have provided whatever the player needs or wants, the hesitation to get those items will not be big.

Most of the gameplay consists of a rather uninspired corridor shooting session that most of us have done hundreds of times before in FPS games with far more diversity. What little RPG elements there are don't have any of the choices or hard decisions players would expect from a Fallout game, only what path in the first part of the game to tackle first. All the player has to be sure of is that he or she has retrieved all the items they wanted from most of the ship as these sections are sealed off once the player has finished the finale.

This DLC has no impact on the regular game whatsoever, only providing some new weapons and medicine and an item that can repair twenty-five percent of damage to the weapon the player is currently using.

The one thing that might have had a significant impact, firing an alien death ray at Earth, has no real consequences at all: the other NPCs will not berate you for it and there is no big crater somewhere in the Capital Wasteland waiting for you once you have returned. In the end it is just some graphical fluff.

That in general seems to describe Mothership Zeta very well.