Is there a video game that surprised you when you played it, whether in a good or bad way?
This one is going to take some thought. I'm selective, and the most patient of patient gamers, so I usually hear a lot about this or that game before I try it. Not even huge awful spoiler-y things, but just the general stuff: gameplay, annoying bugs, favorite characters, etc. I'm not usually surprised by much.
I think the last time a game surprised me was the first time I tried Katamari Damacy. I had heard people talking about the game for a couple of years before I actually played, so all I knew about it was that you roll things into a ball to make stars.
|Image courtesy Wikimedia and Namco|
"That doesn't make any sense," I complained to someone. "That's just so...bizarre. What is that?"
And then I finally gave it a shot on my friend's PS2 at some point during sophomore year of college and I had a lot of fun!
What I'm playing/recommending: Fallout 3 – Operation: Anchorage
|Gray winter skies, gray army industrial architecture, gray mountains: welcome to the dull, gray world of Operation: Anchorage.|
Okay, so this month I'm going to use this space to rant a little! Remember when I said that I'm a selective, patient gamer? (You should, I just said it like three paragraphs ago.) That is why I haven't played Fallout 3 until last year. And this is why I'm still "not done" with the game (by my own arbitrary definition; I've finished the entire story). But yesterday I fucking finally finished the Operation: Anchorage DLC so I can finally jump on board the Internet hate train. There will be spoilers but hey if you care about Fallout 3 spoilers at this point, congratulations on being pickier and more patient than me, I guess! So I guess this month's recommendation is: "skip Operation Anchorage unless you're a 'chieve whore," hahaha.
It's not even like Operation: Anchorage is that bad. It's just not that good. I haven't played all of the DLCs yet, but I'm almost there. (The Pitt is maybe the only one I haven't played yet, but it already wins for best name because "pitt" is Swedish for penis and I'm 12 years old at heart.)
The "simulation inside the game" idea is rarely a fun one, unless it's that cracked out part of the story where you murder a bunch of people trapped in the subtle hell of a simulated 1950s American neighborhood just to save them from their misery (and then find your Liam Neeson dad). Operation: Anchorage doesn't do anything that interesting or bleak, though. It's just more of what you've already been doing, but with weapons and armor that aren't as good as what you (probably) have by now.
Okay, so maybe the environment is something interesting and different? You get stripped of your weapons in Mothership Zeta, too, but then you at least get to play in an off-the-wall new environment, so then the whole "lose all your stuff" bit becomes forgivable. (For me.) But no, Operation: Anchorage is either a snowy repetitive mess of mountain chains (with loads of invisible walls to boot) or dull industrial interiors.
Coupled to the dull environment is a dull story, if it can even be called a story: you're in a simulation of the war that made America the radioactive wasteland it is today. Everyone you interact with is an just AI (okay, so is every video game character by definition, but you know what I mean), which immediately sucks the interest out of everything. There's no incentive to get to know them or to protect them; even if they weren't AIs, they're still bland and forgettable.
And yes, the story: you just go and complete a few random missions and then America takes back Alaska from the Chinese. The missions don't really flow into each other: you're basically given a bunch of miniquests that don't really build off of each other, and the larger missions have that same non-relationship with each other. You're not getting from point A to point B as much as you're doing a bunch of random crap in an arbitrary order.
There's not really a cool payoff anywhere, either. In the storyline DLC, you get a giant mech (at least for a while); in Mothership Zeta you get to hang out in space and fight alongside random historical figures and get to keep awesome alien tech; there's literally no payoff within the confines of Operation Anchorage itself. (You get some awesome power armor as a reward, but not until you're already out of the simulation.)
(Also, there was something about fighting the Chinese that made me seriously uncomfortable and it creeps a little too close to Yellow Peril weirdness for my liking, especially when the rest of the game is a little more....color blind, I guess? But that's a box to unpack for another day.)
Finally, in terms of gameplay: so much slowdown. I mean that's the nature of the Bethesda open-world beast, but I had the worst slowdown during Operation: Anchorage. Worse than anywhere else in the game. It never froze (that I remember) or became unplayable, but it definitely took me out of the game.
All of this culminated in me not playing Fallout 3 for months. Again, it's not like Operation: Anchorage was downright bad, or terrible, or unplayable. But it didn't have any interest or sense of urgency, and so it was easy to let it fall by the wayside when there were other games to play and other things I had to do in my life.
So there's my stale, 6-years-too-late opinion on the Operation: Anchorage DLC for Fallout 3!