Aliens come in peace... their body pieces gladly provided by the Vault dweller.
Whatever you call 'em - aliens, extra-terrestrials, little green men, Martians, Marilyn Manson - creatures from outer space have always secured a place in our imaginations and in science fiction in general. Playing a game like Fallout 3 might seem like it's all about Americanus apocalypticus, but those who truly were explorers surely found proof of the opposite, at the site of a crashed alien ship sitting in the middle of nowhere in the Capital Wasteland. That ship is exactly where Mothership Zeta, the latest Fallout 3 downloadable content, begins.
[image1]Even if you have never visited the strange craft before, as soon as you load up a saved game that has your character out of Vault 101, you will receive a message about a distress beacon coming from the downed ship. Instead of arriving at the ship and cherry-picking the awesome weapons within, you're immediately beamed up by a mysterious and ominous blue light. Yep, you're abducted and stripped of your equipment, yet again. Apparently, the crashed ship's S.O.S signal's hit home, and they have come to pick him up. Sound familiar? Of course, this time around the aliens aren't the friendly "phone home" type.
The main quest this time is much more expansive, all contained within the huge mothership you will explore. You'll quickly meet other abductees about the vessel: a cowboy, an Army medic straight from Anchorage, a little girl, a contemporary woman, and a Japanese samurai who speaks no English whatsoever. This merry little group quickly bonds over the common effort to discover what exactly the aliens want with humans (and them, specifially) and what they plan to do with Earth. Along the way you can gather up information tapes relating to the captives and it's where most of the Fallout dark humor comes through, in testimonials between captured humans and aliens with some people just being clueless about where they are and some even enjoying the aliens' company.
[image2]Mothership Zeta has various different areas to explore, with some added in without any relation to the main branch of the story, but that contain interesting tidbits to discover, including a handful of cult film references in a particular foul-smelling area. Exploring the ship is a blast, as you never know what you'll find next, and trust me, there's a lot of bizarre crap going on - those aliens are sick, disturbed folks. These guys will come at you in a number of ways, carrying shock batons, ray guns, or even calling in the local security robot, which is a pain in the nether regions to beat, but carries an awesome reward in their innards. The variety of units isn't very high, with them being either invisible-ish, helmet-wearing, or bare-headed spacemen. On the other hand, similar to Point Lookout, the environments are far different than anything you've come across in the Capital Wasteland, with clean and futuristic settings as opposed to the grays and browns you've gotten used to in Washington DC's remains.
As with past expansions, Zeta introduces a handful of new equipment, including a few new types of alien laser guns that (this time) have plenty of ammo, a ground-based explosive/ionizing combo launcher, a freezing Cryo grenade, and a set of sweet-looking power armor simply dubbed Tesla Armor (also found in other Fallout 3 DLC). These new guns are great to use - in fact, you may not even switch back to your old arsenal - as the guns and ammo are readily available in the form of dead alien loot.
[image3]Another great addition to pickups is a bio gel that can be synthesized into a medical gel for curing wounds, beating the old stimpak with an incredible +150 health points healing effect. (Of course, this this is only if you protect the poor Army medic.) On repairing items, another common pickup called Alien Epoxi will help fix your equipment well beyond yours or any vendor's repairing skills, which will surely be nice for anyone walking around with unique weapons and armor. Speaking of unique armor, if you are of the less than noble species, you'll be able to acquire even more of those... if you are willing to be greedy and evil.
You can also count in seeing a new perk too, and hopefully you are like me and controlled your impulse to grind to level 30, since the Xenotech Expert damage-increasing perk relates to exactly the type of weapon you are guaranteed to pickup in Zeta: alien weapons. Haven't added any points to that section of the leveling screen? This might help a bit, but even so, the weapons you pick up are very powerful, even more if you happen to come across the unique variations of the common rifle and ray gun, which pack a punch on their own right. The best 'perk' is being able to zap back to the mothership after completing the quest, as it becomes a sort of second home for your character, complete with a first row seat view to Earth, a repair table, and a bed to sleep in.
Mothership Zeta is a great way to end the downloadable content run for Fallout 3. If it's indeed the final DLC we're to see for the game, it's surely an out-of-this-world way to close off our explorations of the Capital Wasteland, providing a thoroughly enjoyable ride that is likely to last almost as much as the longest of the packs that's come out so far - Broken Steel. Zeta will run you 800 Microsoft Points, which equates to ten Earth dollars. So do you prefer probing or zapping? Our outer space friends gladly offer both!