When E.T. phoned home, apparently it was to call his cousins to come down to Earth in their fully sick UFO and teach us humans a lesson about respect. Well, that's at least one likelihood. But it doesn't really matter why, just that Aliens are hovering above our desecrated planet and for some unknown reason, they've taken an interest in you, the wanderer of the Wastes, the person known via Galaxy News Radio as 101.
In Bethesda's last announced DLC episode for the massive post-apocalyptic RPG, Fallout 3, you're not fighting the scum of the Capital Wasteland, Mole Rats, Albino Radscorpions, Super Mutants or Deathclaws - here you're not even privvy to that eerily beautiful orange/grey hue blinding you as the sun rises over what's left of the State's capital, Washington DC. No, here you're nestled in the heavens as an insignificant part of the cosmos; a single speckle of life - abducted, half naked and alone.
Well actually, right from the outset, you're not actually all that alone. Mothership Zeta offers a different kind of Fallout 3 experience in that all the humans aboard the UFO you've been beamed to are fighting a common enemy, and make no mistake, these aliens are not the friendly kind.
As with all Fallout 3 DLC, events kick off with a radio signal. Tune in and you'll hear some alien chatter leaving you to follow the source which, of course, is at the UFO crash site (just north of Scrapyard if you haven't found it yet). Once you're there, you're sucked up into a tractor-beam of sorts and find yourself slipping in an out of hazy consciousness while aliens do what they do best - probe.
When you awake you'll find yourself naked without your gear and sharing a cold steel cell with another abductee. She'll tell you the only way out is to start a fist fight with her, which when you do makes two alien guards open your cell in an attempt to stop your fighting - turning your fists their way will net you your first alien weapon (Shock Batten), and from there it's on to attempting to get back to Earth.
A bit further into the game's opening moments, you'll also meet a super annoying little girl who has apparently been on the shop for quite a while. She'll aid you in opening doors and giving you instructions early on, but like I said, she's utterly annoying and being a child, impervious to any attempt to kill or maim her.
The stand-out feature for Mothership Zeta is its aesthetic value. Here you're walking around a fully realised classic sci-fi imagined alien mothership. Everything is decidedly 50s, but still manages to present itself as alien and menacing (especially some of the labs), which keeps it all both fresh and aesthetically familiar with the overall Fallout lore and setting.
The game serves up a ready dose of puzzles to solve across its two main quest lines, as well as plenty of cannon fodder in the way of aliens and aberrations (I won't spoil it for you). There are worker aliens you'll lose Karma for killing, so it's not a complete xenocidal experience (unless you're that way inclined), and you'll actually end up finding other humans from throughout Earth's history who you can employ to help you (they also help to flesh out the narrative).
Looting is also fresh with all-new alien weapons to pick up as well as various alien contraptions bound to fetch a good price once you get back to the Wastes. As far as narrative goes, there're a lot of information stores in recordings of abductees which paint an overall picture of just why you've been taken. Equally, the progressive nature of the DLC's level design gives plenty of visual information on the machinations of your otherworldly captors - again, I won't spoil it for you, but the story here is definitely among the coolest of the DLC packs.
In saying that though, it's also over a little bit too quickly, which is a shame given the strength of Point Lookout (which on its own feet has enough to essentially be the foundation for a sequel) and the fact this is the last announced downloadable content for the game. However, like all the other episodes, the phat lewts you'll pick up along the way will keep you destroying things in the Capital Wasteland for a while afterwards, there's just no information on where the series is going from here.
There are a few missed opportunities here, such as being able to hijack an alien ship and fly out in space, but Fallout 3 isn't really a vehicle-based game, so I understand why it's not in there. But going into space and seeing a UFO you can't fly, just sitting there waiting to be hotwired is akin to going to a strip club strictly for the booze and not the entertainment.
I also felt there wasn't enough variation in enemy aliens, and throwing in Raiders and Super Mutants halfway through just seems really lazy.
Still, this is well worth a download, it just ends a little quicker than the other DLCs and feels a little closer to Operation Anchorage in its restrictive linearity. I'm desperate to know where Bethesda are going from here, and am hoping there's more Fallout 3 (or 4) to come and not just the next iteration of Elder Scrolls (though we're very keen for that one).
Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta is available now for download from the Xbox Live Marketplace and for Games For Windows for PC.