With boring, linear gameplay and not much of a story, Fallout's first trip into space isn't what you'd expect it to be.
Fallout 3's downloadable content, as a whole, offers a lot of variety is terms of environments, equipment and story arcs. The Lone Wanderer traveled to an irradiated hell-hole filled with scum and villainy, a vast swampland packed with mystery and dark magic, and even into the realm of virtual reality, to defeat the red threat looming over Alaska. In the latest (and last) downloadable package, the Lone Wanderer faces his (or hers) biggest challenge yet – a painfully linear path through the endless corridors of an alien spaceship. Will he make it? Or will he succumb to the greatest of all alien weapons – boredom.
It is immediately obvious that Mothership Zeta is most similar to the first downloadable package, Operation Anchorage, in terms of gameplay. But while OA offered a more open area to navigate through, MZ takes place almost entirely inside the confined corridors of the spaceship interior. For those who are not familiar with the first expansion, the gameplay of MZ can be described as a rail shooter with busted rails, meaning there is a possibility to go off the tracks, but there is nothing there but fiery death. While shooting aliens in the head is pretty fun, it soon becomes clear that there is little else to do. All main quests (there are no side quests) involve the Lone Wanderer clearing a section of the ship of the green bastards and disabling an alien machinery of some sort. There is not variety in mission objectives or enemies, and lukewarm combat will probably not be enough to carry the player through to the very end.
Where MZ does deliver is with its nice assortment of new weapons available from the very first quest. While some weapons are more useful than others, it is still fun to try each and every one of them at least once. The Alien Disintegrator is an especially effective weapon against all of the ship's inhabitants, with its powerful shots and large clip (not to mention the abundance of ammo lying around). Unfortunately there isn't any reference to the Alien Blaster that can be obtained in the wastelands before boarding the mothership. One would expect to find similar weapons on the alien vessel, but there are none to be found. It is still possible to track down some ammo for it onboard the ship, but only in one or two storage rooms.
Visually, the spaceship's grey is a slight change from the wasteland's brown, but soon the whole metallic, sterile setting (along with pretty much everything else) starts to repeat itself. Actually, there is only one room with any sort of visual stimulus and that is the observation deck, overlooking the post-apocalyptic earth, which is no longer blue, but (you guessed it) brown and grey. Character animations are still the same as in Fallout 3, and the whole cast of misfit abductees moves and acts like a bunch of disoriented robots.
Mothership Zeta isn't by any means a bad game, nor is it a waste of time and money. Its main flaw is that it does not measure up to its predecessors, in every single aspect. Sure, the alien spaceship in an original new environment to explore, but the truth is there isn't much to see or do. The whole expansion serves as nothing more than a shooting gallery, with very few memorable moments. The spirit of Fallout 3 is still there, be it the humor or the script, but instead of utilizing an exciting new concept to expend the Fallout universe (so to speak), Mothership Zeta emphasizes the franchise's flaws and brings nothing new whatsoever to the table. This expansion is simply for devoted fans only, who wish to experience Fallout 3 to its fullest, even if it means taking a voyage into the uninspired.