Broken Steel, the third downloadable add-on for Fallout 3, requires you to suspend your disbelief. It allows for continued exploration of the Capitol region after you've finished the main quest, which is fantastic, but makes a bit of a mockery of the story if you played as a selfless paragon of the people. And if you fancy yourself a dastardly villain, the open arms with which the Brotherhood of Steel welcomes you into their numbers afterward is illogical enough to make your brain ache. But Broken Steel is otherwise so great that you'll eventually overlook the story inconsistencies and get caught up in the action, which is some of Fallout 3's best. The new series of missions features challenging encounters and terrific new areas to explore, and it is better integrated into the wasteland than the additional content that preceded it. And importantly, Broken Steel increases the level cap from 20 to 30 and adds new perks to consider, which is practically reason enough for Fallout lovers to download it.
Unfortunately, Fallout 3's storytelling can no longer be taken seriously. In Broken Steel's main quest, The Brotherhood is quick to make you one of its numbers and sends you to fight on its behalf, forgoing the usual stringent training and quickly explaining away the consequences of your actions within the Jefferson Memorial. Recording inconsistencies make it easy to tell if a character's spoken dialogue is new or if it existed in the original Fallout 3, which further disrupts the flow of the story. Nevertheless, the journey is punctuated by some excellent moments that will make you forget the narrative oddities and get drawn into your mission. Besides, a shocking (yet slyly humorous) casualty near the beginning provides enough reason to follow through with your assignment.
Broken Steel is full of tense encounters, from the crowds of death claws that descend upon you early on to the horde of Enclave agents that mob you on an expansive airfield. You'll want to take your most effective weaponry and leave the 32 mm pistols and Chinese assault rifles at home. If you find that your existing arsenal doesn't cut it--particularly against the flame-spewing Enclave soldiers that take you unawares in tight corridors--rest assured you'll be adding a few new and effective firearms to your inventory. Hail the Tesla cannon, one of the most powerful and enjoyable weapons in Fallout 3 and effective against almost everything the game throws at you. Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System kills are particularly satisfying using this weapon, partly because of the energy that spews forth on every successful attack. You can also turn the tables on the hellfire troopers with the heavy incinerator, which spews forth bursts of flame from afar. It's not as effective as the Tesla cannon, but it sure is fun to watch in action.
The new areas are as much fun to explore as the new guns are to shoot. A trek through a newly accessible metro tunnel doesn't give you much to look at that is new, though it does offer a nail-biting challenge--what with missile-launching security bots and ghoul reavers swarming you en masse. Broken Steel shines in the final areas, however, letting you approach obstacles and foes in a number of ways. You can shoot down all the turrets (and this is one of the rare occasions where dealing with lots of turrets is actually fun) or hack into a terminal and shut them down. You can deal with Enclave troopers head-on or pick a lock and take them by surprise from behind. This is the kind of depth that makes Fallout 3 so special, and the new content is integrated into the existing content extremely well. The other Fallout 3 DLC is self-contained to a fault; Broken Steel works not just on its own terms, but also as an organic extension of what came before.
Broken Steel ends by offering you a single decision that could lead to far-reaching consequences for the Capitol wasteland. Fallout 3 is at its best when your own actions have noticeable impact on the world around you, which is what makes this add-on so great. It's like a microcosm of Fallout 3's best features and only blemished by storytelling that doesn't always make sense. Filled with intense combat and excellent new features, Broken Steel is a great value at 800 Microsoft points ($10).