Four Things You'll Never Get Arrested for in The Pitt
Pittsburgh. Even under the brown, post-apocalyptic skies in Fallout 3, it's a working-class town. In real life the 'Burgh is home to a population proud of its identity as a hard-working steel city. In The Pitt, it has been broken and barely rebuilt by an iron-fisted leader who drives slaves to work the mills.
The fake Pitt seems like a totalitarian hellhole at first, but it turns out to be a lot more forgiving than the real thing. You can get away with a lot in this devastated outpost, and four crimes are recommended for any traveler who happens to emerge from the tunnel connecting Pennsylvania to the DC wasteland.
First things first: Yes, there were problems with the DLC on Xbox Live, and a few issues persist. The initial corrupted download has long since been replaced, but there are a few bugs left. One character (the Pitt's leader, Ashur) got stuck on repeating dialogue bugs in two spots when I played through the expansion. Nothing crippling (I had to reload from the autosave once), but the problem is worth noting for the time being.
OK, I'm lying right off -- you can get arrested for loitering in your first half-hour in The Pitt. But that's the whole point. Recruited by a shady dude named Werhner, your task is to infiltrate the settlement to find the closely-guarded cure for a degenerative radiation sickness. The easiest way to do that is to dress as a slave and be taken in as a returning escapee. You can try to shoot your way in, but that won't go well. Being "reclaimed" is the best route.
But first, spend a few minutes hanging around the outer shell of Pittsburgh. The bridge into the city is one of Fallout 3's most impressive sights, especially if you climb up to the top and check out the darkly panoramic view. The burnt city is uncomfortably glorious. Swimming under the bridge is really off-limits, though -- the high rad levels in the river water will dissolve your skin in seconds.
Once inside, linger in the steel mill, where massive buckets of molten metal are carried overhead and slaves stoke great furnaces to refine scrap metal into the stuff of society. (That is, guns and ammo.) And for a real good time, check out The Hole, where you'll fight Thunderdome-style against a few rounds of the Pitt's best and brutal-est. It's the little details, really, that make a town feel like home.
What, you think you can actually save people? You think you're actually representing something that is in the right? The Pitt's story is among Fallout's most morally gray tales. The big crux is: Do you adhere to your initial contract with Werhner, which has a little wrinkle you didn't quite expect, or do you tell him to shove off, and side with the upper crust of the Pitt instead?
Whichever route you take, you'll be screwing someone. That's the best aspect of this storyline, and part of what elevates it way above Operation: Anchorage, Bethesda's straightforward first expansion for Fallout 3. We make a lot of noise about moral consequences in games, but usually they turn out to be bunk.
In The Pitt, you'll at least want to think for a minute before making the core choice at the story's center. More than likely, you'll then do what I did, and reload a save to play the other branch of the storyline as well. I imagine that you'll be extra-tempted to walk the fraud path, due to the point of view espoused by Ashur, the warrior who leads the Pitt. He makes good points, and turns out to be one of the game's more memorable characters. After a bit of time thinking about his point of view, Werhner looks like more of a sneaky dude than he does at first ... and he already looks pretty sneaky.
As is ever the case in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, you'll find a few pieces of gear worth shoving in your pockets. There's the Auto-Axe, which is a big rotating cutter made from old car parts. Look for the special version, the Man Opener. The Infiltrator is a great automatic rifle, and if you kill the right people there are other pieces of armor and weaponry to take. Add "murder" to your list of crimes.
Luckily, once you're inside the gates of the settlement, no one will much notice whether you're dressed and outfitted as a slave or a warrior king. So feel free to scavenge and steal weapons, clothes and armor with impunity. In truth, that's a bit disappointing -- it's always fun to fight for your stuff -- but that fight is coming, just spurred by something other than your light fingers.
Most storylines in Fallout 3 have a fairly flat curve. But The Pitt builds up to that big decision, after which the place really goes to hell. Whichever side you're on, there's going to be a great deal of fighting between the slave and upper classes. It's great to be in the middle of it, but you might just want to run through to escape more or less unscathed.
Or you can really go to town. If you stick with Werhner's original plan, not only will you get to strike a blow at the town's haughty overseers, you'll have a change to kill the lights uptown and send a horde of Trogs -- humans mutated by the disease you're trying to cure -- out to masticate the upper class. That's a good time, not to mention the most dangerous part of the adventure.
This is also the time to extend your loitering violation and really check out the catwalks, bridges and hidey-holes of the Pitt's Uptown district. The (literal) upper class lives in stories above the slaves, traversing the distance between buildings on rickety rope walkways. Where Operation: Anchorage provided a first-person shooter's firefight experience, this is your chance to get into a nasty little skirmish battle. If you've hoarded strange weapons for some dangerous day in the future, their time has come.
The Pitt is short on the first play -- just a few hours -- but infinitely more interesting than Operation: Anchorage. Even if you don't make use of all the criminal possibilities, there are characters and situations here worthy of any of the primary Fallout games. And if you ferret out every little thing to do in the town (I've deliberately left a few things out, to preserve the surprise), you'll think twice before dismissing Pittsburgh as just another blue-collar haven.
This feature is based on final downloadable code provided by the publisher over Xbox Live.