Fallout 3's crazy-bad ending? All a red herring, it seems. A poker-faced bluff that you get to call, first thing tomorrow, when Bethesda releases it's Broken Steel downloadable expansion for Xbox 360 and PC.
What's it cost to rewrite history? 800 Microsoft Points, or $10 USD.
The brand spanking new trailer. (Warning, slightly spoiler-ish!)
What do you get in Broken Steel? New weapons, enemies (well, old ones with "super" and "albino" tags), character perks, and achievements, for starters. New side quests and about five hours more "central" plot. A level cap leap from 20 to 30 to grapple with all the new content. But most importantly? The ending is no more. Kaput. History. Null and void. Pushing daisies.
Fallout 3's original ending wasn't a total disaster, but it felt like a lame shrug and a wink post thirty- or forty-some hours of otherwise exemplary gameplay. After dozens of crazy plot twists and endless days and evenings stomping around Bethesda's darkly ironic, magnificently tailored Capital Wasteland, you clicked on the... and walked into that... Err, sorry, I still can't bring myself to spoil it, so how did I put it in my otherwise laudatory review...
You've also possibly heard that the main story's ending is awful, and to be perfectly honest, yeah, it's a problem — not even a choice so much as a gun to your head and an irrelevant cutscene that pays shallow homage to the hell you've scrabbled through. And when it ends, it really ends. No continues or tying up unfinished business or pushing through to the game's level 20 cap.
There's an easy solution, of course: Don't finish the game. There's so much more to do anyway before you chamber yourself like a bullet and pull the trigger on the epically anticlimactic and frankly bewildering finale. So don't do it. That ending will wait, and your appreciation for all the lovely things this game gets right will be better for it.
About that ending: Broken Steel is Bethesda's way of saying "Kidding!" No winks or timorous shrugs. And while I can't say yet how the new content's going to pan out, I've got to give Todd Howard and team credit for reneging on their Big Drama Finish.
The best thing about a Bethesda RPG? It's over when you say it is and not a moment sooner. That might be 20 hours in, with hundreds of side quests under your belt and the so-called "main" plot left unfinished. Or it might be after a galloping 10 to 15 hour race for the trunk story's epic denouement, tributaries and branch treks spurned.
And with Broken Steel, we're back to Bethesda basics. Which almost certainly bodes better than the brick wall you smacked into before.
While you're waiting not-patiently to sample the expansion's new digs, how about a few more screens?
For more gaming news and opinion, park your tweet-readers at twitter.com/game_on.