Thanks to me formatting my hard drive without backing up game saves, I got to play Mothership Zeta after first escaping from Vault 101. It took almost an hour to get to the crashed alien ship, whereupon I was immediately and thankfully sucked into the alien tractor beam and placed on board the famed Mothership Zeta.

***Spoilers below***

At first, Mothership Zeta's gameplay felt like nothing more than an update of Doom II, with long, narrow corridors and a bad alien or two just ripe for blasting in each. Don't get me wrong, Doom II holds a special place in my heart for entertaining younger Cj for countless angst-filled hours, but in games today I expect more balanced maps.

I was on the verge of tossing Mothership Zeta into the digital trash bin, due to a mix of boredom and my brain screaming for dramamine, when I encountered the four cryo pods with various characters from the world's past ready for a thaw. I don't know if it's the history buff in me, but this delighted me to no end. I mean, in what other game can you thaw out a freaking Samurai on an alien mothership set in a post-apocalyptic future? None that I know of. Add to that the opportunity to un-freeze a grizzled cowboy from the old west, a futuristic soldier-medic, and a straight-from-the-60's astronaut. Unfortunately, the astronaut is dead, so you don't get to speak to the somewhat more chauvinistic 60's equivalent of Maverick from Top Gun, but that's because you need his space suit to get to the mothership's bridge, and you'd hate to get bad karma points for offing a real American astronaut hero.

Speaking of bad karma, my only gripe with Mothership Zeta is getting bad karma for offing "helpless" alien workers. My reasoning is as follows: First, they are complicit in my unwilling mothership incarceration to begin with. I didn't see any of them going on strike over the deplorable treatment of helpless human meatbags. Second, and finally, they appeared to have set off alarms whenever they could, and they also appeared to point those nasty drones in my direction every time they saw me. That makes them fair game, in my book.

When it comes to weaponry, I've always found the graphic dismemberment made possible by the Fallout 3 arsenal to be superior to most RPGs. The same can be said for Mothership Zeta. The Alien Disintegrator, aka ray gun in rifle form, is my new favorite. Critical hits will reduce aliens and animal skin-wearing raiders to a pile of ash; otherwise, you can take large chunks off appendages and brain-filled crania, which is nice.

I haven't finished Mothership Zeta yet, but I'm having fun again. Once you get past the corridors in the beginning, it's all gravy. Fallout 3 and its previous expansions have always been rife with sharply honed gameplay and a detailed, nuanced experience, and Mothership Zeta does the franchise proud. Worth. Every. Penny.

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