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Fallout 3 Review - txa1265's View

by Michael "txa1265" J. Anderson, 2009-01-26

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Spoiler note: Suffice it to say that there will be things in here that would easily be called 'spoilers' - that said, my goal isn't to go into deep details but rather give general thoughts to help augment my points.

 

Fallout 3 is an interesting game - it is one that has inspired some of the greatest pre-release angst and discord in the history of gaming for a few reasons. First, it is a new entry into one of the classic franchises of gaming, made a decade after the last entry. Second, the look, feel and playstyle are nothing like the original games. Finally, it was being developed by the same folks who brought us Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The last one is interesting because depending on several things, that is either a really good thing or a really bad thing. But in the end Fallout 3 was finally released and can be judged for what it is - a game. So how does it do? Read on.

 

Prelude and random thoughts


First and foremost: anyone who denies that Fallout 3 is 'Oblivion with guns' is either lying to you or themselves. At the same time, anyone who claims that 'Oblivion with guns' is all that Fallout 3 has to offer is being similarly dishonest. And finally, as for the ultimate debate - is this the Fallout 3 that fans have been waiting for a decade to get their hands on? - that will have to wait for a while before I'm ready to answer.

Well, perhaps not entirely - because let's face it, there are some fairly diametrically opposed visions of what folks wanted in any game called Fallout 3. Some folks are fully on-board due to Oblivion, possibly with a limited knowledge of the Fallout franchise and no vested interest in maintaining the traditions of 1997 and 1998. Then there are those for whom any game not presented in isometric view with a fully turn-based system is not a Fallout gam e. Finally, there are those for whom the role-playing, writing, dark humor and overall depth is what continues to set the original Fallout games from just about any other game ever released.

So let me clear something up - if you are an Oblivion fan and are buying this on the PS3 or Xbox 360 after finishing up Dead Space and months of multiplayer Call of Duty 4, you will be very happy for a very long time. If you are a 'Fallout purist' who rails about the loss of Van Buren and is hoping that Bethesda has built in some way of getting the perspective and turn-based feel just right to recreate the classic Fallout games...look elsewhere. This is not the game you are looking for.

But make no mistake - this is a deep, hardcore RPG. Your stats are useful and advancing one shows an immediate effect; there are skill-checks throughout the game and judicious allocation of skill points will help you gain access to areas or get quests or other things. The question worth asking is not if it is an RPG but rather if it is a good RPG and if it will be enjoyable to fans of the originals.

That leaves those who are willing to be flexible about the perspective, the balance of real-time and turn-based - but are absolutely insistent that success includes maintaining the top-notch writing and depth that the originals had, as well as the dark humor that remains perhaps the best ever in any video game. I count myself in that group.

So far - by which I mean having finished it once and played some additional hours with two different characters - I am having a blast...but there are loads of problems and issues, many carried over from Oblivion. Indeed, if you keep tally of positive and negative comments I make about the game you will be surprised that I award it any stars at all.

 

 

Getting started

 

I found the opening sequences to be a refreshing change from what normally happens - rather than just dumping you as a fully formed adult into the midst of an ongoing situation, you are stepped from birth to adulthood through a series of interactive vignettes that engage you at different points of your life. You learn about various characters and feel like you are really part of your own history. The immersion factor of doing this - paired up with the subtle performance of Liam Neeson as your father - can be tremendous. Well, at least the first time. I was very impressed with this but when I tried it again, it felt slow, awkward, and like I was just being kept from getting to play the game for entirely too long. Also, much of the dialogue just doesn't work on further inspection - while I tried to stay 'in character' the first time, the next time I might well have been Malkavian with the way I was spewing random nonsense. And in my first test of 'choice & consequence' it didn't matter...indeed, I got better rewards for wiping everyone out than for taking the 'high road' and simply toppling the leadership.

The game goes through the usual set of tutorial steps, from VATS (the optional pause-based combat system - Vault Assist Targeting System) to the Pip-Boy 3000 (basically your entire interface) to a whole classroom session to help you pick your first level perks. You learn how choices made can have consequences - but initially the only consequences you see are how your skills and attributes impact your combat performance and a couple of dialogue checks.

Eventually you will leave the Vault and get a few choices and several low-level practice encounters along the way. This is your stereotypical 'please clear the rats out of my basement' section but it is presented as having to deal with security forces on your way out of the Vault. Then just before you exit the vault you have the opportunity to completely redo all of your choices before starting out in the world. As a curmudgeonly old-time RPG gamer I scoff at such things, because it flies in the face of choice and consequence...but in general I applaud the way it was done: you are early enough that it isn't game-breaking but have experienced enough that you can see if you have made some errant choices that you'd like to redo. I feel it is a reasonable compromise.

Out in the wasteland after leaving the Vault, you will note two things: the post-nuclear vision of Washington DC, replete with metal hulking carcasses of buses and airplanes and who knows what else; you also see more proof of the fact that we are still looking at the Oblivion engine here (actually the tunnel exiting the Vault could have been from Oblivion!).

 

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Box Art

Information about

Fallout 3

Developer: Bethesda Softworks

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Post-apoc
Genre: Shooter-RPG
Combat: Real-time
Play-time: Over 60 hours
Voice-acting: Full

Regions & platforms
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· Platform: PC
· Released at 2008-10-28
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

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· Released at 2009-08-03
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

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· Platform: PC
· Released at 2008-10-28
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

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· Broken Steel DLC
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· Released at 2009-05-05
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· Point Lookout DLC
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· Released at 2009-06-23
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

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· The Pitt DLC
· Platform: Xbox 360
· Released at 2009-03-23
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

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· Platform: Xbox 360
· Released at 2008-10-28
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

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