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Fallout 3 Review - txa1265's View

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

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You're not the boss of ME, Arthur Reid!


Welcome to console-vania, where you have to press TAB and then click your way through a multi-page interface to do just about anything from changing armor to looking at a map to reviewing quests and information. Yes, you get used to it quickly; yes, it is worse than Oblivion; and yes, I find it highly annoying. There are ways to get around these limitations, but it is pretty clear that the game was designed with the lowest common denominator of console controllers in mind.

I have taken time and played decent chunks of the game using my Xbox 360 wireless controller in addition to my preferred keyboard & mouse and it is obvious from the contrast of playing the game both ways that it was designed with the console controller as the primary control method both in terms of design and implementation. That isn't so bad - getting around works great using either set of controls, as does the VATS system, dialog system, level-up interface, and so on. The problem I have is with the Pip-Boy - it is very simple to navigate using the Xbox 360 controller, but definitely more of a hassle for the keyboard & mouse.

It isn't a killer flaw but you know what really gets under my skin? Bethesda went to such pains to talk about how they were going to make sure that the PC Fallout fan was taken care of, yet couldn't bother to even allow you to map a keyboard shortcut to get directly to the map interface. I am not suggesting that they change the inherent interface - which is pretty much the same one from Oblivion - but rather that they allow some degree of choice to users. It seems like such a small thing - and was certainly mentioned enough in Oblivion reviews and as a concern in PC previews for Fallout 3.

Oh, and while I am on the subject of rampant stupidity, how's this one: while you can remap the key used to bring up the Pip-Boy (default is TAB), you cannot change the fact that you still have to use TAB to exit. Also, I read that some folks remap the typical WASD movement keys to RDFG (I'd heard of ESDF before but not that one). Anyway, that is no problem except that F is mapped to 'Force Lock' and so when you're lock-picking you can easily press F by mistake and force the lock. And, of course, F cannot be remapped.

 

Character Creation & Development

 

Similar to the original Fallout games, Fallout 3 uses the SPECIAL system for attributes (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck). You also get skills which reflect your specialized abilities to perform certain tasks such as pick locks or use heavy weapons. In addition you get tag skills, which grant you a starting bonus in selected skills and perks which are added personal characteristics that will generally impact your skills or gathering of treasure or experience.

I believe that there are two purposes in a character creation and advancement system: to allow you to create distinctly different characters to allow for a different experience starting the game multiple times, and to allow specialized advancement with characters that forces you to make choices and see rewards from gaining experience. I look at Fallout 3 as having succeeded at the first - though that is based entirely on co-opting the Fallout system - and doing a mediocre-to-poor job at the latter.

Many folks have frothed at the mouth about the wonders of character customization: which is true - if you play the game like Mass Effect and ignore the world and just plow through the main quest. I had spent more than 100 hours before finishing the game, and several hours with additional characters, and have more than one of my SPECIAL skills at 10 and several of my tag skills at 100. So while I would agree that you CAN build differently, there are so many extras available to help boost all of your stats that it is easy to max out characters. This wasn't possible in Fallout 1 or 2 - you had to be much more sparing and careful with your allocation of skill and attribute points.

More specifically, after a certain point whenever I talked to anyone I would have a 100% chance of success with whatever speech options appeared; I had a 65 - 80% chance of breaking open locks, so I barely used the lock-picking mini-game; and on and on. My overwhelming skills, gotten by selecting and mastering certain key skills and seeking out any skill enhancers I could find, made the experience increasingly mundane as I felt I could never fail. So while I didn't have the skills to become a 'jack of all trades' or to switch from my selected sniping mode to a different proficiency, neither did I ever really worry about not being skilled enough to handle a situation. I know it would be possible to create a 'dumb brute' character, but I would still be left with so many skill points and perks that I would end up dumping them elsewhere to avoid over-skilling myself.

 

 

The mini-games and trophies of Fallout 3

 

Believe it or not, VATS is not the only mini-game of Fallout 3. There are actually two main mini-games you will encounter throughout the world, as well as a few 'Easter egg' mini-games you might encounter randomly as you explore. I'll ignore these - which include a text adventure on one of the mysteriously power terminals littering the landscape - and focus on the main ones. An interesting thing with these - you need a certain skill level to even attempt a lockpick or hack, and while there appears to be some difficulty scaling with the 'level' of the lock / terminal it is not in line with the skill investment needed.

Oh - one really good thing: there is no Persuasion mini-game like the awful one from Oblivion. Whew!

The lock-picking mini-game uses a detailed picture of a lock along with a screwdriver and bobby-pin set you're using to do the lock-pick. Your skills impact how sensitive your touch is and how much you can fiddle around before breaking the lock-pick. It is the best looking mini-game of its' type and has become my favorite - replacing my long loved Thief: Deadly Shadows visual method. You get a good sense for what is happening in terms of success or failure, and can generally 'feel' when you're about to break your lock-pick and retreat at the last moment.

On the other hand, the terminal hack mini-game is pretty lousy. The basis is that you are presented with a screen full of characters and words, one of which is the password; you get four chances to guess the correct word, and after each unsuccessful attempt you are told how many correct letters in the correct place your word choice contained. From this it is generally a matter of patience to succeed - or cheating. You can simply exit and restart to try again, and each screen contains a special string that if you mouse over will give you back a bunch of chances to guess before you fail. It is nice that they decided to put in a hacking element, but this one is just a bore and is just a necessary evil.

Something else that bears mentioning - but not really a mini-game is the Stealth system. Since this isn't one of my primary ways of playing a game (I am too stuck in my FPS history), I only played it for a few hours recently. It is a nice alternative method to work through the game and combined with silenced and long-range weapons it is really a viable alternative.

For Xbox 360 and PS3 gamers, Achievements and Trophies are much like getting your initials on your local favorite arcade game back in the early 80's. Since your info is public, you can trot it out for all to see and brag about how you unlocked everything in Fallout 3. Since this is a Games for Windows game, the PC version also has Achievements that you can get hooked into your Live for Windows account by logging in. Personally I never cared about my initials being on the arcade...so I guess I am a prime candidate for 'Achievement Apathy'. However, I cannot help the feeling that too many games have warped their reward system to give these meaningless little 20 points here or there to console gamers at the expense of spending time focusing on true rewards for accomplishing tasks. One good thing - unlike another game I recently played, James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace, your achievements are not constantly streaming out of your PC in annoying fashion all over the screen.

 

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

World
· Operation Anchorage DLC
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2009-01-27
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

World
· Mothership Zeta DLC
· Platform: PS3
· Released at 2009-08-03
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

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

World
· Broken Steel DLC
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2009-05-05
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

World
· Point Lookout DLC
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2009-06-23
· Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

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

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

More information


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