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Fallout 3 Review - txa1265's View

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

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A final thought on Fallout 3's RPG-ness


After enumerating so many flaws, I feel I might leave the impression that the RPG elements were merely window-dressing to satisfy the hardcore fans. I just want to reassure you that isn't true. Any 'litmus test' you might have for whether a game is 'RPG enough' will pass when applied to Fallout 3. Complex quests? Check. Choices with consequences? Check! Skills and attributes that matter in quests, dialogue and combat? You betcha! Why bother talking about this? A couple of reasons - first because of how much we rant about the lack of depth in Oblivion in the PC RPG world, and second because there is a fear / assumption that Bethesda would deliver the same fate to Fallout 3. For all of the flaws I mentioned, the game is definitely a solid addition to the RPG pantheon.

 

Graphics and other technical tidbits


When it comes to graphics in games, I am a bit schizophrenic. On the one hand I love 'indie' games like the Avernum and Geneforge series from Spiderweb, have been replaying stuff like Wizardry III from 1983 and Might & Magic II from 1988 using DOSBox and GameTap, and in general rail against folks who dismiss classic (or 'indie') games based on lousy graphics alone.

On the other hand, I keep my gaming systems up to date and tweak settings to extract the best quality and performance from every 'AAA' game and am very critical of games in that category with lacking graphical performance or quality. Bethesda has clearly positioned their last few games as graphics leaders, meaning that I look at them with an exacting eye. I thought that Oblivion was a mixture of beauty and ugliness...whereas Fallout 3 is more about 'beautiful ugliness'. I agree with opinions I have seen that the faces are still funky, but they seem better than in Oblivion. The external environment and recreation of the Washington DC area is...staggering. You feel slightly blinded by the glare of the sunlight as you stagger out into the wasteland, with the desolate landscape of rubble, ruined buildings, half-destroyed overpasses stretching before you as far as the eye can see. I showed it to my family and they thought it was pretty amazing stuff.

As for the interiors, I look at it like combat - Oblivion had three dungeons repeated ad nauseum...whereas Fallout 3 has many more base elements to work with. They still repeat too much stuff from place to place - there was one block of buildings that had me checking my map because it looked identical inside and out to another place I'd visited before! But I've heard complaints about the subway stations looking identical. To that I ask - have you ever been in subway stations for a major city? From city to city they change but within a city they are nigh on identical. Overall I thought Fallout 3 was a great looking game and it performed very well without a single crash during my dozens of hours of playtime - including alt-tabbing back to Windows many times.

The soundtrack was highly touted for having atmospheric music mixed with classic songs of the 50's. I found it...solid but not memorable. There is not a bad thing I have to say - but there also isn't any gushing compliments that come to mind. The songs are there, and they are a nice addition, and the core soundtrack elements by Inon Zur are there and I found them more enjoyable as I roamed the wasteland than I did Jeremy Soule's Oblivion music. It is one of the better soundtracks this year, but when I got the pre-order song disk I listened to it but never added the songs to my iPod, and now that I have the full soundtrack it has already left my iPod to make room for better game soundtracks. Good in the game, but not great stand-alone music.

 

 

The 'Silver Lining' and some final thoughts


It might seem hard to resolve the sheer volume of criticism I have laid upon Fallout 3 with the 4-star score. Yet anyone who has played it for any significant amount of time likely understands the conflict. I don't want the review to end without restating just how much fun this game is to play. And that is what I call the 'silver lining' - there are loads of problems and places where the game falls short, but you will keep coming back for more. Sometimes you will groan out loud at the dialogue and writing, other times you will get frustrated waiting for the VATS system to play out or annoyed having to reload after dying due to a wonky moment with the FPS system. But you will come back...again and again. Because despite the flaws Fallout 3 is a pretty good game that is quite engaging and loads of fun to work through.

I have heard someone say that reading any 'honest' Fallout 3 review is like listening to someone argue with themselves; it is like a pair of discordant voices - one saying it is great and the other shouting about all of the flaws. There are loads of other things I could talk about regarding this game, but rather than delve into too much more detail I'll just put them into a series of 'Love / Hate' statements - because that is the way it seems, most things in the game are either amazingly good or amazingly bad.

 

  • I love how many skill checks there are throughout the game, and the way I can see the impact of my specializations directly in my actions.
  • I hate how quickly I was able to level core skills to the point that I seldom felt like I was missing 'the other fork in the road'.
  • I love the loads and loads of side-quests that allow me to take different paths to complete.
  • I hate that the end-results of so many of these cool quests feel sterile and unsatisfying.
  • I love the gorgeous settings and environments
  • I hate how I am constantly confronted by the cognitive dissonance of how none of the stuff around makes any reasonable sense ... I mean, 200 years after full-on nuclear destruction leveled a city and we have working computer terminals?
  • I love the lock pick game - it really required skill and showed the impact of your tag skill.
  • I hate the hacking mini-game ... it is random and boring and you can skip failure by stopping and restarting infinitely without penalty.

 

Conclusions


So I haven't spent much time comparing this Fallout to the earlier games. Why? Because it just doesn't matter. Fallout 3 is its' own game, set in a universe that many of us know from past games, but all of that is about as relevant as the Night Watch books are to whether or not you enjoy that game. OK, maybe that reference doesn't work...but the point is that this is a very good game loaded with excellent features and enough bugs and flaws to completely obliterate most games. Somehow it all works; somehow you can forgive the silliness and lack of depth and closure and lousy writing and combat issues and on and on. Somehow you just keep coming back, trying to avoid hitting the end of the main quest so you can just keep on exploring the Wasteland. I cannot say it is the best game I've played over the last twelve months - it falls behind King's Bounty, the just released Geneforge 5 (for the Mac only right now) but is better than the recently released NWN2: Storm of Zehir expansion. But it is a really good game and certainly one of the better games I've played and one that I wholeheartedly recommend as a 'must buy' to all adult fans of RPG's and action / shooter games.

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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


Other articles

Summary

Pros

  • Great graphics and sounds
  • Wonderful sense of atmosphere
  • Loads of quests and interaction
  • Immediate impact of changes to skills and attributes
  • Lock-picking and stealth systems are well-done

Cons

  • Too easy to max out too many skills
  • Mediocre writing throughout
  • Main quest is terrible
  • Nonsensical morality system
  • Problematic combat systems

Rating

Review version

PC