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Fallout 3 Retrospective

by Mogwins, 2013-08-22

Every music fan has a story of a much-loved artist who fell from grace upon hitting the big time. They're often deemed to have "sold out", or had their creativity compromised by the restrictions of a major label. Of course, many of these tales are simply I-knew-them-first elitism, while others are just the result of an artist's new direction no longer gelling with a fan's personal taste. Some of these stories, however, ring true: Mass-market appeal is often achieved at the expense of the very quirks and rough edges which were central to the original appeal. Assessing the quality of both music and games is intrinsically subjective, but any personal history makes merit-based judgement even more difficult...

After a ten-year hiatus, the Fallout series is back. This time, though, software giants Bethesda are at the helm, and they're making significant changes to take Fallout into the mainstream. The original games still have a strong following to this day, and somewhat unsurprisingly, Bethesda's interpretation has alienated a certain chunk of the old fan base. They claim FO3 is not respectful of its lineage and thus should not bear the Fallout name. Whether or not this is true (it is, to some degree), is irrelevant. FO3 is a video game, and therefore the only metric by which it should be measured is whether or not it's fun (it is, to a large degree).

With that established, it is safe to turn to the game itself. The Fallout games take place in a desolate wasteland, an Earth long-ago ravaged by nuclear war. Humanity survived the nuclear fallout by sheltering in vast underground vaults, though most of the wasteland's populace is too many generations removed from their subterranean ancestors to recall such origins, and the existence of vaults is mostly dismissed as myth and fairytale. While this back-story may not sound startlingly original, Fallout's world stands out from other post-apocalyptic settings due to its 1940s/50s style, which pervades everything from the artwork through to the music. Even the advanced technology has a "retro-future" feel to it, reminiscent of Flash Gordon, and lending an almost steam-punk edge to proceedings. Bethesda have wisely kept these "pulp" trappings intact, though their attempts at recreating the dark humour of the originals are, at best, hit and miss. The action has been switched to the east coast of America, specifically a decimated Washington D.C., with the famous D.C. locales - from the White House to Lincoln Memorial - wonderfully utilised. As with GTA: London, there's something really satisfying about wandering round a city that you're already familiar with, but now you can go places normally off-limits. Or maybe it's just me who goes to the Air and Space museum, surrounded by some of mankind's finest achievements, but really just wants to know what's behind the locked door labelled "Janitor"?

As for the actual gameplay, there has been much debate about the degree to which FO3 has eschewed its RPG heritage in favour of more FPS-like mechanics. It's true that Fallout 1 and 2 were defined by complex storylines, detailed characters and far-reaching consequences to the player's actions. And that these elements are less prominent in FO3, while faster action and stunning visuals have been brought to the forefront. But at its core, it could be argued that FO3 is neither RPG nor FPS (or even some hybrid of the two): No, FO3 is best described as a scavenge-'em-up. While the story line is somewhat predictable, even the most interactive dialogue is a simple good/evil choice, and the combat sits in the awkward no-man's land between twitch and strategy, there's an enormous amount of fun to be had from scouring the game world for useful supplies and ammo. And the wasteland itself is packed with interesting places awaiting discovery, meaning exploration is well rewarded. If you enjoy both rummaging through other people's crap at jumble sales and head-exploding violence, then FO3 may just be your perfect game.

In fact, encouraging inquisitive play is possibly the thing FO3 should be most congratulated for. On paper, an abandoned supermarket might sound like a fairly tedious location to stumble upon, but once you've spent some time in the wasteland it's tough to resist that urge to see what's still on the shelves, whether there's any cash left in the registers and what now lurks in the staff room. But be careful not to trip on an old shopping trolley, because who knows what will be alerted by the commotion and come a-running. While creeping round an abandoned subway station with my sledgehammer-toting side-kick, I stumbled across a gang of raiders who didn't seem too pleased to have visitors to their adopted home. A few rounds from my assault rifle tore the nearest raider's head clean off his shoulders, just as my companion was taking an almighty hammer swing. Cue raucous laughter and shouts of "home run!" from me as the hammer squarely connected with the severed head, launching it a good distance down the tunnel (violence is neither big nor clever, but when it's removed of real-world consequences, it sure as hell can be funny). While FO3′s set pieces sometimes fall flat, the world is believable and interactive enough for unscripted moments like this to emerge.

The bottom line: Is it Fallout? Not really. Is it fun? Most definitely.

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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