War. War never changes. It’s been years in the making, but Fallout 3 is finally here for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. While some would be quick to call the game an Oblivion clone from Bethesda, there is enough changed and added to the gameplay to make Fallout 3 worthy successor to the name.
Story: Set in a post-apocalyptic Washington DC, your character is literally born into the world of Fallout, which sets up brief tutorials and character customization for you to partake in. Cut into a series of specific meaningful times in your life, you will learn about your father, life in Vault 101, and watch yourself grow up into the character you’ll become. Your “life as you know it” will be thrown to the way side when your father mysteriously disappears from Vault 101 one day, which has sent the entire place into a ravaging death trap. You eventually decide to try to find your father, which means leaving the Vault, and exploring the world. What comes after this opening story section, would be littered with spoilers, so it would be best to leave it at that. The story is pretty straight froward as far as RPGs go, but how you want to tackle it, is 100% up to you. In the playthrough that I completed initially for this review, I actually skipped over a HUGE story point, just because of how I explored the game. In the end, it didn’t leave me with a gapping hole in the story, and allowed me to come back to the mission later on with points being somewhat relevant to the events that I had already completed. Similar to the story that was in Oblivion, if you decide to plow through the story and not take any time to do anything else, you can probably finish the game in about 20 hours or so. While not great, the plot keeps you interested to complete story sections to finish the game, and just see what happens. Unfortunately, the endings pale in comparison to the game that you will put the time into completing, but they do allow for some closure depending on if you played the game as a good, bad, or neutral character.
Gameplay: Fallout 3 is set up just like Oblivion, which is why most people make the immediate comparison for the two games. You are in a gigantic open world, have a main story quest, and then are also aided by side quests that are at your leasure to complete… just like in Oblivion. Generally, if you are a good character, you’re going to try to stick to the positive outcomes for missions in order to not lose karma in the game. The Karma system is set up so that if you do things like save a person in the Wasteland by giving him water, you’ll gain good karma. Randomly kill a woman who just said hello to you, will obviously gain you negative karma. The karma does not have an immediate impact to most things, but it will affect the dialog tree’s that appear, as well as other quests that you might take. While you can be good and bad, you can also be neutral in most cases, by just not doing something that would be considered good or bad. The outcomes… well I’ll leave you to find out what happens at neutral karma to not spoil the fun. Side missions are generally the way to level up your character, but the main issue here is that they don’t provide a variety of fun things to do most of the time. The Megaton “Power of the Atom” mission was great because it gave you an option… ok, that’s spoilers, so lets just say that the outcome is pretty neat depending on how you beat it. Other missions just don’t live up to what you just completed in Megaton, and then just drop off to “go here, get this, bring it back, fin” structure that has been present in too many games recently. So while there is a giant world to explore, you’re going to have a different variety of enemies hunting you down to kill you (it is a wasteland after all), and you’re going to have to dispose of them in some sort of way. Enter once again, the similarities to Oblivion in terms of how combat is played out. Your basic set up is that you are in first person mode or third person mode to take on an enemy on screen. You can use the first person mechanics, but a first person shooter this is not, and one should not go into this game thinking you’re going to get a Halo or Call of Duty style of play out of it. The first person aspects are very clunky, and result in using the RPG element called VATS. While in VATS, you go into a type of freeze mode to where you can take aim at specific body parts on enemies. This helps you cripple enemies, knock guns out of their hands, or straight up shoot ’em dead in the face (which is the best course of action at all times).
Immediate thought that would come to mind is that one would just use VATS all the time, but it has a certain amount of ability points that need to recharge before you can use it again. So a good 50-50 relationship from real time fighting to using the VATS system is how it plays out, and for the most part it works pretty well. The hang up with the combat system is that you always just aim for the head in VATS, because it hurts the enemy the most of course. This leads to lots of running up to an enemy dead to their face, turn on VATS, aim for head, and then INSTADEATH. The third person aspect of the game is completely and utterly useless. Not only is it terrible for battle, but you can’t properly see what you are doing because of the angle of the camera whenever you go into third person. It’s just something that is just there which adds nothing to the game, and I advise to not even bother trying it. While the review probably sounds like it has a very negative tone to it, I should talk about some of the great parts of the gameplay. Easily the best thing about the game is the sheer scope of the world that you are in. Once you leave Vault 101, and get that first look at the Wasteland with DC off in the distance, the size of the game really hits you.
I don’t know what it was, but I always seemed to gravitate towards where people were in the game, and when you were alone, you felt alone. There were also a ton of moments within my two playthroughs of the game, which made me actually think to kill someone or not, and more so than how it was in Bioshock when you had to save or destroy the little sisters. I knew that taking out that one person may have an impact later on in the game, and I always had to think out things, which was an interesting morale issue with ones self. The choices may be limited in what you can do, but doing things have repercussions, which doesn’t happen in some games with similar “choices” you can make. The perks that you get when you level up, always added a new way of playing the game depending on what your choices were. During my first play through I was a fairly balanced character, which made it harder and easier in some spots. During playthrough two, I poured all of my abilities into weapons and talking, and just completely dominated everyone I talked to. The leveling system leaves the door open to your own style of play, while leaving the door open for replayabilty.
Graphics and Sound: If someone said that Fallout 3 looked like Oblivion, it would be hard to disagree with them. Reason being is that Fallout 3 is using the same engine from Oblivion, bugs in tow and all. This is not to say that the game looks bad in any sense, in fact, it is one of the best looking games that I have seen. The sheer scope alone really puts other games to shame. Looking out over DC to see everything in ruins, while still making out famous landmarks, it’s really just a sight to be hold. Unfortunately with all that massiveness going on, the game does some weird things at random. I experienced frame rate skipping from the moment I turned the game on, until the credits rolled. I also experienced a couple of freezing issues, all of which were random, and I contributed to the game just freaking out due to everything that was going on while I was playing.The color pallet in the game is brown, brown, and then a darker shade of brown. With a setting like this, it’s hard to move away from anything but dirty colors, so get
use to sitting there and looking at brown textures, muddy water, and other items of that nature. Character models are straight out of Oblivion with a new coat of paint, so don’t expect anything new there. The voice acting in the game is top notch, with all the main characters and side characters giving their lines perfectly to you, as if you really were the character. You have the occasional person who is alittle to over happy for the character, but it still fits (and boy is it great to shoot them in the face when you don’t need them anymore). The sound effects are pretty standard, with gun shots and lasers sounding just like the should. I will mention that the game doesn’t have any real “music”, with the exception of when you come upon enemies, or if you’re listening to the Pipboy 3000’s radio. There is more of an overtone which fits with the setting very well, and after hearing some of the radio songs for an extended period of time, you’ll be happy you can turn it off and listen to nothing at all.
Yaaaaaaaays -Massive open world for you to explore
-Great voice acting
-Combat Shotgun (oh yeah)
-Shares many of the same aspects to Oblivion
-Interior levels can get confusing at times
-Ending is kind of a bummer Final Verdict: Buy it. War. It never changes, but Fallout has. This is easily one of the best video games that I have played in a long time, and while there are some gameplay issues and bugs, the amount of things to do and sheer scope of the world make it easily recommendable. Stop what you’re doing, and go pick it up now.
Mandi Weems has been a professional writer for over a decade and a contributor to the Become A Video Game Tester guide at [url not allowed]