Fallout 3

Posted on November 22, 2008 by

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I finally feel able to write about this game.

And don’t just take that statement at face value, I have genuinely been unable to put two coherent sentences together since I started trying to review this game. So, without further ado, here goes nothing.

I played Fallout once, long ago. It blew my mind. It didn’t look that fantastic, (Besides the gorgeous cinematics) and it could have used a few tweaks, but to me, it was the greatest story ever told. Some time later Fallout 2 came along, and with a few minor touch-ups, proceeded to blow my mind yet again. The dark humour, the interesting characters and the Karma system (They were doing it before it got cool) gave the games a unique feel. And then suddenly, everything stopped. Fallout 3 was being planned by Interplay, who even started developing it, under the code name ‘Van Buren’. And then they went bust. Fallout, it seemed, was dead.

Then suddenly, Bethesda stepped in. They saved the day. Fresh from making Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, they applied their open-world RPG magic to Fallout, and the series was re-born.

After much Bruhaha and teasing trailer footage, Fallout 3 emerged. All of the style of the series intact, and changed from an isometric, turn-based RPG into a semi-real-time, First/Third person shooter, with a hefty sprinkling of RPG elements. From the get go, the opening narration, (Performed by Series mainstay and Hellboy actor Ron Pearlman) sets the scene beautifully. The game starts, appropriately enough, with your birth, and uses a series of clever questions and tech to decide whether you’re a boy or a girl, and what you’ll look like when your all grown up. From here, the game eases you into the world of Fallout with a few tutorial missions inside Vault 101.

A moment is needed to explain the vaults, before I continue. Knowing that Nuclear war would eventually ensue, the US government asked Vault-Tec to construct a series of underground bunkers, where the people would be safe from the radioactive fallout untill they could emerge and re-build. In order to protect everybody in the united states, 400,000 Vaults would be needed. 121 would be built. In reality, the Vaults were an extremely elaborate series of psychological tests, to see how people fared under various conditions. For example: A Vault where there are 1000 men, and only one woman. A Vault where the food machines only produced a thing gruel. A Vault where the outer doors would never close, and a Vault with 20 men, 10 women, and one panther. This is the world you are born into. Vault 101 was designed to never open. Ever. “It is here, you were born. It is here, you will die. Because in Vault 101, no one ever enters, and no one ever leaves.”

After an hour of tutorial missions, your waken up by your ‘friend’ (She feels like she should have been the love interest, but it never gets off the ground) Amata, who tells you that your Father has escaped the vault. The security men are coming to kill you. Your only option? To follow in your fathers footsteps, and escape. So much for ‘sealed forever’. When you emerge, you get one of those rare moments in video games, like the first time you see Rapture in Bioshock, where you get goosebumps all up your arms. As you lay eyes upon the Destroyed wasteland that is what remains of Washing, D.C. My character, named ‘The Doctor’, and wearing an appropriate suit, gazed in wonder. He even looked like David Tennant.

That’s enough about the story, because frankly even slightly more would be a huge spoiler. So, onto gameplay.

The game plays much like Oblivion, with a considerably better third-person view, some graphical enhancements, and of course, big freakin’ guns. Levelling here is one of the more significant differences, and where it could take you a hundred hours of gameplay in Oblivion to max out your character, in fallout it can take as little as thirty, because of a more traditional exp. system, where you gain point for completing questions and killin stuff, rather than using your core skills. The most noticeable difference is V.A.T.S., or Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System, which pauses the game at the press of a button, and allows you to selected a specific body-part of your enemy to fire at. (Taking away the options of ‘groin’ and ‘eyeball’ that the previous fallouts gave you) This degrades your weapons faster than real-time shooting, but because real-time shooting is so clunky as to be of little use unless sniping from a considerable distance, where your actually likely to have better aim, it’s worth it.

In order to proceed through the game you perform various quests, which invariably end up with you having to kill something at some point. Enemies aren’t as varied you might like, and some are so close to similar foes in Oblivion that the first time you see a Deathclaw, you’re likely to go ‘Is that a deadroth?!’ (But only if your geeky enough). A little more variety would have been nice, as would larger settlements with more people. I know its a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but there are barely 400 friendly NPC’s across the whole 16 square miles or so, while murderous raiders, mercenaries, feral ghouls and super-mutants number in the thousands.

Dialogue is similar to Oblivion too, with thankfully apparently more than five different voice actors. And I suppose we should be grateful, too, that none of their voices change mid-sentence, either. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Oblivion was awesome, but it’s not a good thing, either. They had a good couple of years to make some serious advances with the Oblivion engine they were using, but sometimes it just doesn’t show.

You might have noticed the way I keep mentioning Oblivion. There’s an excellent reason for this: Fallout 3 is Oblivion. With guns. Its an inescapable conclusion after 70 hours of playing the game. But despite occasionally feeling a touch samey, this makes for an extremely good game. After all, I always did want to blow the heads off those annoying City Guards in Oblivion

Now comes the really bad point. If you don’t want massive spoilers, I suggest you don’t read this next paragraph. Okay, you looking away? Good. The ending. The ending is one of the worst ass-pulls I have ever come across in any form of media. At the storylines finale, you are posited with a choice. Either you, or a companion from the Brotherhood Of Steel, (Techno-Knights) must enter an extremely irradiated chamber, and activate a huge water-purifier, that will make all the water safe to drink again. (You can also choose to put a virus into the water, that kills off anything that isn’t pure human, if your feeling like playing Hitler). Now the problem I have is this, if you don’t go in, the game ends anyway. That’s it. No more fun time for you. The same applies when you go in yourself. The annoying thing is this, by this point in the game, you have a nearly radiation-proof environment suit, and enough radiation medicine to allow you to walk through a nuclear blast without batting an eyelid. But you still die. Worse, is Fawkes. Fawkes is an Intelligent super-mutant, who will die for you in combat if he has to. Super-mutants are immune to radiation, and in fact, he performed a similar task earlier in the game. But now he doesn’t want to. Worse still, is if you’re partnered with the ghoul Charon, who is £*&@ing healed by radiation, he doesn’t want to go either. I have never been so pissed off at a lousy ending. All the character building, completely wasted because I wanted to see how the story turned out. Which is why, in my new game, i’m not even going near the story-mode. I just don’t think I could handle how brain-numbingly stupid the ending is.

With that out of the way, I would like to stress that Fallout 3 is a very good game. A very, very good game. Just make sure you save before going near Vault 87 if you want to keep using your character. Because that’s the point of no-return. Yes, the ending is awful, but 99% of the game is pure, concentrated awesome. I heartily recommend it. “War. War never changes.”

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Posted in: Games