Fallout 3 Review
publisher: Bethesda Softworks
developer: Bethesda Softworks
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 28, 08
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Fallout fans have been waiting impatiently for a third installment in the famed RPG series for many years and now they'll get their chance to explore the surroundings of post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. To make one thing clear before we go any further, there's no denying Fallout 3 is, as many already observed, "Oblivion with guns." This became apparent after the first 15 minutes of gameplay and most gamers are surely going to experience strong Oblivion nostalgia.
Doesn't exactly increase one's appetite for cow meat.
These little buggers make perfect target practice.
Fallout 3 takes you across the huge environments of post-apocalyptic US in the year 2277. The journey starts off in a fallout shelter -- a.k.a. Vault 101 -- where our hero took his very first steps. The first few minutes of gameplay actually put you into the role of a 1-year-old child, just to introduce you to movement basics and the character of your father - voiced by actor Liam Neeson. One day daddy decides to leave Vault 101 and disappear without explanation. You soon find yourself chasing after him in the desolate wastelands of a rather grim version of Washington D.C.
Before heading out into the post-nuclear wilderness, players may go through a thorough character customization process. You can toy around for hours with the appearance of your avatar, setting everything from different beards, eye-color, the size and shape of the nose and lips, etc. You're also introduced to the handy PIP-Boy 3000 and what is better known as S.P.E.C.I.A.L. - Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. Adjusting these greatly influences how your character acts and moves in combat during the rest of the game. Dialogue is another element very similar to what we've seen in Oblivion. It works very well too. Once again, events don't have to end violently. In many situations, it's possible to smooth-talk your way out of trouble (or into trouble if you're not careful).
Fallout 3 has a number of defining characteristics that make it not only a decent RPG experience, but an extremely fun game. The first, of course, is utilizing the abilities and improving them over the course of the game. A crucial part of this are the so-called Perks. In many RPGs leveling is a slow process and it takes quite a while before you can actually taste the benefits of certain skills. With the addition of Perks, leveling becomes something you should think about carefully, but it's also twice as enjoyable because they'll open the door to plenty of useful abilities that are put into practice straight away. While certain Perks offer stuff like better protection from radiation, extra points for specific skills each time you level and so on, others may be used in combat directly. For example, the Bloody Mess Perk increases the chances of your character performing deadly and violent kills, plus it offers 5% extra damage to all weapons. Throughout the game, I used extra caution when choosing which Perks to add. Also, I found them to be a most welcomed addition to the gameplay.
V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) is actually what makes this game tick. Whenever enemies are encountered, the targeting system pauses gameplay and lets you chose which parts of your foe's body you want to hit first, displaying (in percentages) the chances of making a successful strike. The tactical approach to each battle makes the game more exciting and usually calls for players to strategically position themselves before attacking. Accessing the PIP-Boy 3000 is possible at any time, allowing you to switch weapons, restore health or consume certain... err... artificial remedies (naughty, naughty).
Like Oblivion, Fallout 3 features an impressively detailed open-world where you have the opportunity to set the pace of the game to your liking. Sticking to the plot and finishing story-driven quests is one way to experience this. But if exploration and side-quests tickle your fancy, Fallout 3 provides and it does so aptly. Bethesda Softworks, once again, prove they sure know their way around a role-playing game. Side-quests were clearly treated a crucial component of gameplay. There's a huge number of these to go through and you'll no doubt enjoy yourself in the process.
However, this begs the question whether or not Fallout 3 walks straight into the same trap as Oblivion. To anyone who played Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion this should be a familiar symptom. Playing Oblivion is simply breathtaking in the first few hours, but soon enough players realize there are tons of generic-looking Oblivion gates to go through and the story takes too damn long to get going. Now, whatever Bethesda did this time around, they sure as hell managed to tone down on such aspects in Fallout 3. The story is well-structured, though a bit short if you minimize exploration and stick with the main quests. At any rate, while there are plenty of indoor sections that look similar, it all felt far less generic than the countless Oblivion gates in ES IV.
Now for the bad news. Although Fallout 3 works at a rock-solid frame-rate, the game isn't technically flawless. Sadly, occasionally quirky AI behavior caused certain enemies to jam between rock formations or objects that got in the way of their movement. That's not all. Companions assigned to head into combat with you tend to get lost, confused and often fall behind while you're out there doing all the hard work. One time a friendly character couldn't make a simple jump to reach lower ground. Instead he took the long way around and... pretty soon a message appeared on the screen, explaining he plunged to his death (WTF? How? Where? Dumb ass!). Other technical issues surfaced. Frequent glitches were noted when my character aimed with VATS while behind cover. When pausing the combat, my character had a clear shot at his target and yet when firing, the bullet never reached the enemy. Well, apparently it was supposed to hit the cover, but it was blocked by thin air instead (???).
8.7 Very Good
Incredibly deep RPG experience that's equally appealing to action game enthusiasts, highly detailed and realistic-looking post-apocalyptic surroundings, great music and sound effects;
Enemy and friendly AI glitches, targeting behind cover is buggish, the devs. toned down the epic feel somewhat.