Fallout 3 - Review
By Dillon - November 16, 2008
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Post-Apocalyptic wastelands never looked so good.
It's the year 2277 and the world is now a wasteland of death, destruction, and radiation. You, however, are safely tucked away in an underground vault... at least, until you turn nineteen and your father leaves. This is the premise of Fallout 3, the successor to developer Interplay's Fallout series. This time around, Fallout is designed by Bethesda Softworks, the creators of the popular Elder Scrolls series. A lot has changed since the last entry in the series, Fallout 2, released in 1998. That is assuming you do not count Fallout Tactics and Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, two games that departed from the main entries in the series in a drastic way. If you played the first two Fallouts or Bethesda's previous work with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion you will feel right at home. Sure the perspective is more modern now, but the gameplay feels much like that of Oblivion's and the lore, world, and characters feel very much like Fallout. I'll get this out of the way, Fallout 3 is absolutely not Oblivion with guns... it's much, much more.
The Visuals have a very distinct style and the atmosphere created is outstanding. The audio is fantastic with powerful sound effects and classic music guaranteed to either make you laugh or sing along. The story is great and it's pulled together beautifully with one of the most immersive game worlds ever created. The gameplay is a nice mix of combat and exploration, and with a world this huge it's a good thing that both these aspects work extremely well throughout the forty to one-hundred plus hours of game here. Get ready for some radiated nuka-colas; this is truly an amazing experience.
Fallout 3 is a nice looking game from a graphical standpoint, but an even better looking game from an artistic standpoint. The game world in Fallout is tearing at the seams with detail. Everything from an underground vault to a withered wasteland of radiation looks distinct and has a certain "destroyed beauty" about them. There are a lot of places to discover and unlike Bethesda's last game, Oblivion, each town, tunnel, cave, and building looks different from one another. There are of course some similarities between each subway tunnel and cave, but not nearly on the level of Oblivion's cookie cutter environments.
Hey, it's Waterworld! Minus Kevin Costner... and water.
The scale of the world Bethesda has made for Fallout 3 is very similar in size to Oblivion's world; however, because each place to discover feels unique, the world comes off as a bit bigger. This is even more impressive when you consider that the framerate is vastly improved over Oblivion's. Load times have also been cut down and you will no longer see "loading" while trekking the landscape. Bethesda obviously learned a lot from their last game, and it shows in the presentation of Fallout 3.
There are some issues with the visuals like minor pop-in, unfinished geometry, and lots of bugs and glitches, but none of these are that big of an issue and all are completely forgettable. The character animations are not amazing, but considering all the actions NPC's perform in Fallout 3, they get the job done. The character models themselves look good but not great. They're better than Oblivion's models to be sure, but Oblivion's models were not very impressive to begin with. All this aside, the textures are very good in most areas of the game, the lighting is always fantastic, and the draw distance is good. It may not look as visually impressive as games like Uncharted: Drakes Fortune (PS3) or Crysis (PC), but its style makes up for it in spades.
The audio in Fallout 3 is simply great. The sound effects are fitting and powerful for the weapons, footsteps sound perfect for the material you're stepping on, and of course the exploding bodies sound menacingly satisfying. There is a lot to do in this game so in turn there is a lot to hear, and luckily it all sounds great.
You fly back to school now, little Starling. Fly, fly, fly...
One big complaint from Oblivion was the fact that all the characters in the game were voiced by about 8 people. It got repetitive quickly, but it was still impressive that every line was voiced, and there were thousands of lines. Fallout 3 thankfully, has a much, much more diverse cast of voices, and while some characters may sound similar, the voice actors changed their voice as much as possible. I never heard a character and said hey, this guy sounds exactly like the guy I was just talking to. It helps immerse you into the world more and it gives all the characters their own personality. The voice talent of Patrick Stewart (Star Trek, X-Men) and Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, GoldenEye) showed up in Oblivion and Fallout 3 utilized voice talent as well. Liam Neeson (Batman Begins, Star Wars Episode 1, Schindler's List) plays your father, Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Blade II) returns as the narrator, and Odette Yustman (Cloverfield) plays your best friend in the vault. They, as well as every other cast member, put on a great performance and the dialogue is excellent too. Lines are delivered realistically, and some are genuinely funny.
As with the visuals, there are some audio bugs. Not nearly as many, but they are there. The opening sequence sometimes cuts out for instance, and some areas have sounds repeating over and over that shouldn't be. None of the bugs hurt the experience, and you won't encounter them often. You'll be too busy listening to the classic 50's music, a la Bioshock. There are two major radio stations in Fallout 3, Enclave Radio and Galaxy News Radio; both are complete opposites of each other. The Enclave station is all about the remains of the U.S. government while GNR is all about "fighting the good fight"... and catchy music. There is a speaker for each, "President" John Henry Eden on Enclave Radio and Three Dog on GNR. Both have their own personalities and their own way of portraying news. The radio stations are a nice touch to the game and only add to the already great orchestral score. The main traveling theme may sound familiar, and that's because it's the same (or very, very similar to) the traveling theme in Oblivion. That's not a bad thing by me as I find the song relaxing and nice on the ears.
I see trees of green, red ro- ...
If you are familiar with the story of the Fallout series, Fallout 3 will feel very similar. It's been 30 years since the end of Fallout 2 and the setting has switched to Washington D.C., or what's left of it anyway. You are born in an underground vault, titled "Vault 101". It is here you were born, and it is here you will die, as the narrator puts it. It is said that in vault 101, no one ever enters and no one ever leaves. However, one morning you wake up, only to be informed your father has left the vault. You are suspected to be involved somehow and are forced to escape. Upon stepping foot in the wasteland that was D.C. you are set off on a journey to find your father, or do whatever you damn well please.
The tutorial sets the backdrop perfectly and once you're free to follow your own path, well, things get pretty hectic fast. Almost everyone you meet will have something to say, or have something they want you to do. The narrative is executed perfectly, and whether you choose to help or destroy these people is entirely up to you. What's so great about all this is that almost everywhere you go has its own back story. You may find a radio signal with a man calling for help, only to find his, and his family's bones in a sewage bunker. Little thing like that really give the world a sense of despair and realism. The main story is very good on its own, and it will keep you playing to find out what's really going on in the world. Aside from the main story though is a multitude of side stories that really bring the whole game together in a way not seen in many video games. The world and atmosphere Bethesda has created is truly one of, if not the most immersive and detailed ever created in this medium.
The feast... it is ruined.
Fallout 3's gameplay consists mainly of two things, combat and exploration. The combat is very fun and rewarding with a unique V.A.T.S. system that lets you employ strategy in your tactics, or just watch some heads explode with cinematic flair. What V.A.T.S does is freeze the game during combat and let you target enemies' limbs, chest, or head. Depending on what you choose to hit enemies will react accordingly. If shot in the arm enemies will lose accuracy or if shot in the legs they will slow down and limp. The combat in the original two Fallouts was turn based, so it's nice to see Bethesda use a modern turn-based system that will please fans of the originals as well as newcomers. If you don't like the idea of using V.A.T.S. then you can always just shoot, swing, or throw in real time. Be warned though, Fallout is not Halo. Shooting is largely based on your character's stats with certain types of projectile weapons so it can take some getting used to. This isn't to say the real time combat is bad, it's just not as smooth as a straight-up first person shooter.
There's a 92% chance that this is really going to hurt.
Melee combat is also in Fallout 3 in the form of your fist, or anything from a wide assortment of objects. You will find swords, pipes, and other objects you can find to beat your enemies skulls in. Melee also works in V.A.T.S. but unlike guns, you cannot attack a certain part of the body. It all works well and if you're not a big fan of guns, you'll still find lots of fun weapons to use. Grenades, mines, and all sorts of fun stuff come into play, so you're never out of options.
As for the exploration in the game, there are over 100 places to discover, each with its own purpose and each feeling unique. The outdoor environment titled the "Capital Wasteland" is huge and filled with all sorts of buildings, caves, other areas to discover. Getting to all these places presents quite a challenge as the world of Fallout 3 is a brutal one. You will be scrounging for food, water, and whatever items you can get your hands on. Radiation also plays a big role as what little food and drink you may find is likely irradiated. You must constantly keep an eye on your radiation meter to avoid radiation poisoning or even death. To make matters worse, the world is also filled with crazy enemies like feral ghouls, raiders, and super mutants. Just wandering the land is dangerous with raiders ready to attack at any time. For the first few hours of gameplay, I'd suggest staying away from downtown D.C. as the places is covered with super mutants. These big bulky guys are mean, tough, and ready to tear you apart. The A.I. for the baddies in the game is surprisingly brutal. Most enemies will come at you viciously and gun-toting foes strike with surprising accuracy.
Lucky for you, your character won't be wimp when it comes to fighting... well unless you make him that way. Your freedom of choice in this game is quite remarkable. From the beginning you are given choices on how you want your character to look, act, and play. If you want to be a jerk to everyone you meet, so be it, but you probably won't get much help that way. If you want to be a nice guy and help everyone you meet... well, that's mighty generous of you, but it might attract the attention of certain people. Everything you do has consequences, some good, and some bad. Almost every action you take makes you gain or lose karma accordingly. If you want to steal a bunch of stuff or kill some innocent people, you will lose karma and most people will frown upon you. If you give water to beggars or help a nice old man with a problem, you'll gain karma and most people will appreciate you. It's a nice system that really makes you feel like your decisions in the game matter.
Karma's a bitch... and so is she apparently.
Coming from the makers of the Elder Scrolls series, one would only think this game would be full of RPG elements, and they would be right. There are skills like sneak, lock-picking, melee, speech, etc., and perks that grant you special abilities like being able to carry more, or shoot more accurately in V.A.T.S. These all work as well as you would expect and it's a really flexible game in terms of what kind of person you want to be. You can make a character that's really good at stealth and melee combat, or one that's good with huge guns and explosives. Speech is a skill that highlights another one of the games high points, which is branching dialogue options. There are a lot of ways to accomplish objectives in this game and a major one is through persuasion. If you've got a silver tongue you can talk yourself out of a bad situation, or even earn yourself some extra bottle caps (the games currency). It's another example of how the game lets you do things the way you want to.
This is an open world game, and no open world game is complete without its fair share of glitches. Fallout 3 unfortunately does not break free from this trend, but as with the audio and visuals, these glitches are very minor and are almost never game breaking. For example, I was almost done with a quest and was on my way back to the building I needed to enter to complete it, but I soon realized the front door had been locked permanently. Luckily there was a side door, that I could lock-pick myself into, but nevertheless it was annoying. These types of glitches do not occur often and if you're lucky, you can play the whole game without encountering a single one. Aside from these glitches, Fallout 3 controls great and is simply a blast to play.
Very few games are as good, deep, and immersive as Fallout 3. The game looks great, sounds fantastic, and plays brilliantly. The story and atmosphere are more engaging than most Hollywood blockbusters, and it will last you longer than most games in the business. Easily one of the best games of the year and with possibly over 100 hours of gameplay, it's also one of the best packages. Sure there are some flaws but none that can't be easily looked past when you take in the game as a whole. With hundreds of endings to discover, go out and find which one your path leads to. The desolate, destroyed, and utterly fantastic world of Fallout 3 awaits you.
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