Review by SerionX
It will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him that thirsts
After years of intense fanboy contention and cries of "Oblivion with Guns", the hype train known as Fallout 3 has finally arrived. The successor to some of the most celebrated PC RPGs of all time, placed in the hands of a developer who created a long-running series that was equally praised. It was a dream recipe for some fans of the series, and a disastrous nightmare of a combination for others. It was the game that was to address the problems that Oblivion had, adding for the first time real choice to a Bethesda game.
So, how did it turn out? Well you've probably already seen the score I have given the game simply by clicking on this review, but I will break it down piece by piece.
I have never been a person to get too nitpicky about graphics, I don't think I have ever taken them into account when I was deciding whether or not to purchase to game. However I do realize some people keep this as a priority, so I will oblige. The environments look incredible, from the metallic inside of your Vault to the bleakness that is the Capital Wasteland, you really do get a sense of the destruction and hopelessness that surrounds the denizens of this post-apocalypse. The character models look great, and the animations are a huge step above Bethesda's previous entry.
The sound is perfect. The blast from firing your weapon blending in with the scream of a super mutant is nothing but audio bliss. The atmosphere created by the graphics is fully realized by the sounds of the wasteland, totally immersing you in the world. A radio station in the game plays some classy music from the 50s that you have probably never heard of before, but it will grow on you by the time you are at the end of the game. The voice acting works well enough, and having Qui Gonn/Ra's al Ghul as your daddy is pretty sweet.
So what prevents a 10/10 in this section? As amazing as the world looks, sometimes it is nearly too run down, using the same old grey, destroyed textures in nearly every building. Fallout 1 and 2 had various locations that were bright and not completely run down. Fallout 3 however, lacks any such area like this and after entering the 12th building that looks exactly the same it gets kind of disheartening. Variety is the spice of life, and the lack thereof is the downfall of Fallout 3's graphics.
You are a resident of Vault 101 in Washington DC, a nuclear fallout shelter created to house people before the nations of the world started blowing the hell out of each other. You were born in the Vault and you will die in the vault. At least, that was the idea. Your father leaves the Vault one day without a word, and you soon follow him into the unknown outside world without a clue of what may be out there.
I don't really want to spoil anything more, but suffice it to say the story blooms into one of epic proportions. There are so many side stories that the hero entwines within his own, and they eventually lead of to a very fulfilling climax that will give you chills, you could not ask for anything more from a game.
This is the real meat of any game, and should be the real focus of any review. So the game is played from a first person perspective with a button available to switch to third person. While the game is full of guns, it is important to remember that it is an RPG first and an FPS second. Combat is still fast paced and frantic like an FPS, but thanks to a targeting system known as V.A.T.S., you can pause the action and pick out individual body parts of the enemy to target. This blend of real time fighting and V.A.T.S. was the perfect way to bring the 2D combat of Fallout 1 and 2 into a 3D world.
The interface was very clean and nice to look at. The inventory/stats/notes system was a little frustrating at first and you quickly realized that it was created with the console gamer in mind, but once you get used to it it turns out to not be so bad. The Quest log is very good, and never once does the game leave you with a since of not knowing what to do next.
Character creation was great, there are premade faces for people like me and a ton of visual options to play with for people who like that kind of stuff. The way you distribute stats and skills is perfect, and the system of leveling up is exactly what you wanted it to be. My only gripe here is that, like the previous games, there are a few stats that are pretty useless such as Explosives, Barter, and Medicine. I also consider Repair to fall into this category, but since it is used a lot more in this game and people on the forums seem to praise it I won't bash it here.
The best part of Fallout 1 and 2 was that you seemed to have almost limitless freedom of choice when it came to handling a situation. The developers seemed to include every possible dialogue choice you think off, and many you would have never imagined. I am glad to say that Fallout 3 has come very, very close to imitating this sense of freedom, giving you so many options to complete quests. There was very rarely a time in the game where I chose to handle a situation in a certain way that the game didn't have a specific, and unique response for. It is not quite up to standard that Fallout 2 set, but then again I have not played a game in my entire life that has. Overall Bethesda did a great job on this aspect of the game, something that was worrying the more hardcore fans (Myself not included).
Now for what I don't like about the gameplay. When traveling in the downtown DC area, you are not in a big open playspace like you are in the rest of the game. Instead, they make each section of DC a little holed off area with exit roads conveniently blocked by piles of rubble. The only way to travel between these blocked off areas is by the DC metro system. So sometimes in order to get to an area that seems close on your map you have to venture down into the bland, repetitive different sections of the DC metro and run for a few minutes in order to exit on the other side. This is fine at first, but once you have done it for the 15th time it gets really, really old and makes you wonder why they didn't just open up all of DC in the first place, or at least make the areas connected by these tunnels bigger.
There is not a lot of variety as far as weapons and armor go. Now armor was never very diverse in the previous Fallout games, and they actually have more combinations in this game than the previous one, but it still seems like they could have added more. The weapon selection is very pitiful, and the custom weapons that you create are not nearly as good as the ones you can buy or find on your dead victims, so while they look cool they aren't very practical. Hopefully mods will address this down the road, but until then it just feels a little lacking.
My third complaint is one that really isn't too valid so I won't consider it when factoring in the score, but I think it is still important to mention. Fallout 3 has no big towns. Well, that is not entirely true there is a town called "Big Town" in the game but I was very disappointed to find out it only housed about a dozen people. In fact, the biggest town in the game probably has no more than 20-30 people walking around in it. This in in sharp contrast to towns in the previous games like the Hub, New Reno, NCR, Vault City or San Fran. Towns where hundreds of people were living and walking the streets, towns that consisted of more than just a few dozen houses. A huge town would have really added a ton to this game for me, I know that sounds wierd, but it is the truth.
I wanted to give this game a perfect score, and I debated about it in my head for a long time and decided on this. Nevertheless, I still think it is a game that anyone who owns a PC, 360, or PS3 should go out and pick up right now because it is simply a must-play. I am writing this review about 2 hours after beating it for the first time, clocking in at about 26 hours played and not even having finished exploring half of the game world. I am already planning on starting my second playthrough, something I call the Fallout effect. (Although I don't think I'll ever play this one eight times like I have Fallout 2, but then again I can never be sure.) This game is rock solid, a joy to play, and although it's a little rusty around the edges, the whole package is nothing short of a masterpiece. Thanks Bethesda for bringing Fallout back.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Fallout 3 (US, 10/28/08)
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