Review by Vinnteg
"Oblivion with Guns"?..... yes, and then some.
I was so excited to pick up this game, I actually went to a midnight release (Something I never do, by the way. Usually, because it always involves some very long conversations with some very odd people. But, I digress). Anyway, from the second I got it installed and tweaked I was mesmerized. I've been a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls series for a while, but Bethesda has outdone themselves by sticking to what they know best and giving the gamers what they want. The company themselves called this game "Oblivion with Guns", but trust me, It's much much more.
Gameplay - 8/10 - There is so much they did right here and a few things I just don't understand. First, on a very broad level, Bethesda was wise to read their forums and listen to the public. One of Oblivion's bigger issues was repetitiveness. Many dungeons looked exactly the same, and after 40 hours of playing, you almost regretted walking into another cave or fort. Not so with Fallout 3! Every location has its own feel and flair. Of course, some textures, character models and add-ons are the same, but every spot you visit feels distinct. There are even some very unique characters and locations that seem to be there for no story-line purpose, but just to make the game more immersive.
The mechanics of the game are very similar to Oblivion with some changes to keep the game authentically "fallout". Almost every item in the game can be used for something - food, crafting material, ammo, etc... There's a menu system via your Pip-Boy. It's fairly easy to navigate, though the lack of pictures (while realistic) can be a little distracting. Melee-wise nothing about the fighting system has changed, but FPS-wise..... wow! Yes, the VAT system is pretty awesome, but just the general FPS view itself is pretty impressive. There were a few times where I was fighting multiple opponents and said to myself, "Wow, this really feels like an FPS. I have to reload, duck for cover, throw grenades, aim for the head and everything!" A big step up from the semi-boring bow in Oblivion.
Now, as for the AI in Fallout 3. Well.... It's not bad. In fights, enemies are fairly smart. They'll switch weapons, use cover, sneak, and even blow up cars that you're near, but I have seen a few enemies get "scared" I guess and start running around in circles. They weren't necessarily running "away" they were just sort of running. In general conversation the dialogue is very impressive - full of post-apocalyptic humor, depressing stories and surprise spinoffs. The characters motions and reactions to the world around them is kind of cool too. NPCs will lean against walls, rest on railings, etc... However, just like with Oblivion, sometimes NPCs are just plain stupid. I found one NPC (a guy I was going to be making money off of) just dead in the middle of town. I could loot his body and everything. I don't know how it happened. I didn't kill him! Heart attack maybe? I'm afraid this is probably the first of many minor bugs to come.
Oh yeah, one last thing on gameplay. Character creation rocks! I never knew there were so many ways to shape my facial hair!
Story 7/10 - What can I say? It's a completely open-ended game! Alright, yes, there is a main story and there are many other minor story lines that you can choose to be a part of. However, the thrust of what you'll be doing for 100+ hours is, put simply, "your own thing." As far as the main storyline goes, It's not too bad. Honestly, the opening seemed kind of rushed. You go from a growing kid protecting your girlfriend from tunnel snake punks, to fighting your way out of the vault in about 10 minutes. I've also noticed some other minor quests that feel like they're over before they ever start. Since I haven't played the entire main storyline or any of the other storylines, I won't say anymore. I'm holding out with a rating of seven, hoping that the story gives some great twists and turns in the future
Graphics 10/10 - Absolutely gorgeous! On a large scale, some of the sunrises in this game are simply breathtaking thanks to Bethesda's expert use of HDR lighting. The lighting and particle effects of the explosions are some of the best I've ever seen in live gameplay. Do yourself a favor and just spend an hour blowing up every thing you can (and there's a lot to blow up by the way). The character models are a good step up from oblivion and the textures have a good amount of depth to them. The most exciting thing to me, though, is that you know there are going to be some awesome texture overhauls made through user mods. Keep an eye out for them, they'll be impressive.
Mind you, you're going to need a beast of a machine to get the full measure of graphics. I'm running a 2.7 Core 2 Duo, 4 gigs of ram, and an ATI x1950 pro (overclocked). I can run the game at mid-high settings without a single frame rate drop, but I also can't utilize the direct X 10 graphics. But, considering how good the graphics are now, I imagine that with a direct x 10 graphics card, it would only look better.
Sound 9/10 - The ambient sounds are immersive and well done. The music is delightful, especially since you can just turn on a radio at any time and listen to some classic tunes like the Marine Corps anthem. Just like with Oblivion you can tell hear repeated voice acting, but it's not nearly as noticeable. Just like with the graphics, you're going to need a pretty decent sound card, but it's worth it.
Playtime / replayability - 10/10 - Are you kidding me! The game will easily take me over 100+ hours to beat, and that's without doing everything there is to do. Also consider that you can create a multitude of different characters, join different guilds, make different choices every time you play through the game. I suppose, all it's missing is multiplayer.
Final Thoughts - This game is a definite BUY! If you have the system to handle it, make yourself happy and buy this game. Also, keep in mind that there are going to be some excellent mods available in the future - stuff that console users won't get to experience. Sorry, 360 junkies.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Fallout 3 (US, 10/28/08)
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