Review by ElDudorino
Fallout 3 is a fun, if short, conversion mod for Oblivion, but it doesn't quite live up to its predecessor.
Fallout 3 is a spin-off of The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, set in the world of Fallout. 15 years ago it may have been referred to as a "Total Conversion Mod," taking a base game and transforming its facade so that it becomes something else. For those who don't know, the company which made Fallout 1 and 2 no longer exists, and the rights to the franchise were sold to Bethesda, creator of the Elder Scrolls games. Surrounded by criticisms during the years leading up to the release of Fallout 3 that it would be just another Elder Scrolls game, I for one was actually excited by the idea of playing a post-apocalyptic Oblivion. In many ways, Fallout 3 met my expectations, but there was so much missing from the experience that I just couldn't take the game seriously. The game just doesn't have as much meat to it as Oblivion, and it certainly isn't Fallout.
Gameplay: Fun but flawed.
Using a version of the Oblivion engine modified to include firearms, Bethesda has managed to create a pretty fun game. You travel on foot across the wasteland which was once Washington DC from a first-person or third-person 3D perspective, shooting or hacking at any enemies as they appear in your way just like in any FPS. For some added strategy, you can also press a button to pause the game and target a specific zone on your enemy's body, such as their legs or head, in order to cripple them or cause additional damage. Your ability to aim effectively in this mode is theoretically determined by your weapon skill, which also determines your overall damage. You can also pause the action to access your inventory in order to use healing items or drugs which will increase your combat capabilities. Outside of combat, you can engage in dialogue with fully-voiced NPCs who will give you quests, trade with you or perform basic functions such as healing or repairing your gear. Completing quests and killing enemies also nets you experience, which eventually results in your character "leveling up," allowing you to increase your abilities and select new special skills such as the ability to paralyze your enemy with a well-placed punch. Gameplay-wise, Fallout 3 is a pretty decent first-person shooter with solid RPG elements.
Unfortunately, there is also a lot wrong with the gameplay. Weapon skills ultimately have little effect on your combat prowess, being able to heal yourself to full health at any time with no penalties is game-breaking, and the strategic targeting mode known as "VATS" can also be game-breaking because it makes you temporarily invulnerable any time you use it. So, for example, if you see a missile flying towards your face you can simply press a button to enter VATS mode, pretend you want to shoot your target in the head or some such, and then watch the missile hit you for no damage. There are also a handful of ridiculously overpowered weapons, some of which are easily obtained, which either deal entirely too much damage or have a 100% chance of crippling your targets so that they can't attack you. On top of this, the game's enemies rarely have large amounts of health and are never particularly deadly even on the hardest difficulty setting, so the game is considered by many to be obnoxiously easy. There is also very little diversity in the enemies faced during the course of the game; there are around 15 enemy types, 4 or 5 of which you will encounter on a regular basis, compared to about 40 enemy types in Oblivion.
Yep, the game has sound. In some cases it's overly-pronounced, as in the case of your (optional) pet dog's incredibly loud panting, but it's mostly just... there. The game's voice acting is pretty decent overall, and has much greater diversity than Oblivion's, though you will still find on occasion that new characters' voices sound awfully familiar. The music, on the other hand, is pretty good, and the two major radio broadcast stations have some pretty funny stuff going on. Sadly, before too long you will have heard everything which the two stations play, and you will probably grow bored with them.
Falloutness and overall believability: Tragic.
A lack of attention to detail and downright poor level design, not to mention a misguided sense of what constitutes "balance," contribute toward creating a game which is not Fallout and is not convincing. Many aspects of the Fallout world have been tossed out the window, with the effect that the once slow-moving ghouls are now fast and deadly, super mutants are now asexual, and power armor is no longer powerful because it would make the other armor types useless if it were. Strangely however, the oldest and least-advanced form of power armor (now rare) is miraculously more powerful than the greatly-advanced power armor employed by the military. None of this makes any sense to a Fallout fan, but if you're new to the series or just don't care, these things won't affect you.
On the other hand, the terrible level design in this game can be very immersion-breaking. When wandering the wastelands, you will sometimes encounter towns where every building has been completely destroyed except for one wooden cottage which somehow survived the carnage surrounding it. Upon entering the cottage, you will find that although its inhabitants have been dead for centuries, the computer still works and the water faucets are still running. The furniture will be in perfect condition, even though the books on the bookshelf will all be burned and destroyed from the explosions which rocked the outside. In the subways where much of the gameplay takes place, many tunnels have collapsed in order to prevent the player from moving forward. More curiously however, there are many sections where the floor has been blown apart by an explosion, yet the low ceiling and nearby walls show no signs of having been exposed to either an explosion or shrapnel. The whole thing just looks thrown-together and often seems as though no thought was put into it, killing the atmosphere.
Oblivionness and conclusion: Also tragic.
Oblivion has over twice as many enemy types as Fallout 3, and greater diversity even within individual types. Oblivion has many, many more quests available than Fallout 3; there are just over 30 to follow in Fallout 3, whereas there are nearly 200 in Oblivion. The world in Fallout 3 is very small, with little to explore, as opposed to the expansive world in Oblivion which takes quite a while just to traverse end-to-end. Ultimately, Fallout 3 feels like a minor, player-created mod for Oblivion, rather than something which was created by a major company and which should be paid for. It's certainly an enjoyable game in its own right, but the broken gameplay mechanics, lack of immersion, and just overall lack of content or things to DO drag it down. It's also disappointing that the game is just so blatantly a carbon copy of Oblivion with guns, as opposed to doing something new. So whereas Oblivion may be an 8, this game is a 6. I would suggest renting it or borrowing it from your friends for a weekend if they have it, but not buying it; there just isn't enough there to warrant a purchase.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Fallout 3 (US, 10/28/08)
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