Review by Wilbo
A different, but worth addition to the Fallout universe...
There's a very simple formula to deciding if you are going to love this game or not. If you are a rabid fan of the original Fallout titles, and hated Morrowind and especially Oblivion, just stop now. If you loved Oblivion, Fallout 3 is a superior title that will give you many hours of satisfaction. So where do I fall into that nice, neat pigeon-hole of gaming. Right, smack dab in the middle. I personally feel that Fallout 2 was one of the greatest games ever made. Loaded with dark humor, sex, violence, and a real sense of choice that few games before or since have really offered. But Bethesda has carved itself a niche that fills a massive hole in the world of RPG gaming these days. Single player games that offer hours upon hours of fun, open ended wonder that haven't been seen since the glory days of Origin's Ultima VI and VII. So lets dive in and see what Fallout 3 has to offer.
First off, Bethesda absolutely nailed the look and feel of the game for the most part. The world you are presented with is vast, gritty, beautiful, horrible, and charming. If you enjoy simply exploring this game will rock your world. There is a lot to discover here, and while the experience can be a mixed bag at times, its all well worth the time you put into it.
The biggest improvement over Bethesda's previous efforts is undoubtedly the combat in Fallout 3. The V.A.S.T. system, which lets you pause gamplay and target specific parts of the bodies, is a fantastic addition to the typically boring Oblivion style combat we saw in previous games. If you want, you can play the game as a full on First Person Shooter, but nobody is going to pass up the glorious fun VAST unleashes on the typical Bethesda world. It just never gets old removing your enemies' head via a few shots to the face, and it lends a bit of strategy to the combat that would otherwise be a full on click and hold fest with your mouse. This leads directly into the character creation system, which has likely been covered so many times in other reviews I won't go into too much depth. But basically, as you level you can improve skills using a small variety of weapons, and spending the skill points on them is well worth it, as having a high skill with a weapon type rewards you with deadly accuracy when you pause the action and take shots at an enemies face. Of course the problem is, there's really no reason to ever do anything other than shoot at the head, as crippling an arm or leg, while possible, isn't nearly as effective as blowing somebody's head off. It can be very useful to shoot the weapon out of an enemies' hand, but past that you'll just want to quickly decapitate your opponents and move on to the next target.
Which leads me into my next commentary on the game. Guns. Lots of guns. Except not really. While you can find and utilize a decent variety of weapons in the game, a few are so clearly superior that you'll find yourself using them exclusively, and everything else you'll use to dispatch weak opponents simply for the sake of preserving ammo for the tougher opponents. And there's really only one type of opponent that ever presents a challenge, Super Mutants, and they seem to have a bit of that fun Bethesda leveling going on because they're never TOO hard, but never TOO easy either. And speaking of ammo, early on the game is truly fun because you're constantly deciding whether to take the easy road and pop off an enemy with a few head shots or pull out a melee weapon and risk bodily harm to conserve ammo. But before too long you'll be so loaded with ammo it won't matter. Playing countless hours of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and System Shock 1 and 2 had me conserving ammo whenever possible, only to realize later on that there was no need, as I ended up with far more ammo then needed to blow right through the end of the game. Its easy. Its really easy. Once you get any of the gun skills anywhere near 100, which is the limit, shots to the face will allow you to eliminate most foes quickly and methodically with minimal waste of ammo. But its still fun, so I'll stop there.
Quest wise, the game is very much a mixed bag. The main quest is mildly intriguing, but the ending is so ham fisted the entire thing is pretty much ruined. There's been lots of talk about not getting to continue exploring after the main quest as you could in Bethesda's other games, but its not exactly hard to just load up a save game and go crazy if you wish, so forget that. The ending just doesn't make much sense, especially if you have a certain character in your party.
Luckily, there are several side quests that are far more interesting and entertaining. And some of them even manage to pump some sort of choice into things, even if it has no bearing on the end of the game. There's a karma system, like in the originals, buts you can pretty much rob, murder and steal to your hearts content and then quickly make up for it later by doing a few quests or hand out a few bottles of purified water to bums. And if you're a fan of Fallout 2, just keep playing that and don't look back. I don't know if they stripped it out at the last minute or what, but all the hilarious sexual content is nowhere to be found. The one real sexual encounter involves paying a standard price for a room and watching a girl pass out on the bed. I guess Bethesda is all about the deadfish or something. Ha. The game is loaded with gore, violence and little kids cussing up a storm, but the game is sexually castrated no matter how suggestive some of the NPCs are.
Speaking of NPCs, we've got another Oblivion comparison on our hands. Pretty much the same guts that ran Oblivion run them here. Same voice actors, better dialogue, but nothing like you'd find in something like Fallout 2 or Planescape: Torment. They did a fantastic job with some of them, but for the most part its all very drab and boring. Overall I'd say its a success though. There were enough NPCs in the game that I either truly wanted to help or truly wanted to decapitate that my emotional involvement was enough to entertain me.
Anyways, it all comes down to a couple of very simple questions:
1. Is it as good as the originals.
The answer: No. Of course not. Its a completely different game made by completely different people. If you want to play Fallout 1 or 2, play Fallout 1 or 2.
2. Is it a good game.
The answer: Yes. Absolutely. It was compared to Bioshock. Ha. I thought it was much better than that. Bioshock was a bastardized shell of earlier PC games. Fallout is a modern take on a legendary world that will deliver to anyone that is willing to pay attention and give it a chance. The writing isn't nearly as good as the originals, but the world itself makes up for it, and if Bethesda does the right thing and puts out a construction set, its only going to get better. Its far from perfect, but anyone with a shell of an imagination will quickly find themselves wrapped up in yet another masterfully created Bethesda world that provides months of entertainment.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Fallout 3 (US, 10/28/08)
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