Review by djnightforce9
Reviewed: 07/15/09 | Updated: 07/15/09
A review that will "tell it like it is"
Introduction: I have read and watched several reviews on this game and yet many reviewers seem to miss some fairly critical flaws that I have observed while playing it. That does not mean that I believe the game is "all bad" but as the title suggests, I am going to point them out during the course of this review (or "tell it like it is"). This is coming from someone who has not played the other Fallout games so unlike the other reviews with low scores, I will not be judging how well this fits within the Fallout series but rather as its own game. Also, my review will be very specific to the PC version since that is the platform I had played it on.
Story: Nothing much to be said here. It starts out with you looking for your father and goes from there. Most of the time you will be side tracked with exploration and side quests which essentially make up most of the game anyway. Therefore, I don't place too much importance on the storyline
Graphics: Fallout 3 is very exceptional in the graphics department. It may not seem like anything special when you first start the game in Vault 101, but you get a real treat once you step into the wasteland for the first time and see the city ruins spanning several miles in every direction. The beauty of it too is that everything you see can actually be visited. I think back to older first person shooter games where you would look out a window and see this massive landscape only to soon realize that it was just a skybox and you can't actually go exploring. Fallout 3 of course eliminates these barriers because it is an open world game. The only issues I have with the graphics are that they tend to be very repetitive when you are indoors (i.e. a lot of the indoor map sections are recycled which can be confusing when you can not tell if you have already explored a particular area (although your Local Map will help you a lot in that case). Another aspect of the graphics that was very well done are the sprites. Your character and enemies alike change appearance based on their equipment so you can even tell right away what items you are going to receive once you win a battle. Also, when you do loot enemies, you can see their equipment disappear revealing their clothing underneath. This was a very nice touch indeed.
Audio: Most of the game's soundtrack consists of ambiance (you are in a desolate area after all) which is interrupted by enemy taunts or NPC chatter. You also have a radio you can use in order to listen to news about the area or even some music (which appears to come from the 1940's probably in order to depict the Fallout's stifling of cultural development). Voice acting is quite well done too as thugs sound very sinister and NPC's sound quite alive and convincing. However, I guess there were a limited number of voice actors assigned to this game because some NPCs share the exact same voice which can sound rather awkward at times. My other complaint regarding the audio is that when you are indoors, you can never tell if the taunt is coming from someone on the same floor as your character or upstairs/downstairs. It all sounds the same. A "muffled" effect would have been a nice audio cue for determining that an enemy's voice is traveling through the floor or ceiling.
Gameplay: So far my impression of this game has been quite good and I can understand why many consider it a masterpiece. However, this is the section that leaves much to be desired. As I said before, the game is an open world first person shooter RPG and thus you can expect the game to consist of a lot of exploring, shoot, looting, buying/selling, and completing quests. There is nothing wrong with the overall concept but there are some specific flaws that do hinder the experience. I will list them in order to make things simpler:
1. You move way too slow (even when running). This may not seem like a problem in the enclosed areas but it is very noticeable out in the open when it takes a long time to reach your destination (which can be quite boring when most of the land does not contain anything useful along the way). A faster sprint speed would have been very nice. I know this is mitigated by fast travel but you still have to walk over and explore an area first before fast travel will work. The run speed is also a major problem in battle especially when you are using melee weapons. Most enemies can easily outrun you and often you will not get close enough for a clear shot without most of your health being drained from return fire. Of course you would likely use a ranged weapon against an enemy with a gun but you still need to move in close enough in order for a reasonable amount of your shots to actually hit. This leads me to my next issue.
2. Ranged weapon accuracy is way too low for a first person shooter type game. This is perhaps my biggest complaint with this game because it is very imbalanced. You have to get fairly close to an enemy in order for your hits to register even though you are pointing directly at them. This gets ridiculous when you use a sniper rifle which is meant to be a long ranged weapon yet your bullets fly all over the place and never hit the target. If you take a look at the VATS system which essentially stops time and will let you choose a body part to attack, you will see a percentage that represents your chance to score a hit. This figure also applies when you aim and fire manually which means you are hardly guaranteed a hit even if you lined up your shot perfectly. I remember one particular case where there was an enemy on top of a building with a rocket launcher. He was literally impossible to hit as even the sniper rifle only had a 5-24% chance (and I had well over 50 skill points put into small guns). Now the above would not be a problem if the enemies had the same problem too but as it turns out, they are dead accurate and can snipe you easily with any gun while you do not stand a chance of scoring a hit from the same distance. This here is an extremely serious issue this game seems to have and can lead to very frustrating moments. It also renders manual aiming useless because you'll end up depleting all your ammo doing little to no damage (and finding ammo is not exactly common in this game as even shops have a limited supply of it).
3. My third complaint is specific to the PC version of the game. I really detest the pip-boy interface. Perhaps it works fine on a console but it is extremely unfriendly for PC gamers. For example, in most PC games that have a map, you simply press a single button (usually M for Map) and have a look. In this game though, you have to press tab to open your pip-boy, then you have to click on the "Data" button, and then you have click either Local or World map depending on which one you want to view. This should have been simplified into a single keystroke because you will likely bring up your map quite often. While the pip-boy does remember what screen you last viewed (so the map will appear when you enter the interface again), you will likely switch out rather quickly in order to check inventory, stats, etc (which again require a similar process to access). Simply put, this is a very console-centric interface and should have been reworked for the PC version. Essentially, it will just slow you down a lot. Another problem with the pip-boy is the way your inventory is laid out. You literally have to scroll through a list of items you are carrying which at times can make it very tedious trying to find the item you want to access if you do not know where it is already. Compare that to other PC game inventory systems where you are presented with a large grid that allows you to re-arrange/slot items on the grid as you see fit.
Replay Value: Suppose you put all the flaws I mentioned above aside and decided to play the game through to completion. I would say the replay value is very high for two main reasons. First, you can play as either a "hero" or "villain" which is determined by your karma rating that will change when you perform a good or evil deed (this affects how people view and treat your character). Secondly, there appears to be very frequent downloadable content releases meaning that just when you thought you covered all possible ground in this game, you soon find out that there is now more area to explore and new challenges await. This will keep the game alive and fresh for quite some time as long as new DLC continues to be added once in a while. This is especially true when the forced ending after the final quest was removed allowing you to continue to explore until your heart's content.
Overall: This game had a lot of potential to truly be a masterpiece. As I said above, the graphics and sound for the most part were very exceptional with only minor issues. However, the blatant gameplay quirks just can not be ignored. The only saving grace is that some of them can actually be corrected by applying a third party mod (such as your run speed) but others (like the pip-boy interface) would require a complete makeover which no "mod" could ever achieve.
I give it a 5/10 as a final score since it did have some fairly decent aspects to it.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: Fallout 3 (US, 10/28/08)
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