Review by Zwanzig

Reviewed: 07/30/09

Finally bringing the Fallout franchise to front stage, it's definately a step in the right direction.

Fallout 3. It seems that most people are either absolutely in love with it, or can't stand it. Most purists towards the franchise tend to lean to the latter, unfortunately, and are missing a great game. Let's take a look at it based only on its own merits.

At a Glance: 8/10
Pros: Fallout world brought alive in modern graphics, immersive and realistic gameplay, Ultra-violent film noire style.
Cons: Aging technology limits the game's potential, shoddy writing makes poor use of the huge play area and potential for an incredibly epic story.

I.Immersion (25/30)

Storyline – What starts in the uninteresting and dystopia-like feeling of an underground survival vault will span an immense portion of what used to be Washington, D.C.; now the Capital Wasteland. Aside from one or two (unmentioned) quirky storyline twists, it is fairly straightforward and relatively predictable. Unfortunately one of the larger weaker points of the entire package, the story is easily breakable (Say, head very far East very early? Warning: It WILL throw out half the main-quest time!). If played in correct order, it offers some amusement to get the hang of the game, get your first character going and get used to everything. The other letdown in the story department, is the lack of completion either available ending gives the player. (6/10)

Presentation – Players will immediately notice the main menu to the game, obviously. One of the finer points of this title (And, although we're judging on the independent merits, we can harken back) and its predecessors, has always laid in the small details that give the game a specific feel. Immediately, you're greeted by a suit of power armor streaming by in a film-strip style, reminiscent of the '50s Post-War modernization. Long time players will notice of course the return of the Pipboy for the menu interaction with their characters. In line with the game's source material (The S.P.E.C.I.A.L System) perks are now back and tamer than ever. Which also, unfortunately, brings up the one negative thing in the Presentation category. The dark, cunning and witty humor has been largely removed from the game, instead opting for a more serious and realistic approach to the world and its inhabitants. (9/10)

Use of Assets – The game developers have created one of the most stunning sandbox games the world has ever seen. One of the more subtle things that really make the title, are the way everything is put together and linked. While traveling, you are bound to run into various parties and groups each trying to stake their claim in the wastes. Grocery stores and buildings are believably equipped and generally look the part. The only large drawback to how Bethesda used the amazing world they've created, is the almost nonexistence of the West. For the most part, the story will keep the player in the central (Starting) area, North, and East. The west end of the map, except for the ludicrous amounts of extras, is forgotten by the story. Which brings us to our final point, the extras. It's insane. I shouldn't even have to mention it, but this game has more extra content, things to find and do, places to explore, than any game I've ever seen. (10/10)

II.Technical Ability (26/30)

Graphics – Although not the most demanding game on the market, Fallout 3 most certainly makes the best use of its aging engine (Sorry Oblivion, but you're a geezer by comparison.) Textures appropriate to the surroundings, almost never out of place except for a few choice interiors (Where they should either be drastically more “grungy”, or drastically cleaner). The major issue the game has that I have noticed so far, is the unfortunate number of bugs and problems. Of course we rarely see someone post, “My system is running this without a hitch.. so, nothing to report” and only see the complaints.. But for the most part, it seems like a lot of the same stuff is happening to a lot of people, so we can assume the game has some problems in the scaling or compatibility department, which will hurt its score here. One final note worth mentioning, is the game's animation. Now, I don't mean to be a hater, I swear, but the game's animations, besides the storyline, may be the weakest thing in the entire package. Now, I know Oblivion and the engine is not really known for being on the cutting edge, but some of the animations look straight out of the Playstation One era. (8/10)

Sound – Most people pay very little attention to sound, most people still using motherboard-based IGSC's. This kind of thing is sad too, especially in this game. There isn't much of a musical score to the game (Except in choice areas where it really adds to the situation), but you can almost always catch something reasonably entertaining on the in-game radio. From the exploits of a Washington, D.C. Disc-jockey who reports on your exploits in almost real time (And will do so whether you want him to or not. Well, you could just kill him.) Also, although quite abrasive, most of the firearms sound quite realistic and of good quality. (10/10)

Core – The core of any game (Console or PC) is the engine itself. We already know that Fallout 3 is not the world's brightest star in the graphics game, but the engine itself also showing its age. The whole “pause the world while you talk” thing was pretty weak in Oblivion, and unfortunately hasn't gotten better here. The game would have experienced a huge playability boost with a more minimalist conversation UI, opting for on-the-fly talking with a button-based context menu when required. Another limitation of the engine is of course its RAM usage. Even those of us with 8GB systems are only going to be able to take advantage of a fraction of that (I've heard everything from 1.3GB to 2GB. Not completely sure myself.) and the game does not perform very well on quad-core processors, which is again due to the growing age of the Oblivion engine. The one thing that has improved over its tech-predecessor is the handling of the world itself and the AI. Random encounters are a little more realistic, and in general the AI behaves more on the intelligent side of things. (8/10)

III.The Aftermarket/Expansions (15/20)

Mods – The mod community for this game has already begun growing at an incredible rate, with mods that do everything ranging from making the game harder, to adding hundreds of new weapons. Bethesda, as usual, is on the ball concerning their mod support. The only problems that one might see is the incompatibility between a lot of the mods, and knowing correct load order, and which ones cause conflicts. (9/10)

Expansions – So far, Bethesda has released a few addons for the game, offering a few extra hours of gameplay, extra items and weapons. While some may feel justified in purchasing the extras, I personally didn't think they were quite worth cost, and besides setting to explore, and new graphics to look at, are almost completely able to be skipped without missing anything. (6/10)

The Report Card
Immersion: 25 (30)
Tech: 26 (30)
Aftermarket: 15 (20)
Reviewers Personal Opinion: 17 (20)

Total Score: 83 (100)

Final Word: Fallout 3 hopefully marks a bright new future to the franchise, allowing a whole new generation of gamers to fall in love with the post-apoc lore. With only a few shortcomings, Bethesda is on the right track. Now all they need is a new engine and a better writing team, and I'm ready for Fallout 4.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Fallout 3 (US, 10/28/08)

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