Review by Junior_AIN

Reviewed: 06/21/17

Fallout 3 does most things well and manages to be a memorable experience.

It’s a well known fact that Fallout 3 resembles Oblivion in a different setting. It’s hard to get the scope right, but when you finally play it – presuming you’ve played Oblivion before – you suddenly realize how true those statements were. Some complain, some see as natural, Bethesda used the same version of its previous engine to craft another experience; I don’t think there should be any problem with that.

You find a lot of what made Oblivion, well… Oblivion. The huge explorable map with dozens upon dozens of locations waiting to be discovered. Though it’s fair to say that Fallout map feels a little more restrained, maybe it’s just the sense you get from the map menu’s lack of close-up and addition of dead surroundings. Still, the terrains is pretty detailed and abdicates sheer vastness in favor of usefulness.

The way the game handles quests, the face to face interaction mechanic, the different types of responses clearly giving out a certain type of personality, the skills after each level risen, the waiting system, looting system. Everything feels pretty familiar, except now you have fire weapons. Have in mind though that this is never a bad thing, if anything, it’s a good one. Though the Oblivion resemblance might count for first impressions, Fallout 3 should be judged by its own terms.

The menus are actually a let down. It feels pretty strange navigating through the three main tabs. Maybe the console original functioned better and had better controller input, but for PC it feels like a step back from Oblivion’s good system. And remember that Oblivion in itself was already a huge step forward compared to the disaster that was Morrowind’s menu. Quests for example, are indeed separated with each having it’s own directions, tasks, objectives done.

The problem from having the menu controlled connected to the Pip-Boy’s in-game functionality didn’t help much. The primary tabs are Stats, items, and data. Each primary tab has its own set of secondary tabs regarding what it holds. The item tab is especially confusing because you equip armors and other stuff but is never quite sure of what is there to be worn. I’m still not sure if the characters have more than the armor/helmet set for defense. From the items found in-game, it doesn’t.

There should be something clearly specifying what type of equippable item each one is. As well as a tab to visualize every possible body part that is apt to receive equipment, listing the ones on the character at present moment. The fact that there’s quite a few of these secondary tabs make browsing through them a bit clunky. The player will eventually get used to it, but it’s quite clear that a better job was possible.

The wasteland landscape is amazingly well done. As mentioned, the level of detail impresses. The engaging story utilizes the world in its fullest. Even if side-quests is not really your thing, traversing through the main quest is never mundane. The method Bethesda chose to begin it all is pretty innovative as well. Important events from your life flash through as you become aware of what kind of trouble you’re in.

The beginning reminds a lot of Oblivion when you’re just out of the sewer and just before you exit a message pop-up allowing character stats and aesthetics review. The difference is now you get out of Vault 101, an anti-nuclear banker sealed shut from the radioactive atmosphere of the over-world. Blinded by sunlight, something you’ve never experienced before in your 18 years of age, you begin the quest.

I must say I’m quite satisfied on how the events develop, the game is pretty nicely paced. Fast travels is present to avoid those longs minutes of walking around, again, if you don’t feel “immersed” enough by fast traveling, simply don’t do it. After you’ve discovered any location in your map you’ll be able to use this handful little service.

The combat feels pretty strange at first. It’s not fluid like a full-fledged first-person shooter, but it’s not simple button mashing from RPGs. Bullet spread will be your number one enemy, especially in the beginning. Finding ammunition is not as easy too. Since most foes use fire-weapon, even if you choose melee there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get too close to them, so it demands a little more awareness than its cousin Oblivion, for example.

Looting seems more essential, and looting such a devastated landscape is a sight to behold. Money won’t come as easily, though experience feels a lot more abundant. Enemies hand out very little of them, but quests boost them quite a lot. Unlike Oblivion’s great system of leveling up where each different aspect of training gives the player its own unique advancements. Like leveling up athletics you need to run or swim a lot; leveling up heavy armor demands damage received from such armor, and so on.

It doesn’t work like that but it’s bad at all. You jump one level, get a few points to spend, there’s a whole set of abilities and it’s just a matter of building your own character the way you feel it’s best. Perks received upon each level give the character unique abilities as well. Since the combat will mostly occur from mid to long range, armor plays a more secondary role while your choice of weapon and ammunition availability are going to be much more important, after all.

Another cool thing is the radiation level, upon arriving at some radioactive radius you’ll suddenly suffer from radiation exposure per second. The degree depends a lot, from 1 to 2 points every second to dozens. As your rad meter goes up, your stats go down. If you somehow reach level 1000 your character will instantly die. Every type of health-recoverable food found in the Wasteland is often toxic as well, so even while recovering health you’re gaining radiation, which demands cure too.

The cities are somewhat peculiar in this game. They’re basically enduring crowds of people living in drastic conditions, while striving to survive a land where nothing grows and crime runs rampant across the land. There’s one city build inside of a shut-down air craft carrier ship. Like one of the characters in-game said: Human race is stubborn like that.

Everything is set in the area of Washington D.C. in the United States. Some known spots are easily identifiable. Most notably the Jefferson Memorial, which plays a huge role in the main story. There’s raiders, slavers, loners, ghouls – poor chaps who have been severely exposed to radiation –, along with several different types of people living hand to mouth in the dying world.

The way you approach each situation is still of primordial relevance. For instance, when you find a group of slavers, guys who go around capturing being to turn them into slaves, you can get inside their camp by joining them or simply walk in gun-blazing, serving justice with your own hands and guns. If you’re feeling awfully sadistic you might be tasked with slaving a few targets and earn a free pass. Who knows, maybe even profit a little from delivering them new merchandise from time to time.

Fallout 3 is not just a game made from the remains of Oblivion, its story is amazingly told. Its game mechanics are good enough to back everything up. The quests are what you’d expect from a post-apocalyptic RPG. The fact RPGs like this and Mass Effect exist, the ones that derive from the saturated high-fantasy setting, pleases me greatly. Worth a shot.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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

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