Review by Mephistofun
"Dark, dull, slow... And yet very very good."
I am going to be very wary reviewing this game. I think I like it. I play it for hours at a time. I forget to go to sleep when I play it but I never feel excited about it.
I don't normally do RPG's. I loved Mass Effect and, when previews showed that this was another hybrid-turn-based / action mule I thought I'd give it a go. I almost, so very almost, gave up on it. You see I have the attention span of a gnat and in a game where the one of the first objectives is "to find an objective" I found myself feeling lost. I got the same feeling in Oblivion too and, feeling tired of the the whole Tolkien, fantasy thing I traded it in pretty sharpish. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is the game's fault. I just didn't want to work hard in a game, I have a job to be made to work hard at and they pay me for the inconvenience and frustration.
What Fallout does is it at least makes the world densely populated with mini-quests so that if you do wander, and that is what you are encouraged to do, you will find fun stuff. I finally GET Oblivion but it's because Fallout does the whole introduction to the game much better and the map is smaller. The tricks used to make it feel bigger get a bit overused, most downtown areas become a real slog through hoards of the same type of enemy because a yet another building collapse but it makes sense that a ruined city would be almost impassible.
The main quest feels short but it's still huge when compared to most other games and is made shorter by the very open-nature that the game utilises so well. You can miss out huge chunks of the main quest just by wandering into an event or location too early. This is the really the only gripe I have with the game-play. The whole game hinges on the player being allowed to go wherever they want, whenever they want but in being given that freedom they can actually spoil the story of their own game. I can see a great deal of replay potential however. Even in one play through you can see a complex web of intertwining stories that you hop in and out of. Your every action has a consequence and you feel part of the world. I can see RPG fans complaining that the characters lack depth and I can see FPS fans pointing out the slow, plodding feel to the combat but the is a game that does both well enough to be a very good game. It might take a few hours to get the hang of it but once you are hooked you'll want to see another ending or try to save the characters you inadvertently allowed to explode.
It takes patience but give it time and it might grow on you. Do you really want to pay £39.99 to see if you like it though? I t plays slower than Mass Effect. The dialogue isn't as good. the stories are nowhere near as good but as a new world to explore it's head and shoulders above anything else. It's not the sense of place you get from Bioshock or even GTA 4 but it's close. The VATs system is great but not as smooth as Mass Effect. But whilst Mass Effect relies on you aiming, the VATs system turns the accurate aiming bit into a dice roll. You have a 'chance' of a hit while the energy bar is filled. Once it runs out it'll recharge but you'll have to retreat, take cover or rely on your own target pointing skills. It slows the combat but still keeps you feeling in control of the action. There is a very noticeable lag between menus in VAT's and it grinds to a halt at times but it works.
Crashing, in my opinion, shouldn't happen on a console game. When the developer knows the exact spec of the machine it is playing on but this is the 360 and it could be the machine. It wouldn't be the same if it didn't forget how to read its' own discs every so often.... no hang on it would be better if it didn't. Anyway I digress;
Grey. Some more grey. And the same weather. Overcast. but never rains. It'd probably burn your eyes anyway. For a game based on a wasteland it throws in a lot of detail though. Cans, debris, burned out cars and litter... well litter the map. There is the odd bit of repetition but never to the point where you mistake one town for another. You will never be in awe but it is technically very good. Imagine if Margaret Thatcher's body (that's an ex-British Prime Minister) had been mapped to microscopic detail, You could view every mole, every wrinkle, every nook and cranny blown up to the size of a house. It would be impressive, you would marvel at the complexity of the image but you wouldn't go out of your way to explore it. This is Fallout 3. It's a wasteland. It is realised very well. You don't explore it to see what is over the horizon. You explore it to experience what is over the horizon.
The 360 version has almost no glitches, the frame rate occasionally threw a wobbler but it never got in the way of the game. You can see for miles! But it's grey.
Like the graphics the sound is very good but kind of grey. The music never inspires but then never gets in the way. The voice acting is never bad but never quite convincing and the sound effects are suitably echoey and empty but grey. It's like you'd expect a wasteland to be. Even when you do find a bit of green (I'm not spoiling here) it's predictably... grey.
So overall Fallout is very good. It's really hard to say its' brilliant though. The superlatives sit on the end of my tongue but when you really look at the game in detail what it really does is put a load of interesting objectives in and ends them just before you get bored. All great games do of course this but Fallout never quite takes your breath away. What it does do is it piques your curiosity, like no other game does. It gives you a challenge that you become determined to complete and you fight tooth and nail to find out what happens. The only downside is that in the end you don't cheer in triumph. You think 'oh yeah. That was good,' and then you remember that someone you spoke to earlier wanted you to find something and that it sounded interesting.
So I walk away from Fallout feeling a little numb. I'm not disappointed, I'm even going to play it again in a minute. But it never quite gets exciting. Just interesting. Never quite feels frightening, but it's never really boring. I have just played another 6 hours on it. Six hours! I have no idea why.
My maths isn't wrong. I gave this a 9 overall because it has something I still haven't got my head around. The sum of its' parts really is greater than the whole.... no hang on that should be the whole is greater than the sum of its' parts.... No wait..... it might be the sum of its' hole is greater than its' parts....
Whatever the saying is it is very good. A very addictive game but never quite an edge of your seat experience.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/21/08
Game Release: Fallout 3 (EU, 10/31/08)
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