Review by marijumanji
"Trouble in Paradise indeed"
Fallout 3's main story starts off very slowly and ends just when things start getting interesting. To say I was supremely disappointed would be an understatement. The developers claimed their would be 200 endings, only 6 made it into the final product. To make such a brash statement about your game and fail to back it up is unacceptable. It was an intentional deception of the fans to make it appear that the game was larger than it actually is. Their are only a handful of side-quests and the main quest is pitifully short. The main quest is also hurt by the lack of interesting characters to interact with. Bethesda has not yet learned to write compelling dialogue and this game is no exception. Paper thin characters and sleep inducing dialogue trees bring the game down. It's just boring. The characters also have very little to say to you, and quests are found in arbitrary places with little to no indication or clue of where they are.
The 'deep' role playing choices are few and far between and the games sense of morality is inconsistent with the series. For example killing the owner of the saloon who's treats the staff badly and withholds information from you causes the entire town to turn hostile and attack you, if you kill a similarly 'evil' character later in the game you gain karma and no one, even his friends and associates, seems to notice or care. It's inconsistencies like this that ruin the immersion and force you to play the good and evil paths exactly the way the computer wants you to. The ability to finish quests in a variety of ways seemed promising before release, but it always comes down to 4 different scenarios "lockpick a safe, hack a computer, use charisma to lie or kill the person" these choices might vary the gameplay slightly but the results are always the same and the consequences are always nil. Megaton is the one and only time your in-game actions have an emotional impact, and it's no surprise why this part of the game was hyped to death before release. I'd given Bethesda the benefit of the doubt that the new setting might freshen up their stale story writing, but I was wrong. Even Liam Neeson sounds bored to tears reading this monotonous pap. A few sections stand out as exemplary, but they are exceptions to the rule. This is a terrible shame because the art is so good. All in all the size of the game world is deceptive, the number of quests is actually smaller than what Fallout 2 had, and as I said they aren't nearly as open ended as they seem.
Bethesda absolutely nailed the atmosphere here. The over world maps are gritty and filled with little details that players will love. Looking out over the horizon from a good vantage point is the very definition of eye candy. The Super Mutant Behemoths are a sight to behold. The art style will feel very similar to fans of the original two games, with Stim-Packs and Mentats and Jet all looking exactly as they did in past games. The human enemies look great, very reminiscent of movies like Mad Max. The leather and mo-hawks go well with the games setting. That said, some of the animation is jerky, you'll only face a handful of different enemies and the third person mode is near useless gameplay-wise. The Pip-boy is a functional mess. It gets the job done but why couldn't they make it full screen and laid everything out sensibly? The combat is satisfying to watch. Their is a great visceral feeling you get from lobbing a grenade at some hapless citizen and watching in slow motion as they are sent flying through the air minus their legs with a stream of gore trailing behind them. It's an awesome effect that doesn't get old after many hours.
The VATS system was presented as an alternative to the real time combat. In practice, it's really VATS or nothing. Your weapons simply aren't accurate enough in real time to make it a viable alternative so it's pause and play all the way through. This is good and bad, as the player is forced to think strategically "Should I shoot the mutant in the head to try and finish him off or blast his arm off to make him drop his gun?" Well the answer is usually shoot him in the face as even if your opponent is missing a limb it will take him all of about 3 seconds to pick up that 50 pound Gatling gun and start shooting again. Once again, this is a gameplay feature that's better in theory than practice. I found the lockpicking portion of the game okay, the computer hacking on the other hand needed some tweaking. Rather than having your hacking skills actually help you hack the computers they only allow you to play the mini-game in order to get the information you need. I hope you like pouring over useless text because there's a lot of it here. Let's not even talk about the damn dog either, another incredibly hyped up game feature that ended up dying permanently mere hours after he started following me around, a victim of my very own flamethrower. At least he was tasty.
As a shooter it's not up to snuff, your gun takes forever to move around, and even though you're out of Action points you can still go into VATS mode to pause and zero in on an enemy making it near impossible for the enemy to successfully ambush you, twitch gamers really get no advantage here. As an RPG it fails due it's lack of interesting dialogue trees. So if it fails as an RPG and it fails as a tactical shooter why am I giving it a 7? Well it's just too fun to score any lower. The gibbing in this game is really satisfying, watching bits of jawbone and people's eyes fly at you in a wall of crimson slush is like nothing I've ever seen in a game before and won't be forgotten easily. If excessive blood and gore isn't your thing, you might want to think about getting another game for little Jimmy this Christmas.
3 Dog is annoying as hell. Okay, with that out of the way the audio is something fresh in gaming. The retro songs like "Chop that Meat" will stay stuck in your head long after you turn off your Xbox and the President's addresses to the 'nation' will amuse and disturb you at the same time. Even with the addition of an extra radio station or two towards the end of the game, there is still a lot of repetition here. You will hear the same short segments repeated ad nauseam throughout the whole game. Turning it off isn't much better, as the stone silent nature of a charred wasteland doesn't exactly make for the most interesting background noise.
This score is subjective like all reviews. I felt there weren't enough quests in this game, you can literally do everything in the game in under ten hours. The play time is padded by the fact that you need to traverse huge sections of empty space to get from objective to objective. Fallout 2 had a car, you can't give me a motorcycle or anything? How about a bike? or maybe a skateboard? a pogostick? No, it's run fatboy run, and you'll have nothing but the bleak landscapes and an occasional robot adversary to keep you company. Getting lost in the labyrinthine subway system for an hour does not make for an enjoyable gameplay experience. You might think it's peachy scrounging through what are essentially thinly disguised dungeons while fighting near-identical of groups foes for loot, but this gamer didn't. You could replay the game as a 'evil' character but the outcomes are always similar and the endings are too disappointing to really make it worth your while.
There is fun to be had here, no doubt about it. Your early experience with the combat engine will no doubt be satisfying, but extended play and exploration should expose the game for what it is. A massive big budget open ended shooter with little in the way of substance and extremely forgettable characters. Old school RPG fans will feel restricted by the lack of dialogue options and bland characters, hardcore FPS fans will be put off by the shallow combat options, and the Bethesda fan boys will rejoice and be forever happy playing "The Greatest Role-Playing Game Of All Time".
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/18/08
Game Release: Fallout 3 (US, 10/28/08)
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