Review by TKDBoy1889
"It's like Oblivion with guns! But not quite as great...."
Fallout 3 took the gaming community by storm when it first came out. A cult classic that started off as a turn-based RPG on the PC, Fallout was bought by Bethesda, the makers of the famous Elder Scrolls series. Bethesda aimed to take the Fallout series in a new direction, and what we get is like a a version of Oblivion that features guns and robots with a few throwbacks to the older games. The game is fun, but has a lot of issues.
The game starts off with your character literally being born, and you getting to customize the physical looks of your character. After your mom dies shortly after childbirth, you skip to the tutorial stages that kick start the story off. You grow up with your dad inside a vault, believed to be the only safe haven from an outside world destroyed by Nuclear fire 200 years ago. After an honestly long and rather tedious series of tutorial levels, the game kicks off when your dad has left the vault and the overseer of the vault has ordered you to be detained. You have no choice but to flee in search of your father, and seek answers. Thus, a sheltered young adult is thrust into a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with all kinds of dangers. Radiation, raiders, mutated animals and insects, malfunctioning robots, and many other perils. You can choose to begin the main story right away, or go out and explore and do whatever you want.
In true Bethesda fashion, Fallout 3 is an open-ended experience where for the most part you can do what you want, when you want. You can choose to do the main quests whenever you want or opt to never do them at all. There are plenty of quests to perform, and plenty of various people to assist or harm.
When it comes to combat you have several styles, from hand-to-hand weapons to melee weapons to guns to explosives. Sadly each category only has a handful of weapons that are good. Seriously, one of the downsides of Fallout 3 is the overall lack of good weaponry for such a vast game. There are two shotguns not counting unique weapons, one of which is utterly useless. And you are quite literally given the best pistol in the whole game at the start of the main game. The pistol you acquire as the main game starts up after the tutorial is the second most powerful, and the only one more powerful is only good for sniper situations. There is a serious lack of varying weapons in each of the category. There are good weapons in the game, just not that many, and I really wished there were more.
Combat is split into real-time FPS style combat and the VATS targeting system. VATS was clearly an attempt to implement some of the turn-based aspects of the older Fallout games. When using VATS you enter a targeting mode and use up action points to select specific body parts on an enemy to shoot at, each telling you your odds of scoring a hit. VATS is an interesting concept and has some plus sides, but overall it's not quite that special. The ability to target certain limbs is nice. You can cripple a leg so an enemy can't run or cripple the arm so they don't aim as well or drop their gun. The problem is that for most of the enemies, by the time you are able to cripple their arms or legs they'll only have about 10 or 20 percent of their life left, so it's rather pointless. You're better of just aiming for the torso or the head to finish 'em off quicker. Also, disarming enemies does nothing since it takes all of 3 seconds for them to pick the weapons back up. VATS in itself is also capable of becoming incredibly overpowered. Aside from the fact that all your enemies slow down immensely during the VATS sequences, you only take 10% of the damage you normally would. Those who prefer a lot of challenge will want to use VATS sparsely to keep things more even.
Now while targeting your enemies limbs is pointless, the fact that your own limbs can be crippled was done well. A crippled head makes the screen blur every few moments, a crippled arm makes your aiming very inaccurate, and crippled legs slow you down. Of course, they can be healed right away with stimpaks or sleeping so it's not going to present a very lasting challenge at any point during the game.
Being Fallout, a game based in a post-nuclear land, there is also the added factor of radiation. Radiation is a system that is well designed, but sadly not very prominent in the game. As you become exposed to more and more radiation, your attributes suffer and if you absorb too many rads, you die. A very good mechanic to use in a game like this, and it's designed well. It just isn't very common. Radiation is usually easy to avoid, and items that lower your radiation level are rather common, making the overall threat of radiation less noticeable.
There are also mini-games for hacking computers and lockpicking. Lockpicking is a pretty good mini-game, albeit a bit easy. Hacking, however, is a tedious minigame that just drags. And the science skill, linked to hacking, is done poorly since it doesn't make the hacking itself any easier, but you still have to level it up to access tougher computers. Also, locked doors and computers are somewhat inconsistent. You'd think harder ones would reveal greater results, or be linked to big missions. Not always though. Sometimes a very hard door will yield pitiful rewards.
The meat of Fallout comes from it's vast world and open-ended experience where you can meet all kinds of people and do different things. Many quests can be completed in different ways, usually to benefit different people with different goals. For example, you can disarm a live nuke in the middle of a scrapheap town or you can rig it to explode for someone who wants the town obliterated. There are some pretty colorful characters out there, both good and evil, as well as those just looking to survive. Fallout 3 doesn't have the most content in a game, but it does have a lot. There are several various quests to be found it different spots as you explore. Many various things to do, such as killing groups or rescuing people or fetching items for people and the like.
The main story is pretty interesting and involving, and ends up leaving you with a couple choices that will really have a big impact on the wasteland. I don't want to reveal any spoilers, but let's just so you do have a big choice at the end that determines the fate of the wasteland. For the most part, the main story revolves around trying to find your dad, learning the truth about how you were born, and then being tasked with continuing the work your parents continued. It's on the short side, but it's really interesting. And many side quests are interesting as well. A big plus for Fallout is that you can truly have an impact on the world around you. You can ruin people's lives or save them from danger, and then see the results of your work later on. Parts of the world do change depending on how you finish some quests. This is probably the game's biggest strength, as it present a free-roaming world where you feel you actually have an impact on events, rather than just doing random busy work. The dialogue system is also pretty cool. It has a lot of variety in that you can choose to be polite or a real jerk as soon as you greet a new NPC. How you treat an NPC will of course alter how they view you. Sometimes being nicer will yield some rewards, and sometimes being tough or mean will also yield some different rewards, at the cost of them not liking you later on. There are also speech checks, dialogue options that have a certain percent chance of succeeding depending on how high your speech skill is. These options are useful for completing quests in peaceful ways sometimes or getting even bigger rewards sometimes. The only downside is that most will always have a chance to fail even with high speech, and the percentage chance will entice many to reload until they successfully pass a speech check. It would've been better if it was more straightforward with a certain requirement to meet in order to pass. But it's still a cool concept overall
Fallout 3 does have a lot of interesting places to explore as well. The game has a setting that is clearly influenced by 1950's science fiction. Given the story's backstory and timeline, that's to be expected. This is a rather interesting concept to explore, a time stuck in the pop culture and look of the 1950s, with lots of advanced technology that is massive and clunky as opposed to the real world's micro-technology. We don't get to see too many games set in a time period like this, mixing a post-nuclear wasteland with a 1950s style culture. It's a time period that's honestly pretty interesting to look at and explore. There are quite a few interesting places to explore, various settlements of different sizes that house different types of people. The various indoor areas are also pretty entertaining to explore. It's very well designed.
The exception being subways tunnels. This game got way to carried away with subway tunnels. They are the cells that link various outdoors cells on the map together, and you will be forced to go through them whenever you want to reach such a spot you haven;t been to before. This tunnels are repetitive, dull, and an incredible pain to navigate. They just aren't fun. This wouldn't be an issue worth bringing up except for the fact that you will have to go through these areas several times during the main quests, as well as for some of the side quests. A good chunk of exploration and traveling takes place here, and it's annoying.
Of course, like many open-world RPGs there is a moral system, known here as karma. Doing quests in a benevolent or kindhearted fashion earn gain karma, while doing evil deeds cost karma. Sadly, this does amount to a whole lot in general. Where it counts more is is the specific quests affecting specific people. Doing bad deeds in a town may get you banned from that town for a little while, and doing quests against a character's favor may cause them to not like you. But the general karma system itself doesn't do much. You can be a truly evil character by the karma system, but still walk into a new town with no problem. Having lots of positive karma WILL cause some contracted mercenaries to attack you periodically, claiming someone is fed up with your good acts, and negative karma will cause lawbringers to hunt you down. Kind of cool but it has no variation either way, since whether you're good or evil random people will be trying to ambush at various points.
Probably the most effect karma has is on who you can recruit. There are various companions you can recruit to fight at your side to aid you in combat. Some, however, will only join if you have the right karma alignment. Some only join if you're good, some only join if you're evil, some only if you're neutral.
Going back to the time-period, it is further accented by the music options. Fallout 3 has a standard subtle tune that plays in the background usually, but you can opt to play a radio station that features a small list of 1940s/50s songs that really capture that essence of that time. No hardcore rap or heavy metal here guys. You got 50s style jazz and the like. Whether this is a good thing or bad thing is entirely up to personal preference. I personally like those older songs. On this same radio we also have 3 Dog, a rather eccentric DJ that you actually meet in person and help out relatively early in the game. But what he mostly does is "fight the good fight" by making statement in between songs, usually giving small hints about a few parts of the game. What he really loves to do though, is talk about various quests you've completed, praising you when doing quests in a good way and criticizing you when you do something evil. He does get rather annoying after a while, especially with his crazed voice. Good music, very annoying DJ. Honestly reminds me of many radio stations in real life.
In short, Fallout 3 is an incredibly well designed game with a lot of issues. While The story is very interesting and you feel empowered as you have the ability to shape the destiny of many in the capital wasteland, the VATS system is not designed well, there is a lack of customization options, and there aren't many weapons in the game. Most of the drawbacks lie in gameplay mechanics that were good in theory and intention, but were not implemented as well or deeply as they could have been. In the end, it's still a really fun game and enjoyable to play. It's just nothing stellar. But if you are a fan of open-world RPGS or a fan of post-apocalyptic themed games, you should give this a try.
-Vast world with many quests
-Well designed world
-Story is interesting and quests leave you feeling like you have an impact on the world
-Good 50's music
-Dialogue system is pretty deep and detailed
-VATS is an interesting concept but not very well executed
-Lack of customization options and variety in weapons
-Way too many repetitive subway levels
-Karma system does not have much general effect
Final Score: 7/10
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/25/12
Game Release: Fallout 3 (US, 10/28/08)
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