Review by Sinroth

Reviewed: 10/17/11

A sinfully unheard-of game.

It was a few years ago that I brought a three-in-one Fallout pack. After ploughing through most of Fallout 2 and having my PC fail to load Fallout 1, I ignored Tactics and let it stagnate at the bottom of the box. Bored and curious, I installed the game and had a crack at the tutorials. Nothing interesting – they were poorly put together and gave me bad impressions at the game. The first mission as well was fairly easy, if occasionally unfair when my strategies would cock-up and everyone would die.

Then I tried the next mission and the next one after and then kept playing for several hours. It’s safe to say: the game has me hooked.

Fallout 1 and 2 couldn’t keep me captivated, so why is Tactics any different? The game has a turn-based strategy approach that keeps it timeless. Though Fallout 1 and 2 have aged poorly, Tactics is still fresh and entertaining because of the way you go about missions. Your squadron of troops are dropped into a mission and expected to find the way out.

Combat plays out in either turn-based or continuous turn-based (which is basically real-time). Though games like this can typically only be played in turn-based, I found continuous turn-based (CTB) to be much more rewarding than standard turn-based.

How does the game play out? You are an initiate in the Brotherhood of Steel. You must recruit and manage a squadron of warriors as you are dispatched to missions. Your objectives range from rescuing hostages to killing certain enemies. They all boil down to wiping every enemy clean off the map.

I’ll say it straight up – Fallout Tactics is a hard game. You will be constantly saving and loading and reloading and then saving again when you’ve managed to kill a single enemy. Though this kind of save-scumming is usually frowned upon, it is a necessity in Fallout Tactics because of the nature of the game. Even high-level characters can die in a few shots and if something goes wrong, your whole squadron will be decimated in seconds.

The crux of Tactics revolves around the very tactical combat. The combat is a mixture of brute-force, positioning, stealth, and sniping. You must move your troops into position while others provide covering fire. You stand no chance if you rush the enemy straight-on. To assist with this you have different stances: standing, crouching, and prone. The game encourages lateral thinking and you will be coming up his half-baked strategies on the spot. When they work, you’ll sit back and wonder why on earth you aren’t commanding the US Army. The AI responds in a manner that is not predictable but not too wild either – it’s just right. You’ll find immense joy in carefully orchestrating attacks on heavily-fortified positions. There’ll also be times when you’ll smash your keyboard at rage because you just shot half of your own squadron to death.

Your controls are a bit finicky. Characters like to sprint across the map at the slightest click and sometimes it can be a bit clumsy manoeuvring six people across the battlefield. Despite this, the inherent fun and thrill in micro-managing each team member to improve your position outweighs the frustrations you will encounter.

Yes, that’s right; you can have a total of six party members. Between missions you return to your bunker, where you buy items and supplies and suit up for your next objective. You can also recruit new party members. The availability of many depends on your success in certain missions. For example, if you save a ghetto of Ghouls from marauding enemies, they will pledge their services. Maps are wide and open and often have lots of little rooms and houses that offer unique loot, encouraging expansive, thorough play-styles that mean you will completely clean the map of all enemies and items.

Sound in this game is decent. The music is screechy and intense at the right moments but not to the point where it overpowers the action. Then you have your typical gun-sounds – to a layman they sound alright indeed. Voice acting is present in limited amounts and it’s not bad. By far the stand-out is the voice over for your mission narrators. He has the perfect rough, southern redneck drill-sergeant barb in his throat that adds a bit of immersion to your briefings.

There are some shortcomings in Tactics. The game is quite linear. It’s not at all like other games in the Fallout series. It’s set in the same world and contains similar weapons and items but it does not play at all like Fallout 1 or 2. The storyline is weak – the game lets action drive your interest. I don’t mind though. Strong storylines tend to compensate for weak gameplay. Although the game pulls a complete 180 on this, the gameplay is so fun that you won’t care much for storylines.

In keeping with Fallout canon and consistency, the game tumbles a bit here and there. I’m told that the official stance is that this game is canonical to the Fallout universe, except in cases where it contradicts previous lore. For instance, the Brotherhood of Steel allows Ghouls, Super Mutants, and Deathclaws into their ranks. This didn’t shock me too much – the thrill of eating people with my own pet Deathclaw distracted me.

Fallout Tactics is a woefully unheard of title. It must have slipped completely under the radar. The default game is fairly safe and bug-free given who made it. There are a few hiccups that will happen every now and then, but these aren’t anything an unofficial patch won’t fix. It’s a fabulous, tactically-minded strategy game that will reward the patient and the cautious. You need to approach it in the right mood. Maps can take hours to clear, but if you let the game in, you will be sucked in without realising it. Then, like me, you realise that it’s daybreak.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel (US, 03/14/01)

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