Review by Trohan
"Fall-In Love with Fallout 3"
As neither a fan of Bethesda nor of the previous Fallout games, not by choice but simply due to never playing games of their making or within the series, respectively, Fallout 3 was certainly a new (and grand) experience for me.
Regarding the story, it is fairly slow, albeit steady, in the beginning of the game; however the vast amount of sidequests and the ability to unravel many a characters' personal tribulations is a difficult element to implement, let alone do so as seamlessly as Bethesda did in this instance. Each town has several quests you can do to earn bottle caps, the currency of the game, in order to buy equipment, medical items or even hire the help of certain NPCs.
The sidequests are rather extensive, allowing (read: forcing) you to traverse an area far from where you took the quest. While this sounds like it would be particularly annoying, it helps you focus on immersing yourself within the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the new world through exploration, and inevitably battle. It cannot be said that Fallout 3 lacks a compelling story, especially when one takes into account the plethora of side-stories.
In terms of the main quest, it could be better; however, how many games are perfect? None of them. The game has what is quite possibly one of the most well done character creation sequences... ever. Not only does your character's opening piece entertain, it ties directly into the story and may become an important part of how you interpret the game's events. As you leave Vault 101 and head to find your own path of virtue and kindness-- or vengeance and terror, you can follow the main quest at your leisure and thus ensure a lengthy, enjoyable experience.
Graphically, Fallout 3 may not be the best in its class, but it is a stunning world nonetheless. Detail to both the environment as well as NPCs is spectacular and the game has few choppy (or jaggy) areas on an HDTV. Even while played on a SDTV, the game exudes obvious graphical superiority over a majority of RPGs and first-person shooters on the Xbox 360. One of the best parts of the game is its nighttime shift. Twilight, even over the Hellish decay of twenty-third century Washington D.C., is stunning and truly a sight for sore eyes (literally) for our former Vault dweller.
The blight of the land, various beasts parented by radiation and something that may very well be unadulterated rage, looks as complex as such spawn may in the reality in which we live. Third-person view, admittedly is not as wondrous as first-person, but there are only a few points in which your character moves unnaturally, primarily during jumps or if you're overencumbered with loot and cannot walk your proper speed.
The sound of the game is as impressive as one should expect from games of the scope Fallout 3 has. While Galaxy News Radio gets repetitive while you cruise the Wastes, the Golden Age music adds a touch of spookiness and helps make a point that even 270-ish years in the future with technology like a science-fiction novel, making new music in a dilapidated society is unrealistic. Sticking to the oldies makes that point hit you that fun is a far stretch below survival on a post-apocalyptic hierarchy of needs.
Enclave Radio, the broadcasts sent by Eye-Bots on the Wastes by the alleged remnants of the United States government is riveting in small doses. Music is not so much important on this station as motivational speeches and words of wisdom are, though whether the speeches are a recording on a loop or recent, no one can be sure. On the topic of speech, the dialogue is fairly strong, with only a few characters' voice acting terrible enough to have you beg for nails on a chalkboard (hello entrepreneur & writer, Moira Brown.)
Your character never actually speaks with a voice, save for baby babble as a young'in, and thus the dialogue system is nothing new. Some might view this as annoying or old school, but given thought it is a nice touch. It gives the player the ability to further engulf themselves in their character, projecting their own voice onto their pixelated speech-monger. There are varying topic choices when you talk to all named NPCs, some adding karma-- some deducting it. The way you treat people verbally, as well as physically, ultimately determines whether your character is a sadistic, caustic psychopath or a Good Samaritan with a heart of gold.
With story, sound and graphics out of the way, game-play is the end-all of my grading points, and to many, the most important. Fallout 3 is essentially a first-person shooter cleverly (or not) disguised as a role-playing game. Outwardly, it plays just like any shoot-em-up might; however, dialogue is hardly scarce and with many, many options of ways to balance your karma, degrade it or augment it the RPG elements are in every nook and cranny of the game. It all depends on your personal choice as to what you wish to do with your character, and consequently the world of Fallout 3.
As you level up, you attribute a number of points to different skills to help you later on, opening up more options for each skill the higher it gets. You can also choose different perks that assist you in battles or in secondary actions such as tacking more points onto the aforementioned skill section (i.e. hacking, lock picking and bartering.) Again, depending on your style you can choose to focus on big guns such as the Flamer, Minigun and Fat Man (a tactical nuclear device catapult,) small guns like the 10mm, Combat Shotgun or Assault Rifle or go melee/hand-to-hand for battle. The choices for your battle type are both balanced and highly effective the more you train.
The level cap removes the often-overwhelming desire to grind to improve your character in RPGs, as you can certainly cap your character in a full play-through without hunting near and far for enemies to smash/cut/burn/disintegrate. Equally important as mindless slaughter, completing quests (and breaking into locks/terminals) gets you experience and a reasonable amount of it depending on what you did. That being said, you will never be behind unless you fast-travel constantly or stick solely to the main quest.
Walking the Wasteland lets you discover an impressive amount of landmarks, buildings and quest areas. The large world proves both fun and exciting to search, though as with all large games, it may get repetitive after you have explored it all and have to walk between areas without fast-travel, for whatever reason. That; however, is a downside you should be willing to live with, for the long walk to your destination will prove less stressful when you can satisfyingly exhaust a pack of Raiders of their very lives.
All in all, Fallout 3 is more than just a game with a big map and cool guns. It is vastly entertaining in all degrees and is one of the most captivating games on the console. Every action, every choice you make is reflected to one degree or another in each individual town. Don't lose sight of your humanity. Being too caring or too hostile may lead to trouble later on. Fallout 3 will amuse you for dozens of hours as a FPS/RPG hybrid and is certainly worth every penny to purchase rather than rent. Just remember, it isn't whether you win or lose... it's how you play the game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 11/03/08, Updated 04/03/13
Game Release: Fallout 3 (US, 10/28/08)
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