Review by kefka989

"I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire"

The tagline for this game is ‘Prepare for the future', well I have to say that the future sucks… in a good way?

Fallout 3 is the 3rd and latest installment of the Fallout series (at least as far as the numbered sequels are concerned). The fallout series is known for many things; turn based combat, involving story, well written dialog, good dialog trees that branch further with the influence of various stats/perks/traits the character has, a good karma system to influence how the character's actions effect the reactions he gets from those around him, good voice acting, great character design, good settings, great random encounters, tongue-in-cheek humor, dark comedy, and probably the best of all, the overall feel of the games.

The story is rather depressing. The game takes place in an alternate reality where the cold war never ended and lasted well into the 2000's. Technology is advanced, in a sense. There are laser and plasma weapons, power armor, AI driven robots, nuclear powered cars, and the like, but the technology tends to be retro-futuristic. Retro-futuristic is kind of like ‘Buck Roger's Tech' which is stuff that is advanced but runs on older technology like for example computers run on magnetic tape reels and punch-cards, and TV's are Black-and-White only with vacuum tubes. Everything also looks like it's from the 1950's and 60's, harkening back to the height of the cold war. Anyways, after the cold war gets hot due to a resource shortfall, both sides start throwing nuclear weapons at each other in October of 2077. America had one advantage of a company called Vault-Tech that produced giant underground bomb shelters called Vaults. However these Vaults, as is mentioned in the game and the other games, were designed to be social experiments by having various malfunctions or problems that would occur during their run. Normally the vaults were designed open after 20 years, but very few did. Your character is born in one such vault; your vault numbered ‘101' and designed to never be opened to test extreme prolonged isolation. Everything is fine until your father, the vault doctor, decides to leave the vault in the night without saying why. The vault overseer, a kind of mayor/supervisor, becomes paranoid and declares martial law, having his security thugs kill your father's friend and sending them to find you to possibly do the same. You escape the vault only to find yourself standing out in the wasteland of what was Washington D.C. in the year 2277, a full 200 years after the bombs fell, things still a bombed out and eradiated. It's up to you to find your father and figure out why he left… and also not get killed while wondering the wastes.

What the game keeps and what it discards from the original Fallouts is partially expected and partially surprising. The game obviously does not run on the old 3/4ths isometric top down view that the original games do. Instead the game uses the Oblivion Engine that Bathesda worked on for Elderscrolls 4. It kind of shows because some of the areas look like they belong in Oblivion, the same rock formations and such. The skeletons found in the wastes identical to the ones from Oblivion, only they are not moving around and wielding swords and shields. The game replaces the turn based combat with VATs, or ‘vault assisted targeting'. This is essentially a way of your character using his pip-boy, or personal computer, to help him target enemies. This pauses the fight for a moment to let you target your opponent's torso, legs, arms, or head. The accuracy, represented with percentage points which are effected by your skill with that particular weapon you are using, the relative level of the enemy, the condition of the weapon you have, and the visibility of the targeted part (if your enemy is only visible from the waist up, then a shot to his legs will probably be impossible). The game works mostly on first person view but you can switch to third person if you prefer, and while you can aim or fire from the hip, you can use VATs as often as you want so long as you have the action points to do so (Which recharge over time after you use them for aimed shots in vats). Outside of combat the game is similar to the original ones. You can stumble onto important areas which will stay logged in your pip-boy map once found, allowing you to fast travel to them later as in other games and Oblivion (though in the original games you had to do so because you traveled in a large over world map and would get random encounters doing so). Characters are a lot more interesting then the ones in Bathesda's last game. You will probably notice the problem with characters sharing voice actors is once again noticeable here (all ghouls talk with the same voice, as do elderly characters) but its not as bad here or at least not as noticeable. The characters once more react with dialog trees as in the other Fallout games but rather then offering more branches in general with a larger speech craft skill; your character mostly uses speech craft to convince people of things at certain points. Healing has become much easier as you can simply find an unclaimed bed and sleeping for any length of time immediately heals any and all damage, including crippled limbs. Weapons are somewhat varied, basics like 10mm pistols and hunting rifles make a return to the game as well as combat shotguns, sawed off shotguns, laser rifles and pistols, miniguns and rocket launchers, and so forth. Once more skills play an important role, and so too do the perks from the earlier fallout games. However you now gain a perk every level, and the traits have been removed and converted into perks as well. Sometimes ammo can be extremely difficult to track down. It will take a good amount of bullets to take someone down and while enemies have unlimited ammo, ammo taken from their bodies usually wont hit the double digit numbers. This will sometimes require you load yourself down with multiple weapons that use different types of ammo. Unlike other Fallout games important items such as some quest items, ammo, healing items and chems don't weigh anything, allowing you to load yourself down with all the ammo and stimpacks you can carry. This gives you the advantage of loading yourself down with more items like multiple guns. Run out of 10mm shells? Well, switch over to your combat shot gun and use that until you can hunt down some more 10mm rounds. Once more you can also effect people's reaction to you with your choices, deciding to be good or evil on what you do. Many of the quests have means of gaining or losing Karma. For example, one woman wants you to find her a violin that she can use to play over a radio station. You can get it to her for free and earn good karma, force her to pay you for your actions to get you no karma, or you can sell it for a load of caps (the currency in the game) and earn negative karma. Earning good karma helps people react well to you and even get you thankful people giving you gifts, but you have slavers, raiders, and a merc company gunning for your head. Doing bad things gets you more caps, items, and possibly more fun, but you tend to not be welcomed at all in most settlements. Random encounters have been replaced by random roaming enemies, anything from stray robots, to mutated insects and animals, to raiders, to mercs, to positive encounters like brotherhood of steel members and scavengers. There is plenty to do, lots of places to visit, and people to find. Little hidden spots are also around that are hard to find but offer good payoffs or funny bits. More importantly, areas are somewhat distinguished. Areas are unlike the ones in Oblivion, which all looked the same, most areas looking very different with the exception of subway stations that do seem to be copy-pasted.

The game is not perfect though… its fun as anything, but it's not perfect. The most obvious problem is the physics. Items appear to be placed in a way that when you pick one item off something like a table that's full of items, the rest of the items will either jump or slide off as if they are now suddenly affected by gravity. Skeletons are worse then this, lying in very particular positions, and snapping violently around when you touch them as if they were wound up like mouse traps. They sometimes spring so violently you can take limb damage. Robots are also guilty of this, flailing about when killed and continuing to roll around long after they are destroyed. I once shot one RoboBrain and when it went down, it rolled around like a top on it's side for almost 30 minutes. The most annoying is when you kill something, run up to loot the body, and you watch it clip right through the ground and disappear into the floor or walls. This can happen to items as well which can be a real problem. Enemies can also range from the insanely easy to the impossibly hard. Supermutants, some of the worst things you could run into in the first two games, are actually quite easy to take out in this game, usually easiest to take down in hand to hand combat as they seem to lack the ability to block unlike raiders and other humans. Death Claws and Yao Guais (Deathclaws are like giant walking lizard men with huge claws, and Yao Guai's are mutated black bears) can leap dozens of yards at a time or just jump behind you, take many shots at close rang to take down, and can easily kill you in just a few swipes. (I had combat armor and multiple damage reduction perks and ran into a pair of Yao's. Killed one but the other one hit me twice, knocking my health down to just 20%) Even the Enclave, the big bads of the game, are easy to kill with one or two shots, and only pose a threat in groups (their energy weapons can cut into your health if you let them fire at you too long). I find myself really missing some of the random encounters you got with the other fallout games, like locations that you would only be able to randomly find and would disappear once you leave. Since the map is always the same, it's impossible for that to happen in this game. But by far the most annoying part of the game is the weapon degrade system. Like in Oblivion, weapons and armor are only as effective as their condition. As you take damage, your armor degrades, and as you use your weapons or they get shot at, they degrade as well. Unlike Morrowind however there are no repair hammers about. Instead what you have to find two of the same weapon or piece of armor to repair an item, taking the parts from one to repair the other. This can get really annoying when repairing rear items like power armor, laser rifles, and miniguns. What is worse is repairing one of a kind items, like the Lincoln Repeater and the Ghoul mask, since they don't have any other versions of them around. They can only be repaired by shop owners, but they are so low skilled that they can usually not repair more then a little under 50% of the damage. Once weapons take enough damage they start to jam and take longer to reload, fire inaccurately, do less damage, and can explode in your face or simply refuse to work. This also has the effect that you will spend a lot of money buying spear weapons to repair the ones you got, and using weapons you find for repairs rather then selling them. Lastly the game designers lied about the ending. Normally in the Fallout games besides the main ending you have a analysis of how your actions effects places you visit, explaining how these places faired months, years, or decades after you are gone. This was removed in this game, instead replacing that with small 5 second bits in the ending where it shows a few still pictures of settlements to vaguely display how they faired afterwards with no dialog or text to explain what you are looking at. This essentially means that 200+ endings that is promised is a joke, really only 4 different endings to chose from with various flashes of pictures that make no sense.

Despite these problems the game is still fun. It's very large and has a great depth to it that will have you trying to find everything and do all the quests. Once you have done that, then you will most likely want to try making another character that acts differently. If you started with a good guy, you will probably want to try making an evil or neutral character. Games like these are just fun to roam around in, and the variety of places to go and people to interact with make it amazing. But most of all, as I mentioned at the start of this review, is the feel of the game. Fallout has something a lot of other games going for a post-apocalyptic feel don't have. As you wonder around the wastes, seeing destroyed houses, schools, parks, shopping malls, and other things, you get a very real feel of a feeling of optimism crushed under a nuclear war. You can see the advertisements still covering walls and billboards while also seeing the skeletons of entire families buried in the rubble of a home. Its something that leaves a person feeling conflicted, and thankfully Bathesda made it a point to do a good job on that feeling in this game. This game is not perfect, but it still is an amazing game. I would definitely recommend this game to anyone who wants a lot of game for their buck, or something who just wants something a little different.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/21/08

Game Release: Fallout 3 (US, 10/28/08)

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