Review by simonsteele

"A Strange Mix of Fun and Frustration"

The other reviews will tell you this game is a masterpiece, the game of the year, that you should play it over any other game. Heck, I went to Gamestop fully intending to buy a different game but the nerds behind the counter (not all employees are nerds, but man these guys looked like the Simpsons Comic Book Guy) badgered me, told me I'd love it even if I hated Oblivion. Especially if I loved Morrowind. Which I did.

Fallout 3 is a difficult game to peg. There is so much right about it, and at the same time so much wrong. It balances out to an average game.

Let's break it down into categories.

Controls: 7/10

Bethesda is a smart company, a well oiled machine, their controls are typically pretty smooth. For the most part things work well in this game. It's easy to find VATS (some weird bullet time targeting system), move, look around, sneak, etc. The problems come with fighting. Fighting with VATS can be near impossible at times, especially when being mauled on all sides. You get about four gunshots per VATS attempt, then you have let your AP build back up. In the mean time if you haven't killed all your foes, which you probably haven't, you're stuck with a pretty subpar first person shooter. Reloading is terrible, your weapons actually jam, making it feel glitchy in the frantic mix of battle. It wasn't until I watched someone else play that I realized the weapons were jamming. Still it's not broken, the game is still very playable.

Music: 7/10

About like Oblivion. Quiet music while exploring the wastes, no music underground, and battle themes. Nothing great. Morrowind had great music, Oblivion a step down but still fun for the experience, but there isn't a single memorable background score in Fallout 3.

Sound: 6/10

Sometimes the sounds, voice actors, etc. make me think I'm in Tamriel again. Except its all nuked up and not pretty. Same voices over and over again. Voice acting isn't great for the most part. Couple of celebrity voices though if you're into that.

Story: 7/10

It's okay. Again, like Oblivion, the main story isn't too gripping or even interesting. The fun in this game doesn't come from it's story telling, especially considering the story is told by wooden faced people who don't feel real at all. Dialogue is terrible in this by the way, I found myself muting it when I spoke to people and just reading the words. Much less cumbersome. Some nice choices in side stories though, like a ghoul who talks about what it was like when the bombs dropped and she left her shelter the next day to find her father was gone--except there was his shadow burned into the wall of their kitchen.

You all know the story. Kid lives in protective vault, grows up and escapes into the world. It's an ugly world. Searches for father.

Gameplay: 8/10

This is where the game came to life for me. You are thrust into a post apocalyptic world full of rubble and burned out houses. The first time I walked around out there I was nervous about what I'd come across since all I had to fight with was a police baton and a BB gun. You find settlements of friendly people and collect quests. That's about it to this game. Just like Oblivion. Except much uglier.

And like Oblivion this game is very engaging for the first 10 hours or so. You go on quests, and if you're like me you find yourself sneaking through the sewers that are infested with rats, moles, and Raiders. You're low on ammo, low on survival equipment, low on life, each battle you survive ticks your health away more. You scavenge your inventory and eat and drink all the radiation food and water you can find for a few precious life points, but it's not enough, a big fight would leave you dead. Too far to go back out and buy equipment, wouldn't matter if you could because you only have 10 caps to your name. You scavenge rubble, trashcans, dead bodies, for anything that will get you through. You might sleep in a blood soaked cot you found, oh but not until you make the area safe.

I truly felt like I was trying to survive in a post apocalyptic world for the first few hours I played. It was intense, scary, bloody, and fun.

But also like Oblivion you start getting stronger, the quests are all the same (go find this by navigating through a maze of raiders, mutants, ghouls, and other freaky monsters). By 15 hours in I was feeling frustrated with the gameplay.

This game is supposed to be about choice, but like all current gen games the choices in this game are not too complex. Do good or do bad, and even if you do it seems the results, except in one big early decision, don't affect the world around you. The idea of choice and consequence in gaming hasn't changed much since the early 2000s. I hope some company really works to take this type of gameplay to the next level.

Everything felt the same, and everything looked the same. Which leads us on to the last category.

Graphics: 7/10

Man Fallout 3 is ugly. Everything, and I mean everything, looks the same. Of course that's supposed to be the design of the game, but it does little for the aesthetic eyed player. Everything is brown, rubble, and sunny. There are no storms in this game that I'm aware of---who'd have guessed Nuclear fallout would cause no more weather patterns. The people are ugly too, just as ugly as Oblivion's NPCs.

Still there is a beauty to it all. Wandering the wastes does evoke a type of wonder you won't often feel in gaming. The monsters look real good, real scary, and real powerful too.

In Conclusion:

Should you play this game? Absolutely. But if you didn't like Oblivion then don't buy it. Rent it. You'll get tired of it far before the end. It is better than Oblivion, fixes a lot of the lame things that game did like level scaling (or makes it far less apparent). This is a great game with a lot of time and effort put into it. Still it's a shift even further away from what made early Bethesda games like Daggerfall and Morrowind great. It's a move to make their games more mainstream while forgetting the elements of those older games that created true immersion into a world different from our own. They were better when they had to compensate atmosphere for lack of technology in video game programming.

I suppose that's my personal problem with these new waves of open world RPGs. These are the games I want, that I love, far more than the linearity of JRPGs. Yet I'll still play and love those JRPGs more than Fallout 3, because every time I play FO3 it reminds me of what this game SHOULD be, not what it is. Game of the year? I say no, but so many people love it that I'm in a minority and it makes me wrong. Here's what I think Fallout 3 is: Game Prototype of the Decade. This game is a beta for something truly amazing, a game unlike anything we've ever seen, something that will feel like a great RPG, in a truly dynamic world. On the other hand a few of the design choices of these current gen games have me worried that Bethesda isn't so focused on creating a real RPG experience. Which is sad because they were were of the few who tried to do it in the past.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 12/23/08

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

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