Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 01/09/09

A different person in a post-apocalyptic world

By now, Oblivion has become stuff of legend. Sure, it had its problems but the simple fact is that nearly everyone with a 360 has tried that game at least once, and if you give it a little time, chances are you are going to become hopelessly addicted to that great action-RPG. That was two years ago though, and it was about time Bethesda did something else while we patiently wait for the next installment in the Elder Scrolls series, and they decided to take the Fallout series and mix it with Oblivion-style gameplay. So, does Fallout 3 live up to expectations and doesn’t it actually trump Oblivion? The short answer is “yes.”

At the start of the game, you are prompted to create your character by going off a build of how he will eventually look when he or she is older. Your father will also look similarly based on how you create your character—a pretty interesting feature and it shows just how deep Bethesda goes with their titles.

The customization doesn’t end there, however. Your personality is then shaped based on choices you make as a child living in the Vault and you also have the opportunity to choose the various abilities your character will prosper. This segment of the game, in the vault, is very atmospheric and it introduces all of the game’s basic gameplay mechanics in a brilliant fashion that is much more than just a lame tutorial and I really wish other games would go down this path instead of tacking on a tutorial for the first five minutes.

Like Oblivion, you have a choice in Fallout 3 of whether you want to play in first-person view or third-person view. I generally played in third-person in Oblivion for some reason, but first-person in Fallout works much more. I’m not entirely sure why, but the point is that you can choose your own perspective for this game. If you want to play a third-person free-roaming action-RPG, then that is your choice, but if you’d rather play through this game in first-person, you can. It’s this kind of choice that really makes Fallout 3 “your” game, not just the game the developers want you to play. You play your own way, and that’s awesome.

As you travel throughout the world of Fallout, in an area known as the Capital Wastes, you will discover many people and follow a variety of different plotlines that can change drastically based on your actions. You will receive quests that you can choose to complete in an evil manner, a good manner, or some entirely different ways that can affect a lot of other things in the world in a way that is unprecedented in video games yet. The main quest is plenty fun, which is a major improvement over the one in Oblivion, and the side quests are just as great and fun as Oblivion’s.

Unfortunately, Fallout 3 does borrow some of Oblivion’s problems. The clunky combat returns in full form and you will feel the need to save almost constantly to ensure that you don’t lose too much progress if you fall victim to a cheap death. However, Fallout 3 does add some new combat mechanics to the mix, taken from the previous Fallout games, to slightly improve some situations. You can take down all of your enemies by attacking them with melee weapons or just shooting them, but with the V.A.T.S., time comes to a complete halt. You are then given the opportunity to choose which body part of your opponent you want to focus on. By doing this, you can strategically pick off enemies and it generally just gives you an advantage against your enemies. Once you choose where you want to attack them though; a small scene plays out where your enemies will also have a chance to attack you.

I love V.A.T.S. It was efficient and easy to use. It wasn’t the only thing borrowed from previous entries in the Fallout universe though. You can recruit some characters in the game to join you in your quests to make combat situations a little better, including Fallout’s famous dog, Dogmeat. Another interesting aspect about Fallout is that you may or may not meet these characters at all depending on your play style, but that just gives you even more reason to go through the game again.

If you are unfamiliar with the Fallout universe, it revolves around what people have done ever since a nuclear war ravaged the globe. Since nuclear radiation still exists in the land, there are a lot of contaminated items you must deal with. Water is dangerous to drink, as is the meat of the creatures you will have to face but you will sometimes be forced to if you are ever out of healing items. These will build up your radiation levels and once these levels become too high, you will be come sick with radiation poisoning. This kind of poisoning has a variety of ill effects so you will have to get rid of it by going to a doctor or using an item called RadAway.

You will find these doctors in towns that are also inhabited by many other people, each with their own personality and story. You will also come across merchants and such that you can buy supplies from and sell supplies, using bottle caps as currency, but they also perform another task for you. During Fallout 3, your armor and weapons will slowly start to wear away with multiple uses. This will force you to visit merchants for repairs, assuming your repair skill isn’t high enough for this.

Repairing things isn’t the only skill you will earn in Fallout 3. Every time you level up, you are given a set number of points to spend on your skills. These skills range from your speaking ability to how well you use explosives to lock-picking doors. You are also allowed to choose a perk when you level up that gives you a special skill. These perks can actually be very helpful. There are perks that greatly increase your accuracy in V.A.T.S. and there are perks that do things like allow you to regenerate health while standing in sunlight.

Your most useful tool in Fallout 3 is your PIPBOY, a device that holds a ton of information. With it you can equip your weapons and armor, use healing items, manage your inventory, check to see if any of your body parts are crippled, see your current quests, fast travel using your extremely useful map, and see if you are becoming either an evil character or a good character. This device definitely comes in handy, and you can even hotkey items like in Oblivion if you don’t feel like going through menus, but it’s never a hassle.

Unlike Oblivion, Fallout 3 has a pretty wide focus on combat. You will battle much more enemies than you did in Oblivion and the battles are on a much larger scale, to the point that some conflicts feel borderline Call of Duty. The action is intense and frantic, but at the same time it has a layer of strategy that is unfounded in most modern first-person games nowadays. There is a negative side effect to this and that’s the clunky combat the game uses ends up making some parts of the game a little too frustrating towards the beginning. You can go in and change the difficulty to be lower until you mange to build up your supplies, but I think it would have made more sense if Bethesda had taken the time to balance the game’s difficulty a little bit more, so it gradually gets harder instead of the game starting out hard and gradually getting easier.

Another thing that Fallout 3 has over its Elder Scrolls cousin is that the plot is definitely more involving. Nearly every aspect of Fallout 3’s story is mysterious and you will find yourself divulging in the main quest’s plot and the stories of all of the characters that inhabit your world. You begin the game as a baby that was literally just born, and you are soon wrapped in a struggle outside of your home in the Vault to find your missing father and experience a world that has been ravaged by war. There are plenty of twists and with the BioShock-esque style that the Fallout series already had, the plot just feels right at home and pretty much damn perfect on the Xbox 360. There are twists and plenty of loveable characters to ensure that if anything, Fallout 3’s story will at the very least hold your attention.

Fallout 3’s visuals are quite good. The character models have been improved over Oblivion and at the beginning of the game, you will enjoy walking through the game’s relatively good looking world that is free of pop-up and has amazing draw distances. Some areas’ actual designs were a tad questionable and sometimes the game would seem a little too dark, even if the brightness turned up. Lag was uncommon and load times have been drastically cut, but the game isn’t without its glitches. There were times where I would see the bleeding animation floating in mid-air and when characters fell through the floor. These occurrences were rare and sometimes humorous, but it’s still amazing that the game was able to hold up so well even considering how large the game’s world is and how insanely short the loading ends up being. Some of the environs looked a little too similar for my tastes, especially the inside of buildings, which could make some of the quests a little confusing.

Stirring is one word to describe the opening of Fallout 3, with some brilliant narration and voice acting throughout the entire game that will make you fall in love with Fallout 3’s universe. There are some famous voice actors in here as well as some classic music to listen to that sounds very much from the 50’s. Sound plays a major part in Fallout 3 with an absolutely wonderful musical score and enemy sounds that will send a shiver up your spine. Music jumps are loud and forceful and will make sure you’re paying attention to what’s going on and it will keep boredom from setting on.

Oblivion was an absolutely massive game in terms of playtime and Fallout 3 is no different. To “beat” the game it takes about fifteen hours, which is longer than most games, but the ridiculous amount of side quests to discover can up the playtime of the game to near astronomical proportions. Throw achievements on top of that and you have yourself a video game that is going to last you a really long time. Sadly though, the end of the game doesn’t let you start a new game+ and you can’t go back and wonder around. What’s even worse is that the game gives you no warning about this, which can make your first character you play as pretty irrelevant after you complete the game, a problem that Zelda: Phantom Hourglass had on the DS. I really hope developers will stop doing this as it does somewhat kill your ambition to keep playing the game.

Fallout 3 is an amazing experience that everyone should play at least once. Fans of Oblivion will be right at home and should enjoy the new gameplay mechanics that Fallout introduces. There are a ton of side quests and the plot is great, but there were some technical issues and the replayability problems that will probably piss you off. Still, Fallout 3 is one of the best games on the Xbox 360 and everyone that owns a 360 should play it at least once; if they don’t, there is something fundamentally wrong with the universe.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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

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