Review by chaos40012003

"War never changes... but this series sure does."

Last year, my computer kicked the bucket, and due to financial difficulties, I was forced to hack together a sad excuse for the beautiful rig I once owned. Since my new PC wasn't capable of much gaming goodness and I was unable to afford a 360 at the time, I had a severe gaming drought on my hands. So I began to search for old PC gems to help me pass the time. I found Fallout, and fell in love.

Fast forward to 2008, where I have played and beaten both the original Fallouts twice. I knew Fallout 3 was on the horizon, and my excitement was palpable, but I had one tiny concern - would this game live up to its predecessors? Well, that's a tough question, and some will disagree with me, but I say yes. The game somehow manages to live up to its ancestors, yet at the same time it is such a radical departure from them that it almost betrays the franchise.

However, even though the game is a sequel, we have to look at the game by itself to truly understand what makes it great. For me, one of the strong points of this game is its unparalleled value. Nowadays, when you buy a game, you can expect 30-40 hours on a given playthrough. Fallout 3, however, is simply so packed with things to do that you could never even BEGIN to delve into the Wasteland in that time frame. There are so many locations, characters, items, quests, side-quests, that you will literally NEVER run out of things to do. And if you DID somehow manage to complete every objective the game lays out for you, you would still be able to look around and find somewhere you haven't been, or something you haven't seen. The game literally gives you the freedom to walk from one end of the D.C. Wasteland to the other within the first 2 hours of playing. It is the definition of free roam gameplay, because you can quite literally do whatever the hell you want to do.

The game also excels in the way it allows for different playing styles - whether you want to be a sneaky sniper or a gung-ho, minigun wielding tank, or if you just want to smack everyone to death with a Power Fist, you can do it. You are nearly always offered multiple ways to get around an obstacle and to finish a quest, and the mix of playstyles involved multiplies the replayability of the game exponentially. There's not much else I can say in that vein, but understand that this game is absolutely and almost ridiculously massive, and it is nearly impossible to run out of stuff to do.

The standard "reviewing points" also hold their own quite well. The graphics of the game are beautiful, although they're not without their flaws. Character models suffer from the infamous "Oblivion mustache," which is especially strange when looking at female characters, and the game sometimes suffers from very interesting rendering problems. This problem seems to be more pronounced when playing the game from the 360's hard drive, although a recent patch seems to have fixed many issues. However, overall, the graphics are beautiful in their ugliness, and they depict a nuclear wasteland better than any Fallout game has ever been able to. Also worth mentioning is V.A.T.S. mode, where you'll often get to experience the delight of watching your enemies get gibbed in completely ridiculous ways.

The sound of the game is just flat out excellent. Galaxy News Radio plays songs from the 40's and 50's, and they set the atmosphere of the game perfectly. You will definitely find yourself singing "Butcher Pete" and "Civilization" in real life, and the songs are all actually pretty good. The voice acting is almost always spot on, (there are some characters who could use a little work, but that's just nitpicking), and you'll feel as if you're interacting with real people.

There are a few glaring flaws, however, which keep this game from a perfect ten. While there IS tons of stuff to do, not all of it is really worth doing. Unless you're a completionist, some of the buildings in the game are just too dark and boring to be worth navigating for the meager loot they supply. Another big issue is getting stuck in the wasteland - there are so many rock formations and outcroppings that it is inevitable that there would be some little holes here and there, where you will sometimes fall and be surrounded on all sides by unscalable rock walls, and find yourself cursing loudly as you're forced to reload your last save. The V.A.T.S. mode, while cool, forces you to watch yourself defeating EVERY enemy in slow motion. At first that's really cool, but after seeing the thing cycle through the ~10 camera angles it uses four hundred times, it gets old. Unfortunately, since most of the weapons in the game have a "spread," which the game uses to calculate how close your shot goes to where your cursor is pointed, you pretty much HAVE to use V.A.T.S. to ensure that your shot goes where you want it to. Another flaw, which for this kind of open world game is almost unacceptable, is that the end of the game means "the end of the game." You'll get kicked straight back to the menu screen, and you're not offered any opportunity to continue your play. You can, of course, do everything before you reach the ending, but the point is that in any open world game, we should be allowed to continue exploring to our heart's content after the ending of the game.

Overall, though, this game is very well constructed, and it can provide endless hours of exploration and fun. The game is easily one of my top ten, and if you're a fan of the Fallout series, or a fan of RPGs, or a fan of video games in general, it is most certainly well worth whatever you have to pay for it. Although it is very different from its two predecessors (which are absolute must-play classics), it lives up to the Fallout name in style and in gameplay, and therefore is a worthwhile edition to any gamer's library.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/20/09

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

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