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Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition (Xbox 360) artwork

Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition (Xbox 360) review

"When my questing first took me here, I admit that it didn't take long for me to get lost, as I wasn't really paying that much attention to the in-game map. D.C. is essentially a world unto itself. A confusing, labyrinthine world with many twists, turns and dead ends. Words can't say how welcome this place was, especially when you consider the rest of the game's world takes place in a pretty unappealing place."

With few exceptions (Skyrim and Dragon Age Origins), I wait to buy Western RPGs for a couple reasons. First, it tends to take a few months after release for the designers to iron out the worst of their game's glitches. Since I don't particularly like dealing with constant crashes and other nuisances, waiting a while to play these games does help the ol' blood pressure a bit. Secondly, if I wait long enough, the company might release a "game of the year" edition which includes all the downloadable missions realized after the game itself.

The latter probably is the more important of the two reasons. Look at Fallout 3, for example. One game, five pieces of DLC. Buy each of them separately and you're spending an extra $35 or more dollars on top of the actual game's price. When you have a million or two games you're trying to find time to get to, having to wait a year or two to play a game is no problem when it means you'll get everything related to it in one package at one low price!

Fallout 3 gave me an extra reason for doing things the way I do -- with this one, only one of its five pieces of DLC is really worth whatever price it initially cost, so I'd have been pretty damn disappointed if I'd eagerly dropped cash on each one as it was released. To understand why most of the DLC doesn't work, though, one must look at what makes Fallout 3 a good game.

Things in the Fallout universe take place way in the future on an alternate Earth. Technology advanced at a rapid pace on this planet, as robot helpers and fancy weaponry were pretty commonplace. And then the Americans and Chinese went to war, bombs dropped and the world was turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Radiation caused various animals to mutate into fearsome killing machines. Meanwhile, some humans transformed into psychotic mutants and terrorized the countryside. The rest of the population found itself just trying to stay alive in a very hostile world. Some people started up little pockets of civilization; while others turned to crime and became bandits in order for players to have lots of opportunities for target practice. A few brave souls wander the land to peddle goods and the occasional faction occasionally comes into power to bring some sort of order to things -- even if said "order" could essentially be described as tyranny.

Bethesda did a great job creating this world in Fallout 3. Taking place in and around the ruins of Washington D.C., both its main quest and all the assorted optional tasks people have will cause you to spend hours upon hours traveling over barren, drab terrain and rummaging through the dilapidated ruins of buildings. Small villages offer places for you to rest, trade goods and obtain various new missions and then there's the foreboding landscape of D.C.

This place is easily the highlight of the game, even if it probably takes up about a third of the world map. It might be the greatest maze in the history of gaming, as mounds of rubble block off streets. To get from place to place, you'll have to descend underground to the sewers and subways. These areas are littered with hostile bandits, mutants and ghouls; but often are the quickest (if not only) way to get around the metropolitan area. When my questing first took me here, I admit that it didn't take long for me to get lost, as I wasn't really paying that much attention to the in-game map. D.C. is essentially a world unto itself. A confusing, labyrinthine world with many twists, turns and dead ends. Words can't say how welcome this place was, especially when you consider the rest of the game's world takes place in a pretty unappealing place. While that is probably pretty realistic for a wasteland, it does get boring to look at constantly, so having the ruins of America's capital to go through was a nice change of pace.

Also nice was how the game allows for a lot of diversity in how one creates and maintains their character. If you want, you can hunt down the biggest guns you can find and cut a swath of destruction through anyone who gets in your way. Or you can take a more cerebral approach. A charismatic character can easily talk their way out of bad situations; while one with an aptitude for science can hack into security systems to do fun things like re-program turrets to fire on their enemies. This freedom allows you to solve quests in a number of ways. Take an optional quest I got early in my game, for example. A small village is under siege from mysterious invaders who've taken to terrorizing (and occasionally killing) the locals. After you finally find these guys, you find that they're normal, everyday people just like you…except for how they at least seem to think they need human blood to survive, much like a vampire. A local youth whom you thought was kidnapped actually went willingly because he seems to have that same need. Your options are many: you can gun down the faux-vampires, you can talk to the boy and convince him to leave their den to seek out his sole surviving family member or you can work with these people to find a new supply of blood in exchange for them leaving the village alone. Most quests have this sort of openness to them, depending on how you've built your character. Hell, you can even talk main adversaries into killing themselves if you so desire, even if it turns a major part of the main plot into a hilariously anticlimactic moment. Freedom -- it's nice.

You can use that freedom to be nice or very, very evil. Early in the game, you can choose to set off a nuke located in the main town located in the wasteland. If you don't feel like wiping out a den of slavers, you can capture runaways for them to get some extra cash. There are a lot of things to do, a lot of ways to do them and, as is usually par for the course in Western RPGs, it's more fun to simply wander the world to find as many locations and secrets as possible than it is to actually advance the main story's plot. I guess that, overall, I prefer the lush scenery of an Elder Scrolls game to what we have here, but I still recorded over 100 hours with Fallout 3 before deciding I'd had enough.

That time included however long it took to get through all the DLC. Broken Steel is an expansion to the main plot that rewrites the ending of Fallout 3, which many people probably felt was a huge positive in itself. On the other hand, it's kind of an uninspiring end to the main story (you get to wipe out the final remnants of the main enemy faction) and if you picked up certain NPCs to join you as offensive support, you might completely break the game, as they level up to such a degree that at least one of them is capable of solo-running the game with no help from you whatsoever.

Operation: Anchorage and Mothership Zeta are essentially pure action with none of the morality choices you'll get in the actual game. This makes them feel more like dull rip-offs of Call of Duty, if those games had this one's V.A.T.S. system. By using that function, which is triggered by a shoulder button on the controller, you can freeze time to aim for specific body parts of enemies. By constantly applying it, you sacrifice speed (essentially putting turn-based RPG elements into an action game), but your accuracy and efficiency likely will go through the roof. However, using it in these bits of DLC just made the dull treks through them last longer. Sure, there were some great rewards for completing them that I used throughout the entire game, but that didn't make playing them any more fun.

The Pitt was more fulfilling, as it involved me taking sides in a dispute and figuring out a way to solve it. Unfortunately, the locale was a pretty dull steel yard, making it a place I was glad to leave. That brings us to Point Lookout. This is the largest one, taking place in a swampland infested by mutated hillbillies and other bizarre creatures. There were more places to explore here, a number of sidequests and a reasonably interesting (if underdeveloped) story. It also was the most difficult of the DLC, as those hillbillies have major damage-causing capacity. If only the other four were this fun…

Fallout 3 is a great game -- it just didn't have the same appeal to me that its "swords-n-sorcery" siblings in the Western RPG genre possess. Still, it's hard to complain too much about boring terrain and a few lackluster DLC additions when I spent as much time as I did running around the place. I'll probably never play this one again, but it gave me enough enjoyment that picking up Fallout: New Vegas down the road is a no-brainer.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (November 17, 2012)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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