Fallout (PC) review
Cast aside those reflexive assumptions associated with the term “role-playing game;” remove all thoughts of venturing your noble swordsman into the cavernous depths of demon realm number umpteen from your mind. None of that will happen here, not in the rich realm of Fallout. Familiarity with the title’s scientific denotations may hint at what Fallout is all about, but for the less erudite (or perhaps the less pretentious), envision a world where the Cold War culminated in a sweltering inferno, scorching the earth, leaving ravaged wastelands and battered remnants of once-glorious cities in the wake of nuclear holocaust brought on by belligerent superpowers. It’s a world where mutual assured destruction is a fact of everyday life – at least for whatever life there is left.
Because despite its relentless efforts to achieve self-destruction, humanity’s ineptitude shines through once again, proving that foreign policy isn’t the only thing it sucks at – some odd thousand have survived the fiery nightmare by hibernating in protective underground vaults, only to awaken to the nightmarish reality of the terminally barren outdoors. But at least life is safe and cozy in the vault – that is, until the single piece of equipment that satiates the thirst of its populace malfunctions: the water purifying chip. With safety no longer the vault’s absolute, the makeshift powers that be have delegated to you the task of searching for a replacement by going outside, whereupon you’ll console struggling village leaders, exchange bullets with nomadic warrior gangs, smooth-talk your way with ugly green mutants – even slug it toe-to-toe with radioactively enlarged scorpions! And you’ll likely do all of this during your thrilling trek through the treacherous expanses of Fallout.
But before braving the dangers of this perilous environment, you’ll undergo the critical process of ignoring the pre-made characters and designing your own, meticulously balancing your diplomatic and battle prowess until tailored exactly to your liking. It’s at this point that Fallout’s sense of freedom triumphantly makes its first appearance; with the veritable wealth of attributes and skills at your disposal, you create character classes, and the possibilities are countless, from gregarious pistoleers, learned physicians, laconic lock-pickers – even flirty sixteen year old girls! Admittedly, combat takes precedence over diplomacy, because while you can always shoot that defenseless farm child in the face if he dares glance in your direction, you cannot barter with an enormous scorpion to exchange his poisonous tail for one hundred bottle caps, no matter how sharply you hone your eloquent discourse. Opt to cultivate your fighting aptitude, and you’ll be treated to an impressive array of weapons, from conventional pistols, shotguns, and rifles, to hi-tech energy weapons. (The Desert Eagle could really stand to be manlier.) Alternatively, master the art of melee and equip yourself with a mighty shaft, if you like things up close and dirty.
Brazenly set forth after obsessing over the particulars of your character; travel vast distances across desolate wasteland until finally arriving at one of Fallout’s intricately detailed, dilapidated shantytowns, presumably carved from the remaining habitable areas of previously bustling capital cities. Here Fallout’s alluring freedom surfaces yet again – amble humbly and unassumingly into town, not wanting to get involved in its heated internal affairs, and you may politely question the locals regarding your search for the water chip, have a drink at the bar, and be on your merry way. The eviler of our post-apocalyptic journeymen will likely burst forth with shotgun loaded, and indiscriminately slaughter that amiable old man, his neighbor, his neighbor’s dog, and the two-headed livestock.
Prolong your stay in these hostile hamlets and you’ll be accosted by multiple persons of varying character, from the squalid, the fanatical, and occasionally the honest, most of whom will employ you as some sort of assassin or escort gunner. One would think that after being nearly annihilated, the tattered residue of humanity would band together in a cooperative effort to restore civilization. Not so however! Flammable lawlessness has ignited human vice, bursting into a arrestingly political – and sometimes even literal – conflagration. Compounding onto petty town affairs are mutant takeover conspiracies and questionable church organizations with twisted senses of justice and enlightenment. Jump into the fire and take matters into your own hands if you so desire, but suffer an occasional lapse of tact and a cannonade of lead will likely fly in your direction.
Take aim with your trusty hunting rifle, and observe as the torso of the foolish bastard who dared question your marksmanship or good looks erupts into a bloody mess. And take aim you will, as you’ll intelligently decide to target critical areas of your opponent’s body to maximize combat effectiveness. Bring your massive sledgehammer down on his legs for a bone-crushing blow to effectively render him stationary. Or, if you are truly evil, you can send heated beams of coherent radiation straight for the idiot’s groin. Empty entire clips and frantically reload as you tirelessly assail these menacing miscreants, hoping you’ll make it through to the end of each individual encounter without having to inject yourself with stimpacks or any of Fallout’s habit-forming drugs, at which point you’ll be free once again to do what you please and go where you please in the captivating world of Fallout!
If there’s anything holding this stylish mélange of exciting turn-based action and in-depth character interaction back, it’d be that it’s accompanied by a barely audible, somber soundtrack, which appropriately suits the setting’s dreary nature, but isn’t compelling in the least. Even so, with its overarching sense of freedom, picturesque depictions of a post-apocalyptic future, and overall raw quality, Fallout is a game you need to play.
Community review by radicaldreamer (June 27, 2004)
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