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Fallout (PC) artwork

Fallout (PC) review


"Until now, there were no dreams of the future. The world as you know it has been confined to the massive bunker, Vault 13. Inside the redundant maze of sterile hallways and fluorescent tubes, all that mattered was keeping the vault running for future generations. Even that task has become a hopeless cause. The water purification system in Vault 13 has broken, and without new water chip, your people will die. "



Until now, there were no dreams of the future. The world as you know it has been confined to the massive bunker, Vault 13. Inside the redundant maze of sterile hallways and fluorescent tubes, all that mattered was keeping the vault running for future generations. Even that task has become a hopeless cause. The water purification system in Vault 13 has broken, and without new water chip, your people will die.

Anyone familiar with post-apocalyptic films, especially the Mad Max series, will instantly recognize the desert wasteland of Fallout. War and nuclear holocaust have torn the world apart. The lucky ones escaped into the protected vaults, while the less fortunate died or persevered through unimaginable suffering. Somewhere out there, amidst the scattered shanty-towns, destitute inhabitants, radioactive mutants, and bloodthirsty raiders, you hope another water chip has survived. As the first person to venture outside Vault 13 in countless ages, it’s your job to find it.

A 2-D point-and-click RPG, Fallout won’t impress you graphically, but the atmosphere and storytelling are absolutely captivating. This isn’t a linear tale, filled with 300lbs swords, over-gelled hair, and fifteen minute cutscenes. It’s a down and dirty fight for survival in which your every decision determines the outcome.

Before being thrust into this Homeric journey, you need to make a character. All of your beginning attributes and skills are adjustable and heavily influence the course of the game. So if you make a muscle-bound moron, expect to be treated as one. There is a good selection of skills, ranging from familiar ones like Small Guns and Steal, to the more unique, like Gambling and Outdoorsman. The healthy amount of skills is refreshing, but disappointing in that some of them are quite useless. I emphasized Melee the first time around, only to find myself ripped apart by bullets before getting close enough to take a swing. Even so, there are plenty of options to make an entirely unique character. You can even tack on an Optional Trait, like Chem Reliant, Bruiser, or Night Person. They’re fun, but be careful, as traits dramatically change the way the game is played.

With scarcely more than the clothes on your back and a rusting Pipboy (a PDA), what happens on the unknown road ahead is up to you. An early side-quest has you taking sides between a sheriff and crime boss. Then again, since every quest is open-ended, you could just walk away. You can even say “good riddance” to Vault 13 and go about your business while they die of thirst. A karma system will track your reputation throughout your travels. Supposedly it affects NPC reactions and the availability of quests, but difference is somewhere between subtle and negligible.

Stealth and diplomacy have their uses, but in this gritty and dangerous world, most disputes are resolved when someone ends up face-down in the dirt. Combat takes place in a turn-based mode, but you won’t see anyone lining up to mindlessly exchange blows. With a limited amount of action points to use on movement and attacks, variable weapon skills, and constantly moving NPC’s, combat has a depth normally reserved for strategy games. Equipment junkies will like the vast array of available weapons, though the armor selection is on the thin side. I usually carried two main guns, and a few extras for special occasions. Later you get a car for travel storing equipment. There’s just something cool about pulling a shotgun from the trunk. Half the fun of combat is seeing the way different weapons mutilate the human body.

Up to three teammates can join to back you up when the going gets rough. Teammates have to be recruited, sometimes coerced, and how many you can have depends upon your Charisma. Unfortunately, they can be a nuisance for all the wrong reasons. The party controls are mainly limited to teammates’ distance in relation to you, and they have a nasty habit of blocking you in small areas, forcing you to reload your game. Even so, the benefit of extra firepower far outweighs the disadvantages. Just remember to save often.

I happened to play Fallout at the same time as some of my friends, so the rare nights that we stopped playing were spent at restaurants, boasting about our (mis)deeds and exchanging stories of adventure. I’ve never had such a personal relationship with a game like this before. Since there are no right or wrong actions in any situation, the course of the game relies completely upon your own ethics and emotions. Fallout consumes you until you can’t help but feel a personal stake in everything that happens. One time, I declined to help a town get rid of some nearby raiders. In the desert the next day, the raiders killed my dog. I went back to storm their camp, and kept going until every one of them lay rotting in the sun. I really miss that dog.

Few games have stuck with me the way Fallout has, and even fewer have called me back to play so often. The replay value is simply staggering. Even after the main story is completed, you are free to wander for thirteen in-game years. There is just that much to do. If not for the useless skills, broken karma system, and troublesome teammates, Fallout could have stood as a model of perfection. Nevertheless, the epic storytelling, amazing atmosphere, and wealth of options make this the RPG by which all others shall be compared.

Rating: 8/10

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Community review by pup (January 18, 2006)

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