Fallout 3 (Xbox 360) review
"Stop! If at first glance you see Fallout 3 and think itís a first-person shooter, you are wrong and should stop reading this review altogether. If you thought otherwise or are curious about the title, by all means read on and Iíll enlighten you on the latest first-person RPG by Bethesda for the Xbox 360 (also available for the PS3 and PC). "
Stop! If at first glance you see Fallout 3 and think itís a first-person shooter, you are wrong and should stop reading this review altogether. If you thought otherwise or are curious about the title, by all means read on and Iíll enlighten you on the latest first-person RPG by Bethesda for the Xbox 360 (also available for the PS3 and PC).
The Fallout series started as a top-down RPG in a similar style as Diablo and was created by Interplay for the PC in 1997. The game played in real-time, but combat would occur in a turn-based fashion. It featured a unique storyline set in the southwestern United States in a period after the world was transformed into a vast wasteland as the result of a nuclear apocalypse. What remained of civilization existed in underground compounds known as vaults. Players would control a lone vault dweller that was ordered to seek out a new water supply to replace his vaultís dwindling supply. Upon completing the first objective, players discover a greater threat coming from the brutal super mutants that inhabit the over world that must be dealt with.
Now that Iíve bored you with the history of Fallout, itís time to talk about Fallout 3. Many of the features from the series past were incorporated in this entry, but with a Bethesda spin. Bethesda is the team behind The Elder Scrolls games, with the latest one being The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from early 2006. I had some experience with that specific title and Iíll admit that I did not care for it one bit. It felt too large and expansive for me and fairly boring. Fallout 3 is essentially Oblivion with guns. Ironically, I found this game to be more enthralling than Oblivion, which is weird because I prefer fantasy games to post-apocalyptic futuristic games. Anyway, the game starts players off as a baby in Vault 101, which resides in the outskirts of Washington D.C. At this point, you undergo a fairly deep character creation mode for your character. Next, youíll read the book, ďYouíre S.P.E.C.I.A.L.Ē Here, youíll learn about each of your characterís attributes, Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck... I see what you did there. Youíll then allocate a few extra points to these attributes so that you have an idea of which are you primary attributes.
The game will then skip ahead a few years to the point of you being a child. Here, youíll acquire the PIP-Boy 3000, a device that is worn on the arm and acts as a system of menus for accessing your equipment, map, and other data. Additionally, youíll receive some weapons training with a BB Gun, which wonít ďshoot your eye out,Ē thanks to the gameís intricate Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, or VATS. The game plays in real-time, but when you press the right bumper whilst facing an enemy, the action stops and zooms in on your target. This mode allows you to focus on certain parts of an enemyís body, which can cripple their movement. You choose the segment with the left analog stick, make your choice with the right trigger and confirm the action with the A button. A brief slow-motion action scene will play as you fire your shots at the enemy and depending on the weapon, you may blow your foeís head up in its slow, bloody glory, which happens to be the most often-used tactic. But you canít use it all the time because each shot you take uses action points. These refill over time, but while youíre waiting, you can play the game like a shooter. Like the VATS, you canít rely on shooter strategies because various calculations and dice-rolling mechanics within the game prevent you from hitting enemies even at point-blank range. In general, a basic strategy is to weaken your foes with VATS and finish them off with a regular shot.
After that, the game skips to you being age 16, which entails you taking the Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test (G.O.A.T.), which includes a series of nuclear apocalypse scenario questions that parody the setting of the game. This test determines which of the 14 skills your character is more adept in. However, you can reallocate your specified skills to what you personally want to do in the game. Some of these skills include: lock picking, medicine for restoring health, science for hacking computers, small, big, melee, and energy weapon specializations, and various other skills.
Once youíve finished the tutorials and character creation activities, youíll eventually skip ahead a few more years and get to the main story. Youíll be awakened by a fellow vault citizen and informed that your father has opened the vault door and escaped. Now security is after you and you must escape from the vault. This is where the game began to grow on me. It starts out fairly similar to Oblivion, with you emerging from the vault (the prison in Oblivion) and being overwhelmed by the mass amount of land the eye can see. With that, you feel obligated to either continue the main quest for your father, or explore the derelict wasteland of D.C. I think the whole process of going from birth to young adulthood in this game was what created such a strong bond between my character and myself and hence why I preferred this over Oblivion.
When exploring the wasteland, dozens of opportunities arise. You fend off raiders, radioactive mole rats, super mutants, and the occasional malfunctioning robot. Additionally, youíll come across several side quests, which can all be handled in different ways. An early quest occurs in one of the first towns, where a crashed, but active nuclear bomb resides and hasnít quite detonatedÖ yet! Youíll be given the choice to try to deactivate it and save the city, or take the evil route for a shady character, and plant a detonator to blow up the town from a distance. Of course, you canít do both quests in the same play through, so youíll have to make a choice and deal with the repercussions. Honorable deeds will earn you karma, while misdemeanors and various crimes will remove karma from you. Your karma status will determine how people perceive you and determine which optional party members will join you for the course of the game.
With how open-ended the game is, you have to play through it multiple times to get the complete experience of the title, especially if you want all the of achievements. You can blow through the main story in around 10-15 hours. Being hasty with the story will probably leave you a bit underpowered for the duration of the main quest, which I found to be the case and decided to suspend the story advancement and take on some sidequest for some experience points. Youíll earn experience for mostly anything in the game. Fighting enemies and completing quests are obvious methods, but you can even earn a little experience from successfully picking a lock or bartering a merchant to reduce the price of their wares. The level cap is 20, which does make the game seem a shorter, but I never really felt it was. Each level you gain earns you skill points to spend in your skills as well as the choice of a perk, which may be better known to some as feats if youíre a D&D player. These act as special abilities that grant an extra boost to your skills, fighting style, and other factors in the game. A landmark perk of the series is Bloody Mess, where anytime you kill an enemy, they die in the goriest, bloodiest, fashion imagined. Combine this with the Rock-It Launcher, a weapon you can create, which uses any mundane item as ammunition. I personally enjoy stockpiling on random teddy bears and blowing enemies to pieces in a flavor of cutesy carnage.
Complementing the gameplay are the controls that play very similar to Oblivion. You have the option to switch between first-person view and third person view from behind with the left bumper, but the game controls very awkwardly when you toy with that perspective. Iíve already touched on the combat with VATS, but normal combat plays like your typical shooter: move with the left analog stick, aim with the right, fire with the right trigger and so on. The controls and gameplay, work very well for the game and definitely engrosses you into the world.
Not only do the controls keep you engaged, but also the presentation for the title is absolutely breathtaking. Everything from when you first step out of the vault and see the vast wasteland to explosive executions you create in combat look great. Obviously, youíll want to play it on an HDTV to grasp the true beauty of the game, but even I found it pleasing on my crappy SDTV. I do have a slight gripe for the underworld portions of the game, though. Donít get me wrong, everything looks great, but when you get closer to downtown D.C. and start exploring the cityís numerous metro train tunnels everything starts looking the same. This repetitive nature also goes for other buildings youíll explore within the game. In short, the outdoor environments are great and plentiful, but the indoor areas tend to be a drag, but the graphics are still amazing.
Likewise, the sound is another key part in the fixation of the world. Obviously, it plays homage to the nuclear scare of the 1950s and 60s by playing music on various radios youíll encounter in the game as well as the built-in radio in your PIP-Boy 3000. The rest of the background music is quaint and soft, giving you that impression that youíre mostly alone in gameís wasteland setting. Though, one of the gameís greatest achievements is the interaction among the town folk and other people youíll come across. Unlike Oblivion, where most of the characters were played by the same handful of people, a majority of the characters youíll meet have their own unique voice to give them life. Some notable characters include the sweet-talking, oblivious shopkeeper, Moira, who sends you dangerous research projects, the friendly, but smoky-voiced ghoul, and finally your dad who is voiced by Liam Neeson. I donít think your life can get any better when your father is Qui Gon Jinn! Basically, the sound is a huge part of the title.
All in all, Fallout 3 is an amazing game and I encourage everyone to check it out. Even people who arenít necessarily fans of this style of RPG (such as myself) will find themselves loving the game. Youíll constantly find something new each time you play the game. Finally, with multiple scenarios at your disposal, this isnít a game that will be leaving your disc tray anytime soon.
Community review by Ness (November 16, 2008)
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