Fallout 3 Review
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Fallout 3 is an outstanding title that sets a new standard for action role-playing games, and will appeal to fans of either genre.
- Brilliant dynamic conversation and story
- Massive game length, replay value
- Revolutionary V.A.T.S. system
- Numerous bugs and glitches
- Framerate issues, texture pop-in, and jaggies
- Poor character and NPC animation
It’s hard – but all too easy – to imagine: a nuclear Judgment Day. We’ve narrowly avoided it under the watchful eyes of skilled leaders in the past, but it’s a frightening possibility that we must recognize and strive to prevent in the years and decades to come. But what if we couldn’t?
To experience a post-apocalyptic United States firsthand, look no further than Fallout 3. As the studio behind the brilliant Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Bethesda Softworks had extremely high expectations to meet for the first main entry in the Fallout canon in the last 10 years. Those expectations haven’t been met – they’ve been surpassed.
The global atomic war of 2077 transformed Washington D.C. into a smoldering, desolate wasteland literally called The Capital Wasteland. Most organized government was eradicated, and people were left to fend for themselves. A few lucky individuals took residence in Vault 101, the “Jewel of the Wastes.” Vault 101 offered what the outside world did not: sanitation, structure, and safety. The budding Vault society centered around one mentality – nobody enters, nobody leaves.
The game begins the moment you take your first breath, and, in about an hour, walks you through the first 19 years of your wonderful little life in Vault 101. Your mother dies immediately after childbirth, thus your father is your sole guardian. Played by the talented Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Batman Begins), your father is kind, wise, and loving. That is, until he leaves you. Out of the blue, he abandons the Vault, and it’s up to you to escape and track him down.
Bethesda cleverly introduces many of the game’s core mechanics during the upbringing period, though everything is a bit overwhelming when you first leave the Vault. That, though, is clearly intended. Picture leaving your home for the first time, and discovering that there’s a vast world outside. That’s essentially how leaving the Vault feels, though The Capital Wasteland is likely a tad more radioactive than your backyard.
Still, you come to grips with the game’s intricate workings in a reasonable amount of time. The first item you’ll need to understand is the fashionable Pip-Boy 3000. Fastened to your arm, this little piece of machinery has some enormous applications. It acts as an items menu, data display, map and much, much more. It’s an excellent way to handle the majority of the game’s required management (with the exception of game saves), and as it’s a piece of your character, it doesn’t draw you out of the Fallout world. My only qualm with the Pip-Boy is its default, tough-on-the-eyes green color, but that can easily be remedied in the options menu.
So you can interact with a gadget on your arm. Sure, it’s neat, but what about more personal interactions? These are present in full force, second only to the dynamic dialogue of Mass Effect. The branching conversations you have with other people are expertly executed. Ranging from grunts and colloquial remarks to expertly crafted monologues, the writing is always spot on. The voice acting, like that of Oblivion, is excellent, and unlike Oblivion there are few lip-syncing issues. It’s a bit ironic that in a world so dead, the inhabitants seem so alive.
But what’s most impressive about the dialogue is the sense of gravity each conversation carries. Every time you make a remark, it has consequences one way or another. Your karma will fluctuate as you talk to people and perform actions, ultimately determining whether you are good, evil, or neutral. Each path has pros and cons; there is no “right” choice. Most players will find that morality isn’t a clear-cut choice either. While I had no trouble thoroughly pillaging a gang hideout (even though it lowered my karma), the same couldn’t be said of stealing from the residences in the impoverished Megaton (which, indeed, I chose not to blow up). When I once stole a measly clipboard with an errant press of the X button, I actually felt guilty and ashamed. That proves testament to the game’s immersion factor.
You’ll get so wrapped in the game’s world that you’ll often forget that there’s a story to complete. Even though it shifts and twists in ... (continued on next page)