Fallout 3

2008-12-30 22:45:36

Fallout 3(Xbox 360)

Finally, the third installment of the Tim Cain invention, Fallout has arrived. Though the super-trolls that live deep in the basements of No Mutants Allowed forums would beg to differ. The fact of the matter is that Fallout 3 is just that, the 3rd official title in the progression of storytelling that is the Fallout universe. There have been 5 titles that have born the Fallout moniker, Fallout 1 being a favorite across the whole demographic. It is the one that started it all, with us being kicked out of the warm cozy safety of Vault 13 to go out in search of a new water chip to replace the one that broke inside the vault. Allowing the rest of the vault safe haven from the nasty outside world. This resulted in the player meeting various wasteland dwellers and learning new ways to survive outside of "civilized" society. In the end the player is the big hero of his vault, saving it, and the rest of humanity from the super-mutants found at the Mariposa Military Test Facility. However he did so at the loss of his own safety, condemned as an outcast from his vault as he had grown too worldly to be within it. Setting up the story for Fallout 2.

Fallout 2 brought us into the future after Vault 13's water chip was restored and the super mutant facility destroyed. Now we explore the world of the New California Republic and learn about The Enclave, a collection of the top governmental heads from the old era, tucked away safely to make the decisions to bring America back into full form. Unfortunately they've become twisted, seeking to eliminate all contaminated humanity to allow the pure strain humans to retake America, which means genociding anyone who has survived in the wastes. Also, it is here we learn about the nefarious purposes of the Vaults and that they were not meant to shelter humanity, but test it in case the Enclave needed to settle a new planet. Lots of things were revealed in Fallout 2 that would set the stage for Fallout 3.

Fallout Tactics was the next one to be seen for the PC, a Real Time strategy system where the player controlled a team of Brotherhood of Steel assualt units to take control of various locations. There is but a handful of "Canon" materials here, but it was still a fun game, and it was nice to be able to lay prone and attack/low crawl in VATS. Brotherhood of Steel is universally regarded as the single most retarded step cousin of the Fallout lineage, it is best forgotten with a case of beer and a bottle of Tequila. I haven't had the fortune of playing this game, but everywhere I've looked, I've heard nothing but bad things about it.

So since my HTPC isn't setup just yet I've had to make do with my 360 for this next round of Fallouting. I had my reservations when I first picked up the title, as it is built on the Oblivions engine. My thoughts were "oh god, will it be as bland and boring as Oblivion?" and "how can they do this game justice on this platform?" Yet here I am, about to tell it to you straight. Fallout 3 isn't the disaster that No Mutants Allowed makes it out to be. Initially there is a great character generating process while not as anally number crunching as the previous 2(where you had a virtual character sheet to tag up) you are walked through and most of the bits you were familiar with in previous titles are there. It was relatively interesting that you got to play as a baby, toddling around while daddies not watching and messing with things. You get to spend a short amount of time as a 1 yr old, a 10 yr old, and a 16 yr old before you are finally 19 and getting the hell out of the vault. The premise this time? Your dad left for some odd reason and everyone's pissed off and hunting for you. Well, time to scoot out of that place! with the help of the Overseers daughter, you escape out into the wild, taking your first breath of tainted air.

Funny story, apparently you are supposed to stumble out of the vault, and walk straight to Megaton, a city not more than 500 yards away from your Vault. What did I do? the exact opposite, I wanted to see the sites, tour wastelanded Washington DC, so I walked straight into the National Mall, and straight into Super Mutant Land. Thankfully this game has some scaling of difficulty it does on each location, meaning there is a minimum difficulty that grows as you level up, but it only grows as long as you don't visit the location, once you visit the location, the difficulty is fixed in place and every time you go back it's the same level of challenge, keeping things consistent. So while things in the Mall were easier than they would be had I visited when I was level 20, it was still a challenge considering that my ammo counts were fairly light, and I hadn't found many weapons to kill with.

The game is very open ended, allowing you to do just about anything you please, except kill children. Apparently Bethesda didn't want to explore that possible path of litigation from concerned mothers and made even the shitty asshole kids at lamplight unkillable. Which is ironic considering that out of everyone in the whole game it's the Kids in Lamplight that are the most vocally hostile to you, making you want to strangle them with your bare hands.

Unlike the former games where you could hold onto a weapon the entire game and use it liberally(like I did in Fallout with the hunting rifle) In Fallout 3 your equipment takes damage, be it your Armor, or your guns. once an item hits 0% condition, it's unusable until it is repaired, and as it drops in condition, it becomes less and less effective. Thankfully there is a way to keep a hold of the best weapons in the game. Repair! To repair you simply need the same or similar items to repair the item with. so for a 10 mm smg you need another 10mm smg, for Lincoln's Repeating Rifle, you need a Hunting Rifle to scavenge from. So for the unique weapons you just need similar, but for regular items you need exact duplicates. As time goes on in the game the scarcity of repair salvage becomes less and less, as your repair skill goes higher and higher, assuming you spend points in the repair skill.

Some people may find the color palatte a bit bland, as we are wandering a wasteland so it's mostly rocks and dirt, but it makes you appreciate the colorful findings you stumble across, such as a red painted shack, or a Semi Truck, or a gas station, or a series of bomb busted buildings. Even better is finding the mostly intact factories and high rises throughout downtown. Monuments and Museums of the National Mall are quite the sight as well. There is never a time where you run out of things to discover, as long as you make good use of fast travel when you are doubling over already discovered territory. I beat the game in a little over a week of semi-constant staying up until 4am gameplay. and when I wasn't playing I was reading the Fallout Wiki for backstory while at work. What can I say? for Fallout I get obsessed, because it is one of the best game lineages of all time.

Mechanics wise it handles like a FPS with a bolt-on PDA/Inventory management system, which doesn't feel too out of place and makes the game entirely seamless as you go from walking around FPS style, to pulling up your wrist-mounted Pip-Boy 3000 to change some things. The console version also has a set of quick inventory slots making it easy to switch between 8 different items to reek havoc on the world. Unfortunately the FPS handling of the game is kind of clunky and continues to seem shitty until you realize that the FPS section is still controlled by dice rolls in the background. There were times that I was a full inch away from a super-mutants head on a shot and my shot still tracked to the moving mutant and got him right where I had intended for it to go. Proving that the gunplay wasn't 100% in my hands. Sure, it rewards you a bit better if you are 100% accurate at all times, but it doesn't punish you severely for not being able to hit fast moving targets with pinpoint precision either. VATS aiming is an even bigger example of the dice rolling system. a simple tap of the VATS key puts you into VATS action point based aiming system. Where you can plan out your next series of shots, with precision aiming, telling you exactly what your chances of hitting that body part are at the moment, and then commit, where you then watch in slow motion as your shots are put into effect. The only down side I found to VATS, aside from having too few action points to kill something only in VATS a lot fo the time, was that if the enemy is in motion at the time your first few shots might line up, but the enemy goes into cover and you are stuck burning the last of your VATS points and ammunition shooting at a wall instead. There needs to be a cancel button on VATS. Also terrible about aiming is the times when it looks like you can shoot over a wall, and your shots just end up shooting the wall ahead of you instead of your target all because of a matter of a few millimeters. So the shooting system isn't the best and could use to be retooled a bit.

The main story is more of the same Fallout flavor, even if it seems a bit contrived. Those of you still playing or planning to play this game and want to avoid being spoiled AVOID THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH: first of all, your dad is trying to purify the river, a river fed by the Ocean, which we can presume if the river is irradiated as bad as it is, the Ocean is probably pretty damn near nasty as well, so in effect, he's trying to purify ocean water for drinking. A monumental task, which ironically is being performed inside a monument! Second odd thing is just how many times has your dad been outside the vault? the Overseer allowing people to come and go as they please out of the vault isn't very vault like, they might as well have installed a revolving door. Also having to die at the end in order to activate the purifier? even wtih 48 rad-x and 39 rad-aways and a power armor suit that resists radiation I still have to die? lamesauce. Lastly this game takes place after Fallout 2, and people are still living in scavenging climate, where there are no farms other than a few brahmin farms, no plantlife, no regulated commerce. Even Fallout 1 had a diverse economy, and in Fallout 2 they were just starting to mint coinage! Yet Washington DC is still a panic-stricken mess of a location, with too many flaws and not enough going right for it.

A lot of the old humor of the old fallouts is missing from this game, replaced by Bethesda's drier format of humor(mostly in player conversation options that are incredibly snide.) It seems they pulled too hard from the realism bucket and forgot that Fallout has just as much black humor as it has realistic struggle for survival. I mean hell there was talk about having mutated talking raccoons in Fallout 2 before they trimmed Fallout 2 back from being as huge as it could've been. How hilarious might that have been? Okay now for the numerics.

Reason Rank
Start 10
Rich open gameworld with no end of content in site, and plans to add more! +5
FPS controls with hidden die rolls -3
Not as funny as the Interplay titles -3
Immersive as concrete shoes in the ocean. +10
unlimited ways to build a character that works. +5
A solid step forward in the series +5


So in the end I have to say this game is so addictive it'll put you off playing most everything else. Even after beating the game I had to come back to it and start a new character to take a different path. Even though I had other games I need to play/review. That says something about the levels of immersion and greatness in the reply value. Not many games can get close to tripling out the base score. but this game does it! Bravo Bethesda, you didn't fuck this one up, now take all those millions and put them into content packs and a sequel that blows the doors even further off.