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Fallout 3 Review

February 2, 2009

Fallout 3 is the third entry into the Fallout franchise. This one takes place as you escape the vault you grew up in and must survive out in the wastelands of the world. The game is a completely open-world environment where the decisions you make can drastically impact the story and events along the way, as well as how people view you. Sounds like Oblivion you say? Well, for better or worse, yes, so on to the review to clarify.

Story

As stated above, you’re living in a vault in a post-apocalyptic world which has been destroyed by nuclear fallout (hence the name). Due to some events that occur, you escape the vault in search of your father and to gain insight into his research and why he has left.

Meet Your Trusty PIP-BOY 3000. You'll become well acquainted later.

Gameplay

The game starts off at your birth (yes, that’s right) where you will choose basic customization such as your sex and how you will look when you grow up. From there you will distribute attribute points to categories like Strength, Intelligence, etc. From there, you will eventually take an ‘exam’ called the G.O.A.T which assigns you the job you’d be most suited for. From here, you can pick your 3 major skills such as Small Guns, Lockpicking, Stealth, Science, etc.  Actions in the game such as killing enemies, picking locks, and completing quests, all earn you XP which is used to level up your character. Once leveled up you will get to assign points to any of your skills and will allow you to choose one perk to aid in your struggles.

The game is VERY similar to Oblivion with regards to dialogue choices, karma, and the open-world environment. How you speak to others will influence how they perceive you and can help or hurt you throughout the game. Also, each Quest you will come across has many, many different ways of completing it. Someone may ask you to kill someone. Well, you could simply kill them, or you could speak to them, inform them that you don’t want to kill them, and solve it a different way. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at times with how many different ways you can play the game. One thing to remember is that there is no ‘right’ way to play the game, so don’t worry about making poor or wrong decisions.

The world of Fallout is EXTREMELY large. There are hundreds of locations to be discovered and it will take a lot of time finding all of them.

One element of the game that stands out is the V.A.T.S targeting system. Essentially when near enemies, you can press R2 to bring up a targeting screen. It will then display your chance of targeting each enemy body part. You will have a certain number of action points you can use to target whichever parts you want to hit. This works very well, however about 1/2 way through the game, it is much too easy to score headshots, making the game much easier as it progresses.

The end result of headshots in V.A.T.S...

The end result of headshots in V.A.T.S...

Graphics/Audio

The graphics look very good in Fallout with a lot of detail in most of the character models. The look and feel of an urban wasteland is accurately captured in the game. There are some graphical issues in the game (in addition to a multitude of other bugs which will be described below) that can be annoying at times. Every once in a while you will see random body parts or objects floating in the screen. Also, occasionally you will come up to a plain wall, only to see the textures applied in front of you. The sound is ok but nothing to rave about. The gun fire sounds just mediocre and sometimes borders on awful, especially in V.A.T.S. The voice-acting is top-notch however and gives a great feel of being involved with the towns.

Issues/Bugs/Glitches

Normally I don’t include an ‘Issues’ section in my review unless the issues are big enough to detract from gameplay. Well, unfortunately, Fallout 3 has enough of these to dedicate a whole section to it. The biggest and worst glitch I encountered was that the game would freeze at points and stay frozen anywhere from 15-30 seconds. Sometimes it would be while traveling the world, other times within the V.A.T.S targeting.

The second worst glitch is a trophy glitch. Fallout is a game that is open-ended and hence, encourages you to explore. Well once I got to a main quest called Scientific Pursuits, I completed it but did not get a trophy. After searching online, the first part of this quest was discovering a location. Well, as I explored a ton, I found this location before the quest began, and hence, couldn’t fully complete the quest, meaning I did not get a trophy for it. I had to restart my game later (would have loaded an old save if I had one), and purposely avoid this location. For a game that encourages exploring, it seems wrong to punish people for doing so.

Below are the other issues, somewhat more minor, that I encountered:

-When gaining a follower with a mini-gun, every time I entered a building, the sound of the mini-gun firing would go off, even though it was not being fired. Very annoying.

-Game would lag and/or freeze within the V.A.T.S targeting system.

-Game completely froze once and required a restart of my PS3.

Gripes

I also don’t include a ‘Gripes’ section in my reviews either, but Fallout 3 had enough of them that I thought I would detail them further. Remember these are only my opinions regarding the gameplay as opposed to the technical issues listed above.

-From the set of skills you choose (Small Guns, Science, etc), the majority are useless. You don’t need to put points towards Barter as you’ll find so many items to sell, that you don’t need a high barter skill. Melee was useless for me as guns were abundant and more effective, Explosives was VERY useless with the exception of needing the skill at about 30 to get past 1 or 2 quests.

-Skill attributes like Strength, Intelligence, etc were also mostly useless. You don’t get to add to these when you level up unless you choose a perk to do so, thus making these used very infrequently.

-Once you finish the last main quest mission, the game ends. No more exploring. Because of this, I strongly recommend you make multiple saves, especially before you do the last quest so that you can continue to explore the game.

-While initially it’s very cool, V.A.T.S starts to get boring and ‘cheap’ as you get to higher levels. At about level 10 on, it’ll be extremely easy to score headshots and critical shots.

-There are a decent amount of creatures in the game, but you’ll spend most of your time fighting Super Mutants and Raiders. There are 5 behemoths in the game, but you’ll only come across 1 for sure, while you need to seek out the other 4.

-The game was simply too easy. There’s an adjustable difficulty slider, but I didn’t realize it was going to be so easy throughout the game’s entirety. I only died maybe 5-10 times in the course of gaining a Platinum trophy in the game.

Conclusion

It may seem like I’m being overly critical of Fallout in my review, and I am to a degree. I expected something more from Bethesda from their second console outing, but instead we were basically treated to Oblivion with guns. I don’t mean to keep comparing Fallout to Oblivion but the similarities are too many to avoid doing so. Because of this, Fallout fails to stand on it’s own and shine. On top of this, if you previously played Oblivion, it may seem like you’ve played this game already and it’s likely to detract from the experience like it did with me. If you haven’t played Oblivion, you’re in for a treat.  However, with an open-world game already under its belt, I would have expected Bethesda to have released a game without the numerous bugs I have experienced.

Overall, Fallout is a good game that has some technical issues and gripes of mine that hold it back. Despite the issues, Fallout 3 offers a game that will easily take you 40+ hrs to complete, if keeping side quests to a minimum. If you have the free time, I would recommend playing Fallout 3, although I dont’ consider it to be a must-have and definitely don’t agree with some of the critics giving it “Game of the Year” praises.

Dave’s Score: B

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