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Game: Fallout 3
Developer: Bethesda
Publisher: Bethesda
Year: 2008
Reviewed: 2009
Platform: PC
Genre: RPG
Game Version: 1.1.0.35
Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

In 2008, Bethesda released the third game (aside from the spin-offs of course) in the Fallout series, a mere 10 years after the second game was originally published. Inevitably, there was the outcry from some of the obsessive fans who were upset that the game wasn’t an identical copy of the originals, but looking at the game in a slightly less eccentric way, I can come to a conclusion on the quality of the game. It’s rather good.

Fallout 3 Murphy
The radiation had a bad effect on Ronnie Corbett.

There are a couple of comparisons that are inevitably going to be made in any discussion of Fallout 3. The first is obviously with the original games in the series, and the second is with Oblivion. This uses the same engine and a very similar style as Bethesda’s last Elder Scrolls RPG. Thankfully, it compares favourably to both of these, combining some of the best elements of each. From Oblivion, it borrows the first person perspective and the open game world. From the original Fallout games, it continues the atmospheric post-apocalyptic setting and the PIPBoy. The conversations lie somewhere between the two. The dialogue options are far more in depth than Oblivion’s one word choices, but it still uses a similar interface.

The combat in Fallout 3 is real-time, again, similar to an Elder Scrolls game. Though given the setting, you’ll probably be spending more time with guns and explosives than with swords. The combat isn’t quite on a par with a first person shooter, but it’s not bad and does the job well enough. And it has the bonus of an adaptation of the turn-based combat of the original Fallout games too. It’s not the tactical (or pseudo-tactical) combat of the original game, but it uses some of the mechanics to make a useful aid to combat. At any time during combat you can hit a button to enter VATS mode and choose to target a specific body part. Depending on your skill with the weapon you’re using, the body part you’re aiming at and the distance from you, there’ll be a different chance of actually hitting your target. Each shot uses up a number of action points, meaning you can’t just use VATS continuously, so you’ll need to either be ready to start shooting in real-time afterwards or find a hiding place quickly while you recharge your AP. It’s a good system, capable of both helping out people who aren’t so good at real-time combat, and giving all players an opportunity to even the odds a little in the larger battles. (It’s better than the turn-based combat in the original games anyway. Much as I loved them, the combat was one of the weaker elements, slowing the game to a crawl every time a radscorpion passed, seemingly within a 2 mile radius.) Also, watching the heads fly off the bodies of your enemies in slow motion after getting a head shot in VATS never gets boring. Unrealistic, yes, but never boring.

The sound deserves a special mention. That was it, just there.

Lock Picking and Hacking
Fallout 3 Lockpicking
Lock picking is done using bobby pins. You get a close up picture of the lock with the pin inserted. Moving the mouse rotates the pin around the lock, and pressing a direction key rotates the lock. If you don’t have it at the right angle, it will only rotate so far before it comes up against resistance and starts quivering, at which point you need to release the tension or the pin will break. The closer you are to the correct position, the further the lock will turn, so you can quickly zero in on the right angle to unlock the door. It’s one of the better lock picking interfaces I’ve seen in a game. If you’re not the subtle kind, you can also choose to force the door with various chances of success depending on your stats.
Fallout 3 Hacking
Hacking is done on a screen resembling a hex editor. Amongst the scattered symbols are several words, and your job is to find the password amongst them. You get four attempts, and each failed attempt will tell you how many letters were correct. Like that old Mastermind game. It’s not realistic of course, but it’s better than most hacking mini-games that have you playing Pipemania or Frogger clones. At least the interface makes it look a bit like you’re reading the code, and there’s some logic behind why you’re doing the puzzle.

Oh, ok, I’ll mention a bit more. The sound effects are all good and the voice acting is fine throughout the game. There’s a good range of voices for the different characters. Unlike the huge, seemingly in-bred cast of characters in Oblivion, each with one of about 4 different voices. But where Fallout 3 really excels is in the soundtrack. At any time while wandering the Capital Wasteland, you can turn on Galaxy News Radio and listen to music interspersed with brief talk about what you’ve been up to by the DJ. It’s like the radio stations on the recent GTA games, except with more songs that are actually good. They’ve gone all the way back to the 30s and 40s to find them. This adds to the atmosphere of the game immensely. There’s nothing like exploring post-apocalyptic ruins while Billie Holiday sings Crazy He Calls Me or shooting the head off a super mutant while Cole Porter’s brilliant Anything Goes plays. And of course, I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire is hugely appropriate.

Fallout 3 Nuke
I wonder what this button does…

One thing Bethesda still excels at is creating interesting and varied quests. There aren’t as many side quests as there were in Oblivion, but the ones that are there are well written and fun to play through. The main quest has a better storyline this time too, although it is rather short. One interesting aspect is how the game deals with character creation. Rather than just making choices on menus at the start of the game, you get to play through some key moments of your childhood to create a character. Sex and appearance are decided at your birth, your stats are chosen through a children’s book and you get your first chance to choose how your character will handle situations by dealing with a childhood bully. It’s a great way of starting the game, and sets things up well for the start of the main story, involving your father leaving you behind as he leaves the vault without saying why.

The game world is rather large and crammed full of places to find. It’s not quite as big as the map was in Oblivion, but there are not quite as many identical dungeons either. Having said that, Fallout 3 does have its own version of the dungeons in the form of rather generic ruined office buildings. They’re not as dull as plain caves and they tend to have computers to hack that give you some back story to what has happened there in the past, but the actual locations themselves are rather dull once you’ve explored a few. There’s not too many of them though, and of course, you’re not forced to explore them all.

As with the Oblivion review, I could go on at length about the many features the game has, but I’m too lazy by far. If you’re a Fallout fan or an Oblivion fan, then this game is well worth playing. If you’re a fan of neither, then it’s still worth playing because it’s bloody good. Ultimately, I’ll rate it slightly higher than Oblivion due to the more focused world and more interesting setting.

Save System Review: Save anywhere and quicksave. No problems.
Graphics: An enhanced version of the engine used for Oblivion. The game looks great and the ruined locations fit the setting of the game very well. It can look a bit repetitive at times though.
Sound: Fantastic sound all round, from the voice acting to the score to the brilliant music on the radio. All together now: Bingle, bangle, bungle, I’m so happy in the jungle, I refuse to gooooo…
Bugs: The game does fall down a little here. It was rather inconsistent with stability, since I played for ages without ever having any crashes and then the game started spontaneously crashing randomly at various intervals. A couple of times I got stuck in rocky areas I’d jumped on to, where I couldn’t move any way and couldn’t even jump to get out and ended up having to quickload. And there was the occasional bug with a character turning up dead because they’d wandered off a high platform or something. There were various other bugs, although nothing game destroying. To be fair to Bethesda, some of the crash issues could be caused by Xfire. Anyway, not great, but it’s not too bad for a game on this scale.
Gameplay: Well, the big plus point is having so much to do and such a good variety of quests. The real-time combat is decent and the VATS system works very well. The enemy types can become a bit repetitive after a while, since there are probably a few too many random encounters with the vicious wasteland wildlife while exploring. You can usually avoid combat in these situations if you choose to be stealthy though.
Storyline: The main plot is more interesting than the one in Oblivion this time. It is rather short though. And there’s none of the factions to join to get other storylines. The actual quests themselves are well written though, and it feels like you’re actually having an effect on the world, especially with the radio broadcasts about your exploits.

Arbitrary Final Score: 4.5 stars

If you like this, you might also like: All the other Fallout games (except that Brotherhood of Steel console game that is apparently crap, although I haven’t played it myself so who knows really?), the Elder Scrolls games, STALKER

Did the game make you long for the apocalypse or did you dislike it? Tell us what you think in the forum!