RPG Index: Single player Role Playing Games

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Fallout 3 guest review

Genre: FPS, RPG
Release Date: October 28th 2008
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Score: 8/10
Similar Titles: Fallout: New Vegas, Skyrim, Knights of the Old Republic

Image on the case.
This review was written by a friend of mine, we play a lot of similar games and both enjoy the genre. I thank him very kindly for the review, it's very accurate and kind of puts mine to shame!

Artwork is brilliant, but outdated.

Back in 1997, when I was playing Crash Bandicoot, a game was released on the PC called Fallout. A spiritual successor to Wasteland, developed by Interplay. It met almost universal acclaim and set the stage for a long list of sequels continuing to this very day (although developed under the name Obsidian Entertainment now).
Unfortunately Interplay came into financial difficulties and in 2007 the rights to the intellectual property of Fallout were sold to Bethesda. Bethesda have proved themselves very capable of making excellent games, but it’s always a risk taking an established series and trying to continue another’s success. In 2008 Bethesda released Fallout 3. And not knowing any of the above, I bought it after being told “It’s Elder Scrolls with guns.”

Exploding limbs is easy and awesome.

So, completely unprepared for the incredible world of Fallout, I flicked on my PS3, popped in the game, and found myself being born. That’s right Fallout 3 starts with you emerging from you mothers uterus, covered in placenta and (strangely) with 20/20 vision and a perfectly formed neck muscles (okay, maybe I’m expecting too much realism on that one). It’s quickly apparent you’re in some kind of underground bunker and later becomes apparent that you’re not leaving any time soon. So you carry on growing up like any other human being.

The tutorial sees you growing up.

You learn to walk and read, have a birthday party, get bullied or do some bullying, get beat up by some bullies or beat up some bullies, flirt with a girl or beat up a girl. Then the radioactive shit hit’s the fan and you have to leave the bunker (or Vault as the inhabitants call it) and go out into the world, to pursue your father.
And this is where Fallout 3 really kicks off. Don’t get me wrong the introductory section is pretty fun, but there’s very little replay value to it and you’ll most likely end up rushing through it on subsequent playthroughs. In any case, you emerge out into “The Capital Wasteland,” which used to be Washington DC, but is now a mangled radioactive mess, scarred worse than a promiscuous acid saleswoman in Saudi Arabia.

Poor people are everywhere.

So this is where you are introduced to one of the biggest focus’ in Fallout 3, the world.
There are many interesting things to discover in the Capital Wasteland, but there’s a lot of space between them. You can easily end up ambling across the desert for ages, relishing any chance to break the monotony by killing or looting something. Another frustrating feature was that large sections of the wasteland are unreachable unless you use the ruined subway tunnels. Unless there is a quest guiding you, you have no idea where you will end up. I remember discovering a city I’d never entered before but finding no over ground entrance. I must have been through at least 3 different subway tunnels, fighting my way through swathes of mutated creatures, only to end up miles away, or just outside of my target each time. The tunnels and caves can also end up pretty samey, especially if the enemies inside are nothing new. But for every boring cave there’s a town taken over by giant ants, for every samey tunnel there’s a newly established country named “The Republic of Dave.” You can also skip travelling when going to places you’ve already discovered, so long, boring journeys become less of a problem the further into the game you progress.

The handy pipboy deals with all your menu needs.

The main settlements do seem a little lacklustre. The first settlement you will (most likely) encounter is called Megaton and while the city is excellently designed with a lot of entertaining characters it just doesn’t feel that…..alive. Outside of giving missions the characters have very little to discuss and they very rarely interact with, or even have anything to say about each other. This means that unless you are following a specific quest, you are likely to be underwhelmed by the lack of personality or conversation from the NPCs. For example I discovered a small town that (according to the barks of the locals) was in a bad way. But because I did not have the quest that related to that town already accepted, not a single resident had anything of interest to say to me, nothing at all, they just wandered round like children complaining incessantly. This doesn’t mean the towns and cities aren’t fun, they just don’t really feel like towns or cities. Also the story isn’t bad, If you’re prepared to invest in it and can stand it being so linear. But the endings have very little variety, especially compared to most of the previous titles of the series. Which again, adds to the feeling of linearity.

You will spend most of your time in the wasteland.

All in all it doesn’t seem like Bethesda have done much to encourage wandering off the beaten path, which is strange as a lot of entertaining places and events can’t be found any other way. You’ll find that almost all of the time it is more fun to follow quests than it is to do your own thing, which again, adds to the feeling of linearity that is most unwelcome. Still, there is no way you can completely fuck something as wonderful as the Fallout world up, and they haven’t. The sense of humour, the art style and the lore all remain in there and you might just find yourself enduring the boring and bland as you know there’s going to be something truly special to discover round the corner.

If I had to describe the player character in Fallout 3 in two words, it would be “errand boy.“ With an open ended rpg like Fallout 3 you want to get lost in the world, empathise with the characters and ultimately feel like you are in control of your characters destiny. Bethesda deal the immersion a critical blow by giving your character a back story. Your father (in the game) is a very honourable character who is nothing but loving towards the player character, you witness your character grow up in a tight community with family and friends, so anyone who enjoys an element of role play will find taking the “evil” options just doesn‘t make any sense. If your character was selfish bastard, why would he chase his dad around after leaving the vault? If he was a true cunt why would he set about helping the world? Wouldn‘t he go and spread chaos and death throughout the few remains of civilisation? Wouldn‘t he concentrate on accumulating money, bitches and drugs? While you can actually do (most of) these things hardly anything or anyone will address or mention it and you‘ll always perform the same missions. If you’re just interested in wanton acts of violence and cruelty then you’re in luck, but if you expect these acts to be addressed by the game, you are going to be disappointed.

There is a severe lack of consequence as well. You can utterly annihilate one of the major cities and do you know what the only major consequence is? Somebody gives you somewhere to stay. THAT‘S IT,…….well it does affect your karma level, but karma does fuck all outside of deciding which companions will join you and the only companion worth having around will leave you if do nasty things and is directly related to the story anyway. But I digress, you can slaughter an entire town in front of the children and they wont care. You can carry an innocent’s decapitated head around with you as a purse and no-one will bat an eyelid. There are consequences for some things that just don’t make sense. If you raid an evil slaver’s dwelling and shoot him in the face the game will treat this as a morally just act. But taking a coffee cup of his after you’ve killed him? Nope, that‘s evil. Why? They’re not using it anymore. Are we being punished for not leaving it for the deceased next of kin? Or disturbing a crime scene? Nope, it’s just a VERY annoying flaw. I’ll admit there are some set-pieces that depend on your moral disposition, but having a differently named mercenary group after you is a pretty fucking minor change.

Laser guns hurt.
Your player character seems like an empty vessel really. A soulless, personality devoid robot that just wanders from place to place….doing…..things. Again this will not bother everybody, but if you’re the kind of person who likes your character to actually play a part in the story (besides being an errand boy) you will again, be sadly disappointed.

What lack of variety in character depth is made up made up for in the variety of customisation. You start off with your “S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats.” These are your basic, intelligence, endurance, perception etc. Then you have your skill stats: Guns, energy weapons, melee. THEN you have the perks, which have a massive variety of style and utility and you can obtain a decent amount of them as well. There are many different combinations and styles of character to experiment with, from the stealthy assassin, to absolute powerhouse, to the sharp tongued diplomat. All the stats can provide shortcuts in conversations as well. A high perception might enable you to spot a lie or a high skill in guns could persuade someone to lend you their prized rifle.

You may have noticed I’ve mentioned a lot of shooting, beating, decapitating and numerous other acts of violence and bastardness. This is one of the best parts of Fallout 3, the combat. For the most part it is standard first person shooter combat. Ya’know, run, gun, take cover, the whole shebang. Melee combat has a much larger focus than most other FPS’. But the main quirk is the VATS system. Which pauses the game to allow you to target specific (and if you want multiple) parts of the enemy’s body, and then fires off the shots in bullet time. To be perfectly honest you could not use this feature the entire game and not be at a disadvantage, sometimes it actively disadvantages you. Like when you line up a nice amount of kill-shots and an ally steps in the way at the last second, being unable to move you find yourself planting shot after shot into the back of your allies head till it explodes and you find yourself with a half empty clip and a room of enemies filling your face with lead. However, despite all it’s faults VATS is bloody brilliant and never gets old. I can’t explain how much fun it is to roll up on a squad of slavers, while they shout cocky barks at you, only for you to pop each one in the head within a split second, showering the wasteland with blood and grey matter. Goddamn if you get the “messy kills” perk you’ll be practically filling rooms with corpses and gore. The fact you can further dismember corpses after they’re dead, and collect their body parts together just adds to the brutal sadism.

People are fragile.

The NPC AI isn‘t great, but there is enough of them (in combat-intended areas) and the level design is decent enough that you don’t tend to notice. There’s a critical hit system that seems quite out of place. I couldn’t really figure out how it determines when to crit or not. It’s probably something to do with weak points but the only way to crit reliably is through stealth-critical hits. The variety of weapons isn’t great and the majority of them become obsolete as you get the more advanced ones. They’re all pretty generic as well, it’s no way near as fun to use one of the weapons as it is to watch the results. The exception being the crafted weapons which are wonderfully imaginative and always fun to use. You can load the Rock-it-launcher (a crafted weapon) with teddy bears and literally bombard people with high-speed fluffy toys.

In spite of it’s flaws the combat is pretty damn good and is definitely one of the more enjoyable facets of Fallout 3.
Although the game has many flaws it is not exactly ruined. I can imagine fan’s of the original being put-off by…well….everything. And I can imagine those who have played a certain, more recent fallout title seeing this as a big step backwards. But as long as you don’t care about branching storylines the story, or your characters involvement, you’ll find this to be a decent game, with a lot of funny, gripping and all round enjoyable moments. It’s appropriate that your character is called the “Lone Wanderer” though, as you’ll be doing a lot wandering to find these entertaining moments.

Ultimately my advice would be not to buy this game. Not because it’s boring or has no soul, because in spite of that it can hold it’s own. But because the masterpiece that is Fallout: New Vegas was released in 2010 and Fallout 3 pales in comparison. I cannot honestly say if it’s anything to do with the fact Obsidian Entertainment developed New Vegas (as I’ve never played the originals), but it does feel like a real world, the world of Fallout. And not some soulless imitation (I guess). Almost every flaw I’ve mentioned here is addressed and fixed in Fallout: New Vegas. It is an entirely superior game.


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