Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 10/28/08 | Genre: Action/RPG
I have fond memories of the Fallout franchise. When Interplay released the original Fallout, fans fell in love with the post-apocalyptic environments and the quest to save all of your fellow survivors in Vault 101. The franchise continued with the release of Fallout 2 before faltering with console iterations that never had the quality or care of the original PC and Mac titles. Interplay held on to the rights to the franchise for many, many years before finally reaching an agreement for Bethesda to create all single player versions of the franchise—with Interplay retaining the rights to any future MMO based on the Fallout universe. Years have passed, technologies have changed, and at last Fallout has returned. Was Bethesda able to retain the former glory of the Fallout franchise?
To accomplish the goal of successfully rebooting the franchise, Bethesda developed Fallout 3 on the back of its incredible Oblivion engine. Before we saw the release of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on the market, Bethesda spent years working to create one of the first next-generation engines and brought Oblivion to life early in the Xbox 360 life cycle. Many changes have been made to the core engine—including more realistic textures, better character animations, a larger world, and more details in the environment. All of this adds up to superb visuals and much depth to the environment not seen in many Role Playing Games made in an open world.
Players begin as a newborn entering life. As they are being born, you willl select your sex and how your character will look when they get older. Very soon you flash forward until you can crawl and the player learns the basic movement and interactions within the environment. Life progresses further to when you receive your PIPBoy sensor at your birthday party. The story is relatively boring and not many things happen during these early moments of life. However, this is a much more interactive way of teaching players how to use basic skills rather than a standard tutorial.
After the beginning moments of the game, players leave Vault 101 and the real fun begins. The door swings away and all of the comforts and confined spaces of Vault 101 go away and the blinding light of the real world is in plain view. For the first time, you realize how devastating the world of Fallout is: cars are burnt, houses in rubble, buildings demolished, and the world is full of scavengers and mutated beasts trying to kill you for their own pleasure. The world of Fallout is bleak, unpleasant, and chaotic. He with the biggest stick tends to set the rules by force. However, this is where the open nature of Fallout 3 really begins to shine. Players are able to make a character in many different ways. Do you want have a physically strong character who overwhelms their foes with melee attacks, small guns, large guns, or other weapons? If so, you will probably tend to play a more action-oriented play style. Personally, I prefer to take a verbal approach to situations and build up my character with the ability to talk your way out of any situation, manipulate others, and to have high lock picking, science, and repair skills. The possibilities are virtually endless and each play through Fallout 3 can be completely different experience.
Some fans of the franchise may be saddened to learn that classic Bird’s Eye View perspective has been changed to the first person viewpoint of the Oblivion series. In addition to this, the gameplay has changed from turn based to real time. There is an added feature to the gameplay known as VATS. This system allows players to freeze time, target specific body parts, and make the tactical decisions that were able to be made in past Fallout games. Think of the VATS gauge as a system similar to the Active Time Battle system in Final Fantasy. However, instead of not being able to attack when it is empty, players just won’t be able to freeze time and target specific body parts. There is even a skill players can add that will refill VATS when you kill an enemy with it. This diminishes any downtime between battles.
To call the real time, first person shooter, battles as engaging or precise as Halo, Resistance, Gears of War, or other shooters would be a misstatement. Although you don’t have the precision in the world of Fallout 3 that you may find in these other titles, the game is tailored around the VATS system to compliment the real time battles. Despite this minor limitation, the gameplay is fun and engaging enough to keep any fan of the genre completely content. This shows just how far the gameplay has progressed.
Beyond the action of the gameplay, the real joy of Fallout 3 is in creating your character, making moral choices, and choosing how you approach the quests and storylines. Early on in the game, players will be confronted with two choices. The first is how to gain access to exit the vault with or without murdering someone. The other is choosing to save a town full of people, lose every quest there, or destroy the town for good. While not every choice in the game has the ramifications or magnitude of destroying an entire town, this gives you an idea of some of the big choices you make early on.
The downside to Fallout 3 is that the game is relatively short. Even worse is when you beat the game, there is no way to continue developing your character or spending more time in the world. However, with as much variety and different choices that you can make, you will want to play through Fallout 3 several times and try to complete the game using different skills and paths. There is also DLC coming—some of it exclusive to the Xbox 360 platform—and it will be interesting to see what type of content will be included in this DLC. For example, Oblivion allowed players to continue on in the world for as long as they wanted. This allowed the DLC to continually add new quests and things for players to do. In Fallout 3, will players have to start a new game, or load up an older save, to access the DLC or will players be able to start where the new content is? We will have to wait and see.
Another annoying part of Fallout 3 is the lack of direction for your quests. While you are given a general map and direction to go, the world of Fallout has many obstacles in your path. This requires you to sometimes have to go to a higher level or down into a building. Unfortunately, the mapping system does not indicate the specific direction you should take. This leads to players needing the strategy guide to complete certain quests. Hopefully this is an area that Bethesda can improve upon in their next title.
Despite the minor complaints, Fallout 3 is one of the best gaming experiences I have played in a long time. Does it live up to the hype? For me, the answer is yes with some reservations on the length of the main story line. But when players try to complete all quests and explore the entire world, there is plenty of gaming time in a world looking for a hero. The choice to be a hero or play a more villainous role is up to you.
Real Life Ratings
Fallout 3 is Rated M and earns this rating for some overly violent deaths, bleak subject matter, and extremely strong language. While I greatly enjoyed Fallout 3, this title is not one for younger audiences. I would strongly advice all parents to keep players under 18 from playing this title. Only mature audiences should be exposed to this subject matter. Even then, I would have preferred to have some type of language filter to limit the profanity in the game. If you are old enough to overlook this subject matter, Fallout 3 provides an incredible experience. It just is a shame that they didn’t include a PG13 version of the title.