By Jesse Baguchinsky
The world of Fallout is a fantastic mix of a stereotypical science fiction future and a 1950s America obsessed with the Red Scare and the threat of nuclear apocalypse at the height of the Cold War. There are lasers and robots alongside jazzy music, 50s era fashions and plain old rifles, machine guns and shotguns. Fallout 3 takes the series in a new direction under the reins of Bethesda. It has transformed from a traditional RPG to a first person shooter/adventure game with RPG elements. The Capital Wasteland of Washington D.C. is waiting for you and it isn’t very friendly.
Fallout 3 looks like your standard first person shooter from a glance, but it is much deeper once you start playing. It has a very similar play style to Oblivion, but Bethesda has tweaked it a little. The main difference is the implementation of firearms to the vast arsenal of weaponry at your character’s disposal.
The setting is a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. in the year 2277. Your character starts as an infant born in a nuclear fallout shelter known as Vault 101. These vaults are sheltered from the outside world, so the few who do know about the Wasteland never want to talk about its horrors. In your character’s teen years, Mr. or Miss Vault 101 leaves the Vault to look for his or her father (voiced by Liam Neeson) and your adventure begins. Along the way, you can make good or evil choices that affect your karma, but nothing really ever changes in the game world… with the exception of the destruction of an entire city. The tale has many twists and turns and your character investigate a mysterious, ultra patriotic group called the Enclave, assist in cleaning up the irradiated water supply around D.C. and take on more side quests than you can shake a stick at.
The first time I left Vault 101 I was blown away by the look of the game. Like the country of Cyrodill in Oblivion, the Capital Wasteland is an expansive area with many locations to discover. The outskirts of the city is littered with dilapidated buildings and makeshift settlements the Wastelanders built. When I went inside the actual city and arrived at the Mall my jaw dropped. The Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and all of the other historical landmarks look amazing outside and in. There are huge amounts of weapons, armor, and items to find and they all look unique. The character models aren’t the most attractive, but I’d imagine looks are pretty far down on the list of necessities when trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
The character creation system is very in-depth with a wide array of facial features to choose from. You can fully customize the positions and size of the eyes, nose, jaw and just about everything else on the face to whatever you want. Then you choose from a large amount of hair and facial hairstyles and colors. After the game begins you can choose whether you want your character to wear regular clothes that increase skills like speech and sneak, or heavy armor that increases strength and weapon skills. Like the weapons, the selection of armor and clothing is vast. The creation system is very expansive and detailed. There are hundreds if not thousands of different combinations to truly make your character your own.
Since the nuclear catastrophe occurred in the 1950s, the soundtrack definitely reflects it. When you tune into Galaxy News Radio in the Wasteland, you will hear one of many bluesy or jazzy songs from the 40s that make up part of the soundtrack. When you’re not listening to the radio you are treated with the original score of the game which is mostly ambiance music while you’re walking around D.C. The music changes during certain situations like when enemies are nearby or you change locations, but it is always great.
Just like the soundtrack, the voice actors also did a phenomenal job in this game. You obviously can’t go wrong with Liam Neeson. There are many different dialogue choices you can make throughout the game and the acting is great with each new one I tried. The characters are all very believable and some of the dialogue is very humorous.
When you first start up Fallout 3 it feels like another first person shooter. After playing for a little while, the RPG elements become evident. At the beginning of the game, you set a certain amount of points into base skills such as strength, perception, luck and a few others. You gain experience by killing enemies or by completing quests and when you gain enough you level up. After leveling, you can spend points on one of a handful of other skills that you will power up throughout the game and then pick one extra bonus perk from a list. These include things like taking less damage or greater accuracy. The RPG elements in Fallout 3 play very much like a tabletop RPG and they are pushed even further with the invention of the V.A.T.S. system.
The Vault-Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.) is a feature you get with your wrist computer, the Pip Boy 3000. Instead of just pointing a gun and firing, you activate V.A.T.S.. and everything freezes. You can highlight the enemy’s head, torso, arms, legs or weapons and you are given the percentage you have of hitting those parts and the overall health of the enemy and each appendage. This adds a tactical layer not seen in most other first person shooters. You can also run and gun like a regular first person shooter, but unless your weapon skills are near maximum, V.A.T.S. is usually your best bet.
For how great V.A.T.S. is, it does have its drawbacks. Every so often you will choose where you want to hit an enemy only to have the enemy run behind a wall, so instead of seeing your character triumphantly separate a super mutant’s head from its body with a well placed rifle round, he or she will stupidly shoot the wall until the V.A.T.S. round is over. Also, occasionally my character would get stuck inside V.A.T.S. for an extended period of time and the whole time he wouldn’t do anything. I couldn’t control him so I had to watch until the slow motion stopped and it went back into regular game play. That’s more of a technical issue than anything else, but it is still worth mentioning.
Another tweak in game play is the damage system. When both your character and enemies take too much damage on one particular area of the body that body part cripples. That could mean your eyesight getting fuzzy from your head being crippled or moving slower because you got shot in the leg one too many times. There are many items you can heal yourself with, but most of the food and water is irradiated and if you get radiation poisoning it can mean bad news for you down the road. The cure-all item in Fallout 3 is the Stimpak. If every body part is broken you can use one Stimpak and everything is fine. They also restore more health than food or water. At first they are scarce, but by the end of the game you’ll be up to your ears in them.
Fallout 3 is the most fun I’ve had with a video game in a long time. The main story quests along with the side quests will keep you busy for hours and hours and the karma system will increase the replay value if you’re interested in seeing how many different ways you can complete a quest. The graphics and sound completely immerse you in the world and the role-playing aspects mixed in with the first person shooting keeps the game original and entertaining. There are a few technical glitches in the game, but they are minor and rarely game-breaking. This is a must- have for any gamer’s library. It’s been almost a year since its release and I am still frequently playing Fallout 3.
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Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks, ZeniMax Media
Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: October 28, 2008 (US)
Genre: First Person Shooter, RPG