At long last Fallout 3 is finally upon us. From the studio that brought us the incredible Elder Scrolls games, comes the long anticipated sequel to the post apocalyptic series originally created by Black Isle Studios. Does Fallout 3 live up to the hype? Will series vets be pleased with this outing from Bethesda? Is Fallout 3 more than Oblivion with guns? Thankfully the answer to all these questions is a resounding yes.
Fallout 3 starts with you witnessing your birth in the confines of Vault 101. In the opening hour of gameplay you are introduced to the mechanics and story of the Fallout world, and while this serves it’s purpose it also creates for a slow start. Don’t be fooled by the beginning of the game’s snail pace though, because you quickly find out that life inside of 101 is not as friendly as it may appear. As something strangely prompts your father to make a run for it, you are left to make an escape or meet your own demise. It’s from here that your wonderfully, wild adventure to find your father begins.
As I finally made my way out of Vault 101 and into the sunlight of the nuked DC wasteland the overall vastness of Fallout was immediately apparent. Exploration is one of the key elements of an open world RPG of this nature and there is no lack of it here. My travels during the game had me venturing into makeshift towns pieced together from scrap airplane parts, subway stations teeming with ghosts, and many other unique locations.
One of the many questions I had coming into my time with Fallout 3 was how would Bethesda handle the dungeons in this game? After a short amount of time in Fallout you’ll notice that many of the games dungeons are simply cut and paste affairs. That’s not to say that this aspect of the game is flawed by any means, but the problem that I noticed after several hours of game play is that most of the game’s dungeons had that “been there done that” feeling. Dungeon crawling still presents fun game play, but you’ll want to spend most of your time sucking in the radiated outside air.
Combat in Fallout 3 is somewhat of a mixed bag. Battles can be approached from a variety of angles; there’s third person (throw this mode out the window), first person, and the distinctive V.A.T.S. (pause time, target a body part, attack) system. While no one approach is right or wrong, this isn’t a game that you’ll want to play through solely as an FPS nor is it a game that you’ll want to play through as a standard RPG. While Bethesda claimed in early interviews that you could play the entire game as a first person shooter, doing so will only result in frustration and looking at the “Game Over” screen many, many times. From my experience the best way to handle a fight is by combining quick attacks via first person mode with deadly blows through the V.A.T.S system. It’s an experience that takes patience and some getting used to, but with practice you’ll find yourself tearing through baddies in no time.
What’s a good RPG without a solid leveling and character progression system? Fortunately that question is not answered here, as Fallout’s character progression approach is top notch. You’ll find plenty of options when it comes time for your character to level up. The best approach to leveling is to focus in on only a few areas where you would like to progress and then throw all of your attribute points at those areas. What’s unique about this game is the Perks that you can also select for your character when you level up. Perks allow you to advance in specific areas quicker based on which Perk you choose.
The story line and character’s in Fallout are as top notch as every other aspect of this game. While you could plow through the main quest in 20 some hours, doing so would only do an injustice to the amount of work that Bethesda put into fleshing out the living, breathing world of Fallout 3. Everything from the voice acting to script screams blockbuster production. I came across characters that I grew to love and some that I loved to hate. Take your time with this game – stories like this don’t come along often in the video game world.
So is there anything negative about Fallout 3? Well, yes. Playing a game of this magnitude can become overwhelming at times and Fallout doesn’t do the best job at pointing you in the right direction. Sometimes exploration is the best route, but it would be nice if at times there was a little more hand holding. It’s a small hindrance, but one non-the-less. I also would have preferred for Bethesda just to do away with the third person option – yes you don’t need to use it, but why is it even there? I also felt like the gore was a little over the top. How many times do you need to see an enemies head explode off their shoulders? Other than these few, small setbacks the game is otherwise an incredible masterpiece.
Fallout 3 is an encounter with greatness that every gamer should take the time to experience. If you are a fan of Bethesda’s other outings then you should already have this game. Even if you never were able to play any of the Elder Scrolls games you still owe it to yourself to check this one out. An experience like this comes around only a few times in a consoles life, so what are you waiting for?