Review: Fallout 3 - The Wasteland Revisited
Neil Kewn (Murxidon) - OnRPG Journalist
Two years have passed since Fallout 3 graced store shelves after six years in development. Hailed as Game of the Year by many media outlets, the high level of anticipation was thankfully met with a stunning interactive gameplay experience that dripped with atmosphere. After much initial scepticism and fans labelling the game as "Oblivion with guns", Developers Bethesda had their work cut out to mould a modern video game that pushed the boundaries for interactive entertainment, whilst appealing to diehard fans of the lauded games that came before. Sales of over five million and critical acclaim across the board prove that they succeeded, whilst the game itself silenced those that protested a heavy similarity with Bethesda's previous title. Oblivion with guns? Fallout 3 is anything but.
You start your adventure as one of the inhabitants of Vault 101, a post-apocalyptic bunker designed to keep survivors of the nuclear holocaust intact. Headed up by the Overseer, it's his job to ensure that no one ever enters or leaves Vault 101. You spend a lot of your childhood living here, cared for by your father James (voiced by the superb Liam Neeson). One day in your late teens, you are awoken to find that your father has escaped Vault 101, and being the good (or bad) son that you are, you set out to find him.
Don't forget your Pipboy - You'll need it
I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire
Fallout 3 takes place in the year 2277, two centuries after a nuclear war decimates Earth. The majority of the game takes place in the Wasteland, a bleak, desert-like world still bearing the effects of nuclear fallout. As a lone wanderer, you're free to roam the wastes and partake in any number of quests, tasks and activities that the few remnants of civilization provide for you, all the while searching for your Dad. On your travels you will visit desolate supermarkets, irradiated swamps and a city created from an aircraft carrier. Makeshift settlements will become your home outside Vault 101; a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. isn't all endless sand and wrecked cars.
At the start of the game you're given the option to customise your character down to the smallest detail. Names, attributes and cheekbone height can all be adjusted to your heart's content. Freedom is the name of the game here, from the outset you are given the freedom to create a gameplay experience unique to anyone else, and you will soon find that the constraints limiting your play are few and far between.
I shot the Sheriff
Fallout 3 is filled with many moral choices that impact the game world significantly. A Karma system is used to keep track of a player's good nature, or lack of. Helping people in need, avoiding confrontations and being an honest citizen will award you with good karma. Murder, theft and antagonistic behaviour will in kind give you negative karma. How good or bad you are will influence how people around you react to your presence. If you decide to rob a store for valuable Med-X or Rad-Away supplies, people will be less likely to help you down the line. You probably won't be able to see the impact of your choices until you have ploughed many hours into the game, but It's entirely up to you which path you take, and both sides of the coin offer their own perks and bonuses.
The choice is yours (don't do it)
War. War Never Changes
Combat in the Capitol Wasteland is pretty much mandatory if you are to survive. Deformed animals, mutated beasts and deranged raiders don't take kindly to your presence if you happen to stumble upon one of their camps during your travels. There are a variety of weapons at your disposal, with upgradable attributes related to them. Hand to hand combat, melee weapons, pistols, shotguns, assault and sniper rifles, grenades, mines, revolvers, lasers and even a mini nuclear warhead launcher all make an appearance. There is an impressive arsenal here, and an even more impressive way to put it all to use.
VATS, or the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, provides a more tactical, cinematic approach to combat than is traditionally found in first person shooters. Upon entering VATS, the game is paused and limbs of the nearest enemy are highlighted. Each limb has an accuracy rating, dependent on how proficient you are with the selected weapon and the distance between you and the unfortunate victim. From there you can queue up attacks (at the cost of recharging action points), hit a single key and sit back as your wanderer unleashes hell in a slow motion, Matrix-like attack. The sight of a .32 calibre round leaving your hunting rifle, gliding through the air and penetrating the cranium of some hapless Talon Company Mercenary never gets old. VATS is a delight to use every time, although it is optional.
Disarm enemies by shooting their weapon
The main story itself, whilst engrossing, is relatively short. Fortunately, there are a huge number of other side quests you can complete. One of the first towns you encounter upon your escape from Vault 101 is filled with oddball characters that are all too happy to offer you work. Quests are varied enough to remain interesting, and the NPCs you encounter ooze enough character that you actually begin to care about them. I found it difficult to agree to shady Mister Burke's offer to wipe the small town of Megaton off the map when the charming Gob continued to serve me drinks from behind the bar. Clearly, Fallout 3 is a game that requires more than one play through.
Alpha and Omega
Fallout 3, at its core, is a roleplaying game. Levelling up is achieved via killing enemies and completing quests. At the beginning of each new level you have the option to spend skill points in thirteen different attributes. Fancy becoming more powerful with that sledgehammer? Deposit points in Melee Weapons. Rather avoid combat altogether and charm your way past obstacles? The Speech skill is for you. There is usually more than one way of progressing through quests in the Wasteland, so you don't always have to reach into your backpack and pull out the biggest gun you have to get things done.
If you have never indulged in Fallout 3's unique gameplay or revelled in its trademark humour, there couldn't be a better time to try. The modding community continues to release custom content two years on, whilst the release of sequel Fallout: New Vegas has spurred many back to the original post-apocalypse simulator. Fallout 3 offers hours upon hours of gameplay in a single trip through, and as you are almost guaranteed to play differently second time around, 2008's Game of the Year is a title you will surely keep revisiting.
- Excellent story and atmosphere
- VATS keeps combat a pleasure to engage in
- Choices can have a profound effect on the game world
- Areas of the Wasteland are sparse
- Bugs are still present two years on
- Needs more Liam Neeson