Fallout 3 - Review

Fallout 3, PC -£24.73 delivered
Fallout 3, PS3 -£37.49 delivered
Fallout 3, Xbox 360 -£34.99 delivered

Review by LewieP

This review is basically spoiler free.

Fallout 3 is a horrific, buggy, glitchy mess of a game. Large aspects of the design are dated and sometimes even archaic. There are some issues that were problems in Morrowind, then in Oblivion, and are still causing trouble in Fallout 3.

I've got stuck in the floor, and stuck to doorways. I've had broken quests. I've had AI do things which just don't make sense. I've shot an enemy, and instead of sustaining damage, it's just shot up into the sky in a perfectly vertical line, never to be seen again.

I've spoke to a few people who've also played it, and some have experienced similar bugs, and some people have not, I guess your mileage may vary.

I don't really care about these bugs.

Some of the voice acting is pretty annoying, and the in game radio repeats itself quiet a lot. The game would benefit from a better inventory system. Not being able to sort items by weight/value/amount is kind of annoying. It would be nice to have my weapons split up into the different classes, not just sorted alphabetically. There are also times when you are given an item, told what it does, but if you don't remember there is no way of finding out again. I would also prefer it if there was an easier way of telling which ammo goes with which gun when you are buying/scavenging, as is, you have to remember, and there are quiet a few types.

I don't really care about any of these flaws.

I wish Fallout 3 wasn't quite so much like Oblivion. So many things from Fallout 3 are basically recycled from Oblivion, and I really wish Fallout 3 had more of it's own identity. It's just a lot of low end stuff. The sneaking/pickpocketing system, the general interface (basic movement and interaction with items), the save system, the camera and the terrible, terrible player animation (please play it in first person). It's also astounding how rough around the edges it can be at times, there are occasionally bits of terrain that don't even look like anything, and the random bits of dialogue people shout as you walk past them doesn't always make sense. After playing Mass Effect, I would love it if Fallout 3 had a similar dialogue system, but it is a pretty basic list of options to pick from. I have decided that I am no longer going to be tolerant of First person games where my players feet/body are invisible, and so I have to call Fallout 3 on it. You feel very much like a floating gun, and the jumping is kind of off.

I don't really care about these technical shortcomings, or derivative elements of the game design.

Now that I have got those problems out of the way, let me talk about how much I love Fallout 3. Fallout 3 is the most enjoyable role playing experience I can remember ever having had.

Fallout 3 has made me a bad person.

Very few games have this effect on me. Assassin's Creed made me a bit of a prick, but Fallout 3 has made me flat out evil. First thing I think when I see a new person is "Could I kill them if I wanted too?", second is "Have they got any good stuff?", and third is "What can I do to get their stuff?". If I have to quest to do it, I will do, but if I can just kill them/steal it, I will. To me, someone's life is only worth the value of their stuff (in caps). It's not my fault, that's just the law of the wastelands.

Lots of games would punish you for exercising this level of dickery, but not Fallout 3. Sure, there are direct consequences for being evil (negative karma), but these consequences don't have to be punishment, they are just a part of the role-playing experience. There are a bunch of ways that negative karma can be advantageous (such as perks that require you to be a bastard before you can get them).

I feel a real ownership of my character. The levelling system is excellent. It allows a huge deal of customisation, but, for me anyway, I never felt like I was too far down one branch to stop and change my mind and be a different style of character. The process of learning the game, deciding what type of character I wanted to be, and actually levelling up and picking stats was perfectly synchronised, which is something I have never felt in the Elder Scrolls games.

I think one of the things that really makes Fallout 3 work is the rules. It is incredibly open ended, but everything makes sense. I don't really think there is a 'bad' type of character to play as. Whatever type of character you create, you will have strengths and weaknesses, but always something that makes you think "I am glad I chose to have that stat quite high".

There is always a multitude of ways of dealing with any scenario, and it forces you to think "What would my character do?", and for the first time in a long while in an RPG, over time, that changed to "What would I do?". In the past I've really struggled with the Role Playing part of RPGs, often I've just played them for the mechanical gameplay, or the story, but Fallout 3 has been an incredible role playing experience.

The game world is really stunning too. It is as huge as you would expect, but in every nook and cranny there is something interesting to do, see, loot or stab. The backdrop to the game is an immense, bleak, burnt out, wasteland, and it really feels like it. Just getting by in the game is a challenge, and sometimes it feels like everything is out to kill you.

Despite this though, the wasteland will always provide exactly what you need, and if you are resourceful enough, you can always get by. Just. At it's most intense, there have been moments when I have had low health, been surrounded by super mutants, but had no recovery items left. I managed to find a toilet full of irradiated water, which would give me just enough health to get past them. Obviously, drinking this water gave me radiation poisoning, but that was a problem for the future. Fallout 3 is at it's best when you are just getting by, living in the moment, and taking from the wastelands whatever you can.

The wastelands may be brutal, but there are plenty of friendly characters, and tonnes of sidequests to do. Some of them are a little pedestrian, but more often than not, they are fun. Some of them are downright genius too. There are some set pieces which are fantastic, and the game makes it pretty easy to just wander off, exploring, and come back to the main quest whenever you feel like it. The ending of the main quest was a little weak, but this really is a game where the ending doesn't matter too much.

It's really believable too, Fallout 3 has one of the most convincing post-apocalyptic settings I've played in, and it's got a great, cynical, sense of humour that adds a lot to the game.

The combat is great. It's a really intelligent blend of realtime FPS and turn based RPG combat. The turn based combat is called "VATS", essentially when you trigger the VATS, it pauses the game, and lets you decide which enemy, and where on that enemy you want to attack. Each attack uses up "Attack points", which constantly recharge. Once you have selected where you want to attack, it cuts to a cinematic 3rd person camera angle, and your character carries out the attacks, then you jump straight back into the realtime combat.

It's a great idea, for the most part used well, but there are some flaws. Sometimes the FPS aspect of it suffers from it being an RPG, the enemy AI doesn't hold up that well for an FPS. They seem to only ever employ one of two strategies: "stand still at a distance" or "Run at him!". The RPG elements sometimes suffer from it being an FPS too. The VATS sometimes tells you that you have a 95% chance of hitting someone, but then when it cuts to the 3rd person camera, you gun is actually just behind cover, and you unload into a wall, even though you had line of sight before starting the VATS. The VATS sometimes takes a little too long too, and the over the top gore is probably not entirely necessary, although it is kind of satisfying to blow someones head clean off with a well placed rifle shot.

I love this game. Love, love, love it to bits. It is very flawed, but I guess that's Fallout. The flaws (to me) really don't matter, and sort of add to the charm. I have sunk a huge amount of time into it, and pretty much enjoyed every second of it. If you liked Oblivion, it has enough in common with it that you will probably like this too. If you didn't like Oblivion that much (like me), don't let the similarities put you off. It certainly is "Oblivion with guns", but it is also a whole lot more.

Discuss it in the forums.

Fallout 3, PC -£24.73 delivered
Fallout 3, PS3 -£37.49 delivered
Fallout 3, Xbox 360 -£34.99 delivered

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