- Just about, well…everything!
- High replay value
- Some clipping issues
- A bugged sidequest or two
There is a stack of games gathering dust in my basement. Along with the likes of Call of Duty 4 and Burnout Paradise there are new editions such as Fable 2, Far Cry 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour (along with the whole assortment of plastic instruments). What’s responsible for this? The same thing that has caused the giant pile of laundry to build up and the cat to develop a distinct “hasn’t been fed in a while” look to it. Last week, Bethesda released Fallout 3 and my 360 hasn’t done anything else but spin it up ever since. I am completely absorbed by this game in a way that few games have ever had the power to do.
War...War never changesIn the year 2077 civilization as we know it ended in a flash of light…well, several hundred flashes of light…as the Great War between the United States and China climaxed in a nuclear exchange. Not all was lost, though, as a “lucky” few were able to purchase time in one of Vault-Tec’s Vaults. The Vaults allowed civilization to continue, safe from the horrors of the Wasteland. Not all Vaults were created equal. Some suffered mechanical failure, some were victims of raids from raiders and mutants and others were stocked only with a box of sock puppets. Two hundred years later and your Vault has yet to open up to the outside world. No one ever enters and no one ever leaves…or do they? The post-apocalyptic world of 2277 is a very different place but as Ron Perlman has reminded us at the beginning of each Fallout, “war…war never changes.”
“I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire”
I think one of the coolest (and most disturbing) things for me about Fallout 3 is that, since I live in the Baltimore-Washington area, all of the locations in the game are familiar to me. It was eerie walking into a town where I used to work in real life. The subway stations all have a distinct DC Metro look to them. Bethesda Softworks is also very familiar with the area since their offices are just outside of DC (though no longer actually based in Bethesda, but supposedly you can find their old office in the game) so they had first-hand inspiration for their design.
The scenery is very bleak so I hope you like gray and brown because they don’t call it the Wasteland for nothing. To say they have done an excellent job creating a post-apocalyptic DC would be an understatement. The first time I walked into the Mall in DC was a real powerful moment. The Capitol Building was overrun with mercenaries who were in a firefight with Super Mutants who had dug trenches in the area leading up to the decaying Washington Monument. The other surviving major landmarks are controlled by an assortment of slavers, soldiers and ghouls.
Something else that Bethesda has done an excellent job with is creating stories that fill the world with a life that you’d never expect to find. When you explore the area you’ll come across things that have been painstakingly crafted just to add color to the world. You’ll get more insight into the Fallout universe than you ever had in the previous installments, including the events that led up to mankind’s destruction and the sinister motives behind the Vault-Tec Vaults. I went off exploring and came across a food processing plant inhabited by Chinese soldiers-turned-ghouls that have been there since before the war. (Ghouls are former humans who have been exposed to MASSIVE doses of radiation and have achieved relative immortality at the expense of their appearance and sometimes their sanity) Further investigation revealed that they had been set up by the Chinese government as fifth-column insurgents/spies. Other stories are a lot more subtle like when you find a Vault full of psychotic clones named Gary or you follow an automated distress signal on your radio pleading for help for a sick child only to find the signal was 200 years old.
There’s one thing to keep in mind about the Fallout universe that some folks seem to miss. The game takes place around 2277, 200 years after the bombs dropped. The world before the war looks a lot like our 1940-1950’s, including the music and advertising. However, many things have a futuristic look to them such as the vehicles and energy weapons you find. The world is supposed to be our future as envisioned by someone in the 1950’s, much like Flash Gordon. Once you get that, the world makes a lot more sense.
Those of you who like to explore will find plenty to doThose of you who like to explore will find plenty to do. I’ve had the game since release and have only done about half of the story missions. I’ve been out doing side quests and exploring the landscape. There are a great many places to explore and most of them have nothing to do with the plot. Another cool feature are the radio stations you can pick up. There are two main ones that you can listen to almost anywhere. The Enclave is the old US Government and they broadcast patriotic music and messages of hope from President Eden. The other is Galaxy Radio hosted by Three Dog and he plays pre-war music and supports the Brotherhood of Steel who were born from the US Military. Three Dog hears lots of things and will often tell stories of your exploits in the Capital Wasteland. Other radio signals will pop up from time to time as you explore.
“He’s Hacking and Whacking and Smacking”
Your character is set up the same way it was in the previous games. Fallout 3 still uses the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system of Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence and Luck. You still have a variety of skills to assign points to when you level up including science, small weapons, lockpicking, and medicine. The perk system is still there as well allowing you to chose from a wide array of beneficial traits for your character every level. My personal favorite is still the Bloody Mess perk which adds a 5% bonus to all weapon damage and causes your enemies to die in the most grotesque way possible.
Character creation this time is story-driven starting with your birth. You first get to chose your appearance and name. Time moves forward a year and you take your first steps (and learn the basic controls). At your ten-year birthday you receive your Pip-Boy 3000 which acts as your inventory, health and information management system. You also learn how to interact with others and make your first ethical decisions which affect your karma, the stat that keeps track of how good, evil or neutral you are.
VATS is fun and is often responsible for some horrifying deathsYou are also introduced to the VATS system which stops combat and allows you to target individual body parts. VATS is fun and is often responsible for some horrifying deaths. You have a pool of action points that you can spend to attack. The pool replenishes quickly over time and you can choose a few perks that increase the size of it and how fast it regenerates.
With a level cap of 20 it means that you’ll never be able to max out all the skills or choose all the perks you want. That, along with the way the world reacts to your karma, means that you’ll want to play through the game more than once. In fact, I am already figuring out how to tweak my character next time to be an energy weapon-wielding maniac.
“Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall”
Fallout 3 isn’t perfect even if it is pretty darn close. I’ve had some random crashes on the 360 so be sure to save often. I’ve fallen through the landscape once, too. I watched as a group of raiders who had been running at me suddenly sank and disappeared. Then I went to see what happened and fell through after them into infinity. I’ve also had a glitch with one of the side-quests where a giant pile of bodies mysteriously disappeared.
Not so much a bug but sometimes the AI is a little stupid. I was escorting some scientists through some tunnels when we encountered some feral ghouls. I went into VATS mode to score some headshots when one of the scientists wandered into my line of fire and I turned him into paste. I’ve also gotten stuck on the landscape before and had to reload a previous save (another reason to save early and often).
So, if you haven’t guessed I REALLY like Fallout 3. Bethesda has done an amazing job bringing the Wasteland to life in a way that the Fallout universe deserves. Folk have criticized the game for being “Oblivion with guns” but, frankly, I couldn’t think of a better compliment.
What do you think of Fallout 3?
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