Fallout 3 is a fantastic game that almost manages to fulfil the sky-high expectations. The legendary status of its predecessors hadn’t only managed to create heightened discussions between fans and passers-by, but also nostalgia-driven impossible demands. Luckily Bethesda chose to do their own thing and the developers came with a game that will be described as a hit in its genre.
The first hour of Fallout 3 is already enough to realise that you’re playing a deep and richly filled game. The voice-acting is great and from the first seconds on the world is set up up to the smallest details just as it should: with a deep background story and lots of characters, each with their own personality and motivation. Not only do the surroundings enchant you with their vividness and reality, it gets truly impressive thanks to the freedom and choices you can make. Each decision you take has little or a lot of effect on your character, the world around him or whether your grandma gets angry on you or not. You can let’s say wipe out an entire city and all NPCs, quest and objects included, or decide to let it remain and bear its fruits.
I won’t go into too much detail of the story as its exploration makes everything so addictive. Your first moments of gameplay take place in an underground bunker where everyone has been staying for years, hiding from the outside world that has become nearly inhabitable after a nuclear explosion. After some surprising events your father does the unthinkable and goes outside the safe walls of The Vault. The only possibility you have is to follow him and set your first steps in the desolate environment that used to be Washington, filled with strange creatures, settlements and new social structures.
Graphically Fallout 3 is great. Surroundings are set up huge and impressive not only qua measurements but also qua atmosphere, and doesn’t lack details like filled tables in a pub or sharp textures in indoor locations. The combinations of futuristic apocalypse with materials that remind of the fifties is still enchanting and charming. The art direction is completely as it should be. Only the characters could use a bit more soul at times but the voice acting manages to usually help with that. A similar quality can be found with the sound. The radiostations you, with or without disturbance, can listen to during your dangerous trips are fantastic and sounds like the wind or the moaning of hidden enemies completely immerse you.
It’s thanks to these technical things that the first thing you notice when the blinding beams of light, the heat and dust have settled, is how beautifully the city Washington and the surround environment have been transferred into post-apocalyptic that can only Fallout can achieve. The main story is ready for you but there’s so much to explore and discover that you’ll quickly get dragged along in one of the many side stories that aren’t just a handful of quests but interesting adventures by themselves, with underlying stories and events. And although this is mostly a world for loners there’s quite a lot of spectacle to catch at times. On the sexy fights you’ll read more below, but now and then a surprisingly big boss is waiting for you or you get to participate on an attack that reminds of World War 2. A rich a fulfilling world is what we call that!
On top of that the replayability is high, on one side due to the fact that you can personalize your character incredibly deep but especially because you can approach or solve the quests in different ways depending of your skills, perks, karma status and who you’re talking to. And replaying is also fun to discover the different endings. Choices made during the game will have influence on how the story progresses. Just to say, a World of Fallout would no doubt deliver a beauty of a world and lovers of real role-playing can rest at ease.
RPG specialist can of course again get off with the SPECIAL system, combined with the perks and skills. The perks mostly offer nice extras like the possibility to be popular with women, or being able to eat enemies after having killed them. New is the VATS system that reminds of older turn-based games like UFO or Jagged Alliance. The time gets frozen for a while and you can choose which body part of your opponent you want to attack. Unfreeze the game and you get to see the bloody outcome in all its glory on your screen. For some reason these constantly changing slow-motion images of flying limbs (after which they’re no longer useable by that enemy) or exploding heads aren’t just a pleasure to the eye but also keep the combat interesting throughout the game. Great! Especially if you know that the use of other weapons delivers other effects, not only visually but also qua damage.
Of course you can also shoot and fight in real-time, but on the Xbox360 this did disappoint a bit. This is no licked FPS like Halo 3 of CoD4; movement is slow and shaky and a lot of bullets go lost while you’re looking for a headshot. Luckily the VATS-system is so well worked out that you can keep using it combined with the faster real-time possibility for easier opponents. That this isn’t a shooter but a complex RPG also is shown in the fact that you have to repair your weapons and items if you use them too often, and that this does cost quite some money. This same detail is also extended to health packs, radiation disease or for instance alcohol. You can drink some booze for a temporary stimulant but if you do this too often you’ll be more wobbling home than jogging.
Contrary to Oblivion opponents won’t scale to your development. The further you go in the area the tougher and more difficult hostiles become and the easier the ones you encountered in the beginning. That way you get the feeling that you become more powerful and better and it’s also more exciting to now and then go further than you should. In exchange you’ll die more than you like but this was never a softcore game to start with.
You can type out entire encyclopedias on this game, but in the end it’s all about a couple of important elements. The atmosphere and storyline are completely finished and can for a large part be influenced by your own choices. The personalisation of your avatar goes very far and is worked out very immersively. The quests, small and large, are interesting and the combat system will bring the necessary excitement and satisfaction to your quest up to the very ending. Fallout 3 is a world that deserves to be explored and researched by gamers that love quality, depth and immersion. A top game!