Fallout 3 Review

Screenshot from Fallout 3
Power armour ftw!

It's finally here. It's been a long time coming but Bethesda Softworks has finally create a new addition to the venerable Fallout series - an RPG that post-apocalyptic sci-fi fans can enjoy! The game looks a lot different and plays a lot different than its predecessors - in fact the first two shared very similar engines. They were also developed in the day when 3D FPSs were in their infancy. The original Fallout (the one I played most) captured a unique atmosphere. It wasn't only the post-apocalyptic setting which was rare in computer games, but the fact it had such wit and dark humour in it, the 50s nostalgia and optimism that lurked in the background and which was so brutally crushed by the atomic bomb. The game had an excellent plot, memorable characters, music, and like with many Black Isle games, what you did in the game had several different consequences come end-game. The game was a classic so Fallout 3 has a lot to live up to. Can it be considered as good or better than the original Fallout? Read on to find out.

Fallout 3 Early Character Creation Video

Sound (4/5)
Sound Effects are generally good, it's especially humorous hearing screams in slow-mo when you're using V.A.T.S. (more on V.A.T.S. later). The voice acting is excellent thanks to some professional screen and voice actors such as Liam Neeson and Malcolm McDowell. Ron Perlman also reprises his role as the narrator which is a nice touch, although I wonder if he's getting sick of saying "War, war never changes" all the time...

Music (5/5)
A lot of effort was made in bringing a nostalgic feel to the music of Fallout 3, which is great since the earlier games did the same, at least with the theme songs. However in Fallout 3, you actually get to play radio stations with music from the 50s and earlier. Songs like I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy from the South Pacific musical, Anything Goes by Cole Porter and even Maybe by The Inkspots (which was the original Fallout theme song).

The only disadvantage of the licensed music on the radio stations is that you don't get to hear the actual background music for the game.

Oh and fans of the Fallout series would be happy to know that Bethesda Softworks actually obtained the song rights for the song they wanted to play at the start of the original Fallout: I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire by The Inkspots.

Graphics (3/5)
The graphics are good and a bombed out, post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. never looked so good – but the graphics aren’t exactly cutting edge and you can tell the game is just Oblivion in post-apocalyptic clothes. Even the jumping animations look as clumsy as they did in Oblivion.

Also the game is not for the squeamish – heads, arms, legs, brains and eyeballs tend to splatter all over the place when critical hits are involved – but then again the original Fallout was like that too.

Plot (5/5)
It has a great alternate history timeline for its plot that really immerses you into the world – what happened if the optimistic Atomic Age of the Future, imagined in the 50s, was a reality (and then destroyed in an instant thanks to nuclear war)? That's basically what the Fallout series is all about. In Fallout 3 you get to play in Washington D.C. on the Eastern Coast of the United States as opposed to the West Coast which was where the first two games were set. This allows Bethesda Softworks some freedom in crafting the story while still borrowing elements from the older games that made them great.

There are quite a few new gameplay elements in Fallout 3, the most obvious being the game is now an FPS although it mixes a lot of RPG elements too, just like Oblivion. The RPG elements determines how effective your FPS skills are (i.e. in terms of damage and accuracy).

There is also the introduction of the V.A.T.S. system which is a legacy of the original Fallout days where you could target specific body parts to focus damage. The system makes things considerably easier which you'll either love or hate (personally I think it balances a bit since it's quite difficult to aim when your accuracy is determined by stats).

Character creation is quite novel in this, as I'm sure you've heard already, as you guide your character literally from the womb until adulthood and you mold your character through several chapters in his/her childhood. This is a trademark of Bethesda Softworks games which allows those non-power gamers within us to just go with the flow and see what character you turn up with, which I think is a plus. You can of course, always tailor it to your liking later on if you're not satisfied with the game's recommendation.

The game also has some neat hacking and lockpicking mini-games. The former has you playing a game similar to Mastermind as you attempt to guess the password on computers with monochrome monitors. Lockpicking has you twisting the picks back and forth until you find the sweet spot. Both mini-games work reasonably well and quite closely resemble the real thing (or at least does so in an aesthetically pleasing way).

The only criticism I could offer is that the interface can sometimes feel a bit clunky since it takes several clicks to get to items of interest you want to buy/sell with the mouse but it’s only a minor quibble since besides that, everything else works well.

Fallout 3 Gameplay Video

Replayability (3/5)
Fallout 3 has as much replayability as Oblivion although maybe less so since it seems there’s a lot less sub-quests. The main storyline definitely seems shorter.

Also unlike the old Fallout which gave you an epilogue of how you changed each community in the Wastes, the ending in Fallout 3 is centred more around you and only pays lip service to how the Wastes were changed by you, which is a pity, since I thought that was a major strength of the original (and Black Isle games in general - take Arcanum for an example).

The game sadly uses SecuROM (like most games nowadays) even if it's only for a so-called simple disc check. Also the game has frequent Crashes to Desktops although patches have been apparently reducing the frequency.

The AI in the game also has pathing issues which is annoying as sometimes they storm off to their deaths (which is obviously a legacy of Oblivion)

And what RPG would be complete without quest bugs? Yes there are plenty here too - one time I went into a town only to have them all turn against me for no apparent reason! That pretty much shut down any quests I could get from there...

On the plus side, a lot of effort has been made in capturing the same feel as the original Fallout, which is a good thing. The retro-futuristic feel to the series is rare to find in the entertainment industry - it's like the Jetsons with a dose of reality added to the mix.

Overall - 80%
An excellent free-roaming post-apocalyptic RPG, Bethesda Softworks style.