Fallout 3 Review

Exceptional, groundbreaking and defining are not words I throw around much when it comes to videogames. Every once in a while though a game will come by that just amazes me; a game that simply floors me, Fallout 3 is currently that game. No game is perfect and I don’t think any game will ever be perfect but Fallout 3 is probably the closest any game has ever come (sorry Bioshock and Call of Duty 4).

From the moment the game starts and you are witnessing your birth I knew the game would be something special. The game opens up with a brief introduction of the current historical situation in the world and what is going on. The world has gone through a nuclear war and Washington D.C. is now a wasteland. Your character survived by going underground and hiding in a vault along with a number of other people. Everyone lives and dies in the vault. No one enters, no one leaves, this is how it has always been. You start the game with your character being born. It is at this point where you choose your character’s name and you can customize his looks. The customization options certainly are not the deepest I have seen in a video game but they are damn good. The first hour or so of the game takes place in the vault. You complete simple tasks for each stage of your life. You start as a baby and then the game flash forwards and your nine years old, the next stage is sixteen and then so on. It is through these “levels/stages” that you shape your character into what he is going to become.The way you shape your character is integrated into the game so brilliantly that it almost feels natural. For example when you are a baby you are told to pick up a book. The book is a short little baby book with pictures and a couple sentences per page, it looks like something you would find in the toddler section of a baby store, but the purpose of the book is far more interesting. The book is called You’re Special and it has seven pages, one for each letter of the word special. Each letter stands for a primary statistic in the game, whether it is strength, perception, intelligence, agility etc. After you flip through the pages and you have read a sentence or two about each primary statistic it is at that point you set up your character and give him a certain amount of skill points for each stat. The way it is done though is so clever and different from other games.

As you progress to the age of 16 you are told to go to class to take your G.O.A.T (Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test), to fit in with the storyline, your father tells you this test is mandatory and it determines which job you will be placed into in the vault. When you arrive to class your teacher says since he likes you he can forge your test and let you choose whatever you like but I decided to take it. I’m not a cheater and I wanted to see what the test was about, there is also an achievement for completing it. The test gives you several questions and at the end you hand it in to your teacher at which point he tells you what job you will have. Although the true game mechanic behind this test is to let the played choose his skills. After taking the test you can choose your skills and which ones you want to tag, whether it is, medic, science, speech, sneak, there are many options. By tagging certain skills, they will become your core skills that you are best at and will improve quicker than the ones you don’t choose. Some of these skills may seem unimportant but they will all help you and are all useful. Speech for instance is a great skill to have; with it you can persuade people to see things your way, give you information, and help you out if they are reluctant and many other things.

The game really starts though when you turn 19, your father has escaped the vault and has told no one of his plans. The people who run the vault are coming for you; they think you know where he has gone. The fact that your father has escaped is critical because for 200 years no one has ever left or entered the vault. Eventually you escape from the vault and get out into the real world, where your search to find your father, and where the real game begins.

The first thought that enters your mind when you step out of the vault and see the world is, massive. The world that Bethesda has created in Fallout 3 is massive. I was blown away when I exited the vault and saw what was in front of me. It was unbelievable, it was a world torn apart by nuclear war, a complete wasteland, but in a sense it was beautiful and damn impressive. The graphics in Fallout 3 are excellent. Although they do not stack up to Gears of War they are far better than many XBOX 360 games. The attention to detail and the design that Bethesda has infused into this post apocalyptic Washington D.C is in a word, incredible.

I love games that create their own worlds that are rich with detail and character and Fallout 3 does exactly this. In such a big world one might think it would be hard to manage and get around. It is quite easy though.

On your 10th birthday you received a device called a Pip Boy 3000. It is essentially your “storage device”. It keeps tracks and displays everything. It shows your current health situation, which limbs if any need tending to, your radiation poison level etc. It also keeps track of all items, displaying which are equipped, which each does, the stats of each weapon, pretty much everything you need to know for items. The last section is data, where all the information about current quests is stored. The data section also has maps where waypoints can be set and if you have already visited an area/city, you can travel there instantly by clicking on it on the map, which helps a great deal. The Pip Boy 3000 will be your best friend, it is incredibly detailed and has everything you need and need to know to succeed in the game. The actual HUD itself is very limited showing only your health, a little compass at the bottom so you know where to go and a few other minor things. It is ok though because the Pip Boy 3000 is an excellent device.

The game is an RPG so of course it has RPG elements. Aside from the skills and stats you picked in the vault you also gain perks. Your first perks are gained once you exit the vault and much like in other games your perks can be upgraded and you gain new ones throughout the game. You only start with a few but as you level up you gain more. You can also upgrade the perks to higher levels. Various perks include Little Leaguer which gives you five points for the melee weapon and explosive skills every time you rank up, Master Trader which gives you 25% discount when purchasing items or Thief which is every time you rank up you gain 5 points in the sneak and lock pick skills. Rest assured you will do much hacking and lock picking in this game, which can be tedious at times but it is part of the game so it works well.

You gain XP by just about everything you do, quests, killing enemies etc. Every time you level up you get to choose new perks, add points to stats, etc. Simple enough and easy to manage.

From the get go almost the whole world is open to you, I did not encounter any areas that were blocked off. The world is populated with tons of people and they all got something to say to you. Just about anyone can be talked to. The dialogue in the game is handled well. The game let’s you choose what to say and based on what you say the other person’s dialogue and the outcome of the current situation will be different. It will be very hard to find two people who had the exact same game experience, not only because of dialogue options but because of choices. The characters are engaging and entertaining to talk to, you may find yourself sitting there for longer than you expected not even doing missions, just simply walking around talking to characters. You really feel as if each one has their own personality and their own story that you are interested in. The characters don’t only talk to you either, they talk to each other. I would walk around the city and see two characters having a full out conversation with each other. It was incredible.

Many developers promise that you can choose your own path and the choices you make affect the game. Unfortunately not many developers deliver on it, in Fallout 3 though this could not be truer.

Not only does the dialogue provide many different paths but the type of person you are also determines outcomes of situations. You have karma in the game and based on the choices you make and things you say/do your karma is good, bad or neutral. Steal a plate from a person’s house, you gain bad karma, save a child in need, you gain good karma. It isn’t always that simple but the game keeps track of what you are doing and determines your karma accordingly. From the very start though you have to make tough choices, in one of the first missions one person asks you to save his town by disarming a bomb, while another man tells you he will pay you a great deal to let the bomb go off. The money was tempting but I chose to have morals and I disarmed it. These choices affect the game, and you can see this from early on. The choices will come back to haunt you. In fact no character is really ever safe, in my game, what I thought was one of the main characters, actually died about an hour and a half into the game, because of a choice I made. In my friend’s game that character is still alive and he is almost done the game.

Fallout 3 really delivers on the choice element and you will be tasked to make tough choices all throughout the game. Not only does Fallout 3 give you choice in dialogue and actions but also in quests. If someone asks you to do something you never really have to do it. You may have 3 or 4 open quests at a time but you will only have to choose 1 or 2 to progress the main story. In fact you have so much freedom that at anytime you can stop doing a quest and move on to something else. You can just literally stop in the middle of a quest, go off and do whatever else you want, including another quest and then come back at any time and pick up right where you left off on that quest you had abandoned. I reccommend doing all the side quests. By opting to do additional/side quests not only will you get more from the game but it prolongs the experience and certain achievements are tied to certain quests. Based on this, the game could be as long or short as you want. Thankfully the “side” quests are not boring and tedious like in other games, they are engaging and entertaining and you should do all of them, that is if you can find all of them.

The thing that amazed me most about the side missions were how much depth they add. In my game a character died early on and it prevented me from doing one of the side missions. My friend told me I should load up an earlier save to do the mission because I was missing out. I decided to do that. I loaded up an early save and did the mission. I expected it to be a 20 minute little side mission that required me to fetch something. Boy was I wrong. It turned out to be an hour mission that took me to three different locations and had me interacting with many new characters. I discovered locations, cities, areas and characters I never even knew existed. To think that if I had just continued playing my game and not gone back to that side mission, I would have never known about any of that. That is the thing that amazes me about Fallout 3. You can go up to a friend and you might have both beaten the game but if you ask him about a mission or start talking about something in the plot, or you mention a character, he might have no idea what you are talking about. I am sure there are hours and hours of gameplay I have missed and tons of characters, locations and storyline that I just never discovered.

Fallout 3’s game play is really tight also. You can engage in combat with melee objects and guns and other weapons. Fallout 3 implements a system called V.A.T.S or Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, this system stops time and you can highlight certain areas of your enemy’s body. The game then shows you the percent of your chance of hitting them in that spot and the damage it will do. Once you have selected everything the game goes into a mini cut scene and shows your character taking out the enemy by hitting them in the parts of the body you highlighted. It is a system that is hard to explain and is better understood by watching it, but it works well and is very cool.

The system is especially helpful when you are not ranked up much and your skills and stats are weak. The rest of the game play is handled well. Melee combat although rarely used(at least by me) seems to be fine, transportation is never an issue seeing as once you have already visited a location you can “warp” back there anytime (as long as no enemies are present), and the AI in general is great.

The thing that amazes me most about Fallout 3 though is the world they have created, almost anyone can be talked to and most people have multiple dialogue trees(meaning there are many options of what to say or ask them) meaning each conversation will be unique to what the player chooses to say. Characters will also act and react differently to you based on how you talk to them (if you are rude or kind etc). There is also a great amount of detail that shows in Fallout 3. Sometimes it is just little things like assigning a weight to each object in the game so you know how much you can carry at once, but sometimes the detail stands out far more and it is apparent Bethesda thought of everything. Each person you encounter can be talked to and the vast majority have various options for questions for you to ask and responses you can answer with, making each conversation unique. In fact there are so many characters and so much information that can be obtained from them that it almost becomes overwhelming. They will tell you pretty much about anything, and usually it will have nothing to do with the main story line but it will all be related to the Fallout 3 universe. It’s quite something. In fact you are given so much information(if you ask for it) that it may get confusing. I have spoken to so many characters and asked so many questions and had discussions with so many of them that I myself am getting a bit confused as to what’s what and who’s who. This is not a bad thing at all, it simply shows the amount of depth in this game.

I said before no game was perfect and this is true, even in the case of Fallout 3. Fallout 3 has minor problems here and there. For one, if you have not visited a location yet, the auto-warp option is not available and sometimes trekking through the wasteland for a while with no other people in site can become boring. Another problem is that at the start of the game you feel very underpowered. The health system is not regenerating and ammo is scarce, mix that with the fact that you are sometimes shot without knowing where from the game can be very difficult. You can be walking, minding your own business and all of the sudden you’ll get hit by two shots and die. You won’t even know where the shots came from. The game feels unbalanced in this way that it puts you in situations early in the game that you are clearly not adept enough to handle. This is because the whole world is open from the get go. This is a minor issue though because you can switch the difficulty to “very easy” or “easy” rather than normal and eventually you will level up and become very powerful plus you can carry items with you that will heal you so it is not a major concern but it is still an annoyance. I would not overlook the game because of this though. Like I said I was playing on normal so you can switch difficulties and you do level up eventually and it is not a problem anymore.

The game may also feel too big at times and you may be overwhelmed and not know what to do next or where to go. Another issue is that at night the game can get very dark. It makes it hard to see and therefore hard to wander around and do missions. This is easily solved though by pressing the back button because this allows you to fast forward time by the amount of hour you please. So every time it starts to get dark just fast forward to the morning. Although in some cases you are underground in dark environments such as abandoned subway tunnels. It can get very very dark in these places. Even with the help of your flashlight it is hard to see and find your way around.

The map in Fallout 3 does help but it is not as detailed and helpful as it should be for a game of this size. The navigation issues may frustrate you and you may find yourself lost and feeling as if the world is too big but you will always find your way. It just may take a bit of exploring. If you don’t have the patience for this then you may find yourself getting annoyed. The map usually does a good enough job though, like I said it’s not as good as it should be but it does the job and as long as you follow it and you understand all the symbols on it you can get through ok.

Lastly, Fallout 3 has some survival horror elements in it in the way that you always feel low on health items and ammo. This may not be true for everyone, maybe I just go into battle under prepared, but I can not tell you how many times I found myself without any more ammo or health items in the middle of a mission. There were many times where I found myself just swinging a sledge hammer to defend myself because I had no ammo. Now with that being said every enemy drops items(ammo and health) and everywhere you go in the world you can always find ammo and health items but still there were many times where I had no ammo and was low on health and did not think I’d make it. I am not holding this against the game. Most likely it is my fault for not buying enough items and not managing them well enough. I am simply saying I found myself in many situations/battles with little or no ammo/health items.

With all that being said I still think that these are all minor issues and they do not damper the experience of the game at all. The good thing about sometimes not knowing where to go is that you stumble upon and discover other areas you may never have known about. Even once you think you are done with the game I assure you there will be cities, characters, quests and other hidden things that you had no idea existed. The game is so large, I feel sorry for who ever has to write a strategy guide for it.

As an achievement whore I always like to look at the achievements in a game. In Fallout 3 they are fairly easy, many are just for playing the game. Although be warned, by skipping side quests you will miss many achievements. A lot of the achievements are for completing quests, both main story quests and side quests. There are also achievements for reaching certain levels with bad, good or neutral karma. As far as I can tell the game will have to be played three times if you want the achievements for reaching those certain levels with all three stages of karma. If you are in this game for achievements though be prepared for multiple playthroughs, guaranteed! Not all the achievements can be gained on one playthrough, it is impossible. You can’t choose every single outcome/path, you can obviously only make one choice in each situation, so be prepared to play multiple times for all the achievements. Also please do not use a guide your first time through this game, I know some situations may be frustrating and you will have no idea what to do or where to go but you will miss out on the experience if you use a guide. If you have to ask a friend or post on a forum here and there do so but don’t go through the whole game with a guide.

For those wondering the save system works two ways. You can manually save and have several save slots and the game does auto save.

I don’t know what else I can say about Fallout 3; it takes a vast and richly detailed world and infuses elements of RPG’s, action adventure games, survival horror and shooters. The story can play out however you want because of all the choices the game gives you and any way you play it, the story will capture your attention.

Fallout 3 is an exceptional game by any account. It can be anything you want it. It can be a short to the point shooter or a long drawn out RPG or anything in between. It is clear Bethesda has put everything they have into this game. I thought no developer would ever create a world as incredible as the city of Rapture from the game, Bioshock. Rapture was masterfully crafted and the entire city came alive as a character. The amount of detail and background that went into that city was tremendous. Bethesda has set the bar higher though. Their in game world is so expertly created that you really feel as if this could be a real place. The amount of interaction in the world is simply fantastic. Fallout 3 is one of those games that do not come around to often. Even if you just want to only do the main missions and rush to the end you still owe it to yourself to see and experience this game. As of now Fallout 3 gets my vote for game of the year and I think I will still feel that way in a few months. The game is amazing and incredible in every sense of the word and it is by far the greatest video game ever produced. I can not recommend this game enough.

Fallout 3 – 9.5/10

Like what you read? Leave a comment let us know how the review is.


12 Responses

  1. Great review man a lot fairer then you will get on a lot of sites. I will probley wait on it though because it seems to be a dark game lol and i like all bright so im going to get fable two and farcey 1st

  2. […] October 22, 2008 at 4:53 am (Fallout 3) I came across this blog through the xbox.com forum it can be found here […]

  3. woah! you got to play it already? how do you do it, mister?

  4. 9.5/10? Riiiiight…

  5. Excellent Review

    Stop by our site sometime to compare notes:

    Again, wonderful review, fair, and very informative, I can’t wait to get my hands on it

  6. Fable 2 Rpg of the year!!!!!!!!! woot!!!!!!!!

  7. Fable 2 = Very Overrated

  8. It’s nice to see that you guys have started to put reviews on the site. You could do video reviews to which would be cool.

  9. nice review.
    fallout 3 is by far the best game i ever played
    hope fallout 4 comes out later in the years

  10. I totally…disagree. I don’t understand why everyone is so chummy with Fallout 3, it’s inferior to the originial Fallouts and Oblivion too. It doesn’t get the RPG part right and anyone who says you can “play it like an FPS”, I don’t see how with the clunky controls.

  11. This is completely misleading. All of these thingws have been done before and done better. F3 is neither exceptional, groundbreaking or defining.
    In fact its thoroughly mediocre.

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