Thank you Bethesda, for you have possibly ruined my life.
Though it’s been out for a shade over two weeks now, I just got my hands on a copy of Fallout 3, and I have discovered it is going to be consuming the vast majority of my time for the immediate future. I’ve only gotten about 7-8 hours into game, and it has already been proving itself to be one of the finest and unique experiences of my gaming life. And that’s with me barely scratching the surface of the game.
For those not familar with the series, Fallout 3 is an action-RPG who predecessors achieved success on the PC. Fallout 3 is the first game in the series to appear on a console system (Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, which saw release on the PS2 and Xbox was a spinoff game not really tied into the main series). The game is similar in structure to that of the Fable series: you control only the game’s protagonist as you travel a vast open world. On your journey, you have complete control over you character’s thoughts, speech, and actions; how you carry yourself affects how you are viewed in the world. So you have the choice to be a shining hero, or a downright bastard.
Like the others in the series, Fallout 3 takes place in a futuristic post-apocolyptic society: in this case, Washington DC in the year 2277. The land has been torn to shreds by nucular war, and all that’s left is a tattered wasteland with nothing but radiation polluted towns and civilations. Oh, and a bunch of mutated creatures, homicidal governments soldiers, and other things to present a danger to you in your quest. However, when you begin the game, your character knows nothing of this world, as you have been living with your father and all your friends in a giant survivor vault for your entire life. Very early in the game, your dad decides to unexpectedly leave the vault and head out into the wastes, and upon discovering this, you follow suit to find out what has happened to your old man. Thus begins a massive quest in an unfamiliar world.
But while there is (seemingly) a point A and point B in the story, the line connecting the two has many twists and turns. The GTA series can’t shake a stick at all the side quests available to you in the game. The awesome thing is that since your actions have a bearing on how the world is shaped around you, you’ll be hard pressed to find two people that share the same experience as they play through the game. (WARNING: SMALL SPOILER ALERT AHEAD) For example, very early in the game, you encounter the town of Megaton. After hanging in Megaton a while, you may find yourself presented with a moral dilemma. You’re basically given a cash offer to destroy the town. Myself, and two friends all went through this same section of the game, did three different things, and had three very different outcomes. Without giving too much away, one of my friends elected to destroy the town, and did exactly that. Now, for the rest of his play-through, Megaton doesn’t exist, and he never has access to any of the shops, people, and side quests that the town has to offer. That’s just a small sample of how dynamic Fallout 3 is. (END OF SPOILER ALERT)
Fallout 3 also gives you complete customization of your character’s development. You might want your character to specialize in the weilding of melee weapons and also be a great negotiator, getting discounts at shops because of your ability to barter. Or maybe you would rather be well-versed in the usage of small firearms, as well as being particularly adept at picking locks. You can set yourself up however you want. But don’t think you’ll be able to max out all of your stats, because your player peaks at level 20, which means you can develop your skills to a certain point. On another play through, you could develop your stats in a radically different fashion if you choose. It’s all decided by how you want to play.
The other standout feature in Fallout 3 is the uber-cool V.A.T.S. system. Fallout controls pretty much like an first-person shooter. And while you can of course zoom in on targets for better accuracy, V.A.T.S. takes it to another level. Using the V.A.T.S. system stops time momentarily as it zooms up close on your potential prey. From there you’re given a readout on the condition of various parts of your opponents body, as well as the percentage chance that you will connect with that body part. You then select your targets, and the firing of your those bullets is done automatically. So let’s say you’re facing off against a Vault guard who’s left leg conidition is severely weakened. Target his leg with V.A.T.S. and make successful contact, and you’ll cripple his leg, making him unable to walk. You can them finish him off, or leave him , again, it’s up to you. For those who fear that V.A.T.S. will make combat too easy, don’t. It’s use is limited, and remember, Fallout 3 is an action-RPG. If you want a straight-up FPS game, go pick up Call of Duty: World at War at a store near you.
It is said that at a minimum, Fallout 3 is about a 30-40 hour game. That being said, just from playing the first few hours, I can easily see myself sinking in excess of 80 hours in the game. The gameplay is that solid and addicting. I have enjoyed the limited time I’ve spent with Fable II thus far, but probably won’t be playing it too much until I’ve exhausted my time with Fallout. And that is not to say that Fable II is a bad game, far from it actually. It’s just that Fallout 3 is a better one. If you are a fan of the genre, or if you love great games and are just looking for something new, I would highly recommend giving this one a shot. Now if you’ll excuse me, my Pip-Boy 3000 awaits.