Fallout 3 review

April 25, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Game Review, Xbox 360 Review | Leave a comment
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Fallout 3 on the Xbox 360 – did you think it was a stunning update to the classic series? I hadn’t played a Fallout game for nearly ten years but still had good memories of Fallout 2.

Title: Fallout 3

Format: Xbox 360

Developed by: Bethesda

Published by: 2K Games

Genre: RPG

Fallout first appeared on PC in 1997 and soon became a cult favourite amongst hardened RPG fans thanks to its post-apocalyptic, retro-futuristic look and unique karma dynamic, which changed the possibilities open to the player depending on their choices in the game (something that has become very popular in RPGs of late). Fallout 2 was released a year later, followed by spin off titles Fallout: Tactics and Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, these spin-offs weren’t as well received by fans of the originals and they’ve had to wait patiently for ten years for a true sequel to come along. Thankfully the wait has been worth it as Fallout 3 is a tremendous game and one that should please the dedicated crowd and attract some new fans to the series.

It should be noted that the original team have since been disbanded so development rights have been handed to Bethesda, who are making this their first self-published title. Anyone worried about the lack of input from any of the original crew might have on the overall experience should allay those fears now, as Bethesda has done a wonderful job bringing Fallout to the next generation. Seeing as they are responsible for the Elder Scrolls games, which share many common elements with the Fallout games, its no small wonder that they would be up to the task.

The fact that the team are big fans of the series is also pretty clear from the outset, as all the elements the other games are known for are all here. The karma system returns and has been fleshed out considerably, as have the weapon creation and skill sets.

The engine used for Oblivion was a natural fit for Fallout 3 and has been used to good effect here; the expansive post-apocalyptic world is hauntingly beautiful despite the devastated world and the characters and towns are incredibly detailed. You can even approach combat in a similar way if you so wish (although, despite the guns this shouldn’t be treated like a FPS). However, the biggest and most welcome addition is the Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System, which allows you to pause the action and target specific body parts of your enemies in a similar way to Eternal Darkness. A quick tap of RB brings up the VATS mode and from here you can see the individual limbs etc. plus how likely you are to hit them and their health bar. Head shots for instance are hard to achieve from a distance but if you can pull them off are likely to leave the enemy crippled, alternatively, targeting limbs can render them unable to move or use weapons (if they’re using them in the first place). It’s a complex system and brings with it a whole set of strategic options with it.

The story follows on from that of its predecessors, thirty years after Fallout 2 in fact. For those newcomers amongst you Fallout 3 has a recap at the start voiced by series veteran Ron Perlman (Of Hellboy fame), as the story goes: the world was plunged into a nuclear war in the late 21st century (200 years or so before this game), and the planet was left in a state of ruin. To escape the radiation, citizens were sent to vaults, huge underground facilities that could keep those inside safe from harm. Eventually, these vaults opened and the people within migrated to build towns within the ruins, hoping to rebuild society once more. However one of these vaults, vault 101 never opened and its residents remained oblivious to the outside world, until now.

Bethesda has cleverly woven the obligatory tutorials and character creation into your origin story – the game opens with your own birth, giving you an opportunity to create your character’s image via a computer that supposedly shows how you’ll look as an adult. Your first steps in the game are also those of your character, who is just a year old when you first get to control them. Soon afterwards you fast-forward, first to your tenth birthday party getting an all-too-brief glimpse of some of the other residents of the vault, then again to age sixteen whereupon your exams (in the form of multiple choice questions) determine what abilities you will specialise in. Once you’re happy with your current choice of profession (your teacher can let you alter your answers if you change your mind) you’ll be flung into the present day (well, our future). This is when you find out your Father has escaped from the vault and you are wanted by the vault security.

The escape from the vault and your subsequent search for your missing Father (voiced by Liam Neeson) make up the crux of your early adventuring time as you search for clues on his whereabouts. Without going in to too much detail there are quite a few twists and revelations in store for you before your journey comes to an end. Being a Bethesda product the story is inevitably a very complex and interesting one and one told through excellent dialogue. The script is witty and suitably varied and makes the sparse pacing a little easier to stomach.

As mentioned earlier there are some issues that arise thanks to the similarities with Oblivion. Firstly, if you found yourself put off by the lack of clear direction and slow pacing of Bethesda’s grand medieval adventure you’re unlikely to appreciate the same in Fallout 3. The story is generally handled better and there are less times when you’ll find yourself scratching your head working out what the game wants you to do. Secondly, while it is a welcome option to switch from a first-person to third-person view at will your character’s movement in this mode looks completely unrealistic and is disappointing when you consider how detailed the environments are. Likewise chatting to NPCs is a little disconcerting as they rarely look as if they are truly aware of your character’s presence, and appear almost Zombie like, particularly when compared to Fable 2 or the Half-life 2 series.

Aside from these quibbles there is an awful lot to like about Fallout 3 and you will definitely get more out of it if you take the time to get to know some of its deeper mechanics and partake in its bounty of side-quests. The world will take a long time to fully explore but it rarely feels like a chore thanks to the stylish art direction, excellent combat and compelling story. RPG fans have a tough decision to make between this and Fable 2 at the moment but if you’ve grown tired of Molyneux’s opus or have some spare cash in your pocket you won’t regret picking this gem up.

9/10

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