Fallout 3 Review (Xbox 360)
Fallout 3 takes a new spin on the classic franchise, by not only moving the clock forward, but by taking you to a whole new location in the world, good old Washington D.C. You have been tasked with trying to find out why, under strange circumstances, your father has left the safety of The Vault, a giant fallout shelter built inside a mountain. You follow him into the Capital Wasteland, not only to find his trail, but to explore and take in this new, forbidden world.
Bethesda has always used neat, unique ways to build character traits, but in Fallout 3, we are treated to what might be the greatest sequence of events to create your character. In Fallout 3, you start the game at your birth, with your father and mother greeting you into the world. Your father presents you with a screen that will show you what you will look like at the age of 18. Here you build your appearance and characteristics. You then are flashed forward to a point where you pick your stats and another where you pick your perk stats, all up to the point where you finally are left with the quest to leave the vault. It is a highly creative process, which truly represents character development, as you are growing with each stage Fallout 3.
Once released into the post-apocalyptic wasteland, you are left to your own devices on how to proceed in the world. You can start following the trail of your father, or you can just wander around the world, exploring this new and strange world that you have walked into. There are no boundaries as to where you can go, or on what you can do. The path you take is all based on what you want to do in the world. It is a bit daunting at first, because there is no direction when you leave the vault. There is nothing that is necessarily forcing you to do the main quest, which results in a great amount of freedom and confusion to the player.
Fallout 3 at its heart is a morality play. When you are tasked with a mission, you can go about and complete it in several ways. Do you take the high road and make the right choices, or do you put on a set of horns and act as evil as possible. You are always judged by people, based on the actions that you take. Kill innocents and you are deemed to be blight upon humanity, but save the innocent and you become a champion of good. One of the situations you will run across is a man by the name of Tenpenny. Tenpenny hates ghouls, hideous figures that were hit with mega-doses of radiation, and refused to die. You are asked to rid a local underground train station of these ghouls, but when you arrive at the train station, you are given a counter proposal. You can try to negotiate a peaceful settlement between the two factions, you can backstab Tenpenny and help the ghouls overrun Tenpenny’s haven, or you can be an evil s.o.b. like myself and murder the ghouls while they sleep. How you proceed gives you karma, and the decision you make will follow you through the game.
Fallout 3 is a gritty and ugly world, and Bethesda has captured this world in great fashion. Walking around the wasteland presents a world that has been thoroughly decimated by war and destruction. At every turn, something is there to remind you of the power of the bombs that dropped. It is a tough reality to portray, and it is done in Fallout 3 with painful efficiency. When you first get a chance to walk into the downtown center of what is left of Washington D.C., you see how bad the devastation was to the world, as you see landmarks like the Capitol building, the Washington Monument, and even the horrible destruction of the museums that line the Washington Mall. The vision of retro future also stands out here, with the future looking like development stopped in the 1950′s, but with a dab of future technology in there, like functional robots and laser weaponry. Fallout 3 paints this visual spender with the best looking graphics engine we have witnessed on the 360 hardware as of yet.
Several actor step in to provide voices for Fallout 3. Liam Neeson gives life to the voice of your father, and does a good job with what he is given. Some of it seems forced and clichéd, but overall, he puts a lot of passion into the role. Malcom McDowell, no stranger to video game work, puts in a great performance as President John Henry Eden. Listening to his lines about baseball and the Enclave is great fun as he mixes in between seriousness and hilarity. Unfortunately, there is not much else in the way of good voice overs, by any of the other characters outside of the omni-present DJ, Three Dog. As a matter of fact, I think most of the voice work by other characters was done by the same twelve people at Bethesda. Every other mercenary and caravan trader seems to sound like the same guy looping over and over. With a budget like Bethesda had with Fallout 3, it seems like they put all their eggs into the star power and less into the support roles. Making up for some of the poor voice acting is the Ink Spots, adding some of their great music along with other old school 40′s and 50′s artists to give some great ambiance to the world.
Combat and violence go hand and hand in Fallout 3, adding up to some great looking, and grizzly violent encounters with the native population. Fallout 3 gives the player a choice in how they handle combat. You can use real time combat where you shoot away at your enemy, or you can enter the VATS mode of combat. VATS (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) pauses combat, and allows for players to target a specific part of the body, queuing up attacks to unleash upon the enemy. VATS combat, works and feels very similar to the old turn based combat style of the first Fallout games, even down to the idea of Action Points, making sure that players do not spam the VATS system. While both combat systems are there, the real time combat feels fake, as the shooting is still based on your skills, and not on your actual ability to hit the target. This means that even though you line up a shot at someone’s head at point blank range, you still have a statistical chance to miss, due to your skills being a factor, instead of how well you can aim. VATS works rather well and in the long run will probably be the combat system of choice for most people. It does make for a lot of backpedalling fights, but it just seems to give more realistic combat results. Once you make the hit on a target, be prepared for some gruesome results, which may churn some stomachs. There is something sadistic, yet satisfying about watching someone’s skull imploding from a shotgun blast, and seeing the eyeballs fly out of the head. This kind of violence may not sit well with everyone that plays Fallout 3, but it does fit the ugliness of the world that you are a part of now.
While we have a game that offers tons of play and fun for its price tag, there are two glaring issues that really detract from Fallout 3′s overall polish. There is nothing worse than walking along a mountain ridge, or between two buildings and getting your character caught in the terrain, essentially locking your character up, and having the player load a previous save game. Also having major problems is the third person view, which is in the game, but fully non-functional. Your character looks to glide on the terrain in third person view, and when you get into combat, the view really just hampers any sense of combat flow.
Fallout 3, does present a masterpiece on how to set up mission structure, moral choices and solid combat, all laid out in a horrible, yet intriguing post-apocalyptic wasteland. Bethesda has made broad steps to cater to the old guard, as well as new visitors to the Fallout franchise. There are still a few blemishes here and there that should have been fixed before Fallout 3 left the building. That said, Fallout 3 is a fantastic game that should be played by anyone and everyone over the age of 17 this fall. Fallout 3 gets 4.5 out of 5 Aeropausonauts.