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anglebender [Celluloid 11.23.08] post apocalyptic review video game

PLATFORMS - Windows XP/Vista, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
DEVELOPER - Bethesda Softworks
PUBLISHER - Bethesda Softworks

Gameplay - 10/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10

OVERALL - 9.5 out of 10

I have tried to frame this review from the perspective of a grizzled PA fan who's already seen everything and isn't easily impressed. I've played all the titles in the Fallout franchise (except "Brotherhood of Steel" for XBOX and PS2), so I've waited a very long time for this installment.

I've heard plenty of comparisons with the game "Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion"; that Fallout 3 is just "Oblivion with guns", and on the surface, that's only partly true. Other equally-accurate comparisons could be "Morrowind with guns", "a single-player MMO", and "a guild of one". Fallout 3 uses a heavily-modified version of the engine Bethesda Softworks used for Oblivion, but that's where the comparison ends. It's freaking FALLOUT for crying out loud! That Post-Apocalyptic world has been fully realized in 3D, and you can explore almost every radioactive nook and cranny. It's immersive in every way I can perceive. I often forget that I'm sitting in front of a computer playing a video a game. That's a suspension of disbelief that is pretty uncommon for me.

I have a fairly OK system (XP, 2.8 GHz, 1GB RAM, GeForce 6800 w/ 256 MB), but I had to dial down a few in-game graphics settings to get a comfortable framerate. Those of you with protean juggernaut boxes (or consoles) will have fun for sure, and the many Windows systems with lower specifications will barely notice any absence of badassness. Although I played in windowed-mode to lower the frequency of crashes, I barely noticed the blue borders on my screen. Bethesda will probably release a Steam-ready patch by the time you read this. If you really want to get into it, here's something that might help you:

The complexity of the world Bethesda has produced is intimidatingly gargantuan. The replay value of a video game is paramount to me, and Fallout 3 has the potential for several months of total immersion.

Conversation choices you can have with the many non-player characters are diverse. NPCs usually remember the conversations you have with them and their subsequent reactions are appropriate. Combat is handled either in real-time (like any other first-person shooter) or with the V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) which puts you into a turn-based mode where you spend Action Points to shoot specific parts of a target, then watch all your moves in slow-mo John Woo action. You accumulate Experience Points until your character levels up, then you spend points on skills and get a "Perk" for your character.

You can't move your character or use items in V.A.T.S., so that was a bit of a letdown, but that's why you can switch to real-time whenever you wish.

You can of course meet things and people that don't try to kill you, and you can ask them to join your cause. This feature isn't new to games like this, but the variety of companions is as extremely wide. Companions don't seem to do stupid things, like disappear or get stuck in a wall while running in place. I've tried to ditch my friend over and over, but he keeps coming back. Loyalty after the apocalypse hasn't changed all that much.

Even with the slight detours I took to rack up experience for my character, my first play-through was about 22 hours. I've heard that the game is quick to finish, but that's true only if you frequent and know exactly where to go and what to do. Sure, you can beat the game in a few sittings, but I pity that person in a big way. There is so much to do in this game that someone could dedicate quite a bit of time to it and not be anywhere near the end of the storyline.

The graphics are beautiful, even at the lowest of resolutions. The environments you navigate are distinct and the ambient sound for each is awesome. There's many "looks" to the destruction- Everything appears blown-up and destroyed, but all the locations have an appearance unique from anywhere else in the game.

I got the "Bloody Mess" perk for my character so I could properly analyze gore splatter for this article. Okay, that's not really why I chose that perk, but aren't the screens I captured lovely? There isn't any option in the game to deactivate the frequent decapitations and dismemberments, so I wouldn't recommend this for, let's say, your mom.

Sound effects for each environment perfectly match the area you venture into. The drip-drip of molding caves, the dry desolation of the wastes, the paranoia-inducing claustrophobia/agoraphobia of dead cityscapes. I'm probably going to invest in a 5.1 system for my PC just so I can get the full experience.

Music in most video games usually sucks. I always turn off the music in video games, but I'm happy to make an exception with Fallout 3. Every type of environment seems to have its own musical accompaniment. Wastelands have a theme, as do the abandoned subways, the ruined cities, etc. There isn't any mistaking an incidental cymbal crash with a super mutant stepping on something in the next room Transitions between tranquility and ferocious combat aren't so comically abrupt like in other games. The music actually serves a purpose- It amplifies the gaming experience.

The Fallout franchise redefined the post-apocalyptic genre for me, not only for video games but for movies, books and television as well. From the kooky 50s-esque caricatures of a future-gone-badly to the Utopian silence of the wasteland, it sparked the imaginations of everyone who has experienced it. I've waited a decade for this sequel, and now that I've finished it once, I'm playing through a second time and making all the "evil" dialog choices. Heh. I'm eagerly awaiting Fallout 4 (or the eventual expansion)!

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agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

I don't have a console but my boy G.H. does. While playing Dead Space last weekend we got to talking about Fallout 3 and how much we wanted to check it out. Now it's a done deal. It sounds right up my alley.

Doesn't your character have a dog or something? Named Mutt? or am I remembering another game? Anyway, sweet review Anglebender!


Anglebender (12 years ago) Reply

Dogmeat was a dog you could find in Fallout (maybe 2), and I actually found him in 3, but he won't follow me, probably because of that town I slaughtered by accident ;)


quietearth (12 years ago) Reply

Are you sure that was an accident?


agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

Oh that's right his name was Dogmeat. What a great name for a PAW dog! Anyway, deny 'till you die anglebender. What town?


Sljepac (12 years ago) Reply

Just finished the PC version on the "good guy" option... Good enough game, though occasionally I got the feeling I'm playing Quake, especially when trying to get throug DC ruins from one metro station to other - shoot, pick up ammo, shoot some more... yawn.

I also played most of the fallout franchise and if I were to compare I'd say this is decent follow up on Fallout (1) + great graphics. As good as it may be, it stil can't hold a candle to the feel I've got out of Fallout 2. Those that claim that this is Morrowind with guns aren't far of the target in my book, though truth be told I've loved Morrowind (and found Oblivion immensely boring).
I miss:
- more guns (gauss rifle rules)
- more cynicism and cultural and cult references/parodies (I know it's hard in this time of lawsuits)
- more worldview nuances beyond good, evil and neutral karma


Arash_Mohebbi (12 years ago) Reply

Yeah, I played it pretty much as a super-good guy (mainly because I ectually enjoy talking people out of blowing shit up all the time)... but the number of NAMED enemies (rather than "generic raider a**hole #617") I had to blow away suggests that there's a rich as yet untapped seam of "being the ultimate badass villain" missions and people to talk to... Anglebender's on the money when (s)he suggests there's months of intense immersion and replays:)

Oh, and another thing chaps and chappettes, your new companions like Dogmeat, Fawkes, Jericho and co? They can all DIE - it's possible to get into a big messy situation where your new friends / paid bodyguards / pets can all die along the way. no more of that Oblivion stuff about "your New Best Friend For Life has fallen unconscious"!

Now, that's PA at it's finest.


Anglebender (12 years ago) Reply

>> Doesn't your character have a dog or something?

Dogmeat's in Scrapyard, West-by-Southwest of Canterbury Commons.

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