Fallout 3 review

Posted in Game Reviews on July 6th, 2009 by samuraisam

Introduction

In the mid to late 90s I enjoyed the first two games of the Fallout series; they are still permanently etched in my mind and in my opinion are rated amongst the top ever produced.

Interplay (the company that produced/published these games) went under some time after leaving the status of Fallout 3 in jeopardy. Over the past few years I have regularly read No Mutants Allowed hoping for good news about my cherished game. Eventually Bethesda came along and bought the rights to the game and whether we like it or not they produced Fallout 3.

I’ve been waiting for Fallout 3 since 1998, That’s 11 years of waiting. So I’ve taken my time to finish the game and explored practically every part of the game possible. I spent over 56 hours and saved more than 1030 times over the past 6 months exploring as much as possible in the game and I feel that I have finally made up my mind about the game.

This review comes from someone who has finished the game, so expect a few spoilers. This isn’t a concise review in that I haven’t chosen to analyze absolutely every single part of the game.

Initial Impressions

The inside of Vault 101, where you start is really well done, I thought the design was well done, although obviously it was a bit of a sidetrack from what I’d expected. The way in which you are born and choose your traits is quite novel.

The first time you step out of the vault is enjoyable and quite memorable, the vast expanses of the wasteland in a 3d engine are pretty spectacular. Although I was impressed by this at first it did become a bit of a bore after some time, becoming the same depressing dusty shitty look throughout the games world. I was waiting for a nice Las Vegas-esque city with neon lights and the such to brighten up the wasteland but was instead given some stupid tree village in the middle of nowhere which turned out to be a completely stupid part of the game.

Cause and Effect

The side quests in the game are practically irrelevant to the main story line, not only are they irrelevant, but the effects of helping someone or not helping someone are so limited that they are basically worthless in completing.
To sum up the problem with the quests it is best described as follows; you can’t kill the children characters in the game. I don’t know who approved that shit but it fucked up the game. I know you’re probably saying “wtf why would you want to kill kids?”
I don’t! that’s the whole point! In Fallout 2 when walking around children would steal from you and if you retaliated by killing them the negative karma your character experienced would change the experience of how people in the world reacted to you. In Fallout 3 you can shoot the shit out of a characters family, swear at them in dialogue and practically just wait 20 minutes and come back again and everything is fine once again. Everything returns to normal and no one gives a shit.

If you don’t believe me about how literal I am being then please accept this example:
What is this?

headless guy in Fallout 3

If you guessed “a guy who has had his head shot off” then you should probably consider a career in crime scene investigation. Who shot off his head you might ask? I did. Asshole deserved it. In fact I’ll let you in on a little secret, I shot everyone else in the room too. Now naturally, if you were in a room and someone came and shot everyone except you, you probably wouldn’t be speaking in a normal manner to the cold blooded murdered who is still holding an automatic shotgun, now would you? This my friends, is where I introduce Elder Lyons to you, who despite his frail appearance still seems to think it’s ok to start chit chatting to a murderer.

Elder Lyons in Fallout 3

What’s the point in that? The whole fun in previous fallout games came with the fact that everything you did was a part of cause and effect–In Fallout 3 its just a bunch of cause, there is no effect! I usually play Fallout as a ‘good guy’, I don’t kill kids, I don’t join the slavers and I don’t do drugs (nothing personal, just a pain to manage getting addicted in game), yet in Fallout 3, when you make a mistake, or get annoyed by someone and rearrange their face a bit there is no effect at all.

There did seem to be some effect of extreme high/low karma in-game; some NPC’s wouldn’t join up with me because I wasn’t ‘bad’ enough, that was practically all I noticed (also people would run up to me and give me free shit in Megaton because I helped them or some such)

Dumbing Down

Unfortunately the game suffers from the same problems that afflicted Deus Ex 2, which had somewhat of a similar development problem (in my opinion), the creators dumbed down the game for the console market, and the console market is a bunch of assholes who have ruined absolutely anything good to do with PC gaming. Screw you console gamers.

The ‘dumbing down’ is shown mostly in the combat system, in a Fallout 1 or Fallout 2 game I’d approach a situation like this:

  • .223 Pistol in hand … Check
  • aim for enemies leg/eye/groin … Check
  • fire … Critical hit (i.e. QED bitch).

Usually shooting an enemy in the foot would result in them falling over flat on the ground and being rendered useless for some time, however, in Fallout 3 you could fire a missile launcher at someone’s leg and at most they’d still be walking with a slight limp. What’s the point? where are the tactics in something like that? There is literally no reward in using targeted (VATS) mode in the game unless you’re suffering from boredom or a shortage of health.

The other thing about the combat system are the enemies, to me the mirelurk was the hardest enemy in the game which made no sense as it is an animal and not an asshole in some power armor sporting a laser gattling gun.

Travelling around

When I finished the game I had left a great deal of sidequests uncompleted (this was even after spending 40+ hours playing), however upon going back and completing some of the more major parts of the game it took over 56 hours and more than 1030 saves and I still don’t feel like I’d explored every nook and cranny of the world, much of the problem in exploring the world is that you cannot quick travel to wherever you want, you must have travelled to a location previously, this is unlike the other Fallout games whereby you could travel anywhere you wanted; however Fallout 3 is different in that there are no simply randomly generated areas of the game as in previous Fallout titles.
That’s the other thing about the world map, look at this shit:

Fallout 3 World Map

There are so many more fucking locations than in Fallout 1 and 2 combined yet imagine I’m looking for a single location, is there a list like in Fallout 1 or 2? no there isn’t. You have to sit there and use your mouse to hover over every single location. 176 locations.

You have to put your mouse overĀ 176 locations

to find a single location that you’re looking for. Is this a map that is supposed to help you find a location or is this a game of fucking minesweeper?

To make matters worse you can’t just walk around and reach where you want to reach, some places are only reachable if you pass through a certain set of metro systems, there are maps explaining the system dotted around the metro but it’s still confusing as all fuck.

Probably the most disturbing location in the game was Little Lamplight which was an underground city full of kids, it just seemeed totally wrong and completely out of place. Except the Wazer Rifle, that was pretty funny.

Sound and Dialogue

The sound in the game was nice enough, however why the fuck was Bethesda so crap that they couldn’t get the original music designers from Fallout 1 and 2? The music was so ambient and perfect in that game yet for Fallout 3 we were given crap. There was a bit of the plot that revolved around the in-game radio stations though I still have no idea what it was about (something to do with t-dawg and some antenna bullshit, to be honest, it had no effect on the story so I didn’t pay attention to it and just completed it, as I did with most of the quests)
There was some PR blurb about how the game had like a trillion lines of dialogue recorded:

“Bethesda has claimed that Fallout 3 will have over 40,000 lines of dialogue in the game, dwarfing the amount in the original game by about 20 times.” (from news for gamers)

What a bunch of crap. This is witnessed best in some areas of the game when I was going from person to person attempting to find someone interesting to talk to, in the Brotherhood base I once had a bunch of soldiers all repeat the same dialogue, word-for-word (albeit in a different voice).

Fallout 3 dialog options
Fallout 3 dialog options
Fallout 3 dialog options
Fallout 3 dialog options
An example of the wide range of dialogue apparently available in Fallout 3…

What’s the point? If the character can’t say anything worthwhile then throw them off a cliff and get them the hell out of my game. I realize that many people will just be standing around in a game like this, however I never got the feeling in previous titles from the series that characters were just plopped around in areas for filler–I got this feeling more than a few times with Fallout 3. Notice how 3/4 of these screenshots feature the exact same character pose too? What a cheap move.

Not only were there a lot of useless characters, of the usefull characters, few had useful dialogue options and even when screwing up dialogue choices and trying to start an argument or threaten someone the game has so much leniency that you may as well have just talked to someone and had them give you an itemized list of all the information they could possibly give out. It’s not like in previous games where it was actually a risk to talk to someone, if you said the wrong thing you’d get your ass shot.

NPC’s

During the game there are apparently a variety of NPC’s (8 accord to Fallout wiki) though I have to confess I really just didn’t care about any of them.

Dogmeat was a nice enough NPC though ultimately useless and would just run into battle and get shot to shit and die.
The other notable NPC was the giant mutant bastard (Fawkes the dipshit with the giant gun), I kept on propping him up with stimpacks and extra equipment until I finally realized that he was immortal (though he wasn’t meant to be), somehow my game had glitched so that I had him as my companion with infinite ammo and infinite health. His choices in the game were really annoying in that he’d shoot the shit out of something as small as a fly with his gattling gun which to me was just wasting ammo, yet as it turned out I was caring about something that didn’t really matter. He was supposed to be useful in some quest to get in a radioactive area though I just took a bunch of RAD-X and ran in and was fine so ultimately, he had no specific purpose in my opinion.

Finale

The game ends with you assisting a giant robot called “Liberty Prime” to some base, meanwhile the robot practically leads and blasts the shit out of everything in site.

It’s obvious that whoever approved that decision had absolutely no grasp of the source material for this game (that being Fallout 1 and 2), it’s also probable that whoever saw this shit on paper and thought it was a good idea is hiding out now because they realize how stupid they are hopefully.

Liberty Prime to me felt forced, it felt cheesy and his dialogue was absolutely fucking over the top with cheese.

“FREEDOM… IS THE SOVEREIGN RIGHT OF EVERY AMERICAN.”
“EMBRACE DEMOCRACY, OR YOU WILL BE ERADICATED.”
“DEMOCRACY IS NON-NEGOTIABLE.”
“ENGAGING RED CHINESE AGGRESSORS.”
“ANCHORAGE WILL BE LIBERATED.”
(quoted from Fallout wikia)

Probably the best part in the game involving Liberty Prime was when I started lobbing missiles at it (and Fawkes with his infinite health and ammo followed in my doing so)

Liberty Prime in Fallout 3
Go away Liberty Prime. Nobody likes you.

The Good

I have covered many bad elements of the game, however there is one part in the game that is worthy of merit and that is the ‘game within a game’ scenario presented in the quest Tranquility Lane which makes really effective use of the art period shown in the game (that is the cold war 50′s America). In general the quest is actually quite beautiful and really is worthy of praise. The outcomes of the quest aren’t the best (in that there is no real ‘positive’ outcome, as you pretty much have to kill everyone). The entire quest is basically your typical 50′s American suburbia town in black and white which is a pretty nice change from the outside wasteland–perhaps Bethesda could’ve used this contrast a bit more in the game.

Tranquility Lane in Fallout 3 Tranquility Lane

Conclusion

Just like my previous review of Terminator 4 I feel I have to rate this game twice, once as a standalone game and once as a part of the fallout series.
I think the graphics and visual quality of the game was pretty good but the story just wasn’t there, I roamed around for days on end not giving a shit about the story.

As a standalone game I rate this:

7.5/10

As a game in the fallout series I rate this:

2/10

(and that’s being generous)

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