Fallout 3 came out in October 2008, roughly five and a half years ago. It won a large number of Game of the Year awards, deservedly so. It was one of the most revolutionary games of its time. It’s an open world FPS done right. If you haven’t had the chance to play this game, get it. Be sure to get the Game of the Year edition, it comes with all the DLCs.
Much like leifofrohan3891 in her review of Fallout 3, I didn’t play this game when it was new. I was starting to get back into gaming at that time, playing games like Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2 as well as Dead Rising. I played Fallout 3 for the first time less than a month ago, only recently beating it. And I can tell you, I was impressed. The game held up well, offering better gameplay and graphics than a lot of modern games.
Gameplay: 9 out of 10
I have no idea what the people of Bethesda did when they made this game, but they did it pretty much flawlessly. This game had it all. Wonderful character customization. You could put points in skills and pick extra abilities known as ‘Perks.’ The controls were intuitive. I cannot emphasize this enough. The automatic targeting they built in (called V.A.T.S.) made combat far easier. There were many times I felt overwhelmed by the enemies. Auto targeting saved my life more than once. It made the game easier, but not too easy.
I was surprised how well almost everything held up. The enemy AI is top notch, reacting to all of my strategies rather than blindly attacking. And each type of enemy reacts differently. Good lord, details like that should be in every game out there. I had a few enemies back off to stay out of melee range while shooting at me, forcing me to change to my firearm.
In fact, I have only one problem with the game. It’s weird to be able to say that, as most games that are more than four years old seem to be littered with problems. Not Fallout 3. The only problem is with the NPC companions. They are idiots, somehow tripping over every single mine and triggering every single trap the protagonist missed. They will block every staircase and doorway, forcing the protagonist to push them out of the way to continue. It’s freaking annoying.
Story: 9 out of 10
I was surprised at all the ways the story could unfold, all based on character karma, skills, Perks, and decisions. When I played through it, I got the sense many events could have happened very, very differently if I would have had different skills, stats, karma, or just decided something different in the past. I honestly wasn’t expecting it. I was expecting something closer to BioShock, where you’re dragged from point A to point B to point C. Fallout 3 wasn’t like that at all. It gave so much freedom in how the story unfolded that it made me feel like I was the one in control of it.
The story was simplistic enough to start with. You start off as a newborn baby (very cool) and grow up with Vault 101 (neat-o!). Your mother died during childbirth, so you were raised by your dad. You grow up and your dad disappears. This pisses off the overseer of Vault 101 and they try to kill you. When you try to escape, you get a sense of how much in control you are in. You can kill the Overseer or spare him because you are friends with his daughter. You can let the mother of your childhood bully die or save her from attacking bugs. If you kill the Overseer, you end up getting a very icy goodbye from your childhood friend. If you don’t kill him, it’s cordial with the promise of future romance. And the game goes on from there, growing in complexity based on so many decisions the player makes.
Like with the gameplay, I have only one problem with the story. And only one. There’s so many subplots that it is virtually impossible to keep track of them all. While the main story is pretty straight forward, full of exploration and discovery… the rest of the subplots which adds to the story starts to feel cumbersome. For example, Tenpenny Tower. Within the subplot surrounding it, there are at least two factions competing for control over the tower, both sides wanting the other dead. There are dozens of individuals, each with their own personality quirks. Some of them make requests. Hell, one of them ended up stealing an important key. You can take the side of one or another or you can play peacekeeper and try to get both sides to play nice and live in the tower together. That seems like awesome fun, and it was, until I started having a lot of trouble trying to keep track of every single subplot. There were dozens upon dozens.
That’s probably a minor complaint, easily fixable by not doing so much at once. Yeah, yeah. The game’s freaking huge with so much to do and so much story to explore. It has far more complexity than most other games out there.
As a sidenote, the original ending blew chunks. The choices being: you die or you watch someone die. Riveting. But since I had the DLC to play it immediately, I wasn’t affected by it. The story moved on and nobody died from radiation poisoning. I’m sure if I played it originally, I would have written a stern letter to Bethesda, demanding they do something about the ending. Fortunately for me, they fixed the ending and made is twenty times better. Calling a satellite missile strike against that huge mobile base was every bit as satisfying as I was hoping.
Features: 8 out of 10
I didn’t really get into too many of the features, like customizable weapons or figuring out what most of the stuff you collect can do. But I recognized the options were there for people who wanted to be able to design their own weapons. Heck, the protagonist was completely designable too, since you have total control over the skills and Perks. I liked how damage in combat could be divided up between the various body parts. Oh, and you needed to repair your items. Both added a great layer of complexity. I consider these to be features rather than gameplay, but I could see others saying this should be in gameplay. I just think it adds to the experience, like a feature should do.
There were a surprising amount of features in this game, ranging from what seemed like a thousand different items you can find through what had to be 500 different NPCs. There were two additional features that I would have liked to see: salvaged vehicles and customized armor. I would have loved to drive around ruins of DC in an off-road 1960s style futuristic car. I kept on coming across one burnt out vehicle after another, so they weren’t in short supply. There had to be someone who considered salvaging them. But in the scheme of things, that’s pretty small.
Graphics and Sound: 10 out of 10
I feel a game’s graphics is successful if it conveys the look that the game’s story demands. It’s a little different than other people’s way of measuring graphics (like how smooth are things rendered, are the texture maps good quality, etc), but it is a fair measure none-the-less. Fallout 3’s graphics needed to convey how the 1950s – 1960s probably viewed the future… so the past’s history of the future. The game succeed beyond everyone’s wildest imaginations. The people are dressed up like their are trapped in that old era while living in that hellish nightmare.
And man, walking around the Mall, seeing the destroyed remains of it. Wow. I got the sense that I was actually there and this could be what would happen if there was a nuclear war. The game was eye opening in that way. A real treat.
As for the sound. Again, it was perfect. The voice acting was spot on. And there were little things that made the game feel far more authentic, like static over a radio broadcast. Or cheesy ‘pro America’ music playing behind official government broadcasts. There were lots of those small touches that sets this game apart from so many others that I’ve played. I liked it a lot.
Replayability: 9 out of 10
With everything put together, I am very interested in playing it again. There’s so much that I probably missed out in my play through that the game demands to be played again. Not to mention being able to explore that expansive map. And maybe build myself a nice weapon all my own. Not too bad for a game that’s more than five years old.
Final Score: 45 out of 50
God, I love arbitrary numbers with rating systems.
I’m really surprised that I enjoyed Fallout 3 as much as I did. The game’s very dark. I mean, you’re playing a game where most of world was wiped out in a nuclear exchange. There are pockets of humanity that survived. That’s not normally the type of game that I go for. Plus, I was really figuring I would play the game for five minutes and find everything outdated. Heck, I can’t play some Xbox 360 games that were made in 2005 because the controls are so terrible.
But Fallout 3 stood out from the rest. It held up very well over the past five years. And I’m wagering that it’ll still hold up well over the next five years.
But that’s my opinion. What do you think?