Fallout 3

"There is no God and we are his prophets." – Cormac McCarthy, “The Road”

Fallout 3 is a profoundly sad game. Forget the bullet point features. This is its truth: the irradiated, unrelenting, brutal, cold and blasted world. The vast empty landscape and desiccated buildings tell us more than an endless monologue ever could.

The body lies cold behind a makeshift barricade, a gruesome tableau of desperation. What did this man lay down his life to protect? I push further into his dank corner of the subway tunnel: a thin bed, a couple of books, a lamp powered by an old battery and a few boxes of irradiated food.

Fallout 3 has left me feeling desperate and grasping for some comfort and light, exploring a bright, almost-glowing wasteland. It grinds me down to a level where I feel empathy for the hollow eyed NPCs. It’s not pitch-perfect, but Bethesda has managed to step beyond its previous efforts. Fallout 3 is something special.

*note* This review is mostly spoiler free.

How S.P.E.C.I.A.L is it?

When Bethesda threw down the number “3” like a gauntlet after the word “Fallout” they had to know that the comparisons to the first two games were inevitable. Building off the technology established in Oblivion--a very different sort of RPG--creates an interesting design challenge. What do you keep, and what do you cast aside to bring the best of Oblivion and the best of the Fallout series together? The good news is that they struck a very careful balance between the old and the new. Simply put, they got it right.

Oblivion staples like the conversation system, the “learn by doing” leveling technique and the ability to re-arrange silverware by floating it in front of you are all gone. In their place we have many of the better parts of the original Fallout games. The S.P.E.C.I.A.L system--an RPG stat system lifted from the previous games--drives character development. Strength is for melee and carrying stuff. Agility gives you more action points--it lets you do stuff. Intelligence gets you more skill points. These are classic RPG tropes, done well. Below the sledgehammer of basic stats, there are skills, which run the gamut from getting better prices in shops to more effectively chewing through your enemies with large guns. Players choose three skills at the start to be especially “good” at and then spend points each time they level up on whatever they like. This means I can get good at small guns now and then pour points into energy weapons later when I start finding them in the wild.

While Fallout 3 has done away with the minmaxish traits system of the original game, the perks system is still a big part of character progression. Perks represent everything from getting skill boosts and better stats to gaining sustenance by feeding on the bodies of the fallen. Old standby perks are back, Bloody Mess being one of the more memorable, along with the always useful Pack Mule and Intense Training. What’s most interesting is that I’ve found myself making the same stat choices as I level right in line with what I did in the original Fallout games--completely by accident. Sure, now it’s first person and a lot of Oblivion staples have elbowed their way in, but the spirit of the series, as conveyed by the stats, artwork and hilarious perks, is still here.

But Is It a “Kick Ass Shooter?”

The giant unknown going into the release was combat. While Fallout was turn-based, Fallout 3 runs in real time and lets you pause the action with its Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System. In VATS mode, you select a specific body area and then spend action points to pull the trigger. It’s all done in first person mode--a large departure from the isometric views of old. There is a third person over-the-shoulder perspective, but the player animations are not fleshed out enough to make that something I’d enjoy for long stretches. Gears of War this is not.

Because VATS is so satisfying, I’ve rarely played Fallout 3 like a typical shooter. In VATS mode, it’s easy to spend your action points on tapping a couple shots to the enemy's head, then to his arm to make him drop his weapon, and then to his legs to slow him down. I’ve even shot a primed grenade in a super mutant’s hand, which blew him up in a volcanic explosion of limbs and blood. There’s plenty of time to appreciate the carnage as the camera swings around and cuts to different angles as your choice shots play out in slow motion. I’ve killed hundreds of enemies this way. It never gets old.

But is it a kick ass shooter when you don’t use VATS? No. This is not Halo. It’s not even Bioshock. The problem with inserting stats into gunplay is that you really can’t throw them out the window and let the player completely drive how accurate his character is going to be. I can put the reticule right on the bad guy, but if my character’s skill with that weapon type is only 10 points, I’m going to miss my perfectly targeted headshot more often than not. There’s no aim-assist to speak of and twitch gamers on the console are likely going to find they can’t get the control sensitivity tight enough for quick turns and fast shots.

That said, you’re not going to find many enemies that demand excessive twitch reflexes anyway. Most of the bad guys have guns of their own, so it becomes more a question of positioning, cover and skill rather than clearing a room in five seconds. A typical battle consists of spotting the enemy, pulling up VATS, spending my action points and then either taking cover while they build up again or cracking a few quick “normal” shots to finish him off.

You don’t need VATS to get all the cool, contextual combat touches. You can still shoot weapons out of hands, cripple limbs and explode heads without ever leaving the run-and-gun mode. The beauty of VATS is that you can linger on your firing decisions a bit more, like an artist choosing a destructive brush of death.

Tell Me a Story, Show Me The World

Emil Pagliarulo, the lead designer on Fallout 3, was the creator of Oblivion's Dark Brotherhood quest line, one of the best written and most interesting threads of story in recent RPG history. Fallout 3 continues in that tradition of both excellence and interest. This is a story worth not-spoiling, but taken as a whole, Fallout 3 has a very strong line of quests and interesting choices to make when compared to Oblivion or the original Fallout games. I’ve run quests twice to see how different approaches have different results, and I’ve been delighted to see how often my expectations are thwarted by a clever twist.

The main storyline has the player chasing down his (or her) father after he’s left them behind at the vault, a fairly straightforward Hollywood plot. But I don’t play a game like this for a single narrative; I play for the combined weight of small quests stringing me along in a more personal, over-arching story dictated by my own actions. Fallout 3 succeeds because the quality and uniqueness of the quests mean I’m rarely wasting my time on something trivial. There are no rat tails to be collected here.

And so exploration is the main attraction. Despite the fact that the game is largely populated by burnt out buildings, endless subway systems and enough beiges, browns, rusts and grays to color every uniform in the US Army, the world is interesting. Fallout 3 is carefully consistent in its delivery of the brutal, post-apocalyptic landscape, but that doesn’t mean boring. This is not a world that died. It’s a world where people have cobbled together old, broken dreams in a way that is both depressing and inspiring at the same time. It leaves me wondering what I’d do when survival is a luxury few can manage.

End of Days

It’s perhaps axiomatic to point out that Fallout 3 is not for everyone. Those who didn’t like Oblivion for its lack of strong narrative structure and the endless wandering won’t find that Fallout 3 has tightened things up enough to suit them. While the world is a bit smaller and fast travel is still available, it remains a game that demands the player get down and dirty to find the more interesting hooks. This is not a game of grinding. It’s a game of finding.

The highest praise I can offer any game is that the world I’m in tells me a story about the people who inhabit it, even after they’re long dead and gone. While we can wax poetic about narrative and writing and structure and acting, the real power that games have over other forms of expression is that they give the player the opportunity to linger on details. Fallout 3 is rich with these details, and through them I have had an opportunity to see what life is like after Dr. Strangelove.

You may not like what it says about humanity, but you’ll come away with memories that stand years after you’re done playing.

- Shawn Andrich

Comments

Funny how the name does that in RPGs. If your name is Raider, all I care about is what might be on your corpse. But if I met a radroach named Mr. Tinkles, I'd try talking first. I met one of the named guys, dodged his bullets until I was close enough to talk, but he wouldn't stop attacking. I really wish I'd found some sort of a note on him, about who he was. Or, yeah, better loot. I'm just not finding the good loot yet. Scavenge harder, I guess.

Is Fallout 3 really doing that well? I've been able to walk into the stores carrying the game and there are STILL collectors editions still on the shelf and hundreds of strategy guides...

Destructive Brush of Death Vs. $50

Argh.

Yeah, I ran into a named fella in the middle of a town (the town's quest-related, him not so much), and he kept shooting at me. So I finally just went for it and blew him apart with a hunting rifle. Felt kinda bad until I looted his corpse and went, "Holy crap! That's what the .308 ammo is for!!"

stevesan wrote:

Welp, thanks, Certis. Your review combined with GiantBomb's has convinced me that this is not a game I would enjoy. The "endless wandering" and relatively simplified combat (compared to Fallout) are deal breakers for me. The original Fallout's actually featured very little "wandering" - you were always close to something, with a simple map to guide you. Maybe I'll give this one a rental for a free weekend.

Its possible that you might feel different when or if you play fallout 3. I also loved both the first two fallouts and wasteland and to be honest the endless wandering isnt what it sounds like. There are things and places everywhere. In fact I would estimate there is more to see and do in this game than in fallout 2. (which says a whole lot) The game is built in such a way that you dont get very far before you hit another settlement, lootable building, vault, or small enclave of baddies.

Frankly you should probably give it a try. I too didnt think I would enjoy this game since the two fallouts are my favorite games of all time. But frankly well..... Its been a great game so far.

Well, when you get a quest to go somewhere, it's marked on your map. Once you get there, it's unlocked for fast travel and you never have to walk there again. Once you do a few of these in different areas, you'll find you can fast travel within striking distance of pretty much any quest location.

The "endless wandering" is optional for the explorers among us.

Two more questions:

  • In the fifth screenshot, does the player really have a crippled head? What does that cause, exactly, other than sudden death?
  • Gore is great and all, but is there an option to turn it down a bit?
* In the fifth screenshot, does the player really have a crippled head? What does that cause, exactly, other than sudden death?

It tends to make them stumble at first. Other than that, it MAY affect accuracy but I haven't really tested it.

#
# Gore is great and all, but is there an option to turn it down a bit?

Not that I've noticed.

Supposedly a crippled head will affect their perception (or yours, if its your head), thus making them less accurate.

As for turning down the gore, all I can recall is an option on the PC for blood decals. Might have been one for gore, but I didn't look too closely.

At the end of the Big Town quest my head got crippled, and until I could scrounge a stimpack the screen would get blurry for several seconds about every thirty seconds or so. Something like that. I was too busy capping super mutants to get out a stopwatch.

I think you bring up a really good point about the feeling the game gives you. I seem to alternate back and forth between absolute joy in the game to feeling morose and down. I'm really beginning to think that the bleakness of the game is really beginning to sink in. It's not often that I'm left with a sinking feel in my chest after a gaming sessions; is it because the barren environments are so desolately quiet or is it because the game reminds me too much of the situations in the world today? I don't know, really, but I am finding the game a bit harder and harder to play. The sinking feeling I experience after every sessions is disheartening.

I'll soldier on, I'm sure, because the world and gameplay is compelling, but I think I might need the brightness of a LittleBigPlanet to cheer me up before I head off to bed.

Is every encounter / location handcrafted in Fallout or are there locations equivalent to the randomized Oblivion dungeons that you can reenter for different encounters over time?

Woohoo! Win/win for me! My wife tasked me with returning a bunch of crap to Target, and in exchange, I got to use the store credit for whatever I wanted. Awww yeahhh...

Irongut wrote:

Is every encounter / location handcrafted in Fallout or are there locations equivalent to the randomized Oblivion dungeons that you can reenter for different encounters over time?

Each location is unique and, as far as I can tell, once cleared the enemies don't respawn except for story-related reasons. There is so much to do in the Wastelands, though, that it doesn't really matter.

ruhk wrote:
Irongut wrote:

Is every encounter / location handcrafted in Fallout or are there locations equivalent to the randomized Oblivion dungeons that you can reenter for different encounters over time?

Each location is unique and, as far as I can tell, once cleared the enemies don't respawn except for story-related reasons. There is so much to do in the Wastelands, though, that it doesn't really matter.

False. raider camps in certain areas do respawn.

boogle wrote:
ruhk wrote:
Irongut wrote:

Is every encounter / location handcrafted in Fallout or are there locations equivalent to the randomized Oblivion dungeons that you can reenter for different encounters over time?

Each location is unique and, as far as I can tell, once cleared the enemies don't respawn except for story-related reasons. There is so much to do in the Wastelands, though, that it doesn't really matter.

False. raider camps in certain areas do respawn.

Yup, supermutants too. Two I have personally witnessed are the springvale school where there were raiders outside of it (didn't go back inside to see if they were back there too) and a group of supermutants between the large bridge across the river and the Jefferson Memorial.

Having played the previous Fallouts and never touched Oblivion, I must say the game is a success for me. The combat system has me hooked, enough depth to keep me interested. But most of all the large number of stories in this world is what is making it for me.
Though the game is not an exact match to the original settings feel, its very close. Enough to still really enjoy it/find myself immersed.

Currently about 18 hours in, taking my time on the Morally responsible path. Great fun.
Im interested in Perk/stat builds people are going with? At level 8 ive spent pretty much all my perks on increasing my S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats... anyone else doing this?

This game will definately get a second play through, maybe even a third to see all the neutral and evil plot lines.

Edit: Also, im playing the PC version, and have had it crash to desktop a number of times on me. But not enough to piss me off (yet). Hoping it will get patched...?

Stengah wrote:
boogle wrote:
ruhk wrote:
Irongut wrote:

Is every encounter / location handcrafted in Fallout or are there locations equivalent to the randomized Oblivion dungeons that you can reenter for different encounters over time?

Each location is unique and, as far as I can tell, once cleared the enemies don't respawn except for story-related reasons. There is so much to do in the Wastelands, though, that it doesn't really matter.

False. raider camps in certain areas do respawn.

Yup, supermutants too. Two I have personally witnessed are the springvale school where there were raiders outside of it (didn't go back inside to see if they were back there too) and a group of supermutants between the large bridge across the river and the Jefferson Memorial.

Yes, in the overworld, but internal locations generally don't.

I'm hoping for a patch myself due to a few crashes, but overall the game is better than most for v1.0.

Two interesting commands for the PC version that you aren't told upfront: hold "R" to holster your weapon, and hold "Tab" (or PipBoy key) to turn on your light. Was straining my eyes for awhile because I didn't know about a flashlight...

Disclaimer** - I put this here because the Fallout 3 Catch-All thread has been about nothing but GFWs for quite sometime...

So, Steam had a 50% off deal on this last weekend and I decided to give it a try. Been real busy lately but wanted to give my RPG withdrawl some kind of fix and at 50% off this seemed like a good bet.

I am not quite sure what to think. I just got out of sector 101 and there are 2 major things I noticed about this game.

1) So far, everything in sector 101 from the levels to the actual concept art and UI reminds me of Bioshock. Not that that is a bad thing but it just looks SO reminiscent to it that its hard for me to let it go.

2) The game is making me sick

I am sure the game really picks up and actually becomes what everyone has been talking about after you get out of sector 101 but I am not quite sure I can actually continue playing. I get this queezy, "I'm on a small boat in the middle of the ocean" feeling whenever I power on this game. I really want to continue but man...

And advice out there?

Thanks!

PAR

par wrote:

Disclaimer** - I put this here because the Fallout 3 Catch-All thread has been about nothing but GFWs for quite sometime...

So, Steam had a 50% off deal on this last weekend and I decided to give it a try. Been real busy lately but wanted to give my RPG withdrawl some kind of fix and at 50% off this seemed like a good bet.

I am not quite sure what to think. I just got out of sector 101 and there are 2 major things I noticed about this game.

1) So far, everything in sector 101 from the levels to the actual concept art and UI reminds me of Bioshock. Not that that is a bad thing but it just looks SO reminiscent to it that its hard for me to let it go.

2) The game is making me sick

I am sure the game really picks up and actually becomes what everyone has been talking about after you get out of sector 101 but I am not quite sure I can actually continue playing. I get this queezy, "I'm on a small boat in the middle of the ocean" feeling whenever I power on this game. I really want to continue but man...

And advice out there?

Thanks!

PAR

My guess is that either the handling of camera during walking or the field of view are throwing off your equilibrium. You should be able to tweak those, but I would have to google around to find what to change and how.

par wrote:

The game is making me sick :(

Do you also get sick playing FPS games? There's a fairly well-studied phenomenon known as simulation sickness. It's bad enough that some organizations won't let pilots fly on the same day that they run through a flight simulator. The good news is that most people acclimate to it after a while.

I finally got around to playing Fallout 3, and the thing that strikes me is just how much it really is "Oblivion with guns." That isn't a criticism but rather an observation that many of the gameplay mechanics (e.g. melee combat, sneak attacks, etc.) were probably already coded and therefore reused out of convenience.

- Alan

Thought this was cute. I am ready for Fallout 4.

IMAGE(http://thechive.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/motivate-monday-3.jpg?w=500)

What are the must have mods for replay? Nothing that changes the game too much, except visuals, bug fixes.

I've just found the ultimate mod for Fallout 3. Fallout: New Vegas. It's like a whole new game!

(I played several hundreds of hours of FO3 so couldn't face Vegas at the time.)

Fallout 3 is one of my favorite games. I can't wait for Fallout 4.

^ dem posts to revive a thread, anyway any of you guys saw the video of the guy that speedrunned fallout in 24 mins using a glitchs by quicksaving and quickloading very fast?

Nope. I may have to check them out. I recently played through it again and the main campaign is incredibly quick when you aren't doing all that aimless wandering about.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/2hoF2qu.jpg)

Here, interested people in seeing it, the glitchy-world record speedrun