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Fallout 3 Review

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Developer: Bethesda Publisher: Bethesda
Release Date: October 28, 2008 Also On: PC, PS3 and Xbox 360

Having never played either of the first two Fallouts for more than an hour each (I know, I know…), but knowing the loose history of the series, I was extremely excited when I heard Bethesda had acquired the Fallout intellectual property. In fact, it was the only reason I was looking forward to E3 this year and it was the main reason I was excited for this years’ holiday season. It is the only good reason I have found recently to put 40+ hours into a game in a weeks’ time. Fallout 3, simply put, is amazing.

In case you don’t know, Fallout 3 tells the tale of the vault dweller. A young man (or woman, if you’re so inclined) who is forced to leave Vault 101, a nuclear fallout shelter, and venture out into The Capital Wasteland. It’s been two-hundred years since the pinnacle of a world war and, at first glance, there’s no bastion of humanity left. Thankfully for us, that’s far from the truth. A large number of people whose ancestors weren’t lucky enough to have a spot in a vault or who left prematurely now call the Wasteland home and it is these people that truly make this nuclear desert feel alive.

In an attempt to prevent spoilers I’m going to resist talking about specifics in any of the plot lines. Just trust me, every major quest, especially the main-quest, is well thought out and is a blast to play through. Some have criticized the main quest for being too short (seasoned RPG vets could power through in less than eight hours, I’d imagine) but it shouldn’t be a point of criticism.

Yes, the main quest isn’t long, but it never feels drawn out either. Every new plot element that is introduced had me salivating for the next and everything flows beautifully. I never once felt exhausted by any quest, nor did I ever felt quests existed just to artificially lengthen the game. It took me just over 30 hours to finish the main quest at level 15 (of 20) and another 10 to 15 hours to max out my level and complete another handful of quests. And while I can comfortably say that I’ve finished the game I’m confident I could easily spend another 20 or so hours finding new quests, locations, items, etc.

After seeing the trailer way back in July I was impressed with how cool the VATS targeting system looked and was even more impressed after getting to experience it first-hand with my time with the game. I was, however, concerned that the slow-motion effect would grow tiresome after hours with the game but, thankfully, that’s not the case. The combat system, which consists of mixing real-time combat with the “turn based” VATS, as a whole is very well balanced and fighting never grows monotonous.

Bethesda gave so much attention to detail it’s not even funny. Wander into a museum in downtown D.C. And the plaques of the exhibits can still be read. Listen to the in-game radio stations and listen to the government propaganda ad nauseam or, my favorite, DJ Three Dog’s “Fightin’ the Good Fight” station, Galaxy News Radio. Or listen to the hours upon hours of recorded dialog of every character. Bethesda took their time with this one and it becomes immediately apparent upon playing the game.

There even seems to be some evidence of the government changing history before the nuclear war. Apollo 11’s lunar module seems to have been renamed Virgo II, with different astronaut names, to boot. The current president gives regular radio addresses but there’s evidence that no one seems to know how long he’s been president or if he’s even real. There are many of these 1984-like instances occurring and they may have been a requirement to make the game or it could be written like that purposefully to provide a bit of subtle back story. I prefer to believe the latter. Either way, if you take your time with the game it’s interesting to witness these things firsthand and will certainly make you think.

The game engine is obviously carried over from Oblivion and it still manages to look stunning. There are some issues concerning texture fill in, pop-up and slowdown but none affect gameplay at all. And while the game is technically impressive it’s the art design that really stands out here. The Wasteland actually looks like D.C. would, presumably, look after a nuclear war. Downtown is filled with partially destroyed, abandoned buildings, cities have been made out of leftover debris, empty metro stations and, my particular favorite as far as art direction is concerned, an abandoned aircraft carrier. Visuals are top-notch and, aside from the aforementioned problems, are immaculate.

Fallout 3’s audio, on the other hand, has absolutely no imperfections. Voice acting never comes across as stilted or forced. Being that the game takes place in 2277 with history as we know it ending in 2077 the soundtrack may seem a bit out of place considering it solely consists of music from the 1940’s but it works extremely well. There’s nothing like being involved in a firefight with terrifying super mutants while an old-time crooner sings love songs in the background. All aspects of the aural presentation are impeccable; sound effects, voice acting, soundtrack, everything.

This generation of games has delivered absolutely fabulous cinematic-quality titles. Bioshock, Gears of War and the Call of Duty series just to name a few. Fallout 3 easily deserves to be remembered amongst them. Not only that, but Fallout 3 deserves to mentioned in the same breath as all other RPG’s we’ve heard too much about: Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger and Bethesda’s own Elder’s Scroll series. Fallout 3 is an absolute masterpiece, truly the pinnacle of Western RPGs, and deserves to be remembered as such.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 10
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 9.6
Written by Chris Review Guide