1.1-Added some more detail and general description about the game and also bulked out the combat paragraph
1.2- Added sections on skills and stealth
It's About Time! Reviews by a Stranger
You're terrified as you sneak through the Mall and up toward the White House, your pounding heart and laboured breathing are sure to attract the attention of the Super Mutant patrol heading your way. One passes within an inch of you but the shrouded veil that is hiding you means that he's oblivious. As you enter the White House you hear a distinct beep as your stealth boy runs out of juice but it doesn't matter; in front of you is pandemonium, a huge battle of mercenaries against Super Mutants. You move through the halls like a ghost, just you and ol' Painless taking out both sides, one by one.
__________________"War. War never changes"
Welcome to the world of Fallout 3, here's yet another review to throw on the ever expanding pile of reviews of this game. After the slight mess that was my Dragon Age: Origins review last week and all the "OMG Dragon Age is the best! Fallout 3 and Oblivion suck" that went along with it, I thought I should enlighten you about the flawed masterpiece that is Fallout 3.
Fallout 3 is one of just a few games bearing the FPS-RPG title, you shoot people and you get experience points that contribute to levelling you up, basically. It's set in the post apocalyptic America in and around the ruins of Washington DC and is jam packed full of Raiders, mutated animals and Mercenaries all dying for the opportunity to kill you. You play the 19 year old
Lone Wanderer who sets out from his sheltered vault to find his father.
You start your adventures in the womb, bursting out into the light and slowly making out the all faces that are staring at you. One of these faces pronounces "Hey there, I'm you Daddy. What are you: a boy or a girl?" Keeping in mind that this man is a trained doctor, why he would need to ask you what gender you are is quite beyond me but I do admire how they intertwine the character creation process with the process of growing up. The very beginning part of the game sees you at age 1, where you choose your attributes by reading a "You're S.P.E.C.I.A.L" book, then at age 10 where you receive your Pip-boy, an electronic device on your arm that acts as a menu. At age 16 you take the G.O.A.T exam which decides what skills you will be more proficient in and then when you are 19 the shit hits the fan and you leave the vault in search of your father.
For those that don't know, your character spent the entirety of his young life in Vault 101, a community sheltered underground from the irradiated wasteland that is America. It has a "We live in the vault, we die in the vault" mentality, so when you emerge into the wasteland after your escape you are completely clueless about how to survive, or indeed where to go next. It's quite a transition, especially when you add this to the minute or so it takes your eyes to adjust to the sunlight and the viewpoint you get of the godforsaken wasteland, it's very daunting. But it's also very beautiful. Yes, somehow Bethesda have managed to make what is essentially a giant scrap heap good looking. This really adds to the atmosphere of the game because it's just so bleak and seemingly lifeless that you get the impression that it's impossible for anything to survive there.
What really shines in Fallout 3 is this atmosphere, a very charming (and nostalgic for some) 1950's feel with an overtone of violent desperation and hopelessness. In games as huge and complex as Fallout 3 the atmosphere has to be good, otherwise you just wouldn't bother playing it. And the atmosphere really is very good, another thing you'll find in this game is a distinct brand of extremely dark humour that, more often than not, borders on the downright creepy. Like when you find yourself in a computer simulation and are ordered to kill people by a nine year old girl in order to escape.
The combat in Fallout 3 is well done, you have your standard array of weapons such as pistols, assault rifles and knives along with more exotic weapons like the pulse rifles and the mini-nuke lobbing Fat Man, all of these work well in their own way and you'll have to use all of them as ammo is scarce. They shoot around the area the you target, the higher your proficiency with the type of gun you're using, the smaller the spread, this is an RPG remember. What we are introduced to in this game is V.A.T.S mode which freezes the game and lets you target certain body parts of an enemy by using AP (Action Points I believe). When you are done you are given different view points as your bullets slam into the enemy in slow motion. Needless to say it is absolutely gorgeous, especially so after unlocking the Bloody Mess perk which adds extra gore to these cinematics. However, it does break up the flow of combat somewhat if you are constantly pressing R2 (PS3) whenever you have enough AP and as there is only so many ways someone can get shot it does get boring after you've seen all the possibilities.
________The killings are drool-worthingly gorgeous...
You also have the opportunity to stealth round enemies or attack them while hidden for an assured critical hit. Everything from sound, light, bulk of worn armour, sneak skill and line of sight effects whether or not you will be spotted. I have to say that it's done very well and even when you max out your stealth skill there is still challenge to be found. It adds a while new way you can play the game and is a nice contrast to the norm of charging in and shooting up a whole dungeon which is prevalent in other RPGs.
There are an excitingly large variety of enemies that you can put to the slaughter, everything from boring old humans to 20ft tall Super Mutants wielding cars and fire hydrants or the absolutely terrifying Deathclaws. It's useful to know the different weaknesses of these creatures as for some of them the 'walk up to them and unload a slug into their face' doesn't work, if you do that to a Deathclaw it will calmly proceed to rip your face off.
The amount of skills to choose from in this game is equally as impressive: there are normal gun skills like Energy Weapons or Small Guns but other things like Lock-picking and Speech really give another dimension to this game. It really highlights the fact the Fallout 3 is not just an FPS where you level up, you're going to be breaking into houses to steal items of value and then persuading the owner that you thought it was your house you were in when you're caught. It is possible to max out every single skill but it takes a lot of work as you'll have to find the relevant skill books, if you only use the skill points you gain from levelling up you can max out say... 5 skills which is more than enough to get by but small enough to keep your character feeling specialised and unique.
Over the course of your time with Fallout 3 you can reach a maximum level of 20 (30 with the Broken Steel DLC), complete the main missions, the vast array of side missions and, more importantly, just explore the huge world that is the Capital Wasteland. The sheer joy that can be extracted from this game comes mainly from finding really cool things that aren't anything to do with any mission at all. I've already mentioned the battle for the White House but there are many, many others such as the Republic of Dave and I think anyone who's been to Andale will have memories of it. At any point in the game you can just go out and explore the place which is a lot of fun. Other RPG's (*cough*Dragon Age*cough*) don't allow you to do this.
Thankfully, there's a fast travel system in Fallout 3, otherwise it would take hours just to get from one place to the other. The Capital Wasteland may not be quite as large as the map in Oblivion but I still think it's a bit too big. There are many sections where there may be a few stray mole rats but would otherwise be barren, it would be a big improvement if it was just a little more compact.
______________ Finally! I'm past the robot guards, now I ge... oh it's frozen again.
The sheer number of bugs and glitches to be found in Fallout 3 is simply horrendous, one look at the Fallout wiki and there are pages and pages of bugs for each area. Your guns can disappear from your inventory, quests will not complete or, more likely, the game will freeze meaning you have to reboot and start again from the last save. This has bought the use of S.O.S (as in 'Save Often Stupid') to become widely used amongst Fallout 3 players. There are also many random objects that you can get stuck on and you'll have to reboot to escape from. I've currently got the most infuriating bug of it not letting me save on my best character, so whatever missions I do with him become completely invalid once I switch it off. Even now on patch 1.61 the majority of these haven't been fixed.
This story does suffer from the fact you can just go exploring at any time that takes your fancy, as a result it is even weaker than what it already is. Go find dad, do what dad tells you, do what Brotherhood of Steel tell you etc. is nothing special to begin with but when you add in the factor that the so called desperate situation can easily wait a few days while you go off hiking, it breaks it somewhat.
Fallout 3 will always have a special place in my heart as the game that stole days away from my life and has no intention of giving them back. The joy that I got from wandering round the world that was there for me was immense but by god the glitches were frustrating. If you still don't have this game, firstly what the fuck? And secondly just go and get it but make sure that you save as soon as you do something important. I realise that I've probably missed a lot out and I'm sure someone will take it upon themselves to point everything out but with a game like this you have to stop somewhere.
As always with this series, nit-pick feedback is wanted, or even praise 'cos that would be kind of cool. Thanks for your time.