I am writing to complain about your recent release, Fallout 3. Your game has not allowed me to get any work done at all. Since it’s release I have had little time to do anything else as I have been exploring Washington. I speak for a lot of people when I say that it is your fault you have created a pretty awesome game which has sucked away my time.
Whereas the letter isn’t real, the fact I’ve not been able to do little else other than play Fallout 3 is all too true. The weekend it was released I didn’t leave the house, instead spent it exploring the post-apocalyptic landscape. This game is so immersive and great in so many ways. It has been compared to Bethesda’s previous game Oblivion which, in essence, is quite true. Some of the features are similar, such as the inventory management and enormous number of quests to take part in, but there are some things that make Fallout 3 stand out from Oblivion. Of course, if you weren’t a fan of Oblivion I suggest you stop reading now as Fallout 3 is a similar style of RPG.
Still here? Good, then I shall begin.
You start the game from birth. That’s right. You are literally born into the game world; into Vault 101, a new shelter created to protect citizens from the harsh Wasteland outside. From here, you can choose your sex as well as what you will look like when you are grown up. You then speed ahead a year where you are able to select your SPECIAL skills: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. These can determine how strong your attacks are, how conversations sway and how much health you have. Then fast forward to your 10th birthday where you receive your PipBoy 3000 which is your best friend throughout the game. From this, you can access quests that need to be completed, look at a map, manage your inventory, check your stats and even tune into the radio. It is your most valuable posession in the game bar none. Fast forward to your GOATs test when you are 16. You must answer a series of questions in order to decide how your stats will be distributed. Then, fast forward to the day your Dad disappears from the Vault. You, with the help of your best friend in the Vault, start your journey through Washington to find your father where, along the way, you discover not everything is as perfect as it seems.
And that’s where, first and foremost, Fallout 3 truly shines. Its story may seem a bit lackluster if you just follow the main quest (Dad gone, search for Dad etc) but if you indulge in the side quests and engage with the people (and occasional mutants) you can really get sucked into the world in which you are exploring. From the blinding sun hitting your eyes as you first exit the Vault, to helping a scientist research her Wasteland Survival Guide, to finding a Russian pimp in his mansion or hunting down androids, all of this makes the world seem alive and full of people that are just going about their business. However, quite a few of these quests depend on your karma.
Your karma is essentially how good or bad you are. Blow up a city and you’ll get a heck of a lot of bad karma, but help a boy find a safe home will get you quite a bit of good karma. Whether good or bad will influence how people think of you. If you’re good, people will be happy for you to help them out with their problems. If you’re bad, more shady people will approach you with opputunities to do evil in Washington. There are usually good and bad paths that become apparent mid way through a quest as well. Do you kill the android or do you take the central processor of a similar android and pretend it belongs to the android you are hunting? It’s all about your decisions. These decisions do influence certain things, not to the extent of Fable 2; changing your appearance and the appearance of the world, but it will change what you can and can’t do from then on. The decisions are also a lot more subtle than, say, Fable. They’re mainly deep moral decisions rather than, “Kill him or let him live,” which is always the problem with games that let you make the decisions.
Washington is a huge place. And I mean huge. Not as big as Cyrodiil from Oblivion, but it’s still pretty big. About 2 hours into the game and I still hadn’t left Vault 101. I was too busy talking to people, wandering around and so on. The same happened after I left the Vault. I spent a good few hours just wandering the Wasteland before I went to do my first side quest. It took me even longer to carry on with the main quest, which I had forgotten about after chatting to the citizens and going on a few errands around Washington. I even did some sight seeing, visiting the decemated Washington Monument, exploring the Jefferson Memorial (now water purification plant.) It’s such a vast world that it could be days before you even bothered to carry on with the main quest.
But Washington isn’t such a nice place. There are a lot of nasty mutants and Raiders out in the Wasteland trying to stay alive by any means necessary. That’s where the combat comes in. You can either play this from first or third person view, similar to Oblivion. As with Oblivion, I tended to stick with the first person view since the third person view made your character look as if they were floating on the moon when they jump. There is a problem with first person; it doesn’t matter how good your aim is, all your shots at the enemy if using a gun are based on stats. You could be pointing right at the enemies head and it may still miss because your aim isn’t too good. It does tend to get a bit annoying at times, but if you know what to level up and when it all seems to fall into place better. The enemy AI does, at times, seem questionable with the majority of your enemies just running straight at you causing your to run backwards shooting them, no doubt bumping into another enemy on the way. Ordinary combat is a bit dull sometimes, which usually involves you backing away whilst shooting. But then VATS comes into play.
VATS stands for the Vault tec Assisted Targetting System which enables you to freeze time and target certain parts on the body or flick between a number of enemies with ease. You are able to target individual body parts such as the head, the torso, the arms and the legs and each body part has a percentage showing the chance of hitting that specific body part. The percentage all depends on a number of factors including your skill level, any Perks you may have (sort of like little power ups), the weapon you’re using and the distance from your enemy. Each time you use VATS, the game takes away “action points” which determines how many times you can fire your weapon. The problem is there is no desernible way to check how many action points a particular weapon uses. I found myself just queueing up shots until VATS told me I couldn’t anymore. You are able to queue up shots and then flick back to real time. Which is when the combat gets awesome.
The camera zooms in on the action and darts around so you can watch bullets fly or the enemy attempt to get in a last minute hit. It’s all rather gruesome and visceral, especially with the Bloody Mess Perk, as your enemy explodes from a missile or their head is flung across the room by a superb headshot. VATS is definitely fun to use and it adds a sense of strategy. You need to pick a place that will deliver as much damage as possible, that you have the best chance of hitting. It can also be used to slow down running enemies, if you can get a decent shot on their legs perhaps.
One problem I have with the game is the radio. It is essentially the same songs looped over with occasional different dialogue depending on what is happening in the game world. It does tend to get rather annoying pretty quickly, which is why I found myself turning the radio off and just listened to the winds blow through the desolate cities. While the game looks nice, it does look a bit grungy. Bethesda seem to have used colours from the Gears of War pallet manly consisting of brown and grey, but in all honesty, lush greenery is pretty hard to implement into a game
Fallout 3 is a fantastic game. It has its flaws, as does any game, but it is so immersive and can give you a heck of a lot of entertainment for your money that it’s worth the pricetag. If you liked Oblivion, you will no doubt fall in love with this game as I did. Maybe not Game Of The Year, but it is a worthy contender for that top spot.