I was initially hesitant to write about this game, since they don’t exactly need my contribution of publicity; Fallout 3 was one of the more anticipated games for the system in 2008, if not the most. A combination First Person Shooter/Occasional Third Person Shooter (if you want to,) and Role Playing Game, Fallout 3 was produced by Bethesda Game Studios, the same company that brought about Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.
First thing, something every other review has mentioned at some point or another; it’s not just Oblivion with guns. You can see a few small connections showing that the game was made by the same people, but it’s more than different enough to stand on its own as a game. And what a game. I won’t give too many details as to the plot, as I think it’s something each player should enjoy for himself, (and, given the freedom of choice, you don’t even have to follow the main story line at all,) but suffice to say it’s a post-apocalyptic, open-world game set in the ruins of Washington D.C. An alternate universe roughly consisting of what people from the 50s thought the future would look like, you’ll find an interesting blend of advanced technology with good, old-fashioned music and values.
One of the elements it shares with Oblivion is a fairly rich tapestry of sub-plots and quest arcs that can lead you to interesting discoveries, and a few quirky weapons. There’s plenty of rewards for just exploring on your own, as well; a few buildings dot the ruins that no quest I’ve come across will lead you to, and at one point you might eventually come across a crashed alien spaceship and acquire an impressive new weapon. The spaceship is up to you to find, though, the game will not guide you down that path.
Evidentially a few reader reviews have complained about poor graphics, and I honestly can’t tell why; the game looks fantastic, although lacking the random weather elements that Oblivion possessed. Not only are the graphics themselves quite enjoyable, but the assembled segment of Washington D.C. has been well designed; unlike Oblivion, which had dungeon, dungeon, tower, dungeon, Fallout 3’s settings have a little more character to them. Sure, there are a few caves, but you can also find an old power plant, military base, corporate headquarters, Nuka Cola bottling plant, office buildings, the headquarters of Bethesda Game Studios, a couple of schools…
Look, let’s just say there’s a lot.
The weapons available are also fairly numerous; pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, rocket launchers, mini-nuke canons, laser pistols/rifles, plasma pistols/rifles, flame throwers, mini-guns…
Which reminds me, it’s not a PG-13 game. Blood, gore, exploding heads, plenty of swearing and a landscape best not witnessed by the young. Keep the young ones away from this, as a rampaging Deathclaw alone might well give them nightmares for a week.
Naturally, you can choose if you want to be good or evil, and you can even hear of your exploits on the game’s radio, along with some classic oldies tune. Personally, I was overjoyed when I realized there was a Danny Kaye song, but we’ve established that I’m easily impressed, so I seriously doubt that this fact alone will get you to buy the game. Some have complained that the music available, which consists of cheery oldies tunes, doesn’t fit well with the game’s atmosphere.
It’s a matter of opinion, I guess, but somehow I just don’t feel right blasting away heads and limbs if I don’t have some cheery showgirls tunes playing.
The game itself can be played in different styles; you could choose to have big heavy guns and blast everything to ribbons with sheer firepower. You could arm yourself with a knife or sword and stealthily assassinate your foes. You could become a sniper and pick away your enemies from a distance. The V.A.T.S targeting system makes for some satisfying close-quarters fights, but when it comes to long range combat, or fights with a mini-gun, it’s generally better to rely on your own finesse.
All in all, how long the game takes to beat depends on how thorough you are. The chance to be good or evil opens up some possibilities, which allows for replay value, and if you’re the sort who wants to explore everything you will be playing the game long after you reach the level cap. Even if you choose to Tunnel Vision your way to the end, you’ll still have a fairly long campaign to keep you occupied, but be warned; when you finish the main story arc, the game ends. Period. If you want to finish the arc first and then explore, you’ll have to save at a part-way point beforehand, or start a new character.