It's been ten years since the previous incarnation of the hugely popular Fallout franchise. Fallout 2, the second sequel of the franchise, received many spin offs that were never considered "canon", part of the storyline. That being said, the official sequel to Fallout 2 is finally here. Having switched developers from Interplay/Black Isles to Bethesda Game Studios (known for the successful Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion game) the story to Fallout can finally continue... but does it live up to its name, and the hype?
Fallout 3 takes place many years after the events of Fallout 2, after the destruction of the Enclave (the remnant of the US government). The world is of course, still completely screwed. The post apocalyptic future featuring Super Mutants, feral Ghouls, raiders, dangerous mercenaries to even the Enclave still roam the country, and in particular, the game's setting of Washington DC.
You'll start off in Vault 101. Literally, you begin your character as a freshly new born baby. You then create your character as to what they'll look like when they're grown up, followed by setting up their stats using Fallout's original S.P.E.C.I.A.L system (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck), before selecting your character's tag skills (their primary skills, what they're best at actually). Interestingly enough though, the character creation system seems to be all apart of the game and its storyline and it's quite different to see a character creation system like this. Unfortunately though, it'd be nice if there was an option to skip, and to instantly get into the game so to speak (should you start over or something). Regarding skills however, there is a large variety, from your ability to barter, talk your way in/out of things, to simply killing things with a variety of weapons.
Your character is the child of a man named James (voiced by actor Liam Neeson), a doctor within the vault. Long story short, your father eventually runs out of the vault and you've got trouble on your own hands, so it's up to you to get out of the vault, venture out into the wasteland and track down your father, and do a hell load of other things along the way if you'd like.
The first thing players will notice about this game is, if they've played The Elders Scrolls IV: Oblivion before it, then they'll notice that Fallout 3 is very similar to Oblivion. In the past, Fallout and Fallout 2 back on the PC played from a birds eye view angle similar to the Diablo franchise and played with a turn based combat system. This time though, players move in a completely open sand box environment in 3D, from first or third person perspective. This has bought the game much criticism from die hard Fallout fans but to be fair, it works.
The game plays entirely in real time and could be considered a first person shooter role playing game, however what makes it different compared to a regular FPS, is the skills system and the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (or V.A.T.S). As the player earns experience points from doing various tasks/quests, defeating enemies etc, they can progress in level, thus further advancing their skills in a variety of areas as well as selecting "Perks" (which make a return from the previous games). Even if one is good at FPS games, don't expect to be immediately awesome at Fallout 3, as your character's skill in a variety of weapons will determine your overall accuracy and efficiency with certain weapons.
Because the game unlike the previous incarnations is entirely in real time, Bethesda has developed the V.A.T.S system. Using action points, the player can pause the game during combat to target specific locations of an enemy. Effective head shots, limb shots etc can then be made in this mode, which of course is governed by not only the needed action points, but it'll also determine on your overall weapon skill that determines how accurate your shots in V.A.T.S really are, as well as how much damage you will pull off. When the shot(s) are made, the camera will be watching in slow motion from a third person, cinematic presentation. Overall the V.A.T.S system is an interesting and effective idea for the game and players will find themselves relying on it quite heavily, thus giving the game a more RPG-like feel to it rather than a shooter. It does get annoying however, when you're told that your V.A.T.S shots will have a 95% accuracy, yet you miss all three because of the corner in front of you which you did not see to begin with.
As mentioned, Perks make a return to Fallout 3. Each time the player levels up they are able to select a new Perk. Perks are basically bonuses to your character as each Perk provides benefits to your character's skills and abilities. One Perk might allow you to raise one of your stats, another may increase your ability in Small Guns. There's a wide variety of Perks to choose from but each Perk has a certain pre-requisite in order to obtain it beforehand.
The presentation of the game is where the game excels. The environment is massive, and all of the locations look gritty and realistic. Player and enemy models are quite detailed (at least for a game of such scale), however player and enemy animations look quite dated compared to other games of today. The music is quiet and creepy, really giving you the feeling of being alone, while when the action sparks, so does the music. It's also interesting to be able to hear very old, classic songs in this game, giving the game a strangely ironic feel to it.
As said before, the environment, is massive. There are so many random locations completely irrelevant to the game's primary storyline, with tonnes of quests and lots of places to explore. If you're a fan of exploration, then this is one game that will keep you hooked for hours and hours. Sometimes however, especially when travelling in the ruins of a city, travelling can be quite tedious as many path ways seem to be blocked by absurd amounts of rubble, forcing the player to travel through the rather annoying subway tunnels placed frequently throughout the game. At the very least though, a quick travel option, similar to that in Oblivion makes its place known in this game, allowing players to quickly travel back and fourth between towns and locations they have already discovered.
The voice acting tends to vary. All the dialog seems to be written decently and it's pretty cool to see voice talent like Liam Neeson in the production but some of the NPCs just do not sound right at all, and at times there is horrible lip synching in character dialog.
Like Oblivion before it, Fallout 3 does share its fair share of bugs and glitches. At times you'll randomly see a wrecked car flying through the sky, or perhaps a car will go completely nuts and fall on you. Sometimes the game has some long loading times, and sometimes it can freeze, or at least seem to freeze (see long loading times).
Despite its flaws, Fallout 3 is an excellent game. The main quest apparently doesn't last for too long, but with all the exploring, the many quests and so fourth, it's a damn good attempt for a true sequel to the series that players have been waiting for, for the last ten years. It may not be a "true" Fallout game as some die hard fans may claim, but it's a damn good game regardless, and you would have to be absolutely crazy to miss out on.
I don't want to set the world on fire. Do you?