FALLING OUT WITH BETHESDA
‘The Power of Choice!’.
That’s what’s printed as blurb on the back of Fallout 3
’s cover. But with any power comes the burden of responsibility. Cumbersome, annoying, mother-calling-you-because-she-wants-the-stairs-hoovered responsibility.
Like with Bethesda
’s multi-award winning Oblivion
, Fallout 3
certainly does grant players the “power of choice”, not to mention a vast urban wasteland to explore, levelling-up glory to indulge in and sweet sweet blood, guts and gore.
But is Bethesda
’s newest E3 champion really as perfect as the 1950s American dream, which the game uses as its spinal theme; or is it just as much of a delusion?
The basic premise of Fallout 3
’s storyline is as follows: it’s the mid-twentieth century. The game’s version of what amounts to the Cold War goes horribly wrong, and somebody pushes the big red button, glassing the Earth into nothing but barren wastelands. Given the state of things, Vaults (underground settlements) are constructed by the government prior to D-day, and filled with selected applicants, just before the Big Bang II occurs.
You, the player, literally take control of your character from birth from within one of these Vaults, wherein you’ll decide upon your adult looks, gender and name. Yes, from birth. You can even press A to make yourself cry- seriously!
Following a series of circumstances, you are of course eventually forced to leave the confines of the Vault, and venture out into the big bad world beyond to fend for yourself.
While I can’t say much about the main story for fear of spoiling it, luckily, there isn’t really much to
say. Although the voice-acting through-out the game is relatively impressive and more importantly convincing, the game’s primary plot is far from it. Indeed, some of the side-quests have more chance of jerking a tear or provoking a smile.
Don’t get me wrong: there are select moments which may choke you up a little bit. But it really all depends on what kind of person you are. If you can you watch the likes of Mary Poppins
without a teary disposition, you should be fine.
But, like with Oblivion
, you probably won’t be playing Fallout 3
with high hopes of a meaningful story-tale. Rather, you’ll be expecting RPG goodness, packed with fibrous levelling and sugar-coated powers and apocalyptic weaponry. While all these things are delicious, too much of anything is never a good thing. Indeed, it can sometimes make you fat.
What I’m driving at here folks is that Fallout 3
is such a glutton for the latter that it sadly collapses under its own weight. The American Dream!
If you’ll pardon the coupling, Fallout 3
is almost a more advanced, “adults only” version of Fable II
. Good and evil can be achieved by their relative actions, and in turn you’re treated differently and allowed access to different missions, depending on your alignment.
“Advanced” truly is the key word here. From the get go, Fallout 3 barrages you with choice after choice after choice. After choice….after choice.
I realise that many people nowadays stone Linearity like a leper; but such freedom, in my opinion, really takes all the fun out of video games, where you're asked to scuplt your character's personality to Michelangelo standards.
Not to say that some choice isn’t a good thing. But I couldn’t help but feel like so much work was involved with Fallout 3
. I mean to say, it’s hard enough just making decisions and deciding who you want to be in the real world!
Perhaps, you might think to yourself, it’d be easier if you took the simple route and played an exclusively good/bad character. Think again. Not only does Fallout 3
bombard you with moral situations time and time again, but beyond that, it’ll then start asking you, metaphorically speaking, what kind of good/bad person you want to be!
All the while you’ll be wondering and worrying over “what could have been” had you picked an alternative speech selection, for which the game truly does penalize. Granted, any RPG worth its salt has to incorporate an “action/reaction” system, but Fallout 3
takes it to a new extreme.
The only way to fully illustrate this is in the following example. At some point, you’ll be offered the opportunity to blow up an entire town. That’s right: an entire town. Sounds fun, right?
However, should you proceed with said undertaking (no pun intended) were you to glance at an FAQ afterwards, you’d soonrealise that you’ve just blown up a ton of quests, irreplaceable items, and so on.
Granted, if you have had the clairvoyant aptness to save prior to this event, you could simply load up and re-rinse, partaking in all the town has to offer before you annihaliate it. Or start all over again. But in all fairness, it doesn’t quite fit: to have taken part in all the quests, to have helped out so many out, only to go and blow them all sky high.
This is just one of many examples, which for spoiler reasons I won’t mention. Needless to say, Fallout 3
’s decision-making is constant, burdensome, and confused.
And here’s where the delusion comes in: the delusion
Not only are you dropped into a sea of speech selection, but on top of that, you’ll often find that playing the “bad guy” results in your sinking. Most of the quests demand that you help someone, somewhere, and as a result, playing the psychopath only ever leads to strict quest cancellation.
With so much (so, so much) on offer for the hero, it seems strange that the prospective mass murderer, besides one quest or two, is given so little scope for development. Not that I wanted to create a Hannibal Lector doppelganger or anything…ignoring the fact there is actually a Cannibal perk to be obtained……
But again, it really all depends on the player: if you’re comfortable with forging a hypocritical character with multiple personality disorder, then that’s fine- Fallout 3
won’t bother you in the least. But otherwise, should you be expecting an actual RPG (that is to say, role
-playing game) you’ll often find yourself ill-at-ease. It’s almost like walking into a sweet-shop with only so much cash. While you might be happy with what you end up buying, you’ll still feel disappointed over what your probably missing out on. And there really is so much to miss out on!
It’s for this reason that replaying Fallout 3
is such a daunting prospect. Ironic that a game which, in theory, is so replayable, is so unappealing to do so with. With so much to find, deal with, play through and explore, the time involved to do all this just so as to pick another course of action (of which there are often several) isn’t a very attractive idea where a gamer's precious time is concerned.
That said, choice-rape aside, the game is a lot of fun.
With thirty levels to progress through, approximately twelve individual skills to perfect (from the standard lock-picking to medicine and repairing) not to mention perk selection, it can be quite enjoyable forging a wasteland superhero/ villain. Indeed, some perks are only selectable depending on your alignment.
Just to clarify, perks in Fallout 3
are, for all intents and purposes, superpowers but without the flashy nametag. Upon each level-up, one out of some fifty can be selected, ranging from increased defence to day/night stat benefits. There are even more to be found in-game too, provided you make the right choices…
But even here, Fallout 3
sprinkles way too much sugar. With countless stat boosts to be achieved through exploration and discussion in-game as wel
l, you may soon find yourself with a maxed-out skill and no way of using in-game additions for it; instead, just a ton of points you could have used on something else, and real sense of wastage.
Graphically Fallout 3
is of course stunning- and something I won’t go into any further on account of Google
Images, which will show you all you need to see.
So instead I’ll move swiftly on to the combat game-play.
This is where Fallout 3
Your character, depending on level and perks, will have so much “AP” to spend in combat. Using this self-regenerative currency, you may enter what’s known as V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) mode, wherein the game will pause and zoom in on your target. From here, you’ll be able to select a body part of your foe’s to aim for, spending a certain amount of your AP in the process. Depending on perks, range, and body part, a percentage chance will be displayed on how likely you are to hit it, as well as how much damage it’ll incur. With the added benefit that, should you fully reduce the individual body-part health-bar of, say, a leg, you’ll watch with glee as your foe limps toward- or away- from you. Destroy the arm with which they grasp their weapon, and they’ll drop it. You get the idea.
It’s a new, refreshing concept, which feels both genuine and satisfying- particularly when you watch an enemy’s head explode in slow motion from a well-placed headshot.
But as you melee, sneak, critical-hit and shoot your way through unexplored and often convincingly eerie desolate buildings, you’ll know that, eventually, you’ll find your way back out. And have to talk to someone.
‘The Power of Choice!’?
Choose not to bother. Despite the occasional blooming weed, there ain’t nothing here but waste. Land.
+ Gorgeous environments
+ Impressive combat system
+ Convincing voice-acting
- TOO MUCH choice
- Lack of evil opportunities
- TOO BIG for replayability
- FAQ demanding stat building
- Just TOO MUCH!