Why yes Jimmy, Nukes can be fun!
Interplay's foray into the role-playing game (RPG) market is welcomed greatly. Except for Ultima Online, there have been few or no quality RPG's to come out on the PC in a long time - and it's about to change...
Set in a post nuclear world, Fallout is a game of exploration. You're parents migrated to a subterranean vault when the world went to war over natural resources. You were born thereafter and have lived in the vault all your life. As far as you know, nuclear explosions destroyed the whole world. Unfortunately, the water purifier in your vault (vault #13) has given up the ghost. Without water, all the people of the vault will die. You've been chosen to venture out into the world to try to find a replacement.
The story is so well developed in this game you'll wonder why you've been playing mindless shooting games like Quake. When you start the game you'll be treated to with one of the most chilling, well-written introductions a game has ever been blessed with. Play on, and the story is subtly displayed in a mesmerizing myriad of graphics and sound.
In the beginning, you are prompted to choose between three different pre-made characters or you have the option to create your own. The pre-made characters consist of diplomatic, deceptive, and combative personas - you can modify any of them to your personal liking. The best way to play is to tailor a character from scratch that reflects the traits you would want in a character. From there you get to choose which skills your character is best in, their stat points, and their "perks." Every three levels you advance you are able to pick a special ability or "perk" such as night vision or increased movement points for combat. You'll only be able to pick 4 or 5 throughout the life of any particular character so the ones you choose are extremely important. This sort of restricted bonus system is great, besides adding replay value it forces you to choose wisely and use some strategy.
So... what about the graphics? For an RPG, they're really good. The environments and people look more realistic than any of its predecessors, and the cut-scenes are some of the best rendered art I've seen in a while. Put on a leather jacket and watch your character do the same. Pull out a shotgun or a knife and your character wields it. The realism generated just by the use of items is unprecedented.
The world isn't as big as Daggerfall, but there is still plenty to do. Besides the main goals of the game, there are fifty outside quests that you can solve for experience. Most of them have multiple solutions to boot. You see, Fallout is set up like the RPG's of ancient times - there are stat points, skill percentages, and karma. Characters can like and dislike you, what you say matters, and what you do matters more. This is pure RPG bliss. Many companies have attempted to create a game like this, but Interplay has finally succeeded.
The music is mellow, piano and strings meld together to create a sense of the unknown -- you're out in a world that knows nothing of you and you nothing of it. The voices of the characters has been done extremely well - all the non-player characters that have large roles in the game have beautifully rendered animations and their own voices. The most notable voice actor on the project is Richard Dean Anderson (better known as MacGyver), whose voice makes a hard-edged survivalist come to life. These together give the game an almost movie quality finish.
Come to think of it, I really only have one complaint about this game. The story system, although great at producing an interesting plot, has some faults. Due to the "do anything you want" nature of this RPG, you can complete a quest accidentally before you actually know about it. Then, characters talk of the quest as if you haven't done it yet, potentially confusing players and making the game seem out of order.
The story bug is really only a result of Interplay granting us the right to do anything at any time, so it's not really a huge fault. Bugs have plagued Daggerfall and Ultima Online, but they just aren't here to the same degree in Fallout. This game has depth, it's fun, it looks good, it plays well, and its got a great story. So what are you waiting for?