What’s a little fallout, eh? Have a nice day!
When you mention Interplay’s Fallout series
in a crowded room of geeks, people seem have one of two thoughts. Some remember
the game’s similarity to the Mad Max world. You’ve got punks running
amok, hardened individuals roaming the land, and a big post-apocalyptic mess
everywhere. Others fondly remember their adventures in the first two Fallout
games. Awesome character building, non-linearity and a great atmosphere made
for some of the best RPGing on the PC.
Yet when a copy of Fallout Tactics arrived in my radioactive mailbox,
I could only think of one thing: violence. Lots of it. The off-the-wall brutality
of the series conjured disgusting images of mayhem, sort of like this shot of
mushy peas. A bloody mess, indeed.
Fallout Tactics shifts the series from the original RPG roots in favor
of strategic, tactical squad-based combat. Gone are the days of the lone gunman
and gone are the nights of roaming the wasteland. Now, it’s all about annihilating
extremely large groups of bad guys and taking all of their stuff.
Those familiar with the Fallout series will have no trouble jumping
right into Tactics. As always, you’ll create a character with a ton of
possible trait combinations and set off into the wastes. This time, though,
there’s a mission to undertake.
You see, instead of being a vault dweller or plain old “survivor,” you’ve become
an initiate into the roughest fraternity ever to grace the post-nuclear Land
of the Free and Home of the Brave. This time, you are a member of the Brotherhood
of Steel. Just don’t forget the secret handshake – I hear the hazing is pretty
New to the Fallout style of gameplay is the developers call “Continuous
Turn-Based” mode, which for the most part should just be called "Real-Time"
mode. You don’t really take turns, though you have to repeatedly tell your units
what to do (they won’t just target and shoot at a guy until he’s dead – you
have to keep ordering it). I mean, if everyone is taking turns at the same time
over and over again, isn’t that ‘real-time’? The traditional Fallout
turn-based battles are still an option, but both methods of play have their
ups and downs.
The classic turn-based style of play leads to a game that crawls along slow
as can be. Many of the missions take place on large maps and a single excursion
can last hours on end. In CTB mode, you’ll be able to fly through the map at
a much quicker pace. The downside is that controlling six characters at once
is a tall order.
Imagine trying to click out unique orders to six different soldiers. You
stand here and shoot the guy in the funny hat. You go there and shoot
the other guy in the funnier hat. You stand still and look angry. And
so on and so forth. It really isn’t so bad when you’re only facing a small handful
of grunts, but anything more spells disaster.
Thank goodness for idiot enemies, though, because if the bad guys were smarter
than a box of rocks, this game would be damn near impossible to handle in CTB
mode. Enemies often display random acts of stupidity, like standing idly by
as their buddies get shot. Occasionally, some will show a glimmer of intelligence
and duck behind a crate, but it looks like all of that radiation has done a
number on the ol’ brain cells.
The terrible AI also impacts your own units due to generally bad pathfinding.
After getting caught behind countless objects and running off to the wrong place,
players will definitely have to hold everyone’s hand to ensure the safety of
At least the wonderful depth of the series is still intact. Even though Tactics
is primarily a strategy game, the RPG core of Fallout is very much alive.
Each character you control gains character points and can be tweaked to your
own satisfaction. With this in mind, you can groom certain characters to specialize
in specific methods of destruction. Snipers, heavy weapons experts and even
skilled drivers for the vehicles can be acquired. After all, it’s all fun and
games ’til someone gets run over by a tank.
Thankfully, the humor that many Fallout fans have grown to love is
also still here. The game is peppered with plenty of one-liners to keep a smug
smile on gamer faces everywhere.
One familiar Fallout aspect that isn’t as welcomed is the graphics.
While the original looked fine for its time, the same graphics that were found
in the second installment felt dated. That
was two years ago. Tactics looks basically the same as its predecessors,
feeling old and worn in the process.
But the audio side of things scores some points with great voice. From the
gruff commander to frightened captives, you’ll find that good voice actors really
DO exist in video games.
And let’s not forget the multiplayer. Take a team online and face off against
the world on the net. Two types of game (Skirmish & Assault) will provide more
of a challenge should you decide to venture out into the vast wasteland of the
One special thing I need to mention is the inventory bug that may cause items
to go missing. A patch has
been released, but clocking in at over 70 MB makes me wonder what else is going
on. Ouch, that’s a big bug to squash.
Yet even with its faults, Tactics still succeeds in bringing a mind-bending
strategy game to the table. Missions can often be executed several different
ways. It’s up to you to decide what’s the best for your team. Just make sure
to check the intelligence before you begin, otherwise really bad things
After the bombs have dropped and the dust clears, Tactics remains a
tough call. Remember – this is NOT the third installment of Fallout,
but a spin-off that takes place between the first two episodes. Anyone expecting
otherwise is in for a supreme disappointment. Many strategy fans will appreciate
the depth and Fallout groupies will love the continuity, but some things
like control in CTB mode or the pace in the classic style may drop bombs in
the wrong places. The wise man tries the demo.