December 28, 2008

Review: Fallout 3

Fallout 3 is the RPG you should buy this season. It's really, really, really good while at the same time being really, really, really hard- but in a good way. That sounds strange, I know, but it's not the fact that the enemies are huge and powerful and tough to kill. The world itself is what works against you. And what a world it is. It's massive. Smaller than Oblivion, though you'll never notice, it's one of the most realized worlds in gaming. Then again, Bethesda had a lot to work with.

When you boot up the game, you're greeted with a harsh vision of the post-apocalyptic future narrated by the soothing voice of Ron Pearlmen. You begin the game by literally being born and growing up in Vault 101. You journey into the outside world in search of your father who has left the vault. And what a brutal world it is. The main element of Fallout 3 is survival, which I'll get to in a moment. First I want to talk about the other important element: the combat. You can play the game as and FPS if you want, but you'll really be missing out if you do. The VATS (Vault Assisted Targeting System) combat system is awesome. You don't' know how good it is until you really try it. I saw plenty of gameplay videos of it and thought it looked lame. Now that I've used it I can say that it's awesome. Basically hitting the right bumper when enemies are nearby zooms in on them an you can then target an individual body part with your gun. The game gives you a percentage chance of hitting and, once you've selected what you want, then you simply pull the right trigger to confirm. You can target as many parts as your AP meter allows (when it runs out, you'll need to wait for it to recharge before you can use VATS again). You can use VATS with melee weapons only up close and you can't target specific parts, but it's still fun to watch the camera zoom out and see yourself beating some dude with a baseball bat.

You can tell Fallout 3 was built with the Oblivion engine. Even so, it's not fair to compare the two or dismiss Fallout 3 as "Oblivion with guns." Besides, even if you did, Oblivion was awesome, so that's not really an insult. A lot of what you remember about that game is still present here though, minus the magic of course. You can spend hours getting lost in the game world and becoming completely sidetracked from the main quest. I love games you can get lost in! There's just so much to explore and discover about the world. It's hard to explain if you've never played anything like it. There's a lot to love about the game including the realism (except for the over-the-top gore). If you take drugs, you become addicted just like in real life. If you take too much damage, you're body gets crippled just like in real life. If you drink radiated water, well you become radiated just like in real life. What it doesn't do like real life is death, but that's the way I like it. At least you're not invincible.

There are a couple of things that irritate me here and there, namely the third-person view. Didn't Bethesda promise a reworked third-person perspective that plays like Resident Evil? So much for that. There's really not much else I can fault this game for. Its pretty brilliant and with all the downloadable content coming next year, it should tide me over just fine until the next Elder Scrolls. I only wish the characters weren't so robotic when they talked. Oh, and Bethesda, do yourself a favor and hire more voice actors.

Before I get to the breakdown, here are some tips for surviving the wasteland. Unfortunately, I learned them too late and had to start my game over because I simply could not survive.

1. Explore. Finding locations earns you experience which, like so many other things, is hard to come by. Plus, its damn fun. Searching every nook and cranny of a location will often end with you finding something worthwhile.

2. Horde stuff. All that useless crap you find everywhere can be sold for money. Since there's so much of it, it really adds up. A lot of weapons are in bad condition as well. You never know when your pistol will break on you. Always have a backup.

3. Conserve. Conserve ammo as much as you can because it's a precious commodity. Conserve medpacks and purified water because if you don't you'll end up having to eat radiated food. Conserve the weapons themselves by switching them out every so often. They'll be less likely to break.

4. Sleep and save. Sleeping will heal you completely every time. If you find a bed in the middle of nowhere, use it. It'll also save your game. When there is no bed, save often. You'll probably find yourself dying a lot so don't depend on those autosaves. Who knows when the game will save itself and, trust me, you don't' want to have to do the same task 12 times.

5. Level up wisely. As of now, there are only 20 levels in Fallout 3. You can only spend so many points on skills and SPECIAL attributes. When you start the game, save before you exit the vault. If your not happy with your character within the first 30 minutes, load it up and try again. The worst thing you can do is distribute skill points evenly. Put them where you know your going to use them. Once you assign them, you'll never get them back so choose wisely. Likewise, make sure you choose perks that pertain to your play style.

Breakdown:
Visuals: 9- When you first exit the vault you get one of those "whoa" moments. Nice effects.
Controls: 10- Simple, effective, great.
Gameplay: 10- VATS is especially great.
Sound: 10- Great music and sound effects.
Replay Value: 10- It really has none. You'll never complete everything there is to do.
Overall: 10/10

Best RPG of the year.

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