Is it fair to say that this is the most highly anticipated title of the last 1, 2, 4 years? I know I have, and this little gem of a story proves it. Let's say a customer walks into a games shop. A smile is brought to his face, as he is greeted with a stand, stacked high with various platform versions of Fallout 3. He picks one up, for the PC, and with a slight skip in his step, makes his way to the counter. But he has to wait, some father who is clearly out of his depth, is buying a PS2 Controller for his daughter. He is asking all the usual stupid questions, 'Does this work for the PS2?' Even though its states it clearly on the box. 'Get out of the way, some serious gaming needs to be done!' the customer thinks to himself. While this guy takes far too long, just to buy a controller. The customer is mildly contented/moderately anxious, as long as he has Fallout 3 in his hands. Finally the father is gone, and the customer is all smiles, as he makes his way to the counter.
“Fallout 3, Please!”
The clerk pauses and in an unmistakable tone begins his excuse. “Ah sorry, but that's a display case, and...”
Oh no, he said “and”, how could he do this?
“And... I am sorry to say we don't have any more copies, but...”
Yay, he said “but”, a small glimmer of hope refills his fast deflating heart. Informing the customer that more copies will be available in two days time. To which I, er... I mean the customer, quips, in a tone of seriousness and a small amount of wit.
“OK, so who do I have to kill to get a copy?”
A pause and a nervous laugh “Yeah, at this stage, that's probably the only way you'll get one!”
He then informs me to try another store, which is just down the road. Personally I wonder if he is trying to get rid of me. However I do go, but find that they never even bothered ordering in the PC version.
I asked him why; and the excuse “I don't know why, it seems silly!”
I tell you now; I could have nearly dropped him dead, there and then, for that. The Clerk must have sensed it too, as I took a step closer to him, fists raised in the air; he stopped me in my tracks.
“We have Red Alert 3?” he offers by way of compensation.
I am distracted, partly by Red Alert 3, and partly by the sexy woman drawn on the cover. But no, I need Fallout 3, I am focused! So, two days later I'm driving into town, Small Kids and Grannies flying all over the place. I don't know why, it must have been a breezy day or something. And... I can safely say that Fallout 3 is the most anticipated title. But... have my cravings been satisfied? Well... we will see!
The Fallout Series, ah the memories! It's been some years since its return. The old games were in isometric view and of a world gone apocalyptic. Fallout 3 follows a similar story, only two hundred years since the original, and now in first or third person view. Basically the world has gone nuclear, and your character dwells in Vault 101. These scattered Vaults offered protection from the harsh radioactive world. From the last game we discovered that there was a plan for each Vault. Some opened early, some had missing parts, some had no world building kits (GECKs, for starting a new life), and Vault 101 would never open again. We never learned why the Vault makers decided to do this, and probably never will. But locked, doesn't mean that you can't escape, and this is where your travels begin...
But what an odd introduction! To those that play this type of genre, it will dawn on you, what the new developers/creators, Bethesda, are trying to do. To those that haven't, the beginning is all about your character and the personality you will become. This is played through your childhood, as a story, with some really mixed messages in there. I don't hate it, and applaud it for the novelty; it's just sometimes it feels a little weird. I will never get the first scene out of my head, just fresh into the world, and you mother about to die from childbirth complications. Your dad, voice acted by Liam Neeson, asks you what sex you are! This still sends shivers down my spine, some things I can do without knowing! Still, this is much more entertaining, original and sometimes confusing, than the usual beginning character menus. Just be careful of choices you make, because it might not be apparent until it's finished. Don't panic as you do get a final stat menu, to review all your characters stats. It now dawns on you, what you have been doing all your childhood. "Wasting it" is a valid answer, but the final stat page allows you to correct any mistakes, if only life were that simple!
The main plot revolves around finding where daddy has got too. You, a 101 vault dweller, are happy to spend the rest of your natural life safe. But your dad has gone AWOL, only he isn't allowed to do that. This leads to a real brief fight and your escape into the wasteland. The only problem is, the wasteland is vast, the characters you meet are many, and the dangers are very real. While it's the main plot that drives the game, it is the subplots that will keep you satisfied for weeks. A word of warning before you play this game, take your time! There is no need to be rushing! All too often, especially with today's games, there is a constant need to finish fast and furious. This is not sex, this is making love! Be smooth, gentle, and tease your lover. Because if you do, complete this game in the quickest time possible, the only one you'll cheat is yourself.
As soon as you step into the wasteland, you immediately know this is going to be one hell of a game. Visually stunning, powerfully rich, eye catching bleakness, and hugely immense. All these words could be used to explain this game, or to sum it up Fan-bloody-tastic! From the offset you have some life changing choices, for you and the people of the wasteland, to make. Good, Bad, don't care, or complete and utter bastard? This leads to your reputation, which has a tendency to spread like wildfire. It's like stepping into Cheers, the bar, where everyone knows your name. Not only that, but where you're from, who you are, what you've done, and if you're naughty or nice! This has a very serious consequence too! Being nice means that bad guys, will have little respect, and decent folk, will always ask for some favour or another. Being bad, honest people won't touch you with a barge pole, dialogue is short and normally ends in “Bang, Bang!” The choice is completely yours, and will affect everyone!
Good and bad, in this game, will be handled through the cosmic police department, Karma. Do a bad deed, and your Karma drops, a good deed, and it goes up. While this works for the most part, for example if you break into someone's house and start robbing them blind. There are times when it doesn't, normally when my own conscience is telling me “I shouldn't have done that!” For example, in the wasteland, you will meet travelling caravans, so you can trade and unload some of the junk you have collected. But there are times when you can see traders heading towards a gang or pack of trouble. Now, I ask you, is it bad karma to let them finish each other off and collect the rewards? In Fallout 3, apparently not!
The first time the consequence of karma really struck me, was during the main story quest. I was given the option of killing a towns worth of people, who had become enslaved in a VR machine. So my choice was to either let them live peacefully, with no knowledge of the outside world. Of course, the VR world is in the hands of a German dictator, who likes to torment these people for his own pleasure. Or kill them in the VR world, and therefore ending their life in the real one too. This was a grey line, which I was going to have to step over, one way or another. I mean how can you kill someone who lives in the matrix? It is easy to say, well it's a prison, and no one wants to live a confined life. However if they don't know that their prison has limits, how can we called it confinement? But I made my choice, right or wrong, and such are the choices you will have to impose. If your conscience is still ringing, well be glad in the knowledge that you are an upstanding and morale person, otherwise "you bastard!"
Then again it's all about the characters you meet, a real bunch of trust no one, out to get what you can, step on your grandma, type. This lends well to the wasteland atmosphere and the desperate struggle just to survive. There are varying degrees to the type of person with each encounter, those with more security will be friendlier, but those in the harsh wasteland you should be wary of. The first instance you will more than likely meet, is a town called Megaton, a small town built around an atomic bomb. How much more secure can you get? Outrageous, as you discover that the bomb is still active! Even more ludicrous when you discover a cult worshiping the thing! Fallout always offered diversity, and that's what you get by the bucket load. Of course, again, it's your choice how you treat them, and in turn how they will treat you.
The characters you meet, the groups you find, are so vast, different and all are worthy of exploration. In my short travels in the wasteland, and I am talking about 50+ hours, I have met: Megaton, Raiders, Caravans, Slavers, Brotherhood of Steel, Super Mutants, Republic of Dave, Gary's, Talons, Arefu, Underworld, The Family, Big Town, Little Lamp Light, Lots of Animals, Ten Penny Tower, Robots, Enclave, Rivet City, Mirelurks, Outcasts, and many others. Seriously, after seeing so many places and meeting so many different groups, I still feel there is so much I am missing out on.
This leads onto the junk of the wasteland, and in any self respecting one; there is a mountain of the stuff. But other peoples poison is your meat, well more like, components for building more weapons. On your travels you can buy schematics, these are recipes for building special weapons from the wasteland junk pile. There are several types, from Rock-it launchers to poisonous dart guns. The condition of your jury rigged weapon depends on your repair ability, and of course the higher the better. These weapons are fun to play around with, and in a struggle, good as a backup, but requires you carrying a lot of junk, which can weight you down. Or you could just sell the junk to a trader, and buy them back as and when you need them.
Weight is a big problem, even in Fallout 3. Depending on your strength, you are set a starting limit as to how much weight you can carry. This is good, but there is a minor bug, where your upper limit is not set. So in theory, you could carry the entire wasteland on your back. The only drawback is that you can't jump, run, or fast travel between locations. This is a major problem, until you realise that carrying just under your weight limit, fast travelling to a trader, is the smart thing to do. Also that trading for items that don't weight anything, such as stimpaks, bullets, and other useful items will give you a weight advantage.
This series has always been about the numbers. On the stats department, this game doesn't disappoint. Your character abilities are determine by the skills, and how you upgrade them. Every time you level up, you are given a certain number of points to divide among your abilities. These include Lock pick, Big guns, Small guns, Sneak, Barter, Speech, Explosives, Science, Medical, and others. So for example, increasing the bartering skill, will get you better prices with traders. The other stats are special one off abilities, called perks. Perks come in several forms, and gives your character a big step forward in a skill set. However there are plenty of them, while you probably won't get them all, some are very unique. For example, the speech ones, such as 'Child at Heart' or 'Black Widow/Lady Killer'. These will give you special dialogue options, allowing you to convince characters to your way of thinking. You'll be surprised how handy this comes in, especially if you're female and have the 'Black Widow' perk. Plus this option also gives you an extra bonus, during a fight, causing more damage to the opposite sex. Oh and you'll also be surprised how far a little luck will get you! In fact even I was surprised, as luck will increase all your stats.
One stat, repair, was more important than I previously thought. This affects everything you build or fix in the wasteland, and also new to the fallout series. But then again, all your stats are pretty important at one time or another. This makes the game really difficult, knowing what stat to increase at what time. While weapons will degrade over time, it is funny things, such as grenades that will not. Armour will also degrade too, and where the whole condition of items will become a slight issue. The main problem is that when you actually have to repair something, you have to use a similar item to do so. For example I need two sets of power armour to fix one of them, when you do the other disappears, and you get better stats on the first one. While it's a minor point, I would have preferred the ability to keep a weapon or armour in good shape, and if need be repair it. Because I understand no amount of hammering is going to straighten a gun barrel, which definitely has to be replaced. But little things should be able to be fixed without having to find a similar item to fix it! Even more annoying, as other characters, can fix your items without the need of a replacement.
Next on the list is VATS, which stands for Vault Assisted Targeting System. This is an updated relic from the last game, which was a turned based combat game. Each side was given a set amount of Action points, and each side would play out their turn. In this game, it allows you to pause combat, aim for a part of the body, and watch the battle unfold in slow motion. Very innovative, on a par with Max Paynes Bullet time! While most people will instantly select head shots, and I don't blame you, there are uses for selecting other parts. You are able to select limbs, the body, and even the weapon they are carrying. If you target the weapon, they will break and will have to drop it. Their limbs will disable them; legs mean they can't run way, arms mean that they can't fire back as accurately. Still while these are good to know, most of the time you'll still favour the head shot.
Violence is also a big issue, and there is a lot of it. One of your perks, Bloody Mess, causes limbs to fall off the body when an opponent is killed. But even before that, critical hits will have a similar effect, just not as often. Again a small issue, as even the lowest calibre weapon is able to take the head off completely. But I am not complaining, as this much gore is always very satisfying and rewarding in its own right. This, obviously, is where the game gets its 18 rating. On a side note, I have noticed that the naked form is censored. What I mean is when you kill people in the wasteland, and remove their armour, they are left naked. Wrong, to protect the "American Squeamishness" and the "British Decency" all models, will instantly have vest type underwear covering them up. While I really don't have any need to see dead people's naked bits. I do wonder; when did I become 18 enough, to see limbs separate in a bloody mess, and not 18 enough to see a naked person?
The main story line is good, but what really makes this game truly remarkable, is the subplots. This guides you through a stunning set of stories sometimes funny, mostly bleak, but always beautiful. As a result there are so many photos to show you. Rarely will a game like this come along, so hold and savour it! While most of the story plots have a dual way to play it, they are in fact very open to interpretation. By dual, I mean bad or good, and interpretation, means that you can almost do what the hell you want. Still there are some flaws with some storylines, because of the diversity, sometimes stories will not work out the way you have intended. But this is not a fault, as the designers are just not capable of knowing every possible outcome, and then programming it. On the most part, these are very few; personally I've only come across two or three.
But the problem with quests, and sometimes it can be really frustrating, is the review information. For example somebody tells you that you have to meet Person G, and give them Object E. But it's only been recorded down in your pipboy, as go to such and such a place. At any one time, you could be inundated with three or more quests, and keeping track of things, is made harder by this fact. Especially if you leave one task for a long time and come back to it, you may not remember who said what, and looking at the quest notes won't be any help either. While you can keep coming back, or leave it completely, it is a little annoying that more information isn't there to remind you.
Sound effects are very good, and it does set the whole wasteland alive. But for the most part it is very quiet, and adds more effect than you'd think, giving you a real sense of being all alone. Music, now that's a tough one, because it is good, and it is annoying! The only in game music, is cleverly done by tuning into local radio stations. Yes, in the wasteland a few exist, but that is the problem. There really is only one radio station, which plays great 50's style music. Plus, after about 10 hours, you might find it a little repetitive. You also get some news updates, but these are dependant of the area you are in. So if you're around Megaton, which you are alot, and you've disarmed the bomb, every five minutes you are going hear about it again, and again, and again! This is not like GTA, where you have a choice of stations, this is the wasteland! It is possible to find more people broadcasting in the wastelands, but you really aren't spoiled for choice. What will happen, more than likely, is that you turn the radio off for the second half! Personally, that was fine too, as I didn't miss it too much! In the wasteland it's a case of bring your own music, and if you have a strong PC, you might consider running media player in the background. Just minimise it and set it to low!
Fallout 3 is based on the same engine as Oblivion, Gamebryo. I do have to say that this is one of the best engines around. On my, rapidly aging pc, I noticed the frame rate maximum was around 70, and would never go below 40. Even though most visual settings were on, or near, low; the quality was still second to none. Perhaps the most annoying thing was the draw ranges of objects and characters. Called the "Actor Fade" in the display options this had been turned far too low. "Actor Fade" means, to save computing power, the game will not draw a character on screen until you are close. But this has a knock on effect, of them being able to shoot, and you wondering where the bullet came from. It feels like you are being hunted by the invisible man and his invisible friends, not a nice feeling! If you do have a low end pc, I suggest leaving all the settings where they are, but make sure you turn this one up to the max. Also this game will have the same downloadable content as Oblivion. So you can download extra bits to increase gameplay. I have never played Oblivion, but I have heard this is a good feature. There are several things planned for download The G.E.C.K., Operation Anchorage, The Pitt, and Broken Steel, though some are not available yet. Available for Xbox 360 and PC, but unlucky for PS3's there isn't any plans for you guys, not yet anyhow!
Finally the ending is terrible, on several counts. First and foremost, because it is the ending and you probably have so much more to explore. The second, the story, has a particularly anti climax ending. While there are several endings, and it depends on what you do, they all come to a very similar conclusion. A conclusion I am still unable to fathom, something along the lines that war is bad. But the worst thing is there are no subplot endings! In the old Fallout series when the story ended, it would also give the sub plot endings, letting you know what happen to those you left behind. I was waiting for that and it never came, I never knew what happened to the people out there, or if my efforts had any lasting effects. I was really dismayed at how they could leave this out. I understand that they were trying to make the game their own, and granted they have done a fantastic job, but certain things should have been kept. Things they have missed out, that I missed, the car, the subplot endings, and the references to Monty Python. Ok, the Monty Python in game jokes, I didn't miss too much, but still it would have been nice!
But the worst thing about my version ending, using my smarts, I could have avoided the whole thing. But when I tried, I was given the lamest reason in the entire world. I wish I could tell you how it ending, for me, but instead I give you this one piece of advice, don't finish the game! I mean, never ever, never ever finish the game!
Still this game has plenty to discover, and even better, several ways to play it! I think I might start again and play as the biggest disaster to hit the Wasteland since 2 hundred years ago. Oh what joy, and fun! Well for me at least! Oh on a side note, I always did want to see Megaton explode; I think that's my first port of call! Evil laugh “Mwaaahhh!” Damn, got to work on that!
Apart from the terrible ending and the other minor game play bugs. Things like clipping problems, like entering the VATS mode, when an enemy is too close, means that you fire through him and not at him. Also the small occasion when you've done something the designer didn't expect, and stories don't quite work out right. Then there are the odd instances where objects are invisible, but you can still pick them up. Be thankful, because I've heard the Polish version is one big “bug-infested” problem. All is forgiven, beside this game will definitely be best of this year, and long may it reign! By God, if some Portal game comes along, and knocks this Bioshock of a game off, I'll be really angry! (No, don't have anything bad to say about Portal, just that Bioshock took more effort, and shouldn't have been pipped!) Anyhow, once I've finished this review, I am going back to explore; I think there was a stone I didn't kick over!
And..? The anticipation was worth it a thousand times over. But..? The cravings have been satisfied; and also replace by the 'just one more go' syndrome. Well..? I can safely say get this, or else..! Dedicated to Orgy13 James
System Requirements from “Readme.txt” Minimum System Requirements: - Windows XP/Vista - 1GB System RAM (XP)/ 2GB System RAM (Vista) - 2.4 Ghz Intel Pentium 4 or equivalent processor - Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 256MB RAM (NVIDIA 6800 or better/ATI X850 or better)
Recommended System Requirements: - Intel Core 2 Duo processor - 2 GB System RAM - Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 512MB RAM
Supported Video Card Chipsets: ATI Series HD 4800, HD 4600, HD 3800, HD 3600, HD 3400, HD 2900, HD 2600, HD 2400, X1900, X1800, X1600, X1300, X850 NVIDIA Series GeForce 200, Geforce 9800, Geforce 9600, Geforce 8800, Geforce 8600, Geforce 8500, Geforce 8400, Geforce 7900, Geforce 7800, Geforce 7600, Geforce 7300, GeForce 6800
VIDEO - Regardless of your video card, make sure to download the latest drivers from your manufacturer. INPUT-ALT+TAB may cause some game instability with some hardware configurations and is not advised.