Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Game Review - Fallout 3


Fallout 3

Format: PC

Plot: You are a ‘Vault Dweller’, someone who has lived in an underground bunker for his/her entire life. The world outside the bunker is a nuclear wasteland, a world that no sane person would leave the Vault for. Unfortunately for you your father has left the Vault and you must find him in the wasteland of Washington DC .

Pros:


The VATS mechanic is great.
As a nod to the original turn based Fallout games, Fallout 3 has VATS. This allows you to pause the action and target body parts of your enemy. The VATS gives you a percentage chance of success and then relays the results to you via delightful slow-mo. You can play Fallout 3 as a straightforward FPS but you’ll be missing out on the carnage that VATS offers and you’ll waste more ammo than you need to. This feature is brilliant for those of you who don’t like FPS combat or lack the reflexes to effectively deal with howling mutant bears and crab people. I was skeptical of this feature when it was revealed during development but now I love it.

The gameworld is breathtaking. The designers have created a world that seems both dead and alive at the same time. I can’t help but stop and stare across the ruined vista of the wasteland, impressed by the vast draw distances and playing spot the ruined tourist attraction. Even the rough and ready settlements have their own separate themes and, whilst not always user friendly, are always interesting.

Missions can have multiple solutions. This is nothing new but it’s something that’s still rarely seen in games. Much like gaming classic Deus Ex, Fallout 3 gives you the freedom to accomplish missions in whatever manner you wish. You can complete your tasks by violence, diplomacy, stealth or a fine blend of all three. Heck, you can even lie to quest givers and tell them you’ve performed the task without actually doing it.

Exploration is fun but also very stressful. The Fallout series have always contained an element of exploration but this time the exploration is achieved through your own sense of adventure and your ability to spot interesting locales, traveling merchants, friendly settlements, booby traps, raiders, slavers, and mutant bears. I love the sense of adventure and achievement from discovering hidden locales and NPCs but I’m also in a constant state of fear as anything could leap out and attack me or fire on me at any moment. Travelling around at night is especially eerie but is in someways easier, although you can’t see as much detail, the darkness does allow you to sneak around and avoid certain enemies.

The quests are varied. As Fallout 3 is an RPG there are the usual fetch quests and even a kill x number of monsters quest (although I’ve only seen one such mission). The motivations of each NPC determine the type of quests you receive and there are some genuinely interesting and engaging quests that don’t involve combat. I don’t want to spoil any quests as the joy is in unraveling the various storylines taking place in the wasteland.

Scavenging is essential but also fun. I’ve never really been a collector in games, I’m quite happy not to find all of the hidden marmots and unlock a new hat, thank you very much. Fallout 3 provides monetary reward for finding certain items in the game and returning them to collectors so that’s a very good impetus for finding and picking up tons of crap. You’ll need the caps (Fallout’s monetary system is based on barter and bottle caps) early on so this feature is a great help until you become a more efficient wanderer of the wastes. Scavenging is also essential for maintaining your equipment; all of the weapons and armour you find in the game degrade through use so finding replacements and spares is mandatory. You will have to make choices about which weapon to use in a given situation based on weapon condition and ammo supplies. If you’re toting a shotgun and it’s getting close to breaking point, you might want to be stealthier in your approach until you find a trader to fix up your equipment or you find another shotgun and attempt to repair your weapon using spare parts. This feature really adds to the game’s survivalist mentality but I’m sure there are players that hate it because they want to run around gunning everything down with no comeuppance.

The game contains the patented Fallout vibe.
The dark sense of humour that was present in the earlier games is here but it’s a little muted in comparison, there are less ‘wacky’ NPCs than the originals for example. There are many amusing moments and the gameworld contains the 50s retro futurist design that works so well.


The tutorial is very well done.
I don’t want to spoil it but it’s a pleasure to play and introduces you to some of the basics of the game in a gentle curve. Plus Liam Neeson is your dad.



Cons


Sometimes the dialogue choices become psychic or a bit stupid/bizarre.
This usually occurs during the main quest if you meet an NPC before accomplishing a specific task, your character will ask questions that rely on facts you don’t know yet. I personally haven’t had this happen in a major way yet but I’ve heard of some who have. One thing that I did find a little stupid was that upon being issued with a new mission I had the opportunity to immediately lie and say I’d done it. That’s obviously not going to work is it? If I was playing a dumb character I’d have found the option funny but as I was playing a smart character it was just plain stupid.


Certain shops, NPCs and events are only available at certain times.
If you’re impatient then heading into a settlement and finding its trading post closed can be annoying. There is a simple solution though, you can simply use the ‘wait’ or ‘sleep’ feature to pass the time in a rapid blur. So if you arrive in Megaton at 2.00am and everything is closed, you can simply stand in the street, select ‘wait’ and move the clock on 7 hours when you know the shops are open. Alternatively you can find a bed and sleep the time away with the added benefit of recovering hit points.

The ‘Local Map’ feature is a bit rubbish. The World Map works fine and allows you to instantly travel to places you’ve already explored, which is nice and saves on tedious retreading of steps. The Local Map is supposed to help you when inside buildings or settlements so you can find items or NPCs. Unfortunately it doesn’t work in 3D so you have no idea if the item you’re looking for is on your present floor or three floors up. Still, it does the job for the most part but occasionally gets annoying when you’re desperately searching for an item in a large, multi-storey building.


Conclusion

With a vast world and a multitude of possibilities Fallout 3 offers hours of entertainment. I’d recommend taking the main quest at a leisurely pace as once you’ve completed the game you can’t free roam around and mop up any left over business. I’m certainly going to sample as much of the game as I possibly can before I reach the end game. Fallout 3 is the most engaging and immersive game I’ve played since Bioshock.


Arbitrary Score Out of Ten: 9/10

5 comments:

Rev-Views said...

I'm pretty sure the "kill x y's with a stick" quest is a gag at the expense of many other computer RPGs.

I'm not as disappointed with the game as I was when I started playing it. My main complaint is the scope of the game just feels so small. The previous two games gave this illusion of vast open wasteland with little in between but FO3 feels like it's set in an area you could walk across in a day. I want to feel lost in an apocalyptic wasteland, not bumbling along just outside of DC on a day trip.

Thumbs up for the number of animals that actually attack you from behind while you're travelling - as a result I've only seen all 3 seconds of a Deathclaw so far. Shame the 3rd person view defeats that. :P

Doc Hall said...

No complaining about how you can't murder children?

I'm sure the Fallout Fan Police will be along shortly to collect your Fallout Fan License.

Aaron said...

You can sell children into slavery so I guess that could win over some strange, sociopathic players.

The gameworld seems large enough to me and I don't use 3rd person view because it looks rubbish. Your character sort of runs on the spot as the world moves underneath him. That was one Con that I forgot.

Rev-Views said...

Historically there has never been any child killing in the Fallout series (it was axed despite plans in the originals), so it's good that it hasn't started now. That would just be lame.

I wasn't saying the world isn't big enough, it is. It just lacks that level of scope and size that the previous two games had:

On the map it feels like a small are instead of a huge swathe of coastline.

The towns feel small and there's little to do in them except pick up quests and sell stuff - FO1 + 2 had loads going for it, even Shady Sands felt bigger than Megaton for example. Remember that trek down to "The Glow"? That felt like it took weeks to make despite the truth that it was 30 seconds of Indiana Jones red line.

The scope of the quest also just doesn't feel grand enough, saving the vault in 1 just to find out about the master and the super mutant armies was a real wow moment. Likewise when the Enclave turn up after you find a G.E.C.K. in two. So far FO3 just doesn't seem to have that scale of urgency, it's "chase after Daddy" time and I still haven't seen anything that makes the game feel like it's going to do something big.

I'm open to the game proving me wrong at this point, but that in a nutshell is what I ment when I said small. It's a small narrative and they've lost the illusion of size.

This is not saying the game is bad, just that they lost something in the translation and you can see that the story/plotting development team behind FO3 are not as skilled as the ones who worked on the previous two.

Doc Hall said...

"Historically there has never been any child killing in the Fallout series (it was axed despite plans in the originals), so it's good that it hasn't started now. That would just be lame."

Uh, yes there was. They made all the children invisible and invulnerable in the European release, but the US version definitely included it, and mods were released to put the option back into the EU version.

You even earned a negative reputation for doing so.
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=wPgp8oNJ4kI

As far as I can tell the fact you can't do it in 3 is the largest cause of bitching from fans of the old games. By fans I mean angry internet people.