Fallout 3: Game of the Year Review
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Date of North American Release: 10/13/2009
Date of European Release: 10/16/2009
Fallout 3 is essentially "Oblivion with Guns" set in a post apocalyptic alternate universe where the US went to war with China, and the ensuing nuclear war left the earth a barren wasteland full of radioactive fun. You follow a character who escaped from an underground vault constructed to protect people from fallout. You are sent out on an adventure in the open world to rival any of Bethesda's previous works.
Fallout 3 is truly a remarkable game. The gameplay itself is stellar and innovative. Outside of the basic components of a first person shooter the game adopts many RPG elements. The player has a level which determines a multitude of things: HP, skill levels, perks available/acquired, and the vitals on the monsters encountered in the environment. This opens up the game to make several key innovations that make the gameplay truly fun and original.
The first of these elements is the VATS system. This system was really done to create a more simplistic and cinematic combat experience. During any point in combat a quick tap of a button enters the player into VATS which allows the player to target individual points of the aggressor outside of real-time. So essentially you can stop the game, target the grenade in the hand of your enemy, and blow it up before they throw it, or you can land a perfectly aimed headshot without allowing your enemy a chance to attack while you aim. This essentially levels the playing field for both veterans and newcomers to the fps-style game. Everything done in VATS is determined by your stats, skills, and perks. Agility as well as various perks affect your AP, which determines how many actions you can do in the VATS system before entering a “cooldown” period so your AP can recharge. Your skills with whatever equipped weapon determine everything from your chance to hit a certain part to your chance to score a critical hit. All in all the VATS system is truly remarkable, and is something that should be experienced.
The second of these elements is the perks system. While not as groundbreaking as the VATS system, it is of important to note cause perks influence how the game is played. Perks always provide some positive boost to your player. They can be as simple as an automatic boost in HP or a stat, but they can also bring another element to your game with perks such as Child At Heart which allows you access to certain dialogue options and information only available with that perk. This system brings about an enormous amount of customization on each play through, and can easily affect the way the game is played at any point.
The gameplay is not without its cons. There are significant portions of the game where the player spends large chunks of time doing essentially nothing. Fast Travel cuts down on this significantly, but the player isn't able to Fast Travel to a location they haven't been to (unless a perk is used at level 20), so the result is that roughly 30% of gameplay is spent running through an essentially empty wasteland to your next objective or point. Battles during this time are sparse; it is not uncommon to go across an entire zone encountering only 1 or 2 bands of enemies. This can really kill elements of action in the game, and frequently make travel and exploration tiresome and boring. Something that can typhoon a sandbox RPG where exploration can be half the game easily, and if it weren't for the inclusion of the truly breathtaking VATS system, the gameplay score would be significantly lower.
The story of Fallout 3 is essentially a divergence of a stereotypical premise. A loved one is lost in a cloud of mystery and the player is sent to find out why, while this has been done a thousand times Fallout 3 does a fantastic job of creating what appears to be a simple story, and throwing in several twists and turns to turn it into something truly original. The fact that your father is on a mission to save the wasteland to create clean water for everyone, the plot twist involving the Enclave, the social and genetic experiments that take place in the Vaults all serve to take that simple story and bring it to life in the canon.
The one big thing that takes away from the story is the fact there is no real focus on it, it plays almost no real role in the atmosphere of the game other than to give the player a larger point, but ultimately it is just a small collection of quests that tie together, there is not a significant amount of concentration on it, to the point where if the main story was removed from the game, outside of how the player got out of the vault, nothing would change. That is the problem I have. I gave the Story so many points for being so good, but because it is almost an afterthought in the game, I can't put it in the same box as other games with equivalently good stories because there is such a lack of focus on it.
Also included in this facet is the add-on content included in the Game of the Year addition. Rather than critique each one individually and score them, Ill just include my thoughts on each one here.
Operation Anchorage - This is honestly one of the weaker ones for me. The Gauss Gun (HOORAY! THAT'S MY NAME!) is a great add-on, and it is fun to play through the missions, but it is depressingly short and brings no real new information to the table. You do get to play through the invasion of Alaska though, which is a lot of fun. It is also easy trophies.
The Pitt - This is one of the stronger ones, you travel to post-apocalyptic Pittsburgh (think Mad Max) and partake in a questline involving slavers/raiders that sheds light on what exactly is going on in the Fallout 3 universe. Its one of the lengthier DLC episodes, and well worth the play through.
Broken Steel - In my opinion the best of the 5, you follow a questline where you root out the remaining Enclave along with the Brotherhood of Steel directly after the conclusion of the original storyline. Not only does this one raise the level cap to 30 and introduce new perks, the story here is just flat out fun. You get to partake in missions where you follow around a giant robot battling Enclave soldiers and eventually get to pilot a Tesla Cannon. A must.
Point Lookout - The worst of the 5 DLCs. There really isn't any storyline to speak of, it adds a section of land to explore with new enemy types and new areas. The questline is about a mindless blood feud between scientists that has been going on since the Great War. Its good for a chuckle, but forgettable.
Mothership Zeta - Hooray Alien Abductions! This one is a blast. Basically you are abducted and get to kill a bunch of Aliens in a spaceship above earth. Eventually you take it over, and it becomes a second "home" of sorts.
This part is where Fallout 3 is really hurting. Some people can say that this section is essentially nit-picking, but this game has several problems that deter from the game as a whole. First and foremost this game is with bugs, serious ones. I have heard (and experienced personally) many of them, from NPCs disappearing of the map entirely to freezes during zone transfers, while some bugs, such as graphical glitches, are forgivable. Many of these are not, for example I have heard of several games where Walter, an NPC in Megaton, disappears entirely, leaving you unable to complete his freedom quests.
Fallout 3 is a beautiful game; strictly from a looks viewpoint the game is absolutely amazing considering its scale. The wasteland is interesting, despite the massive amount of gray in the environment, the look of the game is never boring, and most importantly the graphics of the game never take the player out of the game. There is never a point in time in the environment where the player will look at something and be reminded that he is playing a game, everything has an immense sense of realism. That is until the NPCs move… As soon as motion starts it becomes inorganic, reminding the player that yeah… this is a game. It is the only thing that takes away from the graphical presentation.
The sound is where this game loses points. While the radio is fun and changes according to what your character has done up to that point, there is way too much repetition there, only a small handful of songs play on GNR and the Enclave, a quest allows access to another radio station, but that doesn't help much. Outside of that, the voice-acting and sound effects are top-notch, better than some animated movies.
-Gameplay is a stellar point of this game. Bethesda did a phenomenal job of melding RPG and FPS style.
-The main story line is a bit too lacking in my opinion. The DLC added with Game of the Year, on the whole, is well worth the extra 10 bucks this game costs over the original.
-The game still has bugs, and while generally a great game visually... the NPCs don't act like you would expect. The radio can get boring too.
Overall: 8/10 Superb
Fallout 3 GOTY Edition Second Opinions
Much more than 'Oblivion with guns,' Fallout 3 isn't just a game; it's an experience. Taking place in 2277, 200 years after a nuclear war between China and the US devastated the world, you're put in the shoes of The Lone Wanderer. Through a fantastically deep leveling system, you can meld your character to your playstyle as you venture out into the Capital Wasteland on a mission to find your father.
I really cannot praise this game enough. Gameplay takes the best parts from both the RPG and the FPS world and puts them together in a masterful way. Even better is how amazing the world is. Even though the game's color pallet is predominantly brown, the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. are just amazing. The Capital Wasteland oozes atmosphere, and you can tell that there's survival on everyone's mind. The only hurdles that the game stumbles upon are quite a few technical hitches, but otherwise it's a flawless game.