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This review is from: Fallout 3 Collector's Edition -Xbox 360 (Video Game)It is not often that I find myself in awe of a video game. Sure I'll find games that are fun and have cool story lines, but it's rare to be impressed at the expansiveness of the world I get to explore. Like many others I remember Fallout 2 and how interesting that game was to play. Even though I didn't think it was as good as the other Black Isle titles like Baldur's Gate II or Planescape: Torment (albeit they came after). So I was really intrigued when I heard news of Fallout 3 and saw some screen shots from it. I even enjoyed the game "Brotherhood of Steel" on the Xbox, but I wasn't expecting such a massive game as we got with Fallout 3.
Level Up with interesting "Perks" rather than just "Skills"
Option of 3rd or 1st person view
Quick Travel option
Large array of weapons to choose from
Well written story line and characters
Fully customizable character
Level up process stops at 20 (well before I was close to finishing the game)
Melee character seems weak
Story Line can end in a way where you can't use the same character in expansions
I honestly thought the Fallout franchise was dwindling, especially with the apparent disappearance of Interplay from the game developer's community. Bethesda has apparently picked up those pieces and crafted one of the most expansive games ever developed. I love all kinds of RPG's and I usually expect a lengthy game with them. This is what I got out of games like Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, but Fallout 3 trumps these games. It makes those games look brief by comparison. You can seriously expect months of game play out of this game if you play it very thoroughly. That's only optional, if you just want to stick with the main quests and story, you can finish the game a lot faster.
At first glance I thought the game would be a fairly typical experience because you start out in a relatively small location called "Vault 101". This is a bit of a different intro for a Fallout character, because here you are a vault dweller, you don't start out in the wastelands. Anyway, this whole section of the game helps you refine your character and get used to the controls. Like Mass Effect this is the extensive dialogue section of the game, which is fine, because I really like that developing story element. I know some people will want to get right to the action, but I think this is an essential element in story telling. Fallout does it well, in my opinion, not like some novels or games I've come across.
Eventually your character grows up and you find yourself needing to get out of the vault. This is where the awe of Fallout really sinks in. Journeying the wastelands is incredible. It literally feels like you can wander these areas for days (and I think I did just that). There are small outposts of humanity that you can come across and interact with. This is one of the aspects where you'll get a lot of your quests. Usually the first place a player will stumble upon is a place called Megaton. You can even be given the option of buying a house there and really setting up a home. I thought this was a really interesting thing to have in the game.
The options you have with combat are great here. You can choose to have a melee character or one that uses small guns or large guns. This is sort of developed through how you setup your array of skills. In the game you can play through with either first person or a third person view. Having this kind of option really sets this game apart from other RPG's I've played. When I played through this game I setup a character that used small guns, so being able to use it more as an FPS was great, in my opinion. My girlfriend tried to play through as a melee character, which is usually her favorite type, but as soon as she got into a fight with a Talon Company group it was nearly impossible to beat them. A melee character was fine up against raiders, but very difficult to work with against heavier opponents. I can't even imagine fighting against the Enclave. Needless to say she eventually gave up and just started over making a shooter character. So that was a con for the game.
Like most RPG's the amount of items you can hold is dependent on how strong your character is. Interestingly you can carry an infinite amount of ammunition, so by the end of the game I had thousands of rounds for guns I rarely used. I thought that was rather amusing. I couldn't pick up an empty tin can, but I had on my person 3,000 rounds of 5mm ammo for a mini-gun I never use. An element of the game that I thought was interesting was the ability to repair items. This was really interesting, because it goes with the notion that as you use an item or it gets shot it will become damaged. I found the repair skill absolutely invaluable, it also made it unnecessary for me to keep going back to "town" to sell off all the junk I got in the wastelands. Instead I just repaired my items and made them stronger. Repairing items will make armor stronger and guns more powerful, so it is very essential in this game.
As you wander around the wastelands you will enter various areas and be able to explore all kinds of elements in the environment. As you wander you get into random encounters with wildlife or Raiders. These are naturally around to get you into combat and give you some experience instead of just mindlessly wandering the terrain. There is always something to explore though, especially in a ruined town area. Lots of times you'll be able to go into subways or sewer areas. These areas are absolutely massive though and there are tons of them. The only gripe I have with this is they almost all look the same. Unless it's a quest environment, the random interior setups are usually all very similar. This does make sense given they are just sewer systems and train tunnels, but having them be massive is kind of annoying, because I would spend more hours exploring these random areas rather than working on main quest elements. The outside environment is far more interesting than these expansive tunnels as well, and by the end of the game I was getting sick of going in and out of subway tunnels. To the developers credit whenever I explored buildings there was a degree of difference between them. Some areas of a building felt similar to others, but for the most part, when I explored places like museums, it really felt like I was in a museum.
The map is basically broken up into a square grid. It's fairly easy to navigate and is essential when exploring wasteland areas. Sometimes you will walk by a door you can enter and not even know it. The map helps you locate these areas with ease. There's even a function built in for "quick travel", this is absolutely essential in my opinion. As you get to various locations you can "discover" the main areas and quick travel between these main points. Wandering the wasteland back and forth would be incredibly tedious and I would've probably had a lot less fun playing this game. The only time you can't get away with "quick travel" is when you have an escort type of mission, but those are few and you don't have to agree to take them.
The graphics are pretty much what I would expect from this game. They're on the same level as something like Mass Effect, so I don't think anyone will be disappointed with this game in that regard. Creating a destroyed Washington D.C. in the detail they did must have been an immense undertaking. The landscape is simply incredible and I loved exploring it. There were times here and there where I think the graphics were glitching a little, such as when I could see some arbitrary lines here and there. This was nothing that really disturbed my game play though. The game did freeze up on me a few times and this is probably because of how huge the game is.
The overall story line is actually very well written. Albeit I am getting somewhat tired of having a story centered on finding the "G.E.C.K.". It seems like this is the staple of all Fallout story arcs. I honestly hope this is the last one. It was fun going around searching through the corporate buildings of the companies involved, but I'm just getting more tired of that story line. Luckily it's a rather small aspect, so it's not at the forefront like the other ones. Other than that the game is very well written, the characters you encounter are actually quite memorable. It's similar to Half Life 2, where you actually sort of have a vested interest in the NPC's like Alyx Vance. However, if you're the type of player that is annoyed by all these people and relationships, you do have the option of killing off a huge portion of them. This is how you get that achievement of scourge of the wasteland.
On that note, I should warn people that want to play the expansion packs. If you're in the middle of a game play through the "expansion" quests first. There is an element in the conclusion of the main game that will not allow you to continue with the same character you've made. This was a huge con for me. Basically because there were expansion packs available and being released, I expected to be able to continue to play as my character, especially since those expansions allow you to level up even further than the original game would allow. So when I played through this once, I figured I'd be able to go and finish exploring a bit more, but that is not the case.
On that note another con is that Level Up only goes to level 20 within the main game. I found this kind of annoying/deceiving because the perks in the level up sequence were never ALL available to me, so I thought I could keep getting more experience and leveling. This is not true, it stops at 20. However, the perks you get in the level up sequence are awesome. I LOVE this feature of the game. The things you get to do are incredibly useful and it's actually very hard to choose which perk you want to take.
In conclusion this is one of the better games I've played. Despite some of the cons, the pros far outweigh the cons. One of the only ways they could improve this game is allowing split screen co-op so that my friends and I could play together at my house. If you are a fan of a post apocalyptic environment and RPG's, Fallout 3 is basically a dream come true.
Scientific Note: One thing I liked about the limited edition pack was the art book that came with it. In there I read that the developers were fully aware that a wasteland seen in Fallout existing after a Nuclear War is totally incorrect. While I do enjoy the wasteland environment, I knew scientifically that when you have nuclear radiation things usually grow back more lush than before. It doesn't permanently wipe everything out. I'm glad the developers took the time to note this fact in the book. That extra book also has incredible storyboard art and is a beautiful thing to look through.