Monday, December 22, 2008

Fallout 3 Review

Since it's been awhile, instead of editing my impression and tacking on a review score, I'm going to write a fresh review for Fallout 3. Now, you might be asking yourself, why did it take so long to write this review? Why'd it take so long for me to finish the game? You might notice that I snuck in a Gears of War 2 review, so you'd correctly assume that I played through Gears of War 2. I can't honestly say that's the hold up, though.

The truth is, Fallout 3 is simply that long. Or, at least it can be.

As I mentioned in my impressions, the game begins with your birth in Vault 101, some 200 years after a nuclear war has left much of America a radioactive wasteland. As you grow up in the Vault, you determine your appearance and gender, your basic attributes, and your skills. One day, your father has mysteriously vanished, and you decide to leave the vault and find him. Upon exiting, you're essential thrust into the game with the basic tutorial information you got from growing up int he vault, but with no real idea where to go, what to do, or what you're going to encounter.

While this incredible sense of freedom had Oblivion sort of unplayable for me, it seems to work a lot better for Fallout. I wandered around Washington D.C. and the surrounding area for nearly two weeks, going from a level 1 character to about a level 14 character (20 is the maximum) without even trying to advance the main quest. It was just that much fun to see what was out there. You'll see a great assortment of locations, including a lot of the famous tourist attractions in D.C, and you'll meet a lot of strange people and enemies. If you'd rather though, you can stick to the main quest and finish the game in a few hours. Most people will want to explore, but the world they give you to explore is so large that it's actually doubtful that most people will see everything in one playthrough of the game. How much you want to explore, how you build your character, and how you play the game is up to you. Max your unarmed combat, and be a martial arts master. Max your sneak, and put grenades in people's pants. Help everyone you meet and be a paragon of virtue, or kill them while they're sleeping and be a scourge of the Wasteland. The game gives you the total freedom to play however you want.

That freedom does lead to a few issues, though. For example, early in the game you'll be directed on a main quest that will advance the plot of the game... and simply by finding another town and talking to some people in it, you can skip the entire quest. Should you happen to try to go back and complete it, they'll act like none of the later stuff has happened yet, but if you continue to ignore it other characters in the game will behave as if you already complete that quest.

The game has a few other bugs. Occasionally, objects or enemies will be stuck in floors or walls. Sometimes you'll be told that you leveled up, but you won't get the benefits for a little while. From time to time, the game even crashes (I'm playing the PC version, so for all I know the game is a little more stable on the Xbox 360 or PS3), although for me it usually crashes from the launcher or the main menu. Only maybe once or twice did it crash during the actual game. Fortunately, the game autosaves very often, so you'll almost never need to repeat anything because of a crash.

Fallout 3 is also a little on the easy side. By level 20, if you found a lot of books and bobbleheads, especially if you have a high Intelligence score, it's pretty easy to max out a lot of stats. Also, while there are more powerful enemies as you work your way out from Vault 101, there's no real boss enemies. So, at the end of the game, equipped with good armor and weapons, with a solid supply of stimpacks in your pocket, you can breeze your way to the ending.

All of these issues are easily forgivable though once you really start getting into the game. Fallout 3's world is full of little details and dark humor that have the game exuding more atmosphere than last year's hit Bioshock. Intuitive character building, a solid combat system that can work either for FPS fans or RPG fans, and just enough plot to hold the game together ultimately make Fallout 3 my top choice for Game of the Year.

Final score: A+

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