In the eyes of some, Fallout is a franchise that lived its entire lifespan and died with Interplay in the 90s. As far as die-hards are concerned, this game is not Fallout -it lacks the sophistication in gameplay, the freedom, and most importantly it lacks the “dark” sense of humor present in the first two games. Simply put, these are nothing but the rose-tinted sight problems of nostalgics. Fallout 3 took one of the most popular cult classic games of the 90s and transferred it almost perfectly into a format that gamers can more easily appreciate
Whereas the combat in Fallout 1 and 2 was turn based, and consequently quite frustrating from start to finish, the Elder Scrolls 3+ type combat Bethesda applied to the game makes the gameplay much more fluid, and much more immersive. Rather than asking yourself why your vault dweller – a character who had no personal backstory even despite their character description and no overall narrative, beyond your quest to replace the Vault’s water chip, that you can become involved in emotionally – is willingly letting three radscorpions try to kill him/her without flat out running for their lives, you would frequently find yourself in a situation where you would get a random encounter map, then be forced to run one turn at a time for your life as they hounded you across the map and potentially killed you. While that wasn’t game-breaking, the fact that Fallout 3 puts you in control of your fight or flight instincts makes it far more user friendly. On top of this, it’s a hybrid FPS where you control your aiming, rather than generically shooting a radroach or molerat or what have you until it dies.
The one major flaw with the first person shooter style of combat in Fallout 3, lies in the V.A.T.S system which was introduced to try and retain some of the nostalgic, turn based feeling of the original games. Essentially, if you’re bad at aiming, you can enter V.A.T.S and have the game calculate your hit chance, based on what target zone you choose on an enemy, by crunching the skill numbers for your guns against the enemy’s HP and their stats, which are affected by level. Once you level up and approach level cap, much less once you reach level cap, shooting any enemy without using V.A.T.S becomes an exercise in tedium. Enemies will always die easier if you let the cinematic autoaim do it for you – even if your skill with that gun type is 100 and that gun does 300 damage or whatever. So, after a certain point in the game you’ll start using VATS more, and more, and more – especially if you use the perk that refills your Ability Point bar if an enemy is killed while in VATS mode. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a problem, except that with the DLC, you easily reach level cap before doing even a third of the content in the game.
Fallout 3 will make you kill tens of tons of enemies at every opportunity, at almost every location on the map. Combine that with the dreadfully short main quest line and some of the more accessible side-quests you’ll likely do along the way, and you’re probably going to hit level 30 before you even finish Broken Steel. In a game with so much content, it becomes somewhat frustrating that during the course of completing it, you’ll spend the majority of your time fighting the highest tier enemies possible – like Super Mutant Overlords, Deathclaws, or Tesla and Hellfire troopers. Broken Steel specifically has a bad habit of replacing most enemy types with the “new” enemies, rather than maintainng variety, so you’ll be using a lot of stimpaks and a lot of ammo.
One of the most common complaints about the new game is that the tone, the dark sense of humor is gone. The fact is, the game is just as dark as its progenitors. Nearly everyone in the Wasteland is a scumbag or will show a propensity for being one. Many NPCs will have requests or missions that seem innocent, and will turn out to be requests to kill themselves – or, for example, an NPC will ask for a drug you have and that they are able to get on their own. They’ll take it and immediately overdose and die. One quest will ask you to set off a nuclear bomb in a city and erase it from the map – just because an old WASPy bastard doesn’t like it being on the horizon when he sits on his balcony. You may even be manipulated into killing and torturing people just for an NPCs amusement. The writing and sense of humor are still there, as long as you play the game to actually find out.
Starring the talents of Liam Neeson, Malcom McDowell, and the now unforgettable Erik Todd Dellums , the storyline is a quite normal though solid tale of trying to save the world – in this case the wasteland – and then deciding whether or not to even do it once the responsibility falls on your shoulders. Ultimately, you need not ever even do the main storyline, and you only have a few choices what ultimately happens with the main story, However, piled on top of that are dozens and dozens of quests that reveal the post-apocalyptic world and introduce you to interesting dilemmas, characters, and adventures on the way. Frankly, it’s a lot more fun than finding a water chip.
My one and only feature complaint is regarding vehicles in this game. Admittedly it doesn’t make much sense to be driving a vehicle around the downtown area, not only because there is rubble absolutely everywhere, but because there’s so much to explore that you would miss it. However, Bethesda made the game that way on purpose. You have to follow all kinds of tunnels and convuluted routes to get anywhere in the downtown area, sometimes following a winding tunnel or sewer for a mile just to get to a building located literally 100 feet from that very sewer entrance. To that end, there are dozens of motorcycle parts laying around the wasteland – used for crafting weapons or just selling. There are even cars and motorcycles laying around that seem in perfect shape. What’s worse is that the majority of those cars will burst into a nuclear fireball if you shoot them – so clearly, they still work. Oblivion had horses and the game world was a similar size, maybe even smaller. It didn’t detract from you exploring everything. It would just be a nice option to have rather than only fast travelling or running across the wasteland.
As for this version of the game, on Windows, this is one of the reasons Bethesda has become infamous for buggy games. I first played this on PS3 and the game froze when it came time to take the G.O.A.T, forcing you to restart the game if you hadn’t manually saved before that. That pales in comparison to the amount of problems with the PC version. Fallout 3 was released in October 2008, eight months before Windows 7. It does not natively support multi-core processors and even if you manually edit the configuration file to use more than one thread, there are still issues.
Ergo, the game barely works on anything newer than Vista if you have the retail, original Games for Windows Live version. Even the Steam version, which is the same game with no changes, has plenty of problems. There was a bug, for example in the pre-patch game, where it would crash every single time the game auto-saved. You had to manually save always. In addition to various driver problems, the game has problems on Windows 7 where the audio codecs the game uses to play MP3 files – meaning all the music on the radio stations – cause stuttering and you have to use a mod to tell the game to use the .wav versions of the songs, which are what it uses for the actual set top radios. Add to this a lot of oversights such as a specific quest that you have to use console commands to access if you don’t do it before you finish the main storyline, and the game is nearly unbearable when it isn’t working correctly. Bethesda can’t be blamed entirely for the game not working on Windows 7, but considering even Vista supported multi-core processors which were the norm at the time the game came out (Core 2 ring a bell, people?), there was no excuse for the way the game was designed – which was for consoles first.
Despite those technical issues on modern Windows systems, Fallout 3 is one of the best games of the seventh console generation and its technical failures are nearly overlookable for PC gamers, when considering the available mod support and debugging options. The GOTY package is a must have, hands down.