Fallout 3



Genre:   Role-playing game

Developer:   Bethesda Game Studios

Publisher:    Bethesda Softworks

Released:  October 2008

PC Requirements:   Windows XP / Vista, 2.4 GHz Intel Pentium 4 Processor, 1 GB RAM (XP) 2 GB RAM (Vista), Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 512MB RAM (NVIDIA 6800 or better/ATI X850 or better)





by Drizzt


The history...

War. War never changes. It has been many years since we heard Ron Pearlman first utter these words in the introduction to the first of Interplay's post-apocalyptic games: Fallout. In the game, we were greeted with a destroyed world where the remnants of human life barely managed to scrape by. But time passes, and ten years after Fallout 2, Bethesda Softworks released the much-anticipated Fallout 3, which has been on the lips of many gamers for some time now.

Same premise, new game?

As anyone interested in the series knows, the original idea was to develop Van Buren, supposedly the sequel to Fallout 2, but this never came to pass. Instead Bethesda acquired the license and began a major overhaul of the entire game, going back to square one. The game was to be built on the engine from the extremely successful Oblivion, incorporate a 3D perspective and not be the same kind of turn-based action we all grew to love (or despise) in the first games. This proved to split the fans of the game into two major camps – the old-school fans who detested the changes, and the more open-minded gamers who did not really oppose them and stayed their judgment. So, did the third installation of the series become a revolution in the First Person Shooter/Role-Playing Game world, or is it simply “Oblivion with guns”?

First of all, I would like to point out that I have always been one of the aforementioned hardcore fans, who scoffed at what I felt was a travesty done to the Fallout license by Bethesda. A first-person game that can also be played in real-time? Surely this must be a disaster. This would be an appropriate time to eat one's hat I guess, because even if Fallout 3 does have its fair share of problems it's anything but a disaster.

What the future holds?

For any newcomers to the series I can divulge the basic premise of the Fallout universe. In a retro/sci-fi (think 50s music and style coupled with fusion-driven cars and automated robots) United States of America, tensions over the last remaining resources on Earth drew the world into an obliterating nuclear war in the 21st century. This has always been the trademark of the games; a stark contrast between a positive radiant society and total devastation. Before this occurred, however, a fictional company called Vault-Tec was contracted by the U.S. Government to construct large underground vaults to house the population in case of a nuclear war. As in the earlier games, the story revolves around such a vault. Without saying too much, the player is eventually forced to leave his homestead -- Vault 101 -- in search of a missing father amidst the Washington, D.C. ruins.

When one sees real light for the first time, it is from a rocky hill overlooking a desolate landscape with charred ruins, abandoned makeshift shacks, fizzling vending machines and the occasional gust of wind which strikes up a cloud of dirt. The first time, it is a quite humbling and exhilarating experience. This feeling is something that remains, a reminder that you really are no more significant than a bug that has managed to worm its way out into the desert. Whenever you are exploring ruins of a hospital, remote power stations or small villages where settlers have tried to carve out an existence for themselves, there is a constant depressing atmosphere over it all. One special location deserving an honourable mention is the town of Minefield. When exploring the homes and finding the charred skeletons of man and wife intertwined in bed as well as that of a child in another room, this atmosphere is more present than ever. Also deserving a mention is the Grisly Diner, because it is a testimony to how desperate some human beings have become in this new world.

A brave new world

The story itself is rather uninteresting, and definitely nowhere near as engaging as in the prequels. But it is on the other hand nothing more than a reason to explore the rich world laid out before us. The locations are as varied as the people inhabiting them. A makeshift town, a tower full of snobs acting as if the war never happened, underground military bases, raider encampments, underground railroads and so on. Most of these locations are very detailed and one often finds it hard to decide which route to go, because it would be a shame to miss something. Some of these locations have their place in quests and the main story, while others are simply there to reinforce the atmosphere. It can be an abandoned shack with a diary detailing the last gruesome moments of the owner's life or a clue to something else possibly of interest to the player. The only complaint would be how much traveling one has to do in the ruined subway system of D.C. At first it's quite exciting gunning down feral ghouls in damp tunnels, but it quickly gets old when you realize it's really the only way to many places in D.C. Downtown.

Meet the survivors and settlers...or dispose of them

As far as enemies goes, there's really nothing to complain about in terms of diversity. One will encounter ghouls, deathclaws, mutated creatures (such as giant scorpions and mole rats), super mutants, robots, Enclave soldiers and, above all, raiders (who seem to repopulate at a disturbing rate). What is somewhat annoying is that there are specific places where these will respawn after a certain number of days. Of course there should be new foes to fight after some time or the game would become a very boring one, but is even a small variation of the enemies too much to ask for? The members of the raider band who consistently keep returning to the Jury Street Metro station after the previous groups have been wiped out for the tenth time really need to have their heads checked. Strangely enough, no enemies inside buildings will respawn. This is really a shame, because one of the most exciting fire fights I had was inside the Capitol Building, dodging super mutants and mercenaries at the same time.

Fighting and skills

The fighting itself is done through a hybrid of turn-based action and real-time action. The VATS-system is reminiscent of the aiming system of the older games, allowing for aiming at more specific body parts. Doing so will of course cost action points (which regenerate over time). Even if VATS is a welcome break from the real-time action (which is really mediocre and not above the standard for the genre) it has two major letdowns; the animations and the areas to aim at. First off, the animations are exciting the first ten times you see them, but after that they're no more than an annoyance that has to be endured. I would have welcomed an option to disable them, or at least speed them up. Secondly, where there were previously seven areas to aim for, there are now only five. Where did the ability to aim for the eyes and groin go? Also, some weapons feel (especially the Minigun) ridiculously underpowered when compared to those used in VATS, so the only feasible option is to use them in real-time combat. Personally, I would have preferred an all-out turn-based game because, as it is now, one uses all the action points and then one runs around waiting until they have all been regained to use VATS again.

As far as skills go, these can be used to (for example) lockpick containers or hack computer terminals. This can be fairly useful, but in the later part of the game ammunition and other supplies are in such abundance that one often barely feels motivated to take the time to pick a lock. What is more interesting is the ability to hack computers and see personal e-mails and notes that can be of use. There are usually four basic ways to acquire something – pick a lock, steal a key, hack a computer terminal or use the daunting charismatic powers of the player (which requires a high speech skill). Despite this, there is rarely more than one way to solve a quest, and few really interesting and fun side quests. Most are of the nature of finding something or someone and bringing it back.

What about allies?

Also, there really aren't any factions for you to join, as there have been previously. In Fallout 2, you could become a made man of several mafia families, a slaver (taking part in slaving raids), a member of the Brotherhood of Steel, member of the rangers, sheriff and many, many more. In comparison, the options and paths available in Fallout 3 suffer from what appears to be a lack of imagination. A game shouldn't really be compared to its prequels, but in this case it is inevitable.

Graphics and audio

The graphics overall are well done, while not superb. A longer line of sight would be desirable, as the textures at a long distance can look quite bulky and ugly. The game also suffers from the same horrible facial animations as Oblivion, only slightly improved. The dialogue is probably the biggest technical letdown in Fallout 3. Even if it was impossible to shift away from using “talking heads” (close-ups of faces during voice-overs), these could have been much better. I would even go so far as to say that the dialogue with talking heads in the first game was superior. The script was better, the response from different characters was more interesting and there was much more to say. This is not only true for essential characters but for minor ones as well. 

The audio is well done and the conversations between Non-Player Characters are actually quite believable this time around (even if some conversations become outdated as the story progresses). This means that we won't get to hear two monologues pretending to be a conversation. The music is varied between atmospheric ambient parts and slightly more orchestral upbeat melodies. Personally, I would have preferred for them to use the ambient parts all the way, since this fits the game play and world much better. Of course there's also the option to tune in to one of the few radio stations active out in the wasteland, a very welcome feature. Through this you can hear of your exploits and, every now and then, one or other old American tune from the 50s, setting the mood perfectly. Unfortunately, I had problems with the radio feature, as the music that was played kept skipping and fizzling when I saved a game or entered a new area.


Fallout 3 shipped together with a great number of bugs, so the first thing you should do is to patch it up to the latest version. Even if some issues are left unfixed, it's still a vast improvement on the vanilla version of the game.

One final word of advice: Fallout 3 is very bloody and very violent. If you are not keen on this in games, you should look elsewhere -- because this is as gritty and bloody as it gets.

Fallout 3 is by no means as much of a masterpiece as its predecessors, but on its own it's an atmospheric game that will provide hours of entertainment and excitement. Even if you are a hardcore fan of the older games, don't let its flaws dissuade. You just might like it anyway.


July, 2009

design copyright© 2009 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index