PC/Xbox 360 Review: Fallout 3

Winner of Game of the Year 2008? Most likely

Vault 101 – Jewel of the Wastes. For 200 years, Vault 101 has faithfully served the surviving residents of Washington DC and its environs, now known as the Capital Wasteland. Though the global atomic war of 2077 left the US all but destroyed, the residents of Vault 101 enjoy a life free from the constant stress of the outside world. Giant Insects, Raiders, Slavers, and yes, even Super Mutants are all no match for superior Vault-Tec engineering. Yet one fateful morning, you awake to find that your father has defied the Overseer and left the comfort and security afforded by Vault 101 for reasons unknown. Leaving the only home you’ve ever known, you emerge from the Vault into the harsh Wasteland sun to search for your father, and the truth.

Now, I never played the past Fallout games as I wasn’t a huge PC gamer when they first came out. I did however love Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, it remains one of my personal favourite games of all time. Sure, it had no online but it had a treasure chest full of gameplay to delve into, it took me a total of 36 hours to get everything…and that was with a guide. The expectations of Fallout 3 are pretty big, but I’m pleased to say that it more than delivers.

The game begins with you being born and you choose your gender and how you’ll look when you are older. Fallout 3 takes you through your early years in Vault 101, until you one day your Dad has escaped the Vault that nobody enters and nobody leaves. Your only choice is to also escape and go looking for him in the desolate wasteland that was Washington DC. Fallout 3 gives you the chance to be good, neutral or bad depending on your choices, so which will you be? An example of a moral choice is early on when you reach the town of Megaton and are asked to blow up the nuke in the middle of it. You can do this and see the lovely explosion from the great Tenpenny Tower, or you can disarm it and become a Megaton hero, though doing so will incur the wrath of Tenpenny and he’ll send out an assassin group after you.

Is Fallout 3 more than just Oblivion with guns? Oh yes. Although you will definitely see the resemblance in the form of collecting items and being over encumbered, being able to warp between visited locations and levelling up. Each time you level up, you get a chance to add skill points to a number of different skills like science, lock picking, speech and small weapons, there are others to choose from…so it’s entirely upto you how you play the game. Also when you level up you gain a perk to choose, they can include giving you an additional boost to a specific skill or give you bonuses against certain enemies, they can be very useful indeed.

Combat is where Fallout 3 is interesting. You don’t have to fight like you did in Oblivion, V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) allows you to pause the game, assess any combat situation tactically, and target the specific body parts of any enemies on screen. They’ll all be labelled with percentage rates of success and the life bar at the bottom will show you an estimate of how much damage your attack will do. It can result in some pretty gory cutscenes with heads flying off, although it’s not always 100% accurate, it all depends on your own skills with your weapons to ensure the odds of attacking successfully. It also depends on how many Action Points you have, you can’t select every limb on every enemy, you only get a number of AP to use, but they replenish quickly…it just means you have to wait a while before you can use V.A.T.S. again.

Quests are the main focus of Fallout 3. You can have multiple ones at once, although you need to specify which one you are doing to get waypoints to know where to go. You won’t be able to access them all thanks to choices such as blowing up Megaton will mean you can’t do a few specific quests that are awarded with achievements, so it’s best to be careful. There’s also quite an annoying aspect where when you finish the game, you have to reload a past save to carry on. You can’t carry on straight after the end, which is real annoying and maybe the biggest problem that the game has.

AI can be a mixed bag; the ones that follow you can be a bit idiotic, while enemy AI is very clever. I’ve died many a time thanks to the enemy having powerful weapons and a big group to fight. Enemies are well varied, from humans to super-mutants. There are some nasty ones out there, but they all die the same way…shot to the head, see it fly off and cheer. The PC version has a separate achievement list, so those who love getting those can know there are 2000 points up for grabs if you play both. Although that’s really for the hardest of hardcore gamers.

Differences between the PC and 360 versions are small but worth mentioning. The PC version looks miles better and has faster loading times, while the 360 doesn’t. The 360 version still looks amazing though, just not as good as the PC version. The PC version can also use the 360 controller to play, so if you prefer the controller to the keyboard, you can use it with ease. Visually, both games are amazing to look at and only a small number of glitches hold it back, but it doesn’t spoil what is an amazing game.

The Verdict

Fallout 3 has just so much to offer, multiple endings and a huge campaign lasting maybe 80-90 hours if you do all the side quests, hunt down the bobbleheads and so on. It’s absolutely huge when compared to the games of today; you really do get your money’s worth. Fallout 3 is my personal favourite game of 2008 thus far, so I cannot recommend this gem enough. Add it to your collection immediately.