Now I won’t be discussing the main story as I would otherwise be spewing spoiler after spoiler out like no ones business, but I will say that it is awesome. Fallout 3 is developed by Bethesda, the same crowd that brought the excellent Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and one could argue that Fallout 3 is “Oblivion with guns”. Certainly that’s how I felt early on, and treated the game as such. You are by no means required to follow the main story under any circumstances, you’re free to explore the Wasteland at your will, though I would suggest you play a bit of the main quest. If there was to be one flaw with Fallout 3, it would be that everything can seem very overwhelming. The second you step out of the vault you can go anywhere you want and do anything you want. Unlike Oblivion, where there was a judicial system, law as we know it does not exist in the Capital Wasteland, so if you decide to break into someones house or steal something you only have to deal with them, usually by killing them. There’s no jail and the worst thing that might happen is you lose some karma.
Karma is an indication of how moral a player you are, i.e. do something to help someone or the morally right thing and your karma increases, do something that would otherwise be against the law or anything that is “wrong” and you lose karma. Your karma level can influence how people respond to you and can also dictate whether an individual is likely to come to your aid in an encounter. Gaining or losing karma extends to conversation choices as well as how you decide to tackle a quest. Many quests have alternate approaches and perspectives. For example, a quest called “Tenpenny Tower” has you enlisted to exterminate a group of ghouls who are allegedly planning an assault on the Tower. When you reach the ghouls – and after hearing their side of the story – you may decide that you are then going to help them instead, or, as the case may be you may want to find a non-violent compromise which suits both sides. The game has been excellently designed to allow for personal interpretation and appropriate execution of our own moral understandings of the situations. Quests that you undertake may also have a significant impact on other characters or locations. Very early on in the game you are given the option to wipe an entire town off the map with a nuke, and you must ask yourself if you deem that to be the best idea – morals as opposed to money.
Thankfully there are appropriate awards depending on your handling of a quest, and these could range from a person lowering their prices in their stall for you to schematics for a weapon or a permanent increase in your attributes. The versatility of the system and the array of choices and permutations available provides huge replay value. Many people, myself included, can happily confess to simply wandering the Wasteland, exploring. Exploring is rewarded in a sense, but the world is so beautifully created that you’ll find it hard not to wander at times, especially when you might see something interesting in the distance. Speaking of the graphics, there far from the best I’ve ever seen, but they are quite good, particularly given the scope of the game. Every area – particularly those relating to quests – is well designed and coloured, especially considering that the concept of a post-apocalyptic wasteland doesn’t allow for a huge variety in colour or setting. Locations are plausable, and the odd repeated feature (like similar corridors) can be forgiven. Fallout 3 has the added effect that many sources are radiated, meaning that you can’t interact with water (swim, drink) or any area that suffered recent or permanent nuclear activity without increasing your RAD count. The higher this is, the more likely you are to suffer from some degree of radiation sickness. When you’re sick, your attributes are usually negatively effected.
Fallout 3 however is not Oblivion with guns. The levelling up system and character progression are more refined, i.e. no more jumping on the spot to elevate your atheltics ability. Instead, everything you do nets you XP, be it killing someone, or picking a lock or completing a quest. Almost everything you do nets you some XP. When you level up, you can then upgrade your S.P.E.C.I.A.L., which is your skills with guns, your speech, your medicine skills etc. Each level up also lets you choose a perk, which could be anything, such as a higher resistance to radiation, or an increased chance of successfully picking a lock.
What also makes Fallout 3 unique is the V.A.T.S. system. This is related to your AP or Action Points. V.A.T.S. allows you to freeze the game and target enemies in a particular order and their particular body parts. Strategic targeting can have you knock the weapon out of their hand or make them move slower. When I first saw this in the trailers I wasn’t overly impressed, and I didn’t use it early on, but now I’ve come to appreciate it and almost use it whenever I can. The huge variety of weapons available in the game means you’ll be hard pressed to find a favourite, especially when you can make your own. You won’t understand why there’s so many bits lying around until you start collecting weapon schematics and start building.
And you’ll need plenty of weapons and to keep them in good condition if you plan to survive in the Capital Wasteland. Everywhere is frought with danger, and rarely will you avoid an encounter when travelling from one place to the next. The range of enemies changes from location to location, for example Super Mutants will be all over the Capital, particularly in the center, and the further out you go into the Wasteland the more likely you are to encounter wild animals and such. Raiders are a constant threat whereever you go and as you make a bigger name for yourself, you may just find that someone has put a bounty on your head, making travelling that extra bit dangerous.
Fallout 3 is an incredible game with tonnes of game time and a thoroughly satisfying experience. While it can seem very slow at the beginning, it won’t be long till you find yourself wanting to enter the Wasteland for just a couple of more minutes (or hours) to visit every far reaching corner and uncover the secrets hidden beneath the Earth. Not to mention the opportunities to earn all the Trophies and Achievements for your profile. The atmosphere and the world Bethesda have created is truly something that must be experienced, and once that disk is put into your console, it’ll be hard to take it back out.
The game looks great, though not as good as the PC version. The limit of the colour palette seems non-existent, and each area is beautifully detailed and living.
The game is fun, no doubt about it, but it can seem a little slow at times or even uneventful in places you might expect to be. Nevertheless, the way the game allows you to choose how to play is certainly a plus.
Really, really good and once you get into it, you won't want to put the controller down till you've seen it through to the end.
While everything looks great, the same can't be said for overall performance. There are strange glitches at times involving NPCs there's times when I've felt the game didn't feel as good as it looked. Much of it can be forgiven given the scale of the game.
Given that you can play that game in anyway at any pace you want, and the freedom to explore the Wasteland at your leisure, there's hours and hours to be spent wandering aimlessly uncovering the secrets of the Capital.