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Old 11-03-2008, 09:39 AM   #1
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[360/PS3/PC] - Fallout 3 Review

Fallout 3 Review

Title: Fallout 3
Platform: 360/PS3/PC
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
MSRP: $59.99 (360/PS3/PC), $79.99 (360 CE/PS3 CE/PC CE)
Editor: Michael 'DoctorFinger' Chauvet

Total game time as of publication:13:43
Level at publication:7

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What's Hot: Engrossing open world gameplay with a character who you can really tailor to your particular play style; tons of interesting weapons and items to play around with.

What's Not: I hope you like gunmetal gray, rust red and sere brown, because you'll be seeing those colors a lot in Fallout 3; the color palette is almost painfully monochromatic.
Let's get it out of the way right off the bat. In the lead-up to the release of Bethesda's Fallout 3 a lot of people referred to it derisively as "Oblivion with guns." The comparisons are inevitable, and not completely unwarranted. At one point while trekking overland I came over a ridge to see a big wall standing aside a lake, a shot that could have come right out of the capital region in Oblivion, but then you notice the differences. There is the mangled jungle gym with a giant mutant cockroach skittering under it and the water is a dead, ashen color instead of the brilliant blue you expect. Then you see a subway station with a very familiar name: Pennsylvania Avenue. You turn a corner and see a crumbling tower in the distance, only to realize it's the Washington Monument. It hits you then that this is not some cobbled together fantasy world, but in fact the festering ruins of a post-nuclear Washington D.C. Welcome to Fallout 3.


So pretty, and yet also so blow'd up. It's like a vacation flier from Hell

You begin the game literally at the moment of your birth, where you choose the gender and appearance of your character. You then make a few quick jumps forward in time where you pick which stats and skills you'll focus on, all while learning about life inside of Vault 101. You're told no one ever leaves or enters the Vault, but after a few story twists which I won't divulge you end up on the Outside searching for your father with only your PIP-BOY 3000 data device for company. The wilds of the Capital Wasteland manage to evoke most of the major post-apocalyptic touchstones. The Mad Max/Waterworld-like village built from the remains of a train yard and populated by duster clad Sheriffs. The subway tunnel that suddenly erupts in a wave of zombie-esque Ghouls. Giant insects and super mutants roam the desolation along with raiders and slavers. To fight them off you come upon a wide variety of often unconventional weaponry: BB Guns, old Chinese assault rifles and police batons will sit in your inventory alongside cannons that shoot junk, laser pistols and Mini-Nukes.

Fallout 3's gameplay is a blend of traditional western RPG elements - a blank slate character whom you can mold as you please - with a first person perspective. You create and repair your items, trek across an open world and you can spend as much, if not more, time on side quests as you do on your main journey. But owing to its perspective, the game can feel very action oriented at times. In fact you could choose to play pretty much the entire game like a first person shooter, running and gunning against your opponents, dodging fire as you go. Generally though, you'll be making extensive use of the V.A.T.S. system. Using V.A.T.S. freezes the action and gives you a chance to direct your shot against a specific body part, potentially crippling it. Against most enemies you'll just aim right for the head or chest, but when battling bosses and other tough encounters a crippled leg or arm can make all the difference. More powerful weapons tend to use more Action Points, the currency of the VATS system, so there's a constant strategic trade-off between the different classes of weapons. In fact I think Fallout 3's sublime weapon balancing is one of the real understated strengths of the game.

Every single weapon functions a little differently, and they all have their strengths. I've spent most of the game to date using a basic hunting rifle. This is not because it's the most powerful, or has the longest range, or the quickest firing rate, but because it has the most plentiful ammo. I have better weapons, but I reserve them for the more challenging fights. Your character's health is also subject to similar balances. You can't just rest anywhere for a couple hours to restore your hit points (although resting in a bed will heal you completely). You can however heal up just by drinking water. The catch? Almost all water - and almost all food for that matter - is highly irradiated. You can survive a pretty good number of rads before the negative effects begin to show up, but if you don't clear your radiation level occasionally (either using addictive drugs or a quick but expensive visit to a clinic) you'll begin to fall apart from radiation poisoning. You can save yourself, but it's always at a cost.


The V.A.T.S. system: mayhem and dismemberment reduced to a statistical ratio

Like most RPGs you'll spend a lot of time talking to people across the land. As is the trend nowadays you can choose to walk the path of a saint or sinner. Being polite, helpful and just increases your Karma score; rudeness, theft and wanton destruction drags your Karma score down. Your Karma score - good, neutral or bad - does affect some gameplay elements, in particular which groups will attack you on sight, but for the most part it feels like you're making a personal choice than any drive towards one side or the other. While traveling I discovered what is for me the biggest divergence from Oblivion: barriers. There are a lot of outright impenetrable obstacles in Fallout 3. You'll be chugging along towards your goal only to find yourself in sort of urban box canyon, trapped on three sides by collapsed buildings. Usually this just means a little backtracking, but often you'll find yourself heading all the hell the way back to your destination trying to find a way across that mountain range of fallen structures. Usually when you find yourself in that situation, you'll find an underground Metro station nearby which will grant passage to the other side. Inside of these stations and tunnels the game can sometimes become almost a survival horror title, as waves of Ghouls run at you screeching and clawing.

Apparently the Ghouls' blood is comprised mostly of highly pressurized nitro glycerin

Presentation wise the game is somewhat hampered by its setting. The color palette is almost universally drab, as befits a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Color is almost totally absent from most areas; the world is almost uniformly gray, brown and dark. It's also very, very dark. Even with the brightness settings jacked up to the max, it can be really hard to see what's going on unless you're playing in total darkness. This is particularly irritating when looking for items, which tend to be strewn about the environment and usually don't register well visually. This is more realistic - in real life usable items generally don't glow - but a little extra glow or shine around an item would have been nice. The developers made great use of the audio in the game. You can pick up occasional radio broadcasts on your PIP-BOY, which range from distress calls in the wilds to patriotic marches played off an old vinyl disc. You'll often hear the enemies before you see them, I found myself using the audio cues to locate hidden foes more and more as I played through the game. Oh, and just in case you think that 'M' rating is unwarranted, checkout the screenshot above. You'll regularly send limbs and heads flying about in a jet-propelled cloud of blood, usually in glorious slow motion.

Ultimately Fallout 3 is a very appealing time sink of a game. The sheer freedom you have can be a little daunting at times, but overall it feels more focused than Oblivion did. The changes made to that title's leveling system are almost uniformly for the better, and make the overall experience more even keeled. The challenge level remains at a fairly constant level which keeps things fun but not frustrating. The quirky humor of the classic Fallout games doesn't really come through too often here, but when it does it's a hoot.

Score: 4 out of 5 CoGs


Michael says: "Fallout 3 is not without flaws, and at times it very much feels like "Oblivion with guns." But it's still an addictive and fun RPG with a bleakly wicked sense of humor. Bethesda learned a number of lessons from Oblivion and they've applied many of them here. It won't win over many new adherents to this style of RPG - sometimes you feel a little unfocused - but anyone who enjoys RPGs or has an open mind about them should have fun trekking through the world of Fallout 3"

- Review this title yourself over at Play It Review It, part of the CoG Network

*Note - Review based upon 360 version of game
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Old 11-03-2008, 11:20 AM   #2
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Nice review as always. I actually think I'll hold out for the inevitable GOTY edition with DLC included and at a lower price point.
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Old 11-03-2008, 11:26 AM   #3
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Good review. Did it feel like missions had more of an impact on the story elements than in Oblivion? Was playing a bad guy very different from a good guy, or do you get funneled towards a predetermined ending anyway?

How is the voice acting? Overall sound? Any glitches?
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Old 11-03-2008, 11:32 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Telefrog View Post
Good review. Did it feel like missions had more of an impact on the story elements than in Oblivion? Was playing a bad guy very different from a good guy, or do you get funneled towards a predetermined ending anyway?

How is the voice acting? Overall sound? Any glitches?
As I said, I haven't beaten the game yet. I have less than 14 hours, so I know nothing of the ending.

The VO is pretty vanilla, like Oblivion. But, my opinion of it may be colored by the unmitigated creepiness of the NPCs, with their dead, dead eyes.
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Old 11-03-2008, 11:43 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by DoctorFinger View Post
The VO is pretty vanilla, like Oblivion. But, my opinion of it may be colored by the unmitigated creepiness of the NPCs, with their dead, dead eyes.
Is it at least more varied than Oblivion? Are there more than 5 voice actors?
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Old 11-03-2008, 11:50 AM   #6
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Is it at least more varied than Oblivion? Are there more than 5 voice actors?
Never played through Oblivion, but MANY characters here are voiced by the same actors, which can be a little annoying. My main complaints about the game were character interaction and the shooting mechanic. Mass Effect really raised the bar for character interaction in an RPG, both with graphics and having your protagonist speak, but in Fallout many of the characters feel cookie cutter and souless. Liam Neeson is awesome, and demonstrates how a great VA can bring a character to life. The shooting mechanic feels a little loose to be relied upon in tense situations, so much so the I typically rely entirely on VATS, which is great, but I would like there to be a better mix of the two.

I'm glad you point out your level and playtime from the outset, but I question the validity of the review seeing as you haven't sampled most of what it has to offer... This really constitues your impression, more than a full review. (Still a good job.) Things like overall balance and plot should definitely factor into your impressions, and you really aren't in a position to speak to either issue as of yet.

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Old 11-03-2008, 11:54 AM   #7
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The shooting mechanic feels a little loose to be relied upon in tense situations, so much so the I typically rely entirely on VATS, which is great, but I would like there to be a better mix of the two.
I felt the same way until my small guns got near 90. It's maxed now and I kill animals and robots without using VATS, it's faster and I hit as I expect to. I still use VATS for humanoid targets, especially now that I have the grim reaper perk.
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Old 11-03-2008, 11:30 AM   #8
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12 hours in or so. And for me the flaws seem kinda negligible compared to the sheer awesomeness of it all. I don;t think it's too drab, its its the content matter perfectly, and for some reason I think the game does it in a very pretty way, due too lighting and such. It's pretty hard though, but maybe that's because I'm not used to the mechanics.

I just love having a world like Oblivion again. Put 130 hours in that. I will put a lot in this as well.

Love the audio, very atmospheric. Voices lack a bit of umph though, but I expected that of Bestheda.
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Old 11-03-2008, 08:51 PM   #9
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12 hours in or so. And for me the flaws seem kinda negligible compared to the sheer awesomeness of it all.
That's how I felt, as you'll all be able to see in my review in the upcoming issue of EGM, in which I gave the game a VERY HIGH SCORE.

Still a lot of games coming and stuff I haven't played yet, but right now Fallout 3 is definitely my top choice for game of the year.

Oh, also, hello, Colony of Gamers.
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Old 11-03-2008, 09:06 PM   #10
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Oh, also, hello, Colony of Gamers.
Kef! I was wondering if you'd make it! Fantasticar.
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Old 11-03-2008, 09:11 PM   #11
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Kef! I was wondering if you'd make it! Fantasticar.
I was slow to get registered on here because thing's have been crazy busy, but I've been reading the site since launch.
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Old 11-03-2008, 09:22 PM   #12
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That's how I felt, as you'll all be able to see in my review in the upcoming issue of EGM, in which I gave the game a VERY HIGH SCORE.

Still a lot of games coming and stuff I haven't played yet, but right now Fallout 3 is definitely my top choice for game of the year.

Oh, also, hello, Colony of Gamers.
It'll be nice to read what you wrote about it then.

I beat the game the other day and I really didn't care about the ending that I got. If there are different endings based on what sidequests you do then it's a good thing I reloaded an earlier save to snag a bobblehead I missed since I started to do sidequests that I hadn't done yet. The next is spoilered since there are some people that haven't finished the game.
For some reason I figured that I'd be able to keep questing with my character after I finished the game but that's not the case. Kinda makes sense since I ended up sacrificing myself, but still, what a downer that the character that I created dies after a mere 19 years of life.
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Old 11-04-2008, 02:34 PM   #13
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That's how I felt, as you'll all be able to see in my review in the upcoming issue of EGM, in which I gave the game a VERY HIGH SCORE.

Still a lot of games coming and stuff I haven't played yet, but right now Fallout 3 is definitely my top choice for game of the year.

Oh, also, hello, Colony of Gamers.
Well, hello to you too. Been a while.
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Old 11-04-2008, 02:49 PM   #14
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Well, hello to you too. Been a while.
You know you missed me.
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Old 11-03-2008, 11:33 AM   #15
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Umm... When it's too dark to see, hold down on 'B' TAB or the PS3 equivalent to turn on the backlight of the PipBoy. It's your flashlight. It will draw attention to you, but it will also allow you to look around. Also, anywhere you get boxed into will generally allow you to fast travel out of (assuming you walked though a sewer to get there).

I thought the water mechanic is interesting, but Stimpacks are VERY available, which negates it.
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Old 11-03-2008, 11:44 AM   #16
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I know about the PIP boy light, but I had the same issue with Oblivion, to the point that at time I literally couldn't play it during the morning because my living room didn't have blackout shades.
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Old 11-03-2008, 11:46 AM   #17
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Nice job on the review. I like how you disclose both your play time and level at the outset, I think every review should do something similar.

Also, on the flashlight thing, I didn't realize I had a flashlight until I was 7 hours in
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Old 11-03-2008, 12:34 PM   #18
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Nice job on the review. I like how you disclose both your play time and level at the outset, I think every review should do something similar.

Also, on the flashlight thing, I didn't realize I had a flashlight until I was 7 hours in
WUH?!?! There's a flashlight??? Where is this at?
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Old 11-03-2008, 11:46 AM   #19
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33 hours in my game so far, probably going to be my GotY. The audio as a whole is disappointing to me, the guns sound great but nothing else really shines. The voice acting is pretty good, but it is distracting when you recognize a voice from Oblivion. I think the visuals are amazing. I like the darkness, gives me a chance to drool over the black level on my display. I do agree it can be a little too dark in some areas even with the Pipboy light on. My only real beef with the visuals is that odd lighting that was also present in Oblivion where things get washed out in brighter areas.

I find myself caring a lot about the choices I make and how I talk to people. I started out good but I ended up being totally evil at lvl 20 just by doing what I would do in all these situations. It will be interesting to see if that changes by the end of the game, perhaps I will end up neutral or good. There are a lot of quests and some really cool "hidden" things to acquire. Damn, I wish I was at home playing right now.
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Old 11-03-2008, 12:09 PM   #20
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My only gripe with the game is that the radio stations are too repetitive.
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