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Fallout 3 review

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  • Recommended by TR
Fallout 3

Summary

Our Score:

9

Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - PS3 version reviewed.

In a way, Fallout 3 is Bioshock for the people who felt let down by Bioshock. Even more than last year's much argued over masterpiece, it's the successor to games from an older, maybe smarter era of PC gaming. Like Bioshock, it's a game that takes inspiration from period style and classic science fiction, and like Bioshock it goes heavy on narrative, dark humour and atmosphere. Also like Bioshock, it transforms many of the conventions and play mechanics of the traditional RPG in order to make a game that appeals to a wider audience. Arguably, Fallout 3 does some of this stuff better. If you felt sad or irritated that Bioshock had 'dumbed down' from System Shock 2 then you can relax about Fallout 3. This might not be the Fallout you remember, but it's far from being an FPS with light RPG elements. In fact, while the cliched description of Fallout 3 as 'Oblivion with guns' is inaccurate, this is every bit as much an RPG as The Elder Scrolls IV, and maybe even more so.

The setting, in case you don't know, is a post-apocalyptic Washington that seems to have been nuked at the height of a fifties style revival. The mix of Mad Max and McCarthy era values might seem strange, but it actually makes perfect sense. This is the America that the more paranoid Americans of the period felt and feared they might one day see, and the game has a lot of fun at the expense of fiftied ideas and idioms. As an escapee from a locked and hidden bunker, Vault 101, you begin simply trying to find your missing father, but before long you're caught up in a dozen narratives, big and small, that together paint a picture of a shattered world.

The atmosphere is as thick and heavy as an old-fashioned London smog. One of the big worries was whether Bethesda could produce a game as gorgeous as Oblivion in a setting dominated by cracked earth and concrete ruins, but the team has done so with a real flair, creating stark landscapes and fetid interiors that practically reek of catastrophe, plus a cast of superbly voiced characters that shimmer with personality. As with Bioshock, the use of period-inspired detail and music is inspired, putting weirdly familiar notes into jarringly unfamiliar settings. In terms of production design, Fallout 3 is as coherent and well-considered as games get.

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John 9

November 9, 2008, 1:47 pm

Play.com 㿄.99

life

November 9, 2008, 5:59 pm

This is a really smart review Stuart, definitely one of the better ones I've come across (and there are enough around at the moment).





Having been completely hooked on Fallout 3 since launch, I finally completed the main quest this morning, but only after some 60 odd hours of exploration, interaction and combat - none of which felt like a necessary chore as is the tendancy with some RPGs.





I think if you're the gamer who will pick this gem up and want to blitz through the main quest just seeking out the end goal, you'll miss so much of what makes Fallout 3 a great title. Exploring the capital wasteland at random and checking out every "dungeon" you come across amazingly doesn't feel like you are just revisiting small variations of the same map. Almost every one has some uniqueness to it, like it exists as part of the wider world and not just as a necessity to pick up some loot and XP to bolster your strength for the main quest.





This is something I felt Oblivion (depsite being an extremely enjoyable game) suffered quite noticably from. Here, in place of deja vu inspiring Oblivion portals and caves, we have schools, hotels, hospitals, offices, major D.C. landmark buildings, museums, factories, libraries, shops, subway stations, tunnels, shanty towns, sewers, caves and the vaults. It's really quite a wide array of places to investigate. The really cool thing for me is how they pulled this sense of variety off amidst a setting comprised almost entirely of dingy grey/brown scorched ruins... It's no mean feat.





It's hard to talk too much about without giving away things that you want others to experience for themselves, but there are some stand out moments that really define Fallout 3 for me. One is a certain epic action sequence near the end, but the one that really sticks in my mind is leaving Vault 101 for the first time early on in the game. As you walk out into the wasteland, you find yourself on a hill overlooking the remnants of the Washington D.C area, with the sun illuminating a dusty yellow sky over the horizon and a landscape of scorched ruins, rusting vehicles and an endless field of cracked rocks and roads. From the background noises of the vault that your character spent the first 19 years of his/her life in, you emerge only to the sound of the wind howling across the crumbling relics of a civilisation that is no more. It's a particularly eerie moment where you are left feeling completely alone amongst the utter devestation. For me it felt just as well crafted as being thrust out into City 17 of Half Life 2, or Andrew Ryan presenting Bioshock's Rapture in all its glory. It's that one snapshot that immediately delivers what the game's world is all about.





Aside from the character animation quirkiness that Stuart mentions, there is a complaint I've seen that the game world is slightly geographically smaller than Oblivion, but it didn't feel it to me (it's still around 16 square miles). Bethesda really have created a stunningly deep and detailed environment here... both in terms of visuals and substance. After finishing the story today, I went to find a map online to see if there were many locations I had missed out on. I was amazed to find I had put all this time and effort into the game, and still hadn't been to 3-4 of the major locations, and dozens of the smaller dungeon style areas. I didn't even stumble across Dogmeat during this play through either.





I can also understand the "Oblivion with guns" comments that are being thrown around by some people - having the same developers using the same engine for the same genre is obviously going to breed some similarties. But more than just the weaponary, the world, the plot, the characters, the artistic style, the humour, the choices and the experiences are a different beast entirely. In all respects it's a far darker game than Oblivion was.





All in all I'd recommend it very highly, but as Stuart points out, only to those who can spend more than a few hours playing it. Though it's definitely not a casual pick up and play action fest, given some investment it will give you one of the most memorable gaming experiences of recent times. The issues that do exist are completely obliterated by the quality of the overall experience... Don't miss it.

Riyad

November 9, 2008, 9:10 pm

@John - It's 㿄.99 for the PC version, not for the PlayStation 3 version that Stu reviewed. The PS3 version is 㿓.99 on Play.

Pbryanw

November 9, 2008, 11:33 pm

@life With yours and Stuarts glowing reviews, I now really want to play this game. Thanks for adding your thoughts - they were very illuminating.

Gavin Hamer

November 10, 2008, 5:15 am

Why aren't the formats available and the format reviewed stated in the header? I appreciate that the versions are now stated in bold at the top of the first page of each review now (which is a vast improvement on the old system of making people guess the version) but if you've got the price in the header, then you need the format in the header.

Matthew Bunton

November 10, 2008, 12:41 pm

Maybe it's just me but it just feels like Oblivion in a Post apocalyptic setting.

Stelph

November 10, 2008, 3:33 pm

Very good review, I agree with all Stuarts comments. It is a game that you have to put a lot of time into (I got it on launch fday from sainsburys and havent got that far through at the moment) and the animations are laughable at times, but it is such an engrossing game that I dont notice when Ive been playing for 2-3 hours at a time and I can see myself playing this for quite a long time...

DMN

November 10, 2008, 9:52 pm

Nice review. I'm about 20hours in and enjoying it more and more. It's a great game, I didn't really care for Oblivion but Fall Out 3 is right up my street.





It runs well to. (PC)

Gdub

March 4, 2009, 3:28 am

This review brings up a couple of good points as well


http://www.theonion.com/conten...

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