Review: Fallout 3

Bethesda Game Studios have earned themselves a reputation for creating dynamic, gripping, and absorbing RPGs, with their fantasy RPG - Oblivion - being the most recent of them. Whilst there were some minor doubts about whether Bethesda would be the right direction for the Fallout series, the game has been well received nevertheless.

Fallout 3 scores well in almost every aspect, offering all the elements that made Oblivion shine, and more. While the game could be considered as 'Oblivion with a new face', there have been many improvements on the story, game play, and the role-playing element of the game. Fallout 3 is certainly worth picking up if you are looking for hours of interesting, well finished game play, which is sure to please even casual gamers.

It's only been out since October 30th, yet already it's received glowing reviews and plenty of positive feedback from the gaming community. It was released on the three main platforms: PC, PS3, and the Xbox 360, and available worldwide, both through retail stores and through Steam content delivery. The game was made available worldwide in two versions: the Standard edition, featuring nothing more than a disc and manual, and the Collector's Edition, which includes a Vault 'lunch-box', a "Making Of" DVD, and the concept artwork. The standard edition is available for $49.99 from Steam, and a little more in retail stores, with the Collector's Edition costing up to $30 more in some places, but fans will appreciate the extras. Two other editions were also released: Survivor Edition and Limited Editon, however these aren't available worldwide.

The game has an absorbing start, where you begin your life as a child, in one of the Vaults set up to provide protection from the nuclear war. This start provides the player with a chance to get used to the controls and interface, although for those who have played Oblivion or Morrowind, the controls and interface will be highly familiar. Fortunately, no knowledge of previous Fallout games is assumed, meaning you don't have to travel years back in gaming history just to understand the plot. It is in the beginning of the game that you decide on your character's appearance, skills and attributes, as would be expected. However, and this is what is meant by improved, unlike most RPG's seen recently, Fallout 3 prompts you to 'design' your character subtly, through clever design, rather than Oblivion, which shoves these decisions into your face before you've even had a chance to move.

After the Vault, the story begins to unfold as you enter the dirty, desolate wasteland that much of the game will continue in. Here is where things truly start to take place, as you have the ability freely to roam around the environment, although most players will go to Megaton first, an entire city (although realistically it's closer to being a town) built around a bomb, which you later have the choice of disarming, or activating. From here on, the plot depends on which quests you take, and how you approach them.

The decisions you make throughout the game have a much greater effect on your future in the game than in most RPG's. A Karma scale is used to judge what sort of character you are, but the right and wrong decisions aren't always as clear as, perhaps, Mass Effect's were. What makes this interesting is that the Karma system plays an important part in how you continue throughout the game. If you've played many RPG's before, you're probably more than aware that your decisions typically have a short term effect. This is not the case with Fallout 3, as many characters and quests are available only if your Karma meets the required level.

The inventory, statistics, and information are all made available through the 'Pip-boy', a little device that straps onto your arm, given to you on your 10th birthday. It provides you with all the health information you could need, such as the current health condition of your body parts and your radiation level. In the 'Data' category you will find the map, radio (although it's nothing special normally), and quests. The interface is quite clean and simple, although some would argue that the Pip-boy is over-crowded with information, and not many people would guess that the torch is switched on by holding down the same key used to open the Pip-boy.

Unlike Oblivion, in Fallout 3 your character advances levels based on experience points. Your attributes (such as Small Guns, Big Guns, Medicine etc.) can be improved by using points you gain after level up. Also, after doing this you can choose a perk. Typically these further increase specific attributes, and become more useful as the levels increase. There is a level cap of 20, which is slightly limiting, although it does mean you spend less time hunting around in monster filled areas, and more time playing through the quests. As your character rises through the levels, your abilities do too. Some of these abilities are useful, such as creating higher quality guns, others less useful. Overall though, the level system provides functionality, but not so much that the game becomes dependant on it.

The entire game is built using the Gamebyro engine, as was Oblivion. This means that players can expect long distance views, and varying terrains. Some of the less significant textures are a little unsatisfying, but overall it provides a good balance between large scale and high quality. The facial textures are much better than Oblivion, where every person looked of similar shaped face, and lighting has been significantly improved too. This comes at a cost of performance, naturally, but it's nowhere near as demanding as Crysis; if you can play Oblivion in reasonable settings you can rest assured Fallout 3 will play well.

Performance is overall smooth and there's a good balance between little stuttering in game and short loading times. Occasionally performance does drop when there's a lot on screen, often in cities, but those with multi-core processors and most recent graphics cards should be able to play the game in most, if not all its glory. Don't expect beautiful textures, mind, often the textures become blurry when you get close, but overall it's not much to complain about. When you consider that Oblivion was released in 2006, the graphics in Fallout 3 aren't anything to write home about, but they fulfil their role well enough to create the atmosphere needed, and there are still some moments where you'll be left amazed by the view. The audio in the game is ample, although it should be noted that, unlike Oblivion, every main character has a different voice.

This review was written based on the PC version, but there haven't been many differences between the versions. The rig consisted of an Intel Quad Core Q6600 (Overclocked to 3.0 GHz), with 2GB DDR2 RAM, and one Nvidia GeForce 8800GT 512Mb. When run in maximum settings, the game rarely dropped below 60, even in cities, which was impressive. Some jittering was noticed with the screen, but it's unclear what the cause of that is. For those running on less powerful machines, the game should scale well with a little adjustment of settings, although it should be noted that the minimum requirements are moderate. The game doesn't have many options for tweaking the graphics through the menu, but a little peak inside the configuration files reveals that there will undoubtedly be tweaks available for those desperate to play the game regardless of graphics.

In conclusion, Fallout 3 is definitely worth a look at; the game appeals to both the casual and hardcore gamers. Whilst it is debatably Oblivion for 2008, there really wasn't much to work on in Oblivion, and what there was has been noted and improved. Fallout 3 has all it takes to be a mainstream, yet special RPG, that appeals to a wide audience. Even those who have not played many RPGs before, or even none at all, will feel comfortable playing what could only be described as one of this year's most remarkable games. The price may be a little high for the special editions, but it's worth every penny when you consider that this is at the top end of video games.

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23 Comments

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I played a few hours of this last night, and I'm impressed. I've not played a Fallout game before, so I have no knowledge/preconceptions about the franchise. I do however like Oblivion a lot (I am in the process of playing through and doing all the side quests and ignoring the main quest). So far, two thumbs up from me.

I have a problem, maybe other people have seen this. every time i load the game, I can play for maybe anywhere between 5-30 minutes, and then it will just lock up on me, and I need to CTRl+ALt+delete and terminate the fallout3 process. I've updated to the recent patch, and nothing.

my specs:
Q6600
8GB PC6400 RAM
Gigabyte P45-DS3L board
EVGA 260 SSC running any of the last 3 driver sets (I've tried everyhing from 177-180 beta's
soundblaster X-fi gamer
Vista x64 ultimate.

Thanks!

A lot of people have mentioned this same problem. I recieve this problem too sometimes, although it only ever happens when I'm in a toilet, perhaps this is just a coincidence that it's happened every time.

I haven't found a solution as of yet, but lots of people have reported the same problem. I think it's a matter of sitting and waiting.

Sazz181 said,
A lot of people have mentioned this same problem. I recieve this problem too sometimes, although it only ever happens when I'm in a toilet, perhaps this is just a coincidence that it's happened every time.

I haven't found a solution as of yet, but lots of people have reported the same problem. I think it's a matter of sitting and waiting.

sucks, cuz the game is fun, guess just have to wait for the next patch. I did try uninstalling and re-installing, that made me able to play a little longer, but still happens...have to save every few minutes in case it crashes

I'm on my second play-through now on my fairly old PC with an old AMD 3500+ Single Core CPU, a nVida 7800gs and 2gb of ram and have it at just over medium settings at 1024x768 and it's running and looking pretty sweet.

I am really enjoying this game, I'm finding it to be a surprisingly tightly woven story, even with the side-quests and am finding it highly entertaining at the differences between being Mother Theresa on my first play and baby-eating on this one :-D

I've got an AMD Athlon 2800+, an nVidia 7800gs and 2g of ram and I've got the settings at about med/high with res set to 1920/1200. On my new 25.5" LG widescreen it's beautiful.

Big difference in playing a game like this on my old 19" CRT and the new 25.5ws LCD.

I didn't care for the game that much. It just didn't interest me at all. The storyline was in my opinion kind of dry, and slow in development. I played the game for about an hour after you got out of the vault 101 and at that point I was done. I don't know, maybe I needed to play the game for a bit longer. It just wasn't getting and keeping my attention to keep me playing on.

i agree but i'm going to play some more. perhaps i need to play it on 360 on my 50-inch plasma and surround sound so i'm more immersed in the game.

I've noticed that is the problem with all Bethesda games, at least for me. It starts out great but it quickly becomes boring. Bethesda games have a slight issue with everything looking the same everywhere. Also I've found that too much freedom can lead to boredom because you get sudden urges to explore and walk hours without nothing happening while trying to find something...

And how exactly is it that Fallout fails? From what I've seen (yes, I own the game) this is better and more complex than both fallout 1 and 2 combined!

I doubt you've even played the game. You're just another one of those fanboys that won't accept a game because your favorite company didn't make it. C'mon, the world has enough of the likes of you. Cheer up, and enjoy an awesome game!

Yeah very cool game, I think the only 2 things you cant do in this game is kill children and theres no minigame for when you get it on with the prostitutes.

I can see this game having replayability with all the different choice available for good v bad and some different options for M v F characters. Having the level cap set at 20 also means you wont get to try everything you might like on your first pass.

Hours of gameplay in this even if you only played it once, unfortunately this game has taken up too much of my time recently so I've turned to cheats to finish it as the storyline is quite interesting, nevertheless still v.happy with the purchase. I have been lucky though and have had no real crashes/bug issues as some ppl have come across.

You do realise, this is the Oblivion engine. VERY easily mod-able. It is not unlikely that added content later will allow you to kill children and even have the "minigame" with a the prostitutes lol... I suspect that a nude patch will release in less than a month >.>

Patch to kill children on the edited versions of Fallout 2 were there. Wouldn't doubt it making a comeback once more.

There is already a patch to add some partial nudity (breasts) to the game.

I'm only using 2 mods at the moment. One to add music from Fallout 1, 2, and BoS, and the other to make the Chinese pistols on par with the 10mm.

I assume you're talking about the killing children part?

For the Child Killing perk obviously lol. I don't think that's in 3 at all, but it won't be long before it is.

May seem pretty f**ked up, but it's a f**ked up world so...

Fun as hell. Personally, I like the feel of being able to play my character however I want. Whether it's being the caring person willing to help others out or the evil sadistic a**hole who spares only the women.

My only problem with it is the same problem I had with Oblivion: I'm a pack rat. I take all. :P