The year is 2277, humanity has inevitably wiped out a large portion of it’s own population ironically using the weapons it made to save itself from… itself. The ruins of a civilisation now defunct fill a distant view, but what is in the distance is very much right here. Mutated people without a face to show emotions, grotesque abominations that know nothing other than to kill, and the very whirlwind like state that humanity is left to dwindle in now that the bombs have stopped falling.
Right off the bat, Fallout 3 is without a doubt a game you have to play, fusing two very different genres into one smooth package. It plays like Oblivion with a quite literally more explosive attitude; while Bethesda Softworks’ trademark RPG elements are played down, they are still most definitely there. Instead of the focus being on character interaction, story, and character building, combat takes the spotlight and rightfully so.
For the religious players of The Elder Scrolls (such as myself) and those of you who have pumped in excess of 100 hours into those games (hours well spent!) this game may at first seem infinitely bewildering. I found the opening portion of the game extensively strange, finding myself wondering “Where are my destruction spells? Where is my sword?” and it only truly hit me that this is not Oblivion the moment that I was jumping across shelve tops whilst having multiple bullets breaking the air around me.
The combat is a bizarre mix between turn-based and real-time; while for the most part real-time, hit RB and you go into “VATS”, the “Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System”, which allows you to use up “Action Points” to target various body parts with varying accuracy; for example a headshot will be harder to obtain than a torso shot, but if you want to take the risk, it may well pay off. Interestingly, you can target other parts like limbs and even the enemy’s weapon. I’m sure with some intense levelling you could shoot the gun out of an enemy’s hand before they even know you’re there – now that’s cool.
While on paper the “VATS” system may seem like a useless gimmick that would get in the way, it really doesn’t. Your action points slowly regenerate much in the same way that magika did in Oblivion, and I found myself starting a gunfight with a sneak using up all my action points, then running around free-aim to a better, closer position until my points regenerated again, in which time I would rush the enemy for one final close shot. VATS becomes a necessity with more accurate and powerful weapons like the sniper rifle and missile launcher where ammo is scarce. Even then you get a cool slow-motion close-up of the enemy when you fire - it’s worth it for that alone with the explosives.
Landscape is one thing we can always count on with Bethesda, and I say that with minimal fanboyism intended. Fallout’s world is gorgeous. One of my biggest gripes with Oblivion was there was too much repetitive woodland; you could only really appreciate the brilliance of the engine’s draw distance atop the mountains. I thank the bombs for clearing the world of the wretched trees of which we have all grown sick; there’s a wonderful balance of open land to ruined buildings with intense detail. I entered one building and a man with a few-hundred empty bottles of alcohol bottles told me how he enjoyed fucking his two girls every night, and I applauded him.
While for the most part Fallout 3 upgrades itself over Oblivion, some things have not changed, such as the animations being as stiff as ever; maybe not as bad as Morrowind, but still very stiff to today’s standards. While this can be forgiven during the slow motion moments in which an enemy is flung into the air from the force of a grenade through the wonderfully implemented Havok physics, for the most part it remains a large gripe that I cannot forgive.
I can safely say though unlike Oblivion everything is a lot livelier. There I was walking down the street (singing coom-bieedidi-dum-didi-doo!) when I found myself caught in the middle of a firefight. I immediately ducked for cover, which thankfully was with humans and not grotesque mutants. In the explosions and awesome laser shows I followed the well-armoured terminator geezers and ended up saving their arse from an absolutely massive creature resembling an ogre, which burst onto the scene much in the same way that a skinhead gang would burst into a barber’s.
Really, this game needs to be played to be believed. I’m placing bets on this as game of the year. I don’t care if your friends are hosting a sticky toffee pudding party, this game needs you to play it… now.