by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Humanity’s struggle to survive is apparent everywhere and conveyed so well that it gets under your skin. I often found myself compelled not to take a reward after freeing a prisoner from his mutant captor, leaving him with the little supplies that he possessed so that he would have a chance to survive in the Wastelands. That is not the only moment that Bethesda’s team successfully triggered my emotions and some of the choices presented by the game were downright difficult to make. More often than not, you will have to make these decisions when you are low on supplies and in need of a restock on Stimpacks (health) and RadAway (decreases your radiation level). Without a sufficient supply of these two items you will not survive for very long. Wuss that I am, I keep ending up with my Karma through the roof and my supplies low, however. Fortunately, the game rewards good Karma with the occasional offering from settlement inhabitants.
Weapons and items such as armour and headgear break easily and need to be repaired regularly. This can be done by NPCs with a repair skill or you can fix stuff yourself by combining the parts from two of the same items. Your repair skill affects the maximum quality of your items after repair, making this one of the most noticeably useful skills in the game. Skills such as Barter (better prices in shops), Speech (opening up conversation options with certain NPCs) and Lock-picking also come in handy and their influence is easily seen and felt within the game. Other skills seem to have less of an impact and the same goes for some perks that boost skills or other characteristics. Fortunately you can choose which skills your character should develop and which perks to leave alone.
Playing Fallout 3 comes with more than a few surprises. The V.A.T.S. (Vault Assisted Targeting System) system is one such surprise, offering a tactical way of dealing with your enemies. By activating V.A.T.S. the game pauses and shows you a ‘map’ of your foe’s body, offering hit chances for each part. The chance percentage is based both your skill with your currently equipped weapon and your distance from the target. So, by using the V.A.T.S. you can focus your attack on a particular part which comes in handy when you want to make use of a known weak spot like, for instance, the antennae of giant insects.
Attacks using V.A.T.S. are more efficient but use Action Points that quickly run out, making it impossible to use the system indefinitely. I ended up using V.A.T.S. only when I found myself in a real pickle as it slows down the game - but it certainly does have its uses.
While still in the Vault, you receive a PipBoy which is pretty much a PDA strapped around your arm, offering all sorts of information on your status, quests, inventory and maps of the area and of the Capital Wasteland of Washington DC as a whole. The PipBoy can also be used to listen to one of three radio sources. Three Dog, DJ of Galaxy News Radio, makes some of the funniest remarks in the game and he regularly makes comments about your actions and progress. Early on, he mentions that several vault dwellers have left Vault 101 recently, saying "What the hell is going on down there? Revolution? Vacation? Somebody fart?". It just one of the many comical moments in the game and the good old Fallout sense of humour has definitely persevered in this new iteration.
To provide a less linear path, the main storyline can be picked up at various points in the game making it possible to finish it by fulfilling only a handful of quests. I think the jury is still out on this, but personally I would have preferred a linear main storyline. There are enough side-quests to keep you occupied while you are not furthering the storyline and many of these are grand in their own right.
As you near the end of the main storyline you will feel the speed pick up and the pressure build. More and more leads become available and at some point your search changes into a clear path of actions that need to be taken. A sense of urgency ensues, making you forget about the remaining open side-quests and propelling you forward at an ever-increasing speed. The game’s conclusion is of a magnitude that is rarely seen in a game and rivals the closing scenes of many a blockbuster movie. In the last half an hour of the game, Bethesda creates an emotional roller-coaster, mixing helplessness, anger, revenge, hope and elation and ends the game with a choice that is both unfair and impossible to make.
There is no doubt in my mind that Fallout 3 will end up a classic that will be remembered by many for decades to come. The game does its predecessors justice by successfully offering a modern take on one of the most revered franchises of the past. It has been a long time since I awarded a game a perfect score but Fallout 3 deserves nothing less.
No Pros and Cons at this time