I said before that I would review Fallout 3 when it came out and since I’ve been playing it quite a lot since I bought the damn thing I figured why the hell not. Though the problem of course is that everyone and their dog has reviewed this damned game. So I’ll base this review on the belief that you’ve already read one of the million or so other reviews and I don’t have to explain every damned thing from square one again. Ok? Good.
Fallout 3 is a fan’s game. By that I don’t mean that it’s a game made for the fans, but a game made by fans. Now at first glance that might sound nice, but if you’ve ever read any sort of fan fiction for a series (book, tv, movie, game, etc) that you liked, then you might just get what I’m talking about. For those who are blessedly unfamiliar with that genre of literature, let me put it this way. There are fans out there of the Harry Potter book series who enjoy it so much that they feel the need to write stories starring the characters in the books but in new situations. And seeing as many of these writers are some sort of odd fangirl, some of it is quite strange. Why someone would want to write a 300 page long love story about a gay romance between Harry and Ron Weasly, I don’t know, but I’ll bet it’s out there somewhere on a fan fiction site.
Now with that in mind, that’s the feeling you get from Fallout 3. It’s a good game, far better than Oblivion. However, it feels like it was written by someone who loved the series but missed some of the points. It feels like the entire tone and atmosphere of the first games was rewritten by the kind of person who frequently uses the word "Kewl" while online. It feels amateurishly written.
The game was implemented beautifully. The world is huge and it feels quite bleak. You wander about a lot, but due to the Fast Travel, system that returned from Oblivion (seeing as it uses the same game engine), once you find a place, you never have to walk there again. Instead you magically teleport there avoiding all enemies on the way.
But it feels like rather than going all the way with some concepts, the designers decided to pull their punches and make things easier. Radiation for example. You can easily get irradiated wandering through the wasteland, especially considering that everything you eat is irradiated (Which is a bit confusing really) and so is all the water. However you don’t have to eat so it doesn’t actually matter. Also there’s no apparent effect from the radiation unless you become absurdly irradiated. For example, by taking a swim in irradiated lakes or walking on up to a pool of water surrounding an unexploded nuclear bomb and taking a drink from it. Although, the anti-radiation meds that heal you can be found all over the damned place so it’s a moot point anyway.
But this issue fills the entire damned game. When you run into the traditionally tough and nasty monsters from the series (the super mutants and the Enclave soldiers). They turn out to be far to easy to kill. At one point I found myself standing about 20 feet from a super mutant who was enthusiastically trying to liquidate me with a giant fucking minigun. I at the time was level 4 (out of a max of 20) and armed with a hunting rifle, and wearing armor made out of old tires. I won. Not only did I win, but I took out his friend who was firing bazooka rounds at me from farther back. Now in the old Fallout games, if you met a super mutant and he was armed with a minigun, you would be granted the sight of your character being sawed in half by the spray of gunfire and you would have to hit reload and try again. In fact you best bet at not dying would be to shoot him in the head from very far away, over and over again with a plasma rifle until he died, or until your turn was up and he got a go. At which point, he killed you. The same goes for the Enclave soldiers. However, armor is so pathetically poor in this game that even the Enclave troops, wandering about in massive suits of sci-fi power armor, can be taken down by running up to them and unloading a shotgun in their helmeted faces. You might not be a god in this game, but you’re a demigod at the very least.
The reason for this is that the new skill system they use in Fallout 3, is a joke. In Fallout 1, if you had a 15% in small guns, it meant that you sucked and had a 15% chance of hitting someone if you were standing infront of them and they weren't moving around too much. In Fallout 3, having a 15% (out of a max of 100%) in small guns, means you only miss the target 15% of the time, but that's ok because every other hit is a critical hit and you do extra damage. However, the effect you skills has on combat vanish completely if you fight in a FPS style and decide not to use the quasi-turn based system they provide.
The game developers also seem to have felt that it was no fun having the powerful weapons only showing up later in the game, nor was scrounging for ammunition. Sure it’s a post apocalyptic wasteland, but does that mean we need to actually strategize? Laser weapons and portable nukes show up within an hour of starting your game and there’s no real feel that you’re struggling to stay alive. It seemed like it was at first, but then I found the town with the shop that sold an unlimited supply of ammo for every weapon (a major city in game that you can’t avoid). After that I was able to kill everything that looked at me funny in the damned game. And while how much you could carry was based on your character's strength score, that doesn't alter your tactics one bit as all ammo and healing items are weightless. So you only have to worry about armor and weapons.
There are a lot of good things about this game, but every other reviewer has gone on incessantly about them already so fuck that. It’s a badly written, badly planned piece of crap at heart, but the gameplay actually makes up for it and it’s in a weird way, not a half bad Fallout sequel. So here’s my advice. Rent it if you have a console, but buy it only on the PC. Bethesda has a bad history of patching their games and they never fix everything that desperately needs fixing. On the PC versions of their games, it’s always the fan mods and fan patches that do this. Though in Fallout 3's case that’s iffy as well as the bastards still haven’t said one way or the other, if they’re going to release the mod tools for this one as they have for every other game of theirs. Without those tools, modding is still possible (there are at least 10 good mods out for it already), but it’ll be very slow and you won’t see very many produced, nor will you see the kind of fan patches this game so desperately needs.
There are also a great many things that Bethesda promised the game would contain and well, frankly just lied about. The game isn’t open ended. You finish the main quest, the game is over. No more playing, start again, good bye. There are also only 2 radio stations worth listening to ingame, and they both play the same crap over and over and over again. You can find and fix old radio towers to add new stations, but they don’t do shit.
That aside, it’s a good game and worth playing and I’m currently very addicted to it. I myself bought the special edition of the PC version which means I got a cool metal lunchbox, and a Vault Boy bobblehead which is perched proudly on my desk. This is the only time I’ve ever not hated myself for buying the more expensive special edition of any game.