Thursday, February 19, 2009

fallout 3 reveiw: finally

So what has this grizzled misanthrope been doing instead of reviewing fallout 3, well try playing the game, yes it is that good, so it seems my "crack addict-esque" behavior has proved well worth it, possibly not all that well founded but certainly an enjoyable period of my life. now for my review of my time in the radiation three and a half months in the making.

I know it is not my picture

Fallout is A post nuclear Armageddon adventure to put it bluntly (if you have seen a screen-shot you could have extrapolated this though). fallout's setting centers on retro-futurism, basically the fifty's technology filled optimistic view of the future that ended in a storm of nuclear fire (think nuked tomorrow-land), you combine this with a visual style more than reminiscent of mad max down to the leather jacket jacket, sawn-off, and psycho-mutt(who has a tendency to open doors 0_0, which led to many "interesting" events). However the setting of the third installment loses some of it's credibility just because of the time it take place. It's 2277 200 years after the bombs fell, and the DC inhabitants are still living in a more technology filled but less settled life than those on the west coast over one hundred years ago. This kind of life style can only happen during the Mad Max era of the apocalypse (i.e. one, to three generations after the nukes), so either the Capital Wastelanders are complete idiots with access to unlimited tech or the time period was just not all that thought out.

The intro from the "war never changes" sucks you right in, more that any other I've ever played. The tutorial is by far the best Bethesda has ever birthed in terms of immersion and enjoyability. The creation of your avatar and your subsequent vacation as the pilot of your new automaton begins with with your birth upon which you are charged with coming up with your name gender and future appearance (quite a load for a still bloody infant)then five seconds or thirty minutes later(depending on how long you spent rattling at your avatars knobs) your mom dies, I'm not sure what this was supposed to accomplish other than to give you no good reason to stick around the vault after every one tries to murder you. then your little flash back moves on to your days as the amazing sprinting baby (after all running indefinitely is the default setting in any video game) in which you escape your internment in the dreaded play pen teach yourself how to read, and choose your future stats basically all boiling down to a thug, sniper, scientist/doc, a silver tongued rouge, or a complete f*ck*ng psych but most will have one thing in common a sharp wit to gain the most skill points and a charisma slightly less than that of a sack of "tetanusy" nails (less so for the rouge character). after which your father James(Liam Neeson) feebly tries to sway you from the dark side with his framed bible verse stitched doily

Liam Neeson - and your father James

then your are swept down the hall to you arbitrary rpg friend Amata, who when grown looks a fair bit like Alex from Half-Life 2; probably yet another attempt to reach geek-dom


And so your flash back/tutorial touches upon several other events in your avatar's life, the first weapon, your tenth birthday, and your job assignment test. This series of events and tutorials make you invest emotionally into your avatar, which helps dispel some of the disbelief tied to the setting.

As an adult you are woken up by your childhood friend and are told that the shit has officially hit the fan; your father has ditched you, your family friend has been whacked, and the overseer wants your head on a pike for no particular reason other than than hating your guts. you are immediately given the chance to properly role play, but as with most games the decisions are split between four annoying flavors, ignorant asshole, understanding pussy, subservient noob, or beige neutrality I hating this usually play a combination of assholery and neutrality. Then you work your way out of the vault along the way slaughtering 0 to 20 percent of the vaults population (according to fallout cannon) with and additional 5 or so dying indirectly as a result of your father's eviction, and at the upper reaches it's pretty much genocide people. Then as you leave you either get sappy farewell or a good riddance from Amata depending on your choices in roleplaying.

you emerge squinting into the sunlight much the same way you did in oblivion, and you will be thinking the same thing; "aint it pretty" though not for the same reasons you did during Oblivion.

Now unlike real life you won't break down and start crying about loosing you comfortable little life (if you do I have lost all respect for you), no you will probably do one of two things; like me "were do I start looting", or "let's see were this quest takes me", after working your way through the suspiciously well stocked ruins of Springvale most of most of "ye" will go off to Megaton, a town built of scrap Ala Mad Max, with a live nuke worshiped by a fairly "benign" cult. In this town you have the opportunity to continue the main quest, the first half of the main quest allow for more freedom than any player of Bethesda has known within a quest, though it is a level on par with the original fallout's many ways to complete a quest, each leading you down a completely different path to slightly varying endings. For example in the first quest you need to find information, the saloon owner has the information, so to get it you can sweet talk him, pay him for it, kill him and steal it from his terminal, just hack his terminal, just continue wondering the wasteland looking, or even intimidating his hirelings. however the later quests are very linear, more along the lines of oblivion's main quest that traditional fallout, with only a few endings to the later quests. admittedly this heavy scripting for the quests creates a more cinematic telling of the story than previous Bethesda works, many of these felt more like the cinematic events in the most recent Call of Duty games than an RPG. Another fault of Fallout 3 main story is the severe lack of endings, there are only twelve, on the surface this sounds like a signifigant amount (more than Bioware ever had) but think 3 alignments multiplied by 2 sets of choices with 2 outcomes, which is not alot. The Endings do not have that quality of legendary storytelling both of the original fallout's and the intro and outro the Road warrior had.

I am "not" legend

But of course This third installment is not just about the main story, there are innumerable side quests and interesting places to explore. Fallout had what I liked about many of the dungeons in previous elder scrolls, little implied stories in the form of notes, decorations, items, and enemies fighting. Fallout had more varied locations than any previous elder scrolls games, and more of these implied stories. One of the more interesting areas in the wasteland is the Lovecraft themed Dunwich (horror) building area. The quests of fallout 3 are very interesting, bordering on the schizophrenic; many of the official recorded side quests barely fit in with fallout cannon let alone reality (crazy vampires, a happy go lucky wasteland survival guide, and Harold the tree headed ghoul).

Now to what attracts many of the "consoleers"; game play. Fallout 3's interface is by far superior to that of any other previous Bethesda or fallout game: in terms of fluidity, ease of use, and general freedom. though with the advent of firearms in combat the idiotic masses immediately compare it to contemporary first and third person shooters, whilst the games interface goes far a shooter it "ain't", but the again it never was designed to be; it is still first and foremost an rpg, and a fine one at that, but it will never live up to the "balls and bayonets" action of shooters. What is a reveiw of fallout 3 without a rundown it's post child, no not Vault-Boy


VATS, or Vault-tec assisted targeting system is Bethesda's answer to fanboys' (who were still getting stiffies over Van Beuren) whining about the turn-based and aiming of Fallout not being ported to now, ten years in the future. First of all I have to say as a skeptic of VATS, that it was a brilliant addition, my fear was that it would hamper my immersion, but far from it, rather it helped me get behind my character, and besides seeing a raider fly to peices in bullet time never gets old. I often cued up VATS in close combat were my reflexes lacked and asked that raider bastard " did I fire five shots or six, well do you feel lucky, huh do you, punk"

Hah! to bad, this guns got a twelve round clip! Blam!

Though the down side to vats was in fact that I had the time to say the exact quote (and probably make a sandwich) between the time I cued up VATS and when I got control over my avatar's mind again.

Fallout 3 is a sufferer the disease of Bethesda's nay all of the game industry, games are getting much shorter. For example Bethesda's previous works, morrowind when played at the standard leisurely rate (SLI?) of game playing could clock in at over 500 hours, Oblivion: just over one hundred, and Fallout is even shorter, admittedly this extra space has been filled with better graphics, "more" depth, etc but it still is less content, and in many cases less good content, but not so for Fallout 3.

I loved Fallout, It's combination of Mad Max wasteland and tomorrow-lands flair led me to fall in love with the original, of course it has been several years (I last owned it in the early 21st century)since I played and It was played little, most of my love comes from third person and and first person observations from playing a game made by a splinter faction of black isle (interplay), the game was Arcanum, my favorite game of all time, so it is no surprise that my views of fallout are tinted by this, though Fallout 3 is it's own experience, It compares to everything and nothing at once, if judged by it's own merits It is one of my favorite plays ever, but if measured against all of it's fore fathers it will always seem somewhat lacking when as Yahtzee put it is compared to something viewed through "the rose tinted goggles of retrospect". But none the less fallout 3 is still one of the top 25 games of all time.

What all the Elder Scrolls true success are though is unlimited game play through the modding tool made for the game. So truly no matter how good of flawed the game, you have whatever you want at your finger tips, a veritable Holodeck of user-created content. My game alone has 20 or so mod on it, some that make the wasteland hate me (more realistic), some that rebalance the game a few to add weapons from the preivious games, and the list goes on to infinity.

see you later, vault dweller...