| paleface [sys=PS3; cat=Role_Playing; loc=NA] |
|I spent around 100 hours on this game, which could very well be the most time I've ever spent on a non-multiplayer game. I'm not sure where all those hours went, either, although early on I was in an obsessive exploring mode where I tried to map out every nook and cranny of the ruined subway system running across the downtown section of the game's post-apocalyptic Washington DC setting. While numerous and nasty bugs, and generally poor performance, really got irritating, I kept playing on and on, so I suppose there's really something to this game.|
Fallout 3 runs on the same--or roughly the same--engine as maker Bethesda's earlier game, Oblivion (see entry 1211). I tried Oblivion for a while but eventually gave up on it; it was buggy and slow--even buggier and slower than Fallout 3--and filled up hundreds of hours of playtime by making you conquer a series of netherworld fortresses that were pretty much exactly the same, while fighting off monsters who auto-scaled to your level, providing a repetitive and generic hack-and-slash battle experience.
Fallout 3 feels like Oblivion at first--you're running around a big environment, fighting monsters roughly your level, exploring fairly generic dungeons--although here they're buildings and sub-basements rather than caves, mostly--and once in a while finding a friendly settlement to trade with.
But Fallout 3 manages to make the world a much more interesting place to get around in. The somewhat repetitive and muddy texture and color schemes throughout the traversable area fit well in the post-apocalyptic setting, and while I spent uncounted hours ferreting through one wrecked office after another, hoping to find that rarest of finds, a unique version of one of the game's guns, or at least a few "caps" to use as spending money, it somehow didn't feel like that much of a grind.
The enemies probably do some scaling to your level to keep things challenging, but I did find many that were either very easy or very tough, and even the ones that probably did scale very blatantly didn't seem too bad, since they were generally soldiers, or robots with amusing sound loops. I'm not sure why that helps, but it does.
The ability system is much more straightforward than Oblivion's, and the game won't do annoying things like put skill points in skills you didn't want them in. The special "perks" you can learn each level keep you interested as you level up. Unfortunately, the max level is very easy to hit while you've still got a lot of the game to explore, and after that it's a little less compelling to play, because you don't have that feeling of gradually working your way toward better and better abilities.
Aside from a staggering amount of locations to explore, and lots of side quests to find and complete, I think it must have been the combat system that really kept me hooked: I invested heavily in gun skills, and the mixed real-time, movement-point combat provided me with a continuous stream of glorious headshot opportunities. They really came up with a great system. You can play run and gun in real time, just like a standard first-person shooter, but you'll find that the enemies--irradiated humans, giant "super mutants," mutated insects, and so on--are really tough: they take a good many hits, and are no slouches when it comes to shooting back. So, you pull one of the trigger buttons to initiate a paused targeting mode, where you can take your precious time lining up a shot at just the particular part of the enemy you want to hit. I'm not sure why you'd aim anywhere aside from the head or body, really, but hey. You can allocate as many shots as you have ammo and movement points available, then you execute it, and it switches to a sort of bullet-time mode in which you see your shots play out in nifty slow-motion.
Battle thus becomes a surprisingly strategic affair, where you plan your shots, and try to have some sort of cover or at least running room available to carry you through the periods during which your turn-based movement points are regenerating. The available guns--sniper rifles, Gatling guns, plasma rifles, submachine guns, revolvers, and so on--are a great deal of fun to use in this system, and weapon choice itself plays a significant part in your combat calculations, as different types tend to be suitable for different situations.
Exploring the world and beating down all the nasty mutated things will get you a lot of loot, but they handled this pretty well, as the critical loot--money, ammo, small knickknacks that can be sold for money--is almost always nearly weightless, so you even my light gunner, who had almost no points put into her strength attribute, could get through pretty much any building without having to stop midway through in order to trek back to some town or other to unload her loot. That was a massive annoyance in Oblivion, where you needed to truck off huge loads of heavy weapons and armor to make money, and makes Fallout 3 much less of a chore to play.
The main quest is surprisingly short, which I suppose accounts in part for the low level cap; I'm glad that I intentionally avoided following it until I'd explored everything else. You meet and talk to a lot of people, and usually have multiple options in what to say to them, which can affect how they react, and what quests or stuff you'll get from them. They don't feel particularly intelligent, but it does feel like your choices matter, which is nice. The game keeps track of your alignment based on choices like this, and that can affect what types of special skills you can get, and how strangers will react to you. It's interesting, although sometimes you'll be docked (depending on your point of view) for doing something that seemed completely innocuous.
Still, some very amusing and memorable encounters can result from these fairly simple systems. For instance, early on I had taken a special perk skill that said it would give my female character special choices when talking to male characters. I think this happened maybe twice in all the time I played, but one was priceless: on a side quest to collect radioactive cola for an obsessive collector, her would-be boyfriend asked me to bring the cola to him instead, so he could get in good with her, at which point a chat option appeared, allowing me to propose that he bring *me* cola, and we'd see about making it a threesome; he got incredibly excited, and rushed off immediately to get cola--I never saw him again.
The other particularly memorable point having to do with interaction choices was when my nominally "good" character arrived at a town and was getting hassled by the gatekeeper. In the course of the conversation, in which he kept demanding more money, he let slip that this was an encampment of slavers--people enslaving other humans. Well, that put things in a different light; I ended the haggling with a shotgun blast, and lit the damn town up like a tree on Christmas. Knowing that you can literally wipe out an entire town of NPCs, stores, etc, just by choosing to do so (and having enough ammo and health), is pretty darn cool.
It would've been cooler if the writing had been better, however. Many of the side quests are poorly written--typos and grammatical errors are not uncommon--or even just plain stupid; there's a cave system inhabited by incredibly irritating children, for instance, that just doesn't make sense at all if you try to think through how they could possibly survive out there and still be as obnoxious as they are--or how they'd even be there in the first place. There's also an over reliance on cheap humor, and most of the adult characters are immature and paper thin.
While the short main quest features some of the better writing and voice acting, and more interesting settings, some of the forces puzzles are arbitrary and tiresome, including the very final "puzzle" right before the credits. That's another problem: your character walks off into the sunset, but you can't continue playing and exploring. Why not? I suppose they didn't want to have to write scripts for the rest of the world that would cover the world adjustment made by the end of the main story, but just cutting the adventure short like that is a downer.
Poor performance and bugs are the other downer, and there are some nasty ones. Some of the maze-like interiors, particularly wrecked ones where a building interior is broken open so you can see multiple floors at once, have very, very poor framerates throughout; technically they're still playable, because you can use the pause-time combat system to aim, but they are not at all fun to go through. I hit a few times where a quest or chat sequence seemed to get stuck or reset, so I'd have to go out and try it again from the beginning. My first experience in the game was awful, as something bad happened during character creation, and I ended up playing the entire first tutorial area with a single-digit framerate; I actually had to reboot my PS3 in order to fix it; just quitting and restarting the game didn't solve the problem! But the worst is just locking up; later in the game as I was exploring the vast wasteland areas on the outskirts of DC, I found that the game would tend to lock up if I just spent too much unbroken time running around outdoors. Bad.
Despite the considerable problems (another is that you run out of things to spend money on very early on, and just run around accumulating a fortune you hope you can spend in a rewarding fashion some day--but that never happens), the massive world they've created, and the flexible combat system, are a great deal of fun. You can just load the game up, rush off into an unexplored part of the wasteland, and find some good adventures, taking them on at your own speed, and in your own way. That core gameplay concept is an excellent one, and has been implemented very well here.