Fallout 3 Review 06/04/2009

I’m not a fan of RPG’s, but I absolutely loved this.

I must straight away state that I generally do not like role playing games (RPG), and normally avoid them. They normally involve wizards, goblins etc, talking to people a lot and the gameplay is normally slow and more tactical. There is nothing wrong with this of course it’s just not my sort of thing. I’m a fairly shallow gamer, preferential towards flashy graphics big explosions etc, so I much prefer games like Resistance 2 and Dead Space, action packed and fast paced. However, I had heard such good things about Fallout 3 (game of the year 2008) I decided to try and approach it from a neutral perspective and with an open mind. Despite the way this game looks (first or third person shooter) it is definitely an RPG. Some people have said it is a hybrid of a FPS and an RPG but it really leans a lot more towards the RPG side of things. Its set several hundred years into the future and the earth has been ravaged by a nuclear war between the USA and China. You were born and raised in a bunker underground, called vault 101, protected from the radiation outside until one day, when you are around 19 years of age, your father flees the bunker, for unknown reasons. The inhabitants of vault 101 turn against you (long story), you are forced to escape as well and search for your father and some answers in the nuclear devastated waste lands of Washington DC. What follows is an epic quest across the largest and most detailed in game world I have ever seen (literally) where mutants, raiders and giant radioactive bugs are constantly trying to kill you whenever you venture into the unknown. Although it took me time to get used to it, and it is a bit slow initially, you start to really get involved. No matter what your gaming back ground is or what your preferences are, you can not help but be impressed with this one.

What’s good?

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The best and most impressive thing about this game is the sheer size of it. If people remember the old “Grand theft Auto: San Andreas” game, which allowed you the free roam of an entire state, it’s on a par with that. It is (apparently) 16 square miles of waste land to venture in and you can literally go anywhere, within reason. But it’s actually much bigger than that as you can go in almost every building, through a huge labyrinth of subway systems within the city and many underground bunkers and vaults. It’s so unbelievably big I don’t know how they managed to cram it on to one disc. Bethesda Studios have squeezed on most of central Washington DC, with all the famous landmarks which are ripped and torn from the nuclear holocaust, and an even larger wilderness that contains many towns and settlements. To walk across it in its entirety takes hours, and to discover all elements of the map will take many months of solid gameplay.

With huge size comes a huge amount to do. You can spend months of your life in this post apocalyptic world. The main quest to find your father would be enough in itself but there are hundreds of side missions, quests and goals to obtain on the way. There are many town’s, settlements and gatherings scattered around the land, all with unique communities and hundreds of different people to trade and talk with. Each town has its own problems and enemies, which incorporates their own missions. For example, Rivet town is based on an old gigantic air craft carrier. Megaton is a shanty town built around an unexploded nuclear bomb and there is Underworld which is based in an old museum and is entirely inhabited by mutants called Gouls, a remnant of the nuclear apocalypse. These are but a few. In every town there are at least half a dozen people who will ask favours of you which will in turn start further quests. The person who completes everything in this game does, without doubt, have too much time on their hands.

Don’t think for a second that all this vastness will mean they have scrimped on the visual details, as they have not. The graphics are very impressive. They are probably marginally not quite as good as “Dead Space” for example, a particularly pretty game, but Fallout is about ten times the size, and the visuals are definitely not ten times worse. You won’t find a single bland texture, dodgy surface or crap visual anywhere. Each collapsed building and nuclear war torn area is brimming with details on every surface of its broken concrete and twisted metal and on every character you meet. If you blow a mutants head off (which you will do) you can see the blood spurt out of the decapitated limb along with any jutting bone and entrails. Each famous landmark, such as the Washington monument looks like it was genuinely placed in a nuclear blast and Bethesda Studios have not missed a beat. The days cycle through each other as well as it turns night and day (dawn being particularly impressively simulated), although weather has been left out. Considering what has been crammed into this game I can easily ignore such missing details. The movement of your character when in third person is a bit rubbish to be honest, but you are much better off playing in first person regardless, so who cares. When you first step out of vault 101 you will be taken aback.

There is a large amount of freedom of choice. Although freedom of choice in a game is not exactly entirely unique it works very well here. You are pretty much free to play the game as you like either as the nicest chap in the wastes who tries to help everyone or the biggest bastard ever who tries to screw everyone over, or both, or neither. You really don’t even have to bother doing missions. You will need to choose your words carefully and think through your actions as the interesting “Karma system” in place will punish or reward you depending on your choices. Every time you speak to someone you generally have several options in what you can say, normally from being nice to being aggressive. However, sometimes you need to be aggressive or you will not extract the information you need so it is often a tough call. Contradictory to that though, you often need to be nice to gain favour with someone or they will try and kill you. It’s all about choice and making what you want of the game and your character.

There is a lot of customisation and personalisation to do. You can customise the crap out of your character. You can choose your sex, facial feature arrangement, facial hair, hair, eye colour, your armour/clothes, everything. Everything you do in the game adds to your experience. Every thing you kill and every mission you complete adds points in order for you to evolve your character’s skills and abilities. You can make him/her linguistically suave, very strong, a good shot, a good trader, a lock picking expert, a computer hacking genius, improve your healing ability, the list goes on. Plus, there are 20 levels of this each with it’s own set of “perks”. Everything you pick up or find can be sold or traded for money or ammunition, so never leave any stone unturned etc. There’s also a million “chems” (drugs) to take that will increase your strength, action points, health, hit points, damage resistance, radiation levels, accuracy, everything. The depth and detail of choice here is immense.

V.A.T.S is one of the coolest most satisfying things I have ever used. The Vault Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.) is one of Fallout’s unique combat systems. Whenever you encounter an enemy you have the choice of, simply by the push of a button, to enter this mode which allows you to pick an enemy and then choose what part of him you want to shoot at. If you shoot a leg, it will disable the enemy, shoot an arm and he may drop his weapon and if you choose his head you will likely blow it off resulting in a “critical strike” (I’m sure you can guess what that means). You have an unlimited time to choose these targets, once in VATS mode, but it is restricted by your action points (AP’s) displayed in the lower left hand side of the screen. You only have a certain amount, so you can’t use it indefinitely, and they slowly build up over time. You can also take various chemical concoctions that will increase their regenerative ability temporarily. Once your chosen target is selected it will zoom out and show you a slow motion replay of what the kill looks like. Although its not quite as effective as you might think (more on that in a bit) I have come across few more satisfying experiences than watching, in slow motion, your character blow a mutants head clean off with a double barrelled shot gun, blood and limbs splattering everywhere. It is so very rewarding, in a slightly disturbed way, and I have yet to get tired of it. It is often the best method of killing and you should use it a lot.

There is a lot of fire power here. The guns in Fallout are nothing new at all, however there is so many different types and each one can be damaged and repaired which will improve their effectiveness, which is an interesting touch (I assume RPG fans are familiar with such ideas?). Although I loved the mini gun the highlight was a rocket launcher called the “fat man”. Despite looking like a piece of junk this thing launches “mini nukes”, which are exactly as the name states. They are small nuclear missiles that vaporise anything in a glorious, yet miniature, mushroom cloud. Its particularly entertaining to launch one through VATS and watch it in slow motion, as your target feebly tries to leg it, blow everything sky high. You need to be fairly careful when using it as it wont necessarily obliterate all targets but it should give you many hours of miniature nuclear strike fun. The power armour is also particularly cool and very effective.

What’s bad?

Glitches are the bane of this game. I had read that it was more notorious for glitches than many other games but, typically, I thought “how bad can it be?” Unfortunately it is quite bad, although I hear that is a result of having a PS3, and Xbox does not suffer nearly as badly (for gods sake Sony! – sort it out!). Glitches happen all the time in gaming. A game can sometimes crash or freeze and a simple restart will sort any problems. I encountered many in this though that almost ruined it for me. It crashed and froze at several points, which started to get irritating, characters will freeze and re-appear by magic somewhere else, doors will open once but then refuse to open again, random things will fall from the sky, like empty tins for example and the list goes on. The worst aspects though are when normal parts of the game simply don’t function. The best example was after about 9 hours of play, during a main story mission, I had managed to gain a satellite dish and place it on top of the Washington monument to transmit a radio station for a guy called “Three dog” (long story). All I had to do to complete the mission was go back to the building he was in and speak to him. But for some reason it said I could not go in the building, as I had done a million times before, as the door was locked and I needed a key. Why did I now need a key? The intercom simply states that the door is open and that I should “stop bugging him” (mother f****r!). I spent hours searching for any key but to no avail. I spent hours trying to find a back door, which I did, but it was out of reach on a ledge, which is worse than not actually finding it at all. I was fuming. I tried doing some side quests but the whole time I was thinking “what’s the point if I can’t do the main story?” I tried starting again from previous saved games but it was the same situation. There was no way I was ever getting in that building. After losing about a day, I switched it off. Upon some internet research I found that this was a common glitch and the whole game had to be restarted. As nothing had worked I deemed this to be the only option. However I was not sure whether I should bother as I had lost so much time already. What if it did the same thing again if I restarted the whole thing? I would have doubled the amount of time wasted. After a couple of days I decided to persist and start again, only do things much quicker and, low and behold, at the same point in the same mission it worked fine. In this day and age of gaming this is inexcusable and should not happen. If the same thing had happened for a second time I would have given up and never played it, which, from a marketing perspective, is not good. Maybe I have a particularly bad/bugged copy of the game, but, as I found out, it is not uncommon amongst Fallout players.

V.A.T.S. are not as affective as you would think. Although I love using VATS, and watching your character blow mutants and giant bugs to pieces, it is really only effective at close to point blank range. Any further and you will more than likely miss completely. The problem is that you are not really fully in control of whether you make direct hits on your enemy or not. As you pick which part of the body you want to shoot at it displays a percentage number next to it which indicates how likely you are to actually hit. Obviously the bigger the body part, like the torso, the more likely you are to hit it. If it’s not anywhere near around the 80% mark then I would not bother, as you will more than likely miss. This also throws the percentages into question. Surely at 50% it should be 50/50 whether you hit or not, but you will miss every time I assure you. Maybe I’m just unlucky, but it does seem to encourage VATS to only be used for particularly close up messy kills. VATS also encourages you to target limbs for the best killing effects but it is so inconsistent. I have unloaded many double barrelled shot guns at point blank range in the enemies face and he is fine and continues to attack you. I have also shot pistols from a mile away, at an enemies’ leg, and it hits him straight between the eyes for a “critical strike”. The inconsistency does take a lot of the skill out of the game and can often involve luck more than anything else. Although you could argue that’s what it would be like in reality, but I prefer to rely on my skill. If I miss it doesn’t bother me as much if I know it’s my fault, if you see what I mean. It does not ruin the whole game but it is disappointing.

This brings me on to shooting in general in Fallout. Aiming and shooting is very difficult, not in the sense that it’s hard to do, but it’s hard to be effective at. Just because the cross hairs of your rifle are lined up at an enemies head does not mean you will incur a head shot, as unless you’re close, aiming and not moving you will almost definitely miss, whether you like it or not. If you are very close, aiming and not moving then the enemy will shoot you way before you even knew he was there, or started to aim, or even had your gun drawn! Plus, trust me when I say, the enemy is a much much better shot than you. Your gun’s accuracy and damage dealt are affected by its condition and your skill abilities but generally you will not have full accuracy skill and not a hint of damage on your weapon until the closing stages of the game, so you basically miss a hell of a lot. It is frustrating. You can take cover behind things but you have to jump out to shoot at enemies, who will inevitably shoot back, and it nearly always comes down to who has the more powerful weapon or the best armour, not skill. You can jink, duck and dive, but, as I said, you will definitely miss if you shoot whilst doing this. Plus, the enemy is, again, much more accurate. It’s not terrible, it’s just so simplistic and out of date by today’s standards. I know the game is going for realism, which is fine but I just found it annoying, especially as I am doing everything right and it is still not having the desired effect. I keep telling myself that it’s not a FPS as such and that I shouldn’t expect such traits, but there is far too much shooting and killing to be done, in first person, to let this fact go.

You can get impossibly lost. One downfall of the games huge size is it is very easy to get completely lost and lose all sense of direction. This is not much of a problem in the waste land areas as you always have your trusty “Pip boy” on your arm which has a built in map. However, when you enter the dense ruined urban areas of Washington DC, which takes up about a third of the map, or a vault or a mine, you have to venture underground where it becomes tricky. The central city is impossible to traverse on the surface as there are too many knocked down and crumbled buildings, as you would expect after a nuclear holocaust, and as a result you are forced to take to the subway systems beneath the city. These are really cool to look at, as they are eerie, dark and full of wrecked subway trains, but are an impossible labyrinth of doors and tunnels. You cannot work out where you are going down here as your map does not work, because your underground, and the game does not give you any help or hints at all. It’s the same situation when you search bunkers and mines as well. It is really exploration and chance to get to your desired areas and I was stuck trawling through the subway system for days. You really do have to pay attention and have a good memory. Maybe the mapping system could have included a subway map (you can acquire one but it is useless)? That could possibly make it to easy, however its better than being totally lost.

The weapons are a bit of a let down. This is a minor gripe really, however I feel I should warn anyone who expects an impressive roster of futuristic weapons. Despite the weird, but very cool, 1950’s feel and style of the game, this is set hundreds of years into the future. So why has it filled the game with perfectly normal rifles, pistols, shot guns etc? Surely there must have been some crazy new fangled ultimate weapon of destruction invented at some point in the distant future, but no? You have the “Fat man” which is awesome but that really is as about as inventive as it gets, and that is just a rocket launcher really. There are also laser pistols/rifles, laser Gatling guns and plasma rifles, but again they are not in any way anything new, and not really vastly different to the games normal pistols, rifles and mini guns. I find the bog standard “Chinese Assualt Rifle” (basically an AK47) is the most effective gun in the game. There is an alien blaster to be found somewhere in the wastes (I advise you seek it out near a crashed alien space ship) but the ammo is incredibly limited. Plus it’s still nothing new! Play any game in the “Resistance: Fall of man” franchise and you will see what inventive weapons are. Basically, if you have played any shooter, action game or any game with guns, you have used all of these before. Yes, I know it’s not a FPS but that should not stem any inventiveness or fun.

It does get rather repetitive. Despite the huge waste land to explore and mass load of tasks and quests it really always boils down to the same simple thing. Travel across the waste land for hours, killing raiders/mutants/bugs along the way, find something or someone, take it, kill them or talk to them and return to the point of origin. It really does not differentiate from that too much. The story, characters, enemies and the detailed landscape do postpone the monotony for the majority of the time but as you draw the game to a close, have done almost every side mission, you do start to grow weary of the repetition, in particular the travelling.

Finally (a warning to all!), when you have completed the main story quest, it’s all over. This I did not see coming. The first half of the main quest takes a considerable amount of time, as there is lots of exploring and shooting to be done. But then it races through the rest far too quickly and before you know it you have finished. “Oh well” you may think, “I have all these awesome weapons and powerful armour, it will make doing further exploration and side quests all the more fun”. Wrong! The game will finish, whether you like it or not. Although this ties in with the story, (spoiler alert) that unlimited pure water can be produced which kills off the mutants and re-unites humanity, it would not be instantaneous. I was very disappointed as I had only accumulated some particularly wicked weapons at this point and had barley used them. Basically don’t do the last mission until you are completely satisfied with your gaming experience as afterwards it will all be over. As I felt un-nourished by the sudden ending I did it again and was a total bastard to everyone, which also changes the outcome of the game (very interesting).


If you’re looking for a “balls out” action game then this is not for you. Again, despite the way it looks it is most definitely not that sort of game. There is a lot of shooting and killing to be done, but it won’t feel like “Killzone 2” I’m afraid. I personally reckon they should have made it a better FPS as, like I said, there is a hell of a lot of bullets to fire. More importantly though, nothing is ruined and you will quickly adapt to it. Fortunately, Fallout 3 offers so much more and despite it being more flawed than other titles out right now it also manages to be more loveable, immersive and engaging. If you fancy exploring an incredibly detailed, post nuclear devastated, mutant infested Washington DC, then this is for you. There is so much to do here, the main story is dramatic and engaging, there’s hundreds of other side stories/quests, so much detail in the huge map and on every person you meet, so many towns to discover, things to customise, weapons to fire and so much freedom of choice in order to choose how to do it. Plus, anyone who likes shooting games will love the VATS. It is as a whole, a most impressive title and well worth playing no matter what your gaming preferences. It is all things to all gamers and it is the best game I have played on the PS3 yet. If you haven’t played this yet, do it now, otherwise you’re a prat. Just prey that your version of the game is not as full of glitches as mine was. CA.


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 9.5

Your “pip boy” manages to cram in all the information you need and make it so easy to use. Will be a little overwhelming at first though. Very well thought out, you don’t need to be an RPG fan to get the hang of it and the controls will offer you nothing unexpected or unpleasant.

Is the story any good? – 9.0

Main story is very engaging, intriguing and can alter depending on your in game decisions. All side quests range from tragic to hilarious, but never dull.

How does it look? – 8.0

Considering the games size they are most impressive. There is a lot of detail. Character movement animations look a bit rubbish though.

How does it sound? – 9.0

No music as such but all voices and eerily quiet wasteland sound effects are very atmospheric.

Is it good to play? – 8.0

VATS are awesome but combat is a bit “old-school”. It’s not bad, but not brilliant either. Character interation and general exploring is excellent and addictive. Very very immersive. Glitches for PS3 version may ruin things slightly.

When will I get bored? – 9.5

Many seasons will pass before you get bored of this one. Huge amounts to do while never getting boring. Excellent for those who like to get their money’s worth.


Review created by C. Armstrong.