Fallout 3, a game developed by Bethesda (see also: The Elder Scrolls series and the absolute masterpiece that is Home Alone for the NES) is a game I wasn’t really sure how to approach. It is a first-person (or third person if you want) shooter (or hack ‘n slash if you want) RPG set in post-nuclear apocalypse Washington D.C. Like many games, it took me a few tries to get into (see also: Dark Souls, Dragon Age: Origins). Originally it didn’t take with me because I just didn’t have any interest in the setting, and while I still have some gripes, overall I would say that once I got into it, I came away from the game on a very positive note, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Full disclosure, I had heard that going into Fallout 3 would be extremely buggy for my Windows 7 computer, so I ended up grabbing the Unofficial Fallout 3 Patch and swiftly installing it so I could actually, you know, play the game further than crashing upon birth.
That said, I still experienced sporadic crashes every two or three hours that forced me to habitually smash my start button and quickly save every time I scored a kill. Thankfully, it took very little time to save, so it wasn’t too big of a deal, and after a while I hardly even had to think about it, saving my game as a reflex rather than an annoyance. I decided to interpret the crashes every 2-3 hours as a sign that I needed to take a break and look at something other than my computer monitor for a while so I don’t develop eye cancer or something. Stupid health conscious game crashes. To fully enjoy this game, I personally ended up slipping into a completely different character than myself, essentially roleplaying (you would think this game was some kind of RPG or something!). I was Lily, a computer and robotics whiz, with a knack for Energy Weapons, Science, Repairs, and a soft spot for bolt-action rifles. Suffice it to say, Lily was extremely excited once the words ‘Tesla Cannon’ were uttered.
Fallout 3 is, in my opinion, more immersive than any of The Elder Scrolls games. This could be attributed to the variety of ways you can respond in a conversation with an NPC, sometimes even reaching Bioware-levels of dialogue. The biggest issue for me, however, was how same-y the outside world map got. Granted, a post-apocalyptic setting ravaged by nuclear war probably realistically would have little more than wreckage, poisoned water and maddening radiation, but traveling through it kind of gets boring for me after a while. It’s always the same – wreckage here, bandits there, maybe the odd Deathclaw if you’re lucky in the variety department.
Lily maintained herself with relative ease (save for the crashes that I attributed to someone messing with the continuity of time and screwing something up). Computers were no match for her, and as soon as she was armed with a plasma rifle which she could easily upkeep herself, the wasteland was practically hers. She had no intention of being a ‘good guy’ and yet citizens of Megaton gave her gifts nearly on the hour every hour, citing that she was such a good example despite having accidentally gotten the most important person in that town killed as basically the very first thing she did. This was a bit of an oddity to me, and probably can be attributed to the ‘karma’ system, where if you do ‘good’ deeds, you gain karma, to the general populace’s favor, and ‘bad’ deeds such as stealing goods and murdering innocents would (I assume) turn the populace against you. My issue with this system is that you gain good and bad karma despite absolutely no one seeing you, so if you do enough good or bad things, you’re just automatically well received or hated, even if those people shouldn’t really have any idea either way.
Quizzical moral system aside, the interactions themselves are pretty good, and the voice acting isn’t cringeworthy, which as far as I’m concerned qualifies as passing for video games’ standards (also compare to Fallout: New Vegas, this game’s successor, which I feel at times has voice acting resembling a mid-1990s PC game). I actually felt feelings, emotions welled up in me, and without wishing to spoil, after all the history he had with me, headshotting the final boss and cleanly decapitating them with my trusty plasma rifle was extremely satisfying. Trust me, he had it coming. Another technical issue I had was with the quick select system. I was using an Xbox 360 Wired Controller, and there were supposed to be eight slots for quick select, all mapped to the D-pad. Up, down, left, right, up-right, up-left, down-right and down-left were all options for quick select, and while the four cardinal directions worked, anything I mapped to a diagonal button, when selected, would pull out one of the two cardinal directions instead. Many was the time that I pulled out my gigantic mini-nuclear cannon I save for big bosses instead of the small plasma pistol I wanted to dispatch a simple radroach with.
A small redundancy issue I noted has to do with the player’s home. After completing a task for the town of Megaton, you’ll be rewarded with your own house there, and may furnish it with various useful things like a workbench to make new weapons, a Nuka-Cola fridge to store your soda in and make it more effective, and a chemistry kit. It’s really quite useful, but there is also a small medical clinic set you can buy that you can go to in order to heal yourself and mend your crippled limbs, but both of those functions are completely worthless when you can just sleep for an hour in the very same house and get the same result. The only good use the thing has is that it can get rid of your radiation levels, but I never had a problem with that because RadAways were very common and I could chug ten of them in a row if I wanted to get rid of my rads, still having plenty to spare.
But most of these are nitpicks, admittedly. Besides that, it was quite a fun and immersive time in the wasteland for Lily and I. Oh, and the often hilarious ragdoll glitches are worth mentioning as well.
There were many fond memories to be had. I’d recommend this game to anyone with even a small interest in either western RPGs or first-person shooters, but even for those who have trouble with first-person shooters, the V.A.T.S. aiming system has you covered as a nice, automated way of aiming that doubles as a satisfyingly cinematic kill-cam. I played on Normal difficulty and, while I did die, most of it was of my own incompetence. I would anticipate that most anyone would have no trouble at all on Easy if they are acquainted with modern gaming in any way.