|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Bethesda Softworks||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Bethesda Softworks||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 28, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Fallout 3 utilizes both a first and third-person perspective during play. Players are free to choose between the two at the click of a button. You can even zoom in and out for a more withdrawn or over-the-shoulder perspective. Unfortunately, the standard shooter controls are not very good. That's actually an understatement. Any shooter fanatic will find the controls to be utterly imprecise. The accurate run-and-gun gameplay of titles such as Call of Duty 4 is simply not present in Fallout 3, and the first several hours of play are plodding and frustrating. In fact, the game plays as if it were a ported PC title; it begs for a mouse and WASD keys.
Consequently, instead of relying on years of acquired shooter skill, players will have to make use of the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System or V.A.T.S. for short. V.A.T.S. is a combat mechanic that uses action points (AP) to freeze the screen during encounters and allows you to strategically pick ideal body parts to decimate your foes. This system works quite well and is used to devastating effect as your character improves.
However, the game relies on the V.A.T.S. mechanic far too much. Instead of rewarding players with AP after skillful real-time shooter takedowns, AP will constantly regenerate, allowing players to use V.A.T.S. almost exclusively. In fact, I found myself running backward or hiding behind cover until my AP meter refilled during the majority of fights. All in all, V.A.T.S. is an interesting mechanic, but it's not particularly well implemented. And, when the novelty wears off, players are left longing for a more conventional approach to combat.
Outside of the fully realized, detailed world, the game's presentation suffers from an outdated engine: Gamebryo. The resolution is crisp and the landscapes are impressive; however, the unrealistic ragdoll physics during the V.A.T.S. animations, flat and generic textures, repetitive environments, and poor, emotionless facial expressions combine to make the visual experience decidedly less than stellar. The background music, radio function, and sound effects are all nicely captured, but the star-studded voice acting is fairly grating; the silly comments made during fights and the consistently inane conversations detract from the overall sense of accomplishment.
Fallout 3 is an interesting title that will satisfy the throng of Oblivion fans who have patiently awaited some kind of sequel. This title employs a lot of that game's conventions but significantly freshens up the formula with the distinct setting. For lovers of the genre, it's tough to go wrong with Fallout 3. However, if you're strictly a shooter fan or enjoy free-flowing combat, the plodding pace, vast amount of content, and RPG hallmarks (such as heavy inventory management, non-essential quests, and character leveling) may bore you. It's a good game, but certainly not without its faults. A new game engine and better controls would have served this title well.
CCC Editor / News Director