Fallout 3 Review for Xbox 360

Fallout 3 Review for Xbox 360

The Way of the Wastes

Bethesda Softworks struck pay dirt in March of 2006 with their epic RPG, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. That title, more than any other, served as the poster child for what gamers could expect from “next-gen” graphics and content. Skip forward two and a half years and thousands of man hours later and players are being treated to Fallout 3, a game that captures the spirit of Oblivion in a futuristic Washington D.C. wracked by nuclear holocaust.

Fallout 3 screenshot

This new setting along with the incredibly high play value should make this one of the bestselling titles of 2008. However, the game is not the infallible masterpiece many, including myself, expected. In fact, somewhat dated visuals, lackluster shooter controls, slow character progression, and an overdependence on the V.A.T.S. action point mechanic hold the game back from attaining perfection.

Like Oblivion, Fallout 3 is an expansive RPG that gives players a huge, highly detailed, living world in which to play. There are an abundance of quests and side missions to anchor the immersion, a host of interesting character creation options that truly affect the way the protagonist plays, and, of course, weapons and items galore to be found and used. However, unlike the classic high fantasy environment of Oblivion, Fallout 3 sports an alternate future set in Washington D.C., where a nuclear wasteland full of junk, ruins, radiation, mutants, and factions exist.

Taking a cue from former titles in the Fallout series, the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3 is an incredibly harsh place. People barely scrape out a horrific existence on the toxic sustenance the irradiated land can offer up, yet it’s a world filled with ironic humor. Players will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek nods to the 50’s duck-and-cover era that existed well into the 21st century in the game’s alternate reality. Products like Nuka-Cola from a bygone era run in stark contrast to the contemporary Chems and other-other white meats you’ll have to ingest in order to survive. What’s more, mundane species of old have been horribly mutated and prey upon the weak and unwary. Whoever is left eventually succumbs to radiation, disease, poverty, raiders and humanoid ghouls and super mutants that run roughshod in the lawless wastes.

With this as the setting, players emerge from Vault-Tec Vault 101 for the first time in their lives, fleeing the wrath of the Overseer and searching for some sign of their missing father. You see, ever since the climax of The Great War in 2077 (fully 200 years ago) a few “fortunate” Americans have been cloistered in massive fallout complexes, undisturbed by the savage world outside the vault door. Making the transition from lowly commune member to master of the poisonous and anarchic Capital Wasteland is difficult indeed, and players will find themselves making a beeline for Megaton, the settlement closest to the vault entrance. So begins the adventure upon which players are to embark.

Fallout 3 screenshot

There are seven scores that define characters’ abilities known as S.P.E.C.I.A.L., which is an acronym for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. In addition to S.P.E.C.I.A.L. abilities, players will be able to dump a pool of points into 13 skills such as Lockpicking, Science, Speech, Medicine, Sneak, Energy Weapons, etc. upon leveling. Also, almost innumerable Perks are made available along the way, which give bonuses to all aspects of combat and non-combat interactions. This character building mechanic is very versatile and satisfying. Unfortunately, the slow-paced power progression means you’ll be playing with a very weak character until you’ve spent a significant amount of time in the world (more than five hours).

Graciously, the Capital Wasteland is an intriguing place full of adventure for even low-level characters. Players will spend hours upon hours clearing out nearby “dungeons,” filling up their inventories with worthless junk (which is actually not so worthless anymore), and acquiring the skill and knowledge to progress to the more dangerous and challenging areas closer to downtown D.C. Eventually, players will even uncover an interesting plot full of competing factions trying to shape the amorphous world into their vision.

Fallout 3 screenshot

By far, the most intriguing aspect of the game is the ability to make your own way in this dangerous world. There is no wrong way to play Fallout 3, and, as a result, players are afforded near limitless options when customizing their character, interacting with people, and completing missions. That means players could conceivably play the game multiple times, utilizing different skills (such as hacking computers as opposed to brute force), befriending or alienating different people, or becoming aligned with varying factions found throughout the game. In fact, there’s virtually no such thing as 100% completion in Fallout 3; trying to do so in just one playthrough is impossible due to the sheer amount of content.

Moreover, the developers did a great job of fully realizing the scope and feel of the world and getting players to respond to their environment. Characters never truly feel healthy (radiation and Chems addiction will constantly plague you), there’s never anything good to eat, weapons are always half-broken, jerry-rigged pieces of garbage, and no one you talk to seems to be quite with it.

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.

Fallout 3 screenshot

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 screenshot

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.

The resolution is crisp, the landscapes are impressive, and there are a lot of clever details to be found in the massive world. However, the unrealistic ragdoll physics, often inaccurate V.A.T.S. animations, flat textures, repetitive environments, and poor, emotionless facial expressions combine to make the visual experience decidedly less than stellar. 3.6 Control
Having the ability to completely customize the control mapping is a great feature. Unfortunately, the shooter mechanic is clunky. The game plays as if it were a ported PC title; it begs for a mouse and WASD keys. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
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. 4.5 Play Value
There is so much to do in this game it’s almost overkill. There is an enormous amount of quests, character development options, factions to join, and territory to cover. If you get hooked, you’ll be playing this title for months! 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Take in the sights and sounds of the vast Capital Wasteland! See the great monuments of the United States lying in post-apocalyptic ruin! You make the choices that define you and change the world. Just keep an eye on your Rad Meter!
  • Vault-Tec engineers bring you the latest in human ability simulation – the SPECIAL Character System! Utilizing new breakthroughs in points-based ability representation, SPECIAL affords unlimited customization of your character. Also included are dozens of unique skills and perks to choose from, each with a dazzling variety of effects.
  • The wizards at Vault-Tec have done it again! No longer constrained to just one view, experience the world from first or third-person perspective. Customize your view with the touch of a button.
  • Feeling like a dastardly villain today, or a good Samaritan? Pick a side or walk the line, as every situation can be dealt with in many different ways. Talk out your problems in a civilized fashion or just flash your Plasma Rifle.
  • At Vault-Tec, we realize that the key to reviving civilization after a global nuclear war is people. Our best minds pooled their efforts to produce an advanced version of Radiant A.I., America’s First Choice in Human Interaction Simulation. Facial expressions, gestures, unique dialog, and lifelike behavior are brought together with stunning results by the latest in Vault-Tec technology.
  • Witness the harsh realities of nuclear fallout rendered like never before in modern super-deluxe HD graphics; from the barren Capital Wasteland, to the danger-filled offices and metro tunnels of DC to the hideous rotten flesh of a mutant’s face.
  • Even the odds in combat with the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System for your Pip-Boy Model 3000! V.A.T.S. allows you to pause time in combat, target specific body parts on your target, queue up attacks, and let Vault-Tec take out your aggression for you; rain death and destruction in an all-new cinematic presentation featuring gory dismemberment and spectacular explosions.

  • To top