Fallout 3 begins in Vault 101, a place that is all you have ever known. Born and raised there, you were brought up to believe nothing exists in the outside post-nuclear world and that you will die in the Vault as everyone has done for generations before you. All of this is thrown into chaos the day your father escapes; your entire world is turned upside down as you must leave the Vault and enter the barren Capital Wasteland where mutations roam and life is kill or be killed. Armed only with the weapons you manage to find, you set out to find your father and head on a path that will shape the nation as you make friends and enemies along the way.
The world is huge. Playing in the future post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. is intense and gratifying; whether you are looking at destroyed National Monuments in the background, searching the Metro stations or museums for loot, there are plenty of secret locations to explore and enemies to encounter. Scattered through this world are the wasteland survivors living in communities or out in the world where they are under the constant attack of ghouls, super-mutants, raiders and mercenaries. Each have their needs and their schedules that add to the desperate feel the game atmosphere strives for, and how you interact with them affects your overall karma value. Here you have yet another way to customize your gameplay, as you can constantly take the high road by being nice to people or to strive for the way of the gun, killing people recklessly to achieve your ends. Each karma level of bad, neutral or good affects how people ultimately view and interact with you.
Fallout 3 takes the best aspects of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and smartly tweaks the formula to create a worthy successor in the Fallout series, using FPS mechanics as a base and adding a quasi-turn-based RPG system to the mix that further expands the player’s choices in approach. Using the Vault Assisted Targeting System (VATS), you can pause the action with a button push and focus on an individual targets body parts to maximize the damage. Each shot can be planned using Action Points (AP) to target the head, the gun arm or any other part as you attempt to take down your enemy or disable them. Each enemy requires a different approach, as you may want to quickly take down a raider by consecutive head-shots that cause more damage, but have a higher chance of missing or by aiming at a super-mutants gun arm so that you are less likely to receive their big-gun bullets in your face. All of this requires some tact though, if you use up your AP you are put back in to FPS mode where you may waste more ammunition and need to wait until AP is built back up to use VATS again. One nit I could muster about this system is the unfairness it sometimes trips upon; I have killed more than one mutant scorpion by blowing up its tail, and killed more than one raider by destroying their gun arm. These are just minor divergences from a game that excels in creating a living breathing world with a driving story.
Each quest offers multiple methods of resolution; you could use your charisma skill to talk your way on to the next step, or you could sneak in at night and hack a computer, or you could just kill the person and steal his key to gain the same information. In fact, there are whole sections of the main quest line that could be skipped if you just went to the next location and picked up the trail of your father. How you approach is completely up to you.
Fallout 3 is based around choices, and never before has a system of choice been implemented as effectively as it has been here. Any playstyle is welcome here, and ensures no two people will experience the game the same way. Anywhere that Fallout 3 fails to get a Game of the Year award is sure to face numerous comments and letters to the editor from Gamerdom’s howling denizens.
ESRB: M for Mature, for gruesome slow-motion head explosion animations
Plays Like: The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion with guns, but the VATS, leveling system, and other impressive achievements mean you could like this even if you didn’t like Oblivion
PROS: Deep story, excellent leveling mechanics and fun combat
CONS: May be too deep for some due to a vast, intimidating world