PAX 08 in Review: Fallout 3

Wednesday, September 3, 2008
I set Fallout 3 as the only post today because I've got a lot to say about it. I've had quite the history with the fallout series. I've played every game to bear the series name and still play Fallout 2 whenever I get a chance. I've beaten each main series game as an idiot, a thief, a sniper, a smooth-talker and a brawler (just to generalize a few character types). I have searched the endless wastes for water chips and G.E.C.K.'s, slaughtered gangsters deathclaws and super mutants. On my list of all time favorite games the fallout series lies squarely at the top -though just below X-Com: UFO Defense, that game makes joy so real I could leash it and walk it around the block. *ahem*, anyway.

The last time I played a fallout title with a console controller it was the minimally exciting Brotherhood of Steel for the original Xbox. Some part of that disappointment must have remained in my subconscious because as soon as I was in front of that screen with controller in hand, I felt apprehensive. The last thing I wanted was for this ray of hope to diminish in person. I wanted this to feel like the old days.

The first thing I noticed about the latest entry in the series was the atmosphere. The ruined retro-futuristic aesthetic was perfectly preserved and ported over to the Gamebryo engine. From the color palette to the vaultboy illustrations, it's all there. Even the dialogue retains that snarky fallout flair. Speaking to the Sheriff of Megaton I was delighted that my dialogue options were far more in depth than the Oblivion method of topic selection. I was given the familiar full sentence, often hilarious answers and threats I'd loved so much. Things looked good.

Not everything plays as it used to. The combat system in real time handles like a mix of Oblivion and Bioshock, while turning on "V.A.T.S." brings back some of the appeal of the old fallout combat engine. The Item creation system is particularly interesting. Around the wastes you can find schematics which give you a list of items you can assemble into various weapons. Any idiot can build something with instructions, but only a character with the right skills can build one that lasts. Intriguing.

I could go on about how much I loved Fallout 3, and I will next week. For now let me just say, in the interest of keeping this brief, that any fan of the series has little to worry about from Bethesda. The team has treated our beloved post-apocalyptic RPG very very well. Those familiar with the series will have their prayers answered, and those new to Fallout will have a great starting point to explore the beginnings of this incredible game.