This is the wasteland

Monday, November 3, 2008
Fallout 3 and I are still getting to know each other. It's an awkward relationship right now. I knew his older brothers and thought they were pretty damn awesome. But this youngest member of the family is so different from his relations that I feel I have to dig to find some common ground. There are some similarities in behavior, but the look and feeling of this one is very different from what I've come to expect from the exalted family.

Moving the camera from a top-down to first person view has the effect of making combat more hectic than previous Fallout titles. You no longer know if someone is behind you, often until you are shot. Since a lot of the combat is skill based, you aren't ever guaranteed to hit your target. You can try to go through combat in real time but the Oblivion controls are still a little stiff and don't provide enough fine aim capability for accurate shots.

The turn based feature, or V.A.T.S. as it's called, allows you to take more careful aim at your target by specifically body parts, but at least in the first part of the game you have to get so close to your target for a decent chance to hit that a lot of the magic of slow-motion shots is destroyed by a quirky camera.

One of the key parts of the old Fallout games was the writing. Snarky lines, interesting side quests and often hilarious encounters all revolved around the central story, woven in and out carefully. Fallout 3 almost gets there but can't quite reach the heights of the originals. I think the Bethesda folks are still getting used to the verbiage. Hopefully with time they'll become more comfortable in their new environs and we'll finally get that same caliber of writing the Fallout series has delivered.

I'm being a little hard on Fallout 3, yes. Do I dislike it however? No. It's still a great game, it just doesn't feel like the natural Fallout sequel I had expected it to be. There's plenty of fan service sprinkled about the items and dialogue, but beyond that, most fans of the original series should know what they're getting into. Don't expect it to answer all your payers and the two of you should get along just fine.

Fallout 3 does do some things very well. The first couple hours of the game teach you the controls and create your character in a very innovative way. I don't want to spoil it so I won't say any more, you'll just have to play it for yourself.

Somehow, the slow motion camera doesn't really get old. There's something incredibly cathartic about blowing a super mutant's head apart and watching the body collapse slowly to the floor. It's an aesthetic touch that manages to bring back a bit of the old feelings. Just a bit though

The real heart of the game is still alive and mostly well. One noticeable difference is that you don't get to choose any starting perks. On top of that, I've yet to come across one perk with any negative effects, an interesting choice with seemingly little reason behind it. It's as if Bethesda removed it to make room for the robust weapon building and salvage mechanics.

Remember, I don't dislike Fallout 3. In fact, I highly reccomend it to any fan of tomorrow land aesthetis, a taste for dark humor and a fondness for RPG action. Fans of the original Fallout series should take it with a grain of salt but should still come out pleased with the overall game.