Fallout 3 was, arguably, one of the most anticipated games of the current generation, due in part to the fact that it was released no less than 10 years after the release of Fallout 2 in 1998. The game even survived the demise of original studio Black Isle, for the reins to be taken up by RPG powerhouse Bethesda, responsible for the first person fantasy RPG series The Elder Scrolls.
Fallout 3 adopts the first person perspective of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series, rather than the top-down isometric gameplay of the original Fallout games. This will surely annoy some original fans and purists, and draw criticisms of “Oblivion with guns,” but the move ultimately makes the game more involving and more intense. Gameplay involves trekking across the vast wasteland of post-apocalyptic Washington DC, slaying mutated creatures and completing traditional RPG quests, such as finding certain objects or people, killing certain monsters or people, or even leading a zombie revolution in an upper-class hotel. The number of quests doesn’t appear huge compared to, say, Oblivion, but the sheer amount of time it takes is mind boggling. It took me personally over 100 hours, even before DLC is factored in.
Combat can be played out either in traditional FPS style, or with the awesome new VATS (Vault-tech Assisted Targeting System). VATS pauses the game, much like tradition top-down style RPGs, to give the player a chance to assign commands for the fight ahead. In this case, the player chooses a specific part of their target, each of which is assigned a percentage chance to hit, and then hits accept. What follows is a cinematic view of the attack, frequently resulting in hilariously bloody injuries. This system is not only fun, but allows traditional RPG players less fond of twitch-based gaming to have fun.
The graphics are, quite simply, stunning. Although the colour palette is limited to browns and greys, and the animations are occasionally stiff, everything else comes together fantastically. Whether it’s an awesome view for miles over the wasteland or the sight of Brotherhood and Enclave forces engaging in a huge battle, textures, models and effects are all fantastic, with very limited slowdown. The sound as well is first rate. The music is haunting when it needs to be, and exciting in battle. Guns all sound fantastic, and the voice acting is spot-on.
The Game of the Year Edition ships with all five pieces of DLC included. That’s a lot of extra content – each one individually can take four to five hours to complete, so that’s over twenty hours of additional gameplay. That’s practically two whole extra games! The expansions are: Operation Anchorage – a military simulation of a Chinese invasion, which is pretty good; The Pitt – where you must enter the hellish metalworks of Pittsburgh and help the slaves revolt; Broken Steel – continue the main storyline and get your level cap raised to 30; Point Lookout – head to the bizarre island in Maryland to meet and kill new characters and finally, Mothership Zeta – where you get abducted and must fight your way off the mothership. Individually, these expansions aren’t too shabby (Broken Steel and Point Lookout are the best, while The Pitt is great but suffered greatly from bugs). Fortunately, since you get all of them plus the game for a discounted price, individual reviews of each expansion aren’t entirely relevant – since you’re not buying them separately, they simply make a huge game even bigger and better value for money.
Overall, Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition is a must own. It’s not without flaws, mostly in the form of the odd bug which, unfortunately, you just have to expect with an open world game, especially one this ambitious. One example is an unfortunate habit of getting “stuck” in the terrain and being unable to move. Frustrating, but as long as you save often not game-breaking. However, with enough gameplay to keep you playing for 70 hours plus after you’re done with the main storyline, exciting combat, well designed quests and excellent graphics and sound, the game is a no-brainer. Especially being available for £25 with all five DLC expansions thrown in, there really is no excuse.