By Brad Sewell on August 8, 2013 at 9:11am
I’ll always keep coming back to "Fallout 3." In the few years since I first played it, it’s already become one of those games forever rooted in my memories alongside "Donkey Kong Country" and half a dozen "Final Fantasy" titles.
The premise is simple: You’re the descendent of a group of survivors lucky enough to be selected for a life of safety in an underground Vault before the world nuked itself to kingdom come in 2077. That premise quickly melts away, though, as you leave the safety of your Vault to chase after your father, only to discover what a hellhole Washington, D.C. has become in the past 200 years. Irradiated horrors lurk around every corner as you find yourself increasingly mired in an escalating conflict between those trying to save humanity and those seeking to enslave it.
The game’s setting is from an alternate timeline diverging sometime in the late 1950’s, leaving the Capital Wasteland as a post-apocalyptic “World of Tomorrow.” While it is fun to speculate on the nuclear holocaust transforming many creatures to epic proportions, the game’s realism dawns when you find an account of a Red Cross nurse watching as thousands die from radiation poison. Or when you find a Personal Preservation Chamber containing a skeleton, a pistol, and a gun manual.
For its time, the graphics were stunning. The first building I ever wandered into (not having yet learned how to find the way to Megaton) was the Springvale Elementary School, which reminded me right away of the school from the original “Silent Hill.” Being lost in that building for a tense hour (hey, I was new) and finding only a handful of bandits showed me that a game’s environment contributes so much more to overall creepiness than most of the enemies you encounter.
“Fallout 3’s” soundtrack played over the PipBoy’s radio if you chose to leave it on. While the songs were mostly enjoyable, nodding towards the familiar sounds of the 50’s, the radio broadcasts felt as though they were on a short loop with few options. Of course the airwaves of the apocalypse aren’t clogged with the corporate noise of Liberty City, but the repetition usually left me stalking the Capital Wasteland in silence.
I played “Fallout 3” on PS3, and it was, as Sony users have come to expect with Bethesda’s products, plagued with freezes and crashes. As I play through it now, they appear to have fixed much of that, but I’ve done little work in the DLCs on this pass. The game appeared to do well on my last playthrough, but constant crashes rendered the Point Lookout expansion unplayable about halfway through.
I’m currently just past the final mission from the original game and am about to start churning through DLCs before finishing the “Broken Steel” expansion. “The Pitt” kept most of the original flavor of the base game, and it’s the only one I’ve completed in my current save. I usually go through “The Pitt” at around level 14. “Operation: Anchorage,” the first DLC released in 2009, will most likely be the second for the sole purpose of grabbing the Chinese Stealth Armor. “Operation: Anchorage” is probably my least favorite DLC, as it felt like Bethesda was trying to hop on the “Call of Duty” bandwagon. “Mothership Zeta” was interesting but often offered little direction when direction was critical. I thoroughly enjoyed “Point Lookout” when I was able to play through it on a friend’s 360, but I still don’t have the completion trophy on my PS3 profile. “Broken Steel” adds directly on to the story in the way that an expansion should.
What keeps me coming back to “Fallout 3” though? Options. Sure, the speech options are as obvious as you’ll find in any game with a karma or alignment slider a la “Mass Effect” or “Knights of the Old Republic,” but that’s not where the options end. Firstly, you have much flexibility in character customization as you progress through the game. When you level, you’re given a list of Perks to choose from, usually in the form of either a stat increase or a change in a gameplay element. As in most roleplaying games of this nature, I’ll go the sneak route, leaving me able to tiptoe behind enemies and take them out with a single massive attack before slinking back to the shadows (or sometimes taking a mini nuke to the face if I don’t quite kill the target). The game may be a faster experience with heavy armor and a Rock-It Launcher, but it’s hard for me to get into that. If that’s your thing, though, then hey, grab those Perks.
The truest option was that of gameplay. You can use the V.A.T.S. system to halt time for a moment, line up your attacks with a diagram showing how accurate they will be, and then have the game play out the sequence in a short cutscene. If you want. I always did. However, you have the option to ignore V.A.T.S. entirely and charge in with guns blazing like Master Chief if that’s your thing. You’ll waste more ammo that way, but as I tread the wastelands with some 14,000 assault rifle rounds, I doubt that will be an issue.
Going through the game now, I’m reminded that, no matter how angelic of a character I’m playing, I will always sell out the android in the mission “The Replicated Man.” Always.
If you’re looking for a fun, cheap game that will stick with you for a while, I’ll recommend “Fallout 3.” The Game of the Year Edition - including all five DLCs - is still around the $20 mark for all systems. You can find the original, base game for under $10, but the DLCs are $5 a pop if you buy them separately. Happy scavenging!