Product Type: Bethesda PS3 games
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Grave New World
Fallout 3 (PS3)
Member Name: tom1clare
Fallout 3 (PS3)
Date: 15/10/11, updated on 16/10/11 (65 review reads)
Advantages: Outstanding design; collosal scope; superb combat; dialogue choices; originality
Disadvantages: Bugs and glitches; occasionally dodgy A.I.
Set in 2277, this epic Western-RPG adventure begins in Vault 101, one of several bunkers sealed at the end of the 21st Century following an apocalyptic nuclear war between America and China. Cleverly, this serves as both a snapshot of the early years of your characters life, and as a gentle introduction into what you'll be dealing with later on. One morning, the Vault Dweller awakens to chaos, as it emerges their father has fled the Vault, and with security on the prowl and no compromise to be found with the oppressive Overseer, you have no choice but to follow him outside...
...And what you witness when you emerge is really something. An area known simply as the Capital Wasteland, comprising of parts of what used to be Maryland, Virginia and the Washington D.C. area, stretches out before you as far as the eye can see, populated by dozens of settlements and the shells of buildings all shapes and sizes. Where to go, which way to turn? The beauty of Fallout 3 is that for the most part, that's entirely up to you.
The Capital Wasteland is not a forgiving place for the unprepared, and especially in the early stages, it pays to be vigilant. Drinking from water supplies restores health yet increases radiation levels, just as stat-boosting drugs can cause negative effects should the Vault Dweller become addicted. You'll come to appreciate scavenging in a way that hasn't felt so satisfying since the early Resident Evil's - early on, equipment is in short supply and health replenishments expensive, so it pays to grab as much bric-a-brac as possible so you can trade with merchants. The range of items is huge; ranging from populous junk such as rusty tins, empty soda bottles and paperweights, to valuable tools, food and ammo. In a smart twist, merchants have only a limited number of bottle-caps with which to trade, so it's up to the player to engineer a suitable deal.
Once you've acclimatised, the combat is superb. As brutal as it is stylish; the satisfying, bloody firefights prove a regular occurrence in the Wasteland. From a technical standpoint, it's an excellent first-person shoot 'em up setup (although for the record, you can play it from a third-person view) with beautifully smooth movement and ultra-responsive controls. In keeping with a retro-future theme, it mixes traditional weapons such as Hunting Rifles with various Plasma weapons and the FatMan launcher, which fires mini-nukes. There's the added bonus of utilising V.A.T.S.: this freezes the action so as to allow the player a chance to pick a specific target on a foe. The likelihood of a successful hit is dependent on distance, weapon type and the visibility of the target. It's a fantastic concept however as clever thinking can get you out of a scrape; shooting Raiders or the dangerous Super Mutants in the arm may make them drop their gun, whilst other foes have specific areas of weakness, such as the Centaurs' poison-spewing tongues or the creepy Mirelurks' faces, partially covered by their tough shell. It also pays to keep an eye on the time; you should steer clear of D.C. at night as Raider parties tend to prowl the land looking for would-be victims.
Some of the most outstanding moments in Fallout 3 result from the karma system and extensive array of dialogue choices. These are what shape the game, due to how divergent and far-reaching the effects are. Should you opt to be a baddie, you'll never run short of supplies as you can go around pilfering from people, killing those who object and gaining enough of a mean reputation to get mercenaries on your side. There are occasions when keeping your nose clean is the better option however; you can detonate the bomb in the centre of the settlement of Megaton, wiping it clean off the map, but by defusing it, there's the reward of a house complete with a range of perks. Allotting certain attributes during level-ups will grant specialist dialogue options when dealing with children, robots, talking entomology to scientists and so on. Brilliantly, depending on whether you decide to play as a male or female Vault Dweller, you can get either the Lady Killer and Black Widow perks, meaning you can exploit certain members of the opposite sex.
The search for the Vault Dweller's father is but a mere strand of a massive network of narratives that populate the enormous playing area. I would estimate that, if you didn't stray from the game's main mission objectives, you'd see less than a quarter of the playing area Fallout 3 has to offer. There's Paradise Falls, a place where you can, depending on your preference, bring or free slaves; an underground community of people living like vampires; a sinister town of cannibals; factories where robots and the Nuka-Cola soft-drink were once manufactured. The developer, Bethesda, even have their offices represented and in a suitably ruined state. And these are just the outskirts - once the player moves into the D.C. city area there's a whole network of underground tunnels leading to stunning versions of the Lincoln Memorial and Capitol Hill among others.
It's incredibly immersive, there's so much to see, do and interact with, it's feasible to go an entire sitting without even completing a mission simply because you've stumbled upon a car factory that is housing a Queen Giant-Ant, or you're exploring a nerve-wracking Vault where the inhabitants have gone mad, or happening across a community of Ghouls (irradiated humans) living inside the Museum of History as they tell you of the discrimination they've faced due to their appearance. It's so easy to lose hours on end, and it's virtually impossible, short of the 80 hour mark, to run out of things to do. Fallout 3 is one of the most effective time-sinks there's ever been.
If you sense a "but" coming, here it is: bugs. Fallout 3 may work perfectly for days on end, but then equally it may freeze three times in a sitting. In fairness, considering the absolute mountain of different ways you can go about completing each and every mission, it's testament to the game's design that there aren't more game-mangling glitches, but there's no doubt that it has a certain fragility in this area. One particularly frustrating instance saw both my Auto-Save data and the back-up file corrupt together, meaning I had to start the game from the beginning. Elsewhere, the A.I. can get be a bit limp at times, and due to the finite nature of characters lives, it's a pain having an ally team up with you only to get themselves killed in inconspicuous circumstances. Whilst the voice-acting (and use of black humour in general) is of a good quality and the radio stations impress in how they report the events you've been involved in, both are guilty of a severe amount of repetition, with the same small pool of actors voicing dozens of characters and nowhere near enough music or spoken dialogue to fit a game lasting this kind of duration.
Nevertheless, Fallout 3 is a truly awesome achievement. In an era where typically games are becoming shorter, it reverses the trend with a level of scope which is simply unbelievable. The architecture of its bleak, cut-throat civilisation and how it all knits together is a thing of beauty, and once you're out exploring, it grips like a vice. There's so much depth and intrigue hovering just below the surface, it's an incredibly rewarding journey for those willing to invest some time in it. Undoubtedly, one of the best PS3 games money can buy.
Summary: "I can quit anytime I want."
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