‘Fallout 3’

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By Bill Molina

‘Fallout 3’ (Courtesy of Games Press)

By Bill Molina

Imagine that a nuclear war between America and China had left the world a radiated pile of debris, and the only survivors were people who escaped into special Vault-Tec underground bunkers.

Now imagine that you are born inside Vault 101, located in the ravaged remains of Washington D.C., and just after turning 19 your father mysteriously exits the vault without leaving a clue as to where he is or why he left, and so you become the second person to ever leave the depths of vault to chase after him.

Although technology had advanced at a superior rate than ours after World War II, the world of “Fallout” is still culturally locked in the American “ideal society” from the 50s, a time where all men drank scotch for breakfast, and all women cooked in high heels.

A long running war with China resulted in the global nuclear destruction of 2077, two hundred years later is where your story takes place during the year 2277.

Washington D.C. is now known as the “Capital Wasteland,” and is home to giant irradiated insects, roving psychopathic raiders, rotting feral ghouls who crave flesh, malfunctioning armored military robots, and super mutants who carry very big guns, and they all want to you to “buy the farm” so to speak.

The tutorial mode in this game is absolutely brilliant, after watching yourself be born you choose your gender and nationality, and then you take your first steps as a baby as you learn movement controls.

Skipping to your tenth birthday when you get your Pip-Boy 3000, not only a sign of maturity, this wrist strapped computer allows you to see your stats, inventory, and maps to help you keep track of every weapon you own and every quest you’ve accepted.

Then you jump to your Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test, otherwise known as G.O.A.T., to determine what kind of character skills you should have based on your personality.

Your nineteenth birthday begins with the vault’s security trying to chase you down, after blaming you as an accomplice to your father’s escape. The escape sequence teaches you how to use the new and innovative combat system known as V.A.T.S.

The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System permits you to freeze the game and use your ability points to shoot at specific body parts of the enemies in front of you.

Shooting certain limbs allows you to cripple them, enabling you to disarm foes, disable them from running away, or giving them a concussion to stun them, but beware as they can cripple you as well.

Upon exiting Vault 101 your eyes must adjust to the blinding light of the sun, it is then that you see the vast wasteland before you and the game truly begins.

Giving you no set objective allows you to tackle the world and the tasks therein in any fashion you see fit.

An outstanding example of sandbox game play showcases the game’s main goal, the ability to play the game as you feel it should be played, there is no “correct” way to play.

This guarantees that although the game has an ending, how you reach that end will always be truly unique and up to you entirely.

The Pip-Boy 3000 has a few radio stations that you can tune into at any time, the two main stations are Enclave Radio, which is the remnants of the U.S. government, playing American anthems, the other is Galaxy News Radio, which plays several classic tunes from the 50s like Ella Fitzgerald and The Ink Spots “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire”, the perfect song to accent the scenario you are in.

Although the music and radio hosts are a blast to listen too, the loop that they are on is very short and hearing the same couple of songs regardless of station may grate on your nerves after awhile, but at least you can turn them off.

Rescuing your first wasteland captive from super mutant enslavement is quite the emotional experience, as is saving the lone child survivor of a destroyed settlement.

Exploring the landscape can sometimes reveal another Vault similar to the one you came from. Vault 106, just Northwest of Vault 101, is a decrepit and run down vault where the people have been at each others throats for so long that they’ve become insane and instantly attack you on sight.

Having to fight fellow vault survivors will rack you with guilt, as you may be freeing them of a horrific life, you’re still killing people raised in the same setting as your character.

Occasional flashbacks occur in other vaults, showing you several ghost images of your father or other vault mates from your past.

The game isn’t without its flaws unfortunately as the Playstation 3 version of the game is inferior from its XBOX 360 and PC counterparts.

Suffering from occasional game crashes, massive environmental pop-up, clipping issues, and my personal favorite, random corpse spasm syndrome, where the body of a fallen enemy is unable to stop thrashing or sliding across the floor.

These rarely occur, but when they do they are horrific reminders that you are playing a video game, yanking you out of the wasteland experience and almost jerking the controller right out of your hands as bad code slaps you in the mouth.

Sadly the last few epic sequences seem to play themselves, leaving you bored and jaded with the whole adventure.

Worse yet “Fallout 3” doesn’t have an ending, it has something that happens before the game ends, but it doesn’t leave you satisfied nor does it wrap up any loose ends the story may have up in the air either. Not a single movie scene, just black and white still images with light narration.

The good ending, the bad ending, they are both almost identical and yet they should be morally opposite outcomes, not different captions on the same photo reel. No big gun, no magic beans, no secret handshake, nothing!

Do not let these faults sway you from making a purchase that will keep you entertained well into 2009.

If you are a fan of Bethesda Game Studios previous masterpiece “Oblivion,” then this is a must buy.

The world of “Fallout 3” is a fascinating interpretation of a post-nuclear world, which will slowly turn your room into a vault, as the hours fly by in a radiated daze.

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