Originally written November 2008.
The first hour of Fallout 3 was a disappointment. Having spent weeks reading about its vaults and relishing the opportunity to explore them, the sad truth was I couldn’t wait to get out of the reinforced tin can in which you start the game. A maze of laboratories, people you don’t know and an exam (yep, an exam!) only served to get in the way of what felt like an escape into the real game. As a start to the game it does make sense and retrospectively it works well, but it takes a lot of patience not to try and run for the door at first opportunity.
The second hour was incredible. It’s one hell of a moment and, after spending an hour desperate to get there, the steps as you approach the exit of the Vault will make a grown man giggle with anticipation. The moment you make it outside is as satisfying as anything you’ll experience in your gaming career, it’s the first time you’ve seen natural light and it’s only after your eyes adjust that you realise what awaits you. Somehow you’ll eventually find your way to the nearest settlement, Megaton, where you’ll have to work hard to make friends, usually by way of one of the game’s quests.
The third hour was terrifying. In one of the first quests, a Megaton resident named Moira is creating a survival guide for the wastelands and she needs some help. She’s clearly foolish, I had only just been introduced to the wastes of Washington and I was willing to lie to her just to get the rewards. I walked off to find a nearby super market so I could let her know if it still contained any food or medicine, which it did. Unfortunately for me it also housed gangs of Raiders and I was genuinely scared as I heard creepy voices shouting obscenities from the dark corners of the room, before they charged at me.
The first threat in Fallout 3 is Raiders – a race of deranged, criminally insane humans who reside in the wasteland and throughout the game you’ll run in to them frequently. You’ll know when you’ve accidentally walked into a Raider camp; they like to hang up their victim’s mutilated bodies on meat hooks and don’t clean up the blood. They’ll also shoot you on sight. They’re a welcoming bunch.
It also won’t be long until you hear the roar of Super Mutants, an atrocious race of former humans mutated over the years, which will attack anyone then meet. They vary in rank, with the higher ranks being harder to kill and having better weapons. Typically, you’ll usually encounter them when you discover an exciting new location, and have to wipe them about before taking in the sights. Both the best and the worst moments of combat will come when you meet your first Super Mutant Behemoth, which will make your jaw drop. There’s only a handful in the game but they’re brilliant beasts and bigger than houses.
There are numerous other species roaming the wastelands that will gladly try and eat you, from Centaurs to Mirelurks, the latter resembling large crab men who are annoyingly hard to kill without the right guns.
If being compared directly to Bethesda’s Oblivion then the size of Fallout 3 is worth mentioning. The game’s map is considerably smaller and at first this could be a worry, but after a few hours wandering the wastes you’ll realise it’s plenty big enough. Being based on a real place, Washington DC, it also has it’s perks. Seeing the Capitol building for the first time is great fun, despite the army of Mutants parading outside, and even the fictional areas of the map are a joy to explore.
The leveling up system is very similar to Oblivion’s but you’re definitely more aware of how your choices and actions will shape your experience. In Fallout 3 it’s kill or be killed so you’ll give anything to be better at picking locks on ammo boxes or medical supplies. Being a hero or a villain will alter your karma levels and directly influences your interaction with other characters.
There’s enough to keep you going in Fallout 3, even if you ignore the main plotline. And that is one of the game’s flaws. When completing the main story arc of Oblivion you could then wander off and continue your life, where as in Fallout 3 completing the main quest means the credits roll and you’re loading up your old save games to continue exploring. The main quest is both engrossing and fun, but it’s too short. With DLC announced for the XBOX 360 and PC, completing the game will leave you feeling a bit put out until they’re released.
Fallout 3 is dark game that proves to be both terrifying and hilarious. But more importantly it will have you seriously considering your choices and being fully aware of the consequences. It will also send you to bed each night thankful that we haven’t sent our world into nuclear apocalypse. Yet.
Verdict: 9/10 So accomplished and addictive. Be prepared to turn up at work tired.
√ Hugely detailed open world to explore
√ Excellent character development
√ Can be genuinely scary
√ Massive amount of side quests to keep you busy
X Campaign too short