I know, I know, another game review but fucking hell, I’m so hard-pressed for something interesting to talk about in terms of movies and TV so fuck it, I love ‘Fallout 3’ so we’re doing this.
‘Fallout 3’ was developed by Bethesda and released in 2008 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 and proved to be a defining game in the series.
I haven’t played the first two ‘Fallout’ games because they were isometric and I didn’t understand them but ‘Fallout 3’ was the first game developed for console and they took it in a really interesting direction.
Before I get into gameplay, I’ll just give a brief summary of the Fallout universe that led up to Fallout 3 although there is no such thing as ‘brief’ in the Fallout Universe.
Basically, the Fallout games take place in a post-apocalyptic universe where the world has been decimated by nuclear war. After around 20 years of battling for resources in which the world was nearly tapped out of fossil fuels due to the futuristic nature of the technology, the ‘Great War’ began on October 23rd, 2077 in which the world’s most nuclear capable nations, primarily the US, China and Russia chucked nukes at each for around two hours. Since the tensions had been rising for a number of years and after a small nuclear exchange in the Middle East, a company called ‘Vault-tech’, anticipated that there could be a nuclear war and so built underground vaults all over America so the public had somewhere to flee. That was the ‘official’ story anyway. Secretly, Vault-tech wanted to perform secret experiments under orders from the US government.
The first game takes place 84 years are the nuclear war and begins in Vault 13. Not until ‘Fallout 4’ would the player character be given a first name that wasn’t chosen by the player but in all the games before hand, they were given a title such as ‘the Vault Dweller’ or in the case of Fallout 3, ‘The Lone Wanderer’.
‘Fallout 2’ takes place in 2241 and follows a direct descendant of the Vault Dweller, dubbed ‘The Chosen One’. Again, it was isometric and I didn’t play it.
But what about ‘Fallout 3’ and why was it so popular?
The first thing to say is that it’s not really necessary to have played the first two games to understand what’s happening in this game as the intro cinematic (narrated by Ron Perlman) explains the history and everything the player needs to know.
‘Fallout 3’ begins, and the protagonist is being born. Handed to their father, James (voiced by Liam Neeson), he basks at his new-born and the player can choose the baby’s name, gender and what they will look like when they grow up. When all that is completed, the protagonists mother, Catherine, suddenly goes into cardiac arrest and dies soon after.
The first half and hour or so follows the protagonist and shows their life as they grow up in Vault 101 which is a good way to get the player immersed in the story. What’s more, the game is no longer isometric but first-person which also helps with the immersion.
Because the game is an RPG (Role Playing Game), the player has to build up their stats from the get-go. The game allows for a wide range of skills and allows for the player to choose their own way to play. You can be a gun’s expert, an explosives expert, a melee expert or a stealth expert and if you mess around enough and gain enough XP, you can become an expert in as much as you want.
I say all this because in the ‘toddler’ stage of the opening, Baby You comes a book where they encounter the ‘S.P.E.C.I.A.L’ mechanic which works alongside the other player upgrades. It works like this. When a player levels up, the game will give you a bunch of experience points to place wherever you like but the player will also have the option to get a ‘perk’ and one perk allows you to gain one S.P.E.C.I.A.L. point to be put into Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility or Luck. They all sound intriguing, don’t they? It was always an internal battle to decide where to put the points. I seem to remember putting quite a few points into Charisma because the ‘speech’ function is really useful as a way to talk yourself out of a problem.
Back to the plot.
When the player reaches the age of 19, they are told by a friend that their father has escaped from the Vault which is unusual because Vault 101 is notorious for having no one ever leave. ‘You’re born in the Vault and you die in the Vault’ as the Overseer says. The player must fight past security to reach the Overseer’s office and get to the front door. Don’t worry, this isn’t the last time you’ll see Vault 101. The Protagonist opens the Vault door and reaches the outside.
This is probably my favourite bit in the game. When the player reaches the end of the tunnel leading to the vault door and steps outside, there is a blinding light. As soon as the protagonist’s eyes adjust, they see their world that is the Wasteland. In the distance, they can see the remains of the Washington monument and the Capitol building just next to it. We’ll get to visit those locations later on in the game.
After leaving the Vault, it would probably be a good idea to go to the town of Megaton which is nearby. The town is called Megaton because there is an un-exploded nuclear bomb in the middle of the town.
‘Fallout 3’ has a loose karma system. I say ‘loose’ because it’s not as rigidly implemented as the karma system in ‘inFAMOUS’. Basically, you can be good, neutral, or evil and the player is given certain choices they can make throughout the game to affect what perks are accessible to them. The first choice is given in Megaton. The player can choose to deactivate the bomb for Lucas Simms and be rewarded with 100 caps (500 caps if you pass the speech check) and are given a house in Megaton. On the flip side, the player can choose to activate the bomb and blow up Megaton at the behest of themselves or be paid to do it by Tenpenny whom you meet in Moriarty’s bar on your search for James.
I’ve never blown up Megaton. I always stay and do the quests because they’re a good way to build up XP and you level up really quickly in the early stages. Moira Brown’s quests for the completion of her ‘Wasteland Survival Guide’ are a good place to start because they open up the player to the hazards of the Wasteland and it’s good for XP and Caps.
Aside from doing the main quests which is basically the search for James, there are TONNES of things to do. ‘Fallout 3’ is a great open-world game because the RPG nature of it encourages the player to explore the world and find new settlements to gain more XP and level up. You can just do the main story if you want but you’ll find that the main story isn’t all that long and the quests increase in difficulty so you’ll find yourself quickly overwhelmed if you’re not levelled up enough. If you want to 100% the game then it can take weeks because there is so much to do and trust me, it’s never boring.
I think it’s really sad that James isn’t in it for a lot of the game. He’s there for most of the opening sequences in Vault 101 but then he spends most of the game missing. When you eventually find him, you get to spend maybe one mission with him before he dies and that totally sucks because Liam Neeson does a great job with his role and the character is so nice that I wanted to have good karma because I didn’t want to disappoint which I think is mostly down to Liam Neeson rather than the writing.
I just want to pop back to the ‘immersion’ angle for a second and this was something that was mishandled in ‘Fallout 4’. In ‘Fallout 3’, The Lone Wanderer is a silent protagonist and the conversations with NPC’s are through dialogue trees which gave a great sense of individuality and helped the player to identify with their character. I don’t want to get too heavily into ‘Fallout 4’ because I intend to do a review on it but the one thing that I didn’t like about it was that the player character had already been named (Nora or Nate) and they were fully voiced characters (Brian T. Delaney and Courtenay Taylor). I feel this was a mistake because the giving the player character a voice already sets them up for what kind of person they are since the voice actors are playing a role. ‘Fallout 4’ is still an RPG and so the players conversations with NPC’s are given numerous directions depending on the personality that the player has chosen. My point being that the voice actor’s delivery may not suit the choice of dialogue and so the performance becomes disjointed and therefore the immersion is lost. If you see what I mean? I’ll get into this more when I do ‘Fallout 4’.
Because the player is given so many choices throughout the game, the ultimate decision at the end is ‘open-ended’. James was working with scientists on a project called ‘Project Purity’ which would work to eliminate the amounts of radiation in the water supply and give fresh, clean drinking water to the Wasteland.
To have the purifier work, the player must retrieve a G.E.C.K (A Garden of Eden Creation Kit) from Vault 87 and once they do, they are captured by President John Henry Eden and tells the player that they must use a modified FEV (Forced Evolutionary Virus) into the water system which will kill all mutants but also kill any human ‘tainted’ with radiation, no matter how severe which is basically everyone other than the people in the Vaults.
So, at the end, the player has a choice to insert the FEV or just activate the Purifier. Both endings come with a sacrifice. Either the player can sacrifice themselves or send Sentinel Lyons in to activate the Purifier since the activation means the control room will be flooded with radiation which echoes the way the Lone Wanderer’s father died.
That is the end of the game because it shows the death of the Lone Wanderer but if the player has the ‘Broken Steel’ DLC installed then it’s not the end of the game. It shows that the Lone Wanderer survived the severe levels of radiation and joins the Brotherhood of Steel to protect the pipeline and… do other really exciting stuff… I’m going to be honest; I haven’t played it.
I’ll come back to the initial question. Why was this game so popular? Well, it’s nuclear post-apocalypse which is a big draw for most people. The radical change from Pseudo-isometric to first person was a huge positive as the great shooters in gaming history are first person.
Also, to me, the world was so well created and so huge that a player can get lost in the Wasteland for hours just picking up quests and exploring the hundreds of locations on the map whilst meeting interesting and diverse characters.
The add-ons can get a bit wacky. There’s one called ‘Mothership Zeta’ which has you fighting aliens and ‘Operation Anchorage’ is also really good as it can help you level up and get the T-18 power armour really quickly. I haven’t finished ‘Point Lookout’ or played ‘The Pitt’ but like I say, it’s a huge game and there’s loads that needs to get done.
I would highly recommend this game to those who haven’t played it. You can get it on ‘Steam’ dirt cheap and it’s also in ‘Good Old Games’ but be warned! This game is very buggy and prone to crashes so with this game, there is a patch out there that sorts all that out so you should be fine. I’ve been playing it recently and it hasn’t crashed once.
It’s my birthday soon so I’ll try and get ‘Fallout: New Vegas’ and ‘Fallout 4’ reviewed before the 18th July. See you soon.