I want to start with a disclaimer here: I have not played the first two Fallout games. I know about them, and I’ve read about them, but I have not played them. Therefore, you’ll be getting a review from – and for – a gamer just coming into the series. With that out of the way, let’s get this thing underway.

Fallout 3

Fallout 3 has been negatively tagged as Oblivion with guns. That’s not really very accurate, because if you went by the unfamiliar landscape and piecemeal construction, it’s more like Morrowind with guns. I’m kidding, but it does somewhat earn the former designation. I know that when I found my first subway to enter, my first thought honestly was “this is like finding an Alyed Ruin!” Not that that’s a bad thing. Oblivion was our 2006 Game of the Year, and it still holds up today. Of course, Fallout’s theme and gameplay pegs it for a much more mature audience.

We’ll start with the theme. Civilization at large has been destroyed in World War 3, mainly between the U.S. and China, and all that’s left is an irradiated wasteland. You begin as a baby, growing up in a Vault-tec vault, creating your character as you go. Once you reach the climax of this opening sequence, you exit the vault and are given the Oblivion treatment with all of that free space sprawling out before you, beckoning for exploration. That ‘free space’ is the Capital Wasteland, formerly Washington, D.C., and it’s not free, per say. It’s going to take a strong will to survive out there, and that’s going to take VATS.

VATS, the Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System will be your greatest ability throughout Fallout 3. It allows you to stop time and queue up a series of shots (how many is dictated by your action points) on specific targets. Limbs, weapons, heads, what have you. Once that’s done you’re treated to a slow-mo play out of the results. This can lead to some very, very gory scenes, as limbs get blown off and heads removed from their host bodies. In fact, it’s almost too common to blow someone to bits with a simple firearm. The selection of weapons is delightful. I like the hunting rifle the most, but there are around two dozen different weapons, most with their own unique ammo to keep track of. This is a nice realistic touch. Weapons include laser pistols, 10 mm pistols, sniper rifles, Chinese assault rifles, sledge hammers, Power Fists (steam-powered pneumatic battering rams), and big guns like missile launchers and the Fat Man, which launches mini-nukes. I think that missile launchers are way too common. It seems that nearly every surface stronghold your cross has a couple of missile launching troops around. This, combined with the dearth of healing items and you can get killed fairly quickly.

Graphically, Fallout 3 is even better looking then Oblivion. On top of that, it performs better then Oblivion, too, due to the lack of Oblivion’s huge amounts of foliage. The game’s sound, outside of combat and some of the voice work, is unremarkable. The radio stations you can get on your Pip-Boy (your combination PDA, stat tracker, radio, and flashlight) are ok, and Three Dog, the local DJ, often comments on your recent exploits, but the lack of musical diversity isn’t going to threaten Rockstar’s GTA series’ massive collection. For example, I’ve only heard about four or five songs total on Galaxy News Radio, and that’s the most diverse of the stations.

In summation, this is a very good game with solid controls and a good, mature premise. If you can get over the bloody combat (anyone who’s played a recent  FPS will have no trouble) and the lackluster soundtrack, you’ll find a typical Bethesda offering (crashes and all). I think this would do diehard Fallout fans proud, to see the level of polish that’s gone into this game. I know I enjoyed it. Alphasim out