Fallout 3

Fallout 3 is finally ready for prime time but has Bethesda Game Studios been able to recreate the magic that Black Isle Studios managed with Fallout 2? Considering that this reviewer is on his third way through the game, the answer is a solid yes

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Fallout 3
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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  January 3, 2009

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Key Specs

Number of players: 1
Online play: Y
Price: $81

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Fallout 2 ruined this reviewer's life when it came out 10 years ago. The unbelievably rich game-world, humor, superb quests and interesting gameplay had me playing from dawn to dusk for weeks on end. Worse still, Fallout 2 made it abundantly clear that you could finish the main story in a multitude of ways and this, inevitably, meant that I went back and played it several times over just to try and finish it in every way possible. 10 years on, Fallout 3 is finally ready for prime time but has Bethesda Game Studios been able to recreate the magic that Black Isle Studios managed with Fallout 2? Considering that I'm on my third way through the game, the answer is a solid yes.

Unlike Fallout: Tactics and Fallout: Brother of Steel - released in 2001 and 2004 respectively - Fallout 3 is a proper successor to Fallout 2 in terms of storyline. The game is set 36 years after Fallout 2 and 200 years after the nuclear war that laid waste to the game's world. Links with the older games come in the form of returning characters and the odd reference and this helps to tie all three games together.

Fallout 3 opens inside Vault 101 just as your in-game character is being born. You'll spend approximately an hour playing a child and this is essentially where you choose your character's attributes, gender and more and also get introduced to the Vault-Tec Assisted Target System (V.A.T.S) and the PIP-Boy 3000. The latter is a small computer attached to your hand and you'll use this extensively to check up on quests, look at inventory, journey from place-to-place and more.

V.A.T.S is basically a modern replacement for the action point system that the older Fallout 2 used during battles. When you activate V.A.T.S, it pauses time in the game world and allows you to plan attacks against one or multiple enemies targeting very specific parts of their bodies. This gives you the flexibility to disarm opponents, cripple them and more. A point system still exists here however and the number of points you get is determined by your character's base agility value. The higher your agility, the more points you get to play with.

Once you've made selections for what action you want your character to take, you'll be given a slow motion treat as your character will execute your choices. This is very satisfying to watch particularly when using weapons such as the sawed-off shotgun and sledgehammer. There's almost too much detail here, as you'll literally be able to watch an enemies head being blown to bits (if you chose to fire on his head with a shotgun from close range), or watch as your character swings the sledgehammer into a foes body with bone crushing results. All-in-all it's very satisfying stuff and we preferred using V.A.T.S every time rather than trying to wipeout foes using the real time combat.

The design and size of Fallout 3's game world is quite possibly this game's biggest draw. The capital wasteland is absolutely huge and you'll figure this out quite early on, as it will actually take you a noticeable amount of time to journey from one town to another. This is different to Fallout 2 because whereas you could just click on specific towns to travel to (once you'd heard about them), in Fallout 3, this becomes an option only once you've made the journey across the wasteland yourself. That said, this adds to the game's appeal because the wasteland is an explorer's dream come true. You'll find weapons, settlements, remnants of the old world and more strewn across its massive area.

Like the older games, Fallout 3 has a main quest that you have to complete to beat the game and, of course, you can also undertake any number of side quests as you work your way through. However, a word of warning here is that once you finish the main quest, the game does effectively end whereas Fallout and Fallout 2 actually let you continue playing. As before the quests are fun and interesting and in doing these quests, you'll learn more about the Fallout universe and even come across characters from the older games.

From a presentation perspective, Fallout 3 is absolutely awesome. The narration, voice-acting and eerie background music is easily at Hollywood levels and the game's graphics engine does a fantastic job of on the visuals. Make no mistake, this is a game that will sink its teeth into you and won't let go for a very, very long time.

For: Fallout 3's combat is hugely satisfying regardless of whether you're using the V.A.T.S system or blowing holes into your foes in real time.

Verdict: Fallout 3 is absolutely awesome. It retains much of what made its predecessors a hit whilst offering a number of updated aspects that keep the game fresh and interesting.

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