Review: Fallout 3 (PC): The Tale of the Lone Wanderer

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In 2077, the world was engulfed in nuclear fire. No one was quite sure whether it was the Americans or the Chinese who launched their missiles first, but in hindsight, it didn’t matter. The United States was turned into a desolate wasteland whose citizens (that is, those who were lucky enough) crawled into underground vaults just in time. 200 years later, the Lone Wanderer, an inhabitant of one such vault, grew up in Vault 101 outside of Washington, D.C. , though his community was isolationist: “We are born in the Vault. We live in the Vault. We die in the Vault.”

The third canon installment of the Fallout  series originally from Interplay, Bethesda released Fallout 3  in late 2008 to critical acclaim, despite major changes to the game’s appearance (the original two games were turn-based isometric RPGs). However, Bethesda did well to remain true to the Fallout  formula while integrating its own brand of roleplaying with some clear Elder Scrolls  influences.

Instead of being isometric and turn-based much like its predecessors, Fallout 3 was first-person, akin to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion  or later, Skyrim . The game featured “talking heads” (that is, NPCs you had actual audio/visual conversations with rather than just text on a screen), a better user interface, and top quality storytelling that Bethesda is known for. Heck, Fallout 3  was so clearly a product of them that it gained the nickname “Elder Scrolls  with guns.” Don’t be fooled, though: this game is a whole different radioactive beast.

You’re put into the remnants of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area what the locals now call the Capital Wasteland. Armed with the few things you have from your childhood, you set out from Vault 101 looking for your father who ran away without much of a reason. As you venture across the wastes, you’ll encounter slavers, raiders, bands of traveling merchants and other passersby, monsters and animals, and the occasional Eyebot spouting Enclave (that is, what remains of the U.S. government) propaganda.

Bethesda spares no expense immersing you in this bleak, faintly glowing world and with the series’ trademark retrofuturistic art style, you’re taken both back in time and into the future (at least, the future foreseen by those in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s).  The biggest (and possibly) best addition, though, would be VATS–or, the Vault-Tec Automated Targeting System.

VATS was essentially a system put in place to attract the series’ turn-based fans. Though Fallout 3  is a real-time game, VATS allows players to stop time and fire a number of shots at a given target on certain parts of their body. Each part has a to-hit chance and, if the player scores a critical hit, can cripple or blind their foes. This was seen as a welcome mechanic, showcasing the series’ ridiculous–almost cartoony–level of gore and the game’s great graphics (for its time).

Overall, Fallout 3  had a great story, following the protagonist from his or her birth to present. That and Liam Neeson is your father. That awesomeness speaks for itself. Though the story while you’re immersed in it is great and expertly executed, the main quest itself was rather short and ended the game prematurely, but this was later corrected with DLC, allowing you to play past the main quest. 

With respect to the game’s replayable qualities, like always, the choices you make and how you interact with others affects your outcome heavily. On top of that, the game has great mod support via Bethesda’s GECK, a software development kit that lets players easily modify their games.

To date, Fallout 3  doesn’t have many technical issues, however the most obvious ones come from the game’s Games for Windows Live integration and running on computers with more than two processors. Until I looked up the solution on Google, the game would crash soon after the Lone Wanderer was born, barely even getting into the game.

Despite this, the only other glaring problem I had was that, despite being a first-person game that used guns, you couldn’t zoom and aim down the sight for better accuracy. Luckily, this was again corrected in Fallout: New Vegas , but it would’ve been a welcome feature in Fallout 3  as well.

Fallout 3  has been (and still remains) one of my favorite games from a favorite series, having waited patiently for almost nine years since Fallout 2  for a sequel. Luckily, my patience was paid off with a game that blends RPG and first-person action superbly and still remains a popular RPG to date.

P.S. For those who really enjoyed Fallout and Fallout 2 , check out Underrail , a new game in Early Access that screams homage to these two awesome titles.

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Anthony Magestro

Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.