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No one makes a big open-world role-playing game like Bethesda. That’s what the Elder Scrolls games are famous for, and that’s what the company has brought to the post-nuclear-holocaust milieu of Fallout 3. The game takes you to the world outside Vault 101, the charred remains of the Washington D.C. metro area 200 years after the nukes flew. Truly, Bethesda has built an amazing world.
And this world is the star of the game. Fallout 3 is massive—closer to a single-player MMO than a traditional, linear single-player RPG. As you explore the Wasteland, which surrounds D.C., you’ll meet hundreds of people, many of whom have their own stories to tell, and find hundreds of locations to explore. These range from fully fledged towns to survivalist outposts to ammo caches to camps for the various factions that populate the land. As in Oblivion, you control your progress through the game. Should you choose to skip the main quest, you can explore the world and look for adventure, completing quests and reaping the rewards along the way.
The combat system is equally astounding. Fallout 3 lets you switch between the VATS and a real-time system that’s closer to what you’d find in a first-person shooter. In the real-time mode, you point your weapon at the target and fire. Hits are registered on different areas of the enemies’ bodies, doing different amounts of damage based on such factors as accuracy, movement speed, and environmental awareness. VATS mode lets you target and queue your shots at specific areas of the enemies’ bodies—legs, head, arms, torso, etc.—as well as increase the chance of a crit, which will do extra damage. The catch is that you can queue only a limited number of shots in VATS mode at once. Each VATS shot costs AP, which regenerates slowly over time. Successful players will end up using a combination of VATS and real-time combat. Both of which are very satisfying.
The world is astounding, there are dozens of side quests, and the combat is fun. Unfortunately, Fallout 3 is far from perfect. This may sound a bit whiny, but the main quest just doesn’t feel special. Part of the problem is that the side quests are universally of a very high quality. Still, we expect the main quest to deliver the most drama, excitement, and wonder in the game, and it doesn’t.
Our other complaints are more technical. The first is that the game has a very low level cap. While the level 20 cap ensures that our characters never became godlike, we reached the cap after only a few hours of play, which removed much of our opportunity for character advancement. The big problem, however, is stability. Fallout 3 crashes more than any other AAA title we’ve played in the last year. Were the game stable, it would undoubtedly receive a Kick Ass award. As it is, we can’t give it more than an 8.
Amazing world full of excitement and adventure. Runs great on almost any machine. Looks incredible!
The game crashes, lots. Low level cap. Main quest kind of dull.