Ok, it’s just a little bit like Oblivion with guns, but even a Fallout fan like myself who has played the entire series at least a couple of times has to give Bethesda credit for being true to Fallouts original, post-apocalyptic roots.
The thing is, I enjoyed Oblivion too, but as an original Fallout fanboy I couldn’t help but worry that the game would be way too much like an action-oriented RPG and let go of the gritty, radioactive settings and needlessly violent scenes that any real fan would expect. Fortunately those fears were not (entirely) justified.
The Fallout Atmosphere
So, I’m running from the Vault with some disgusting mutant dog on my heels in the ruins of what was once Washington DC, getting dust in my eyes and can’t help but feel right at home. I can go into VATS for a while – target various body parts and get percentages for how likely I am to blow that arm right out of the socket. This is the real Fallout alright.
I still wouldn’t say that Bethesda made it all the way with the post-apocalyptic atmosphere, but it definitely surpasses my expectations. Some details like the voice acting (which is pretty bad on average) keeps the game short of the top score. Another thing I can’t shake is that the designers haven’t quite managed to catch that 50s post-apocalyptic mood that is so central to the original games.
Turn-Based Combat with VATS
The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System is a little gadget that lets you move into turn-based mode, similar to Fallout 1, 2 and Tactics. Unfortunately, in my opinion, you can’t stay in VATS for more than a few turns. So, how does it work? When you push the V button on your keyboard, the game immediately pauses and lets you select which enemy you want to target by moving the arrow keys. As previously mentioned you may also select which body parts to target and see how likely you are to hit. The more skill points you’ve spent on your equipped weapon, the better percentages you will get.
Just like in the first games you expend action points with each shot – but the big difference is that once those action points are used up, the game goes back into real-time mode. Being a fan of turn-based RPGs, I would have preferred to stay in VATS for the duration of the fights. Although you can sort of circumvent this issue by running around in circles until your action points are reloaded. This just feels ridiculous obviously, and takes away a lot from the overall feel of the gameplay. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of real-time action RPGs it shouldn’t bother you at all, as you’re likely not using VATS unless you absolutely have to.
If you are like most RPG gamers and like to tweak your character down to the smallest detail and experiment back and forth with stats and different equipment, Fallout 3 has you completely covered. As you’d expect, there are lots of amusing perks to choose from, like the “Chemist,” which means than any Chems (as in drugs) you take last twice as long or “Concentrated Fire” that lets you hit specific body parts with ease.
In these typical RPG areas Bethesda know how to present a clever interface. Actually, the entire game design as far as user interface and playability goes are more or less perfect – with a possible exception for the turn-based combat issue or lack thereof.
If Fallout 3 had been a new game, unrelated to the timeless classics released by Interplay so many years ago, I would have loved it. I still love it to tell you the truth – I’m only slightly disappointed by the shortcomings of VATS and occasionally sub-par voice acting. At the end of the day it’s still a superb game that had me glued to the screen for its 60 hour duration.