Fallout 3

If there's one thing Bethesda have done very well to emphasize, it's that the company has decided where its allegiances lie: firmly in the Microsoft camp. It was well publicized during the Playstation 2 lifecycle that the console was more difficult to develop for than much of the competition, but that the potential in the machine would allow it to grow throughout its lifespan. After five or six years, games arriving on Playstation 2 continued to exceed expectation, improving with nearly every release, despite the absence of hardware advancement. It looks as though the current generation will evolve in much the same way. Many developers have acknowledged that Playstation 3 is a difficult platform to develop for, but in near-equal numbers, developers have added that once the architecture is understood, the potential for improved development is vast. Bethesda, it seems, have chosen not to put the effort in, and are content to develop for the 360, with no intention of improving their work for Playstation 3. In the case of Oblivion, there were, happily, noticeable improvements (particularly in loading times between game areas), but this release was a full year later than the 360 equivalent. In the case of Fallout 3, it is a sad fact that the 360 version looks arguably better than its Playstation 3 equivalent. Given that both consoles are now firmly established, games should, at a minimum, look equally good on each console (take Burnout Paradise, Call of Duty 4 and Dead Space as good examples). The sloppy development is particularly annoying, since Fallout 3 is actually an excellent game. Despite graphical glitches that will be familiar to those who played Oblivion, and despite the slightly muddier look of the PS3 version (addmittedly the difference is very slight), the game is very enjoyable, crafting an experience that almost rivals Oblivion, and one that shouldn't be cast aside.

Fallout 3

In Fallout 3, your character (once again extremely customizable) grows up in a sealed shelter called Vault 101, a haven through centuries of nuclear fallout. You actually get to experience key moments in your character's childhood, seeing their parents, taking exams, having birthday parties and that sort of thing. Eventually though, when finally at adulthood, life changes dramatically, and a series of events leads to your character breaking free from Vault 101 and exploring the nuclear wastes. It's akin to the first few hours of Oblivion, with your experience initially limited to a claustrophobic, uninspiring area, before being unleashed upon a massive open world where your character is able to travel almost anywhere from the very beginning. The sole downside is that nuclear wastes were never going to be as awe inspiring as the lakes neighbouring the Imperial City in Cyrodiil in the stunning Oblivion. However, beauty issues aside, the world of Fallout 3 does have other strengths. Most importantly, the dynamic of the game revolves not only around health in the usual sense, but also radiation exposure. The nuclear-hit landscape is littered with radioactive waste, toxic waters and mutated creatures. This lends the game a new level of interest, while maintaining scientific explanations for everything in the game. Unlike the fantasy storylines witnessed in Oblivion, in Fallout everything is tied to something scientific. Even a clan of vampires is provided a science-based alibi.

It's best not to delve into the story of Fallout 3, since half the fun is watching the tale unfold as you explore the land. Without doing so, it's still possible to compliment the variety in mission objective, with protection, exploration, combat, retrieval and the usual suspects arising, but there are a few standout highlights. Similar to the voyage inside a painting from Oblivion, Fallout 3 features one mission delving into a virtual-reality world, providing a welcome break from the nuclear wastes. Another highlight comes in the form of a decision that will determine the fate of an entire town, as you choose to disarm or detonate a nuclear bomb. Throughout each mission, there are many similar decisions, not necessarily on that scale, that affect your character's karma. By playing nicely with everyone and doing good for the world, your karma will improve, leading to rewards from the more savoury characters in the world, but bounties from the scum of the land. Conversely, a series of negative decisions and naughty deeds will get you in with the wrong crowd and outcast from regular society. It's an interesting balance, and one that has a noticeable impact on the game, with entire stretches of dialogue reserved for one path or another.

Fallout 3

Combat plays a major role in Fallout, with two main avenues to explore. Playing in first or third person, you can simply take your weapon (from the usual categories: unarmed, melee, small guns, big guns etc.) and start applying it in an unfriendly way to your foe. However, Fallout also introduces a system called V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System), in which real-time combat is momentarily interrupted to allow specific target selection from a set of available choices (usually head, torso or a particular limb). It's all a bit violent really, particularly since a large number of the weapons, when applied in this manner, will result in total dismemberment, explosion and more, which is a little unpleasant. It certainly makes the slight scorching seen in Oblivion look tame. Despite this drawback, the system is fun to use, and combat is quite satisfying. It also provides an excellent new novelty to fill the void left by magic spells, absent from this technology-based release.

Though it's not as polished as games like Metal Gear Solid and Prince of Persia, and not as pretty as Oblivion, Fallout 3 still accomplishes some impressive things in the visual arena. For example, Rivet city, a huge town formed from an aircraft carrier run aground on the coastline, is a spectacular site, and one of many locations on the map that makes something that is basically just grey and brown, look quite magnificent. The character models are also very impressive, and a significant step forward from Oblivion, with much more realistic faces and lip movements. The creatures in the game aren't shabby either, with decent animations (the scorpions are particularly lifelike), impressive colouring and well-crafted textures. It's occasionally spoiled by a character walking two feet off the ground, but the illusion is more rarely interrupted than the original X-Box 360 release of Oblivion. Perhaps the most pleasing improvement is the increased scale of some of the enemies. Though there were large baddies to fight in the latter stages of Oblivion, Fallout 3 is happy to provide numerous large brutes throughout the game that will tower over your character and necessitate an entirely different strategy. Melee combat between a gnat and an elephant is only going to end one way, with hours of swishing followed by an uncomfortable thud, so new tactics, with ranged weaponry, are called for.

Fallout 3

As with Oblivion, the voicework is extensive, and some serious stars are onboard. Where Patrick Stewart featured in Oblivion, Liam Neeson takes a starring role in Fallout, lending a key character serious gravitas. A huge number of other characters are fully voiced, and the amount of dialogue recorded is quite extraordinary. Still, it'd be rare to get through a town without hearing the same phrases twice, but it's understandable in such a massive environment. The music is similarly impressive, with some enjoyable and unintrusive themes complementing the action superbly. Several pieces are reminiscent of those heard in Oblivion, but carry darker, more desperate undertones that reflect the tormented nuclear holocaust.

In terms of longevity, there's no multiplayer gaming involved, and certainly no online competitive stuff, but that's no surprise for this sort of game. However, there's enough to do in the game that it's unlikely you'll be left stuck for things to do. To find everything this game has to offer, and to uncover every secret, it would take far in excess of 100 hours of play. For example, a series of Vault-Tec bobblehead figures are hidden in secret locations around the world of Fallout, and finding them will grant character enhancements that could make a significant impact. In addition, there are numerous side quests to take on, as well as extra-large mutant monsters (super mutant behemoths, for example) to find and fight. Strangely though, it doesn't feel quite as expansive as Oblivion, perhaps deliberately so, to avoid putting people off. There are trophies available for the game, which could add to the lifespan, but there's little that won't be done on a complete play through the game anyway. However, they do serve to highlight several hidden features, and encourage the player to experiment with good and evil approaches to the game.

Fallout 3

In a game this large, developed so quickly, glitches and bugs are perhaps inevitable, though the worst offenders should get patched gradually as more people discover them. Similarly, though the world is not as bright and flavoured as Oblivion, it's still a wonderfully rich place to explore. There's a huge amount to be pleased with in Fallout 3, and the story is quite excellent, it's just a shame that Bethesda seem unwilling to truly embrace the PS3. With a little more love and care, Fallout could have been every bit as good as Oblivion, maybe even better, but it falls short of total perfection. Still, with RPG kings like Final Fantasy still absent on PS3, the RPG lineup gets a very strong boost from Fallout 3. If I'm honest, I think it's very much worth playing both Oblivion and Fallout 3, since the stories and worlds are sufficiently different and interesting to warrant purchasing both, but left with a choice between the two, I'd still pick helping out Patrick Stewart in Oblivion.

Game details

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Review summary


Similar to Oblivion, with huge scope for adventure


Glitchy, but beautiful and absolutely massive


Improved voices and good effects


Absolutely tonnes of places to visit and things to do



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