Fallout 3 Review “Depressing and dark… in a good way.”


Fallout 3. It’s a lot of things. Ever since the game was announced to be in the hands and gentle care of Bethesda, plenty of hype has surrounded it. The game is set in a post apocalyptic era, where mankind is struggling to survive at every corner of the land. The United States (and likely the rest of the world) has been reduced to nothing but a few thousand people trying to do whatever it takes to live. In every last corner, death, disfigurement, and depression plague the area. It’s in this fine setting, that the game puts you in the shoes of a Vault 101 citizen. Vault 101 is a place of refuge, safe from the terrifying and dangerous outside world. It’s here, where one of the greatest adventures of all time begins.

Before the end of the earth began, Vault-Tec issued several vaults throughout the Washington DC area to be opened, allowing people to go there and start a new life, waiting out the horrors of the real world. For hundreds of years, the vault was the only way of life for people of Vault 101. While the other vaults opened up and let their people out into the wilderness, the dictator overseer kept his citizens safe. The tradition continued, up until your 19th birthday, when your father, the man who devoted a large portion of his life towards you, mysteriously disappeared. Apparently, you discover that he has left the vault, and so you go on a trek to track down the man who cared for you all those years, and find out why he left you in the first place.


The story really begins to take shape from this fantastic opening. The second you step out of that vault, and get a glimpse of the wasteland and all its entirety, you realize just how devastated that the area has become. It’s here that the game places an objective on you: “Locate your father”. This really sums up the open-ended theme of Fallout 3. The story itself is extremely well done, with several different tones placed on top of it, lots of tough choices, unfortunate events, and quite an interesting cast of characters. It’s extremely well told, interesting, and has terrific pacing. The setting places the dominoes, but it’s everything in between that truly knocks them down into something incredible.

The people populating the wasteland are all varied and interesting. There are a lot of generic space fillers you’ll find in every settlement and town, with the name “Megaton Settler”, or “Rivet City Security Guard”, that you don’t have the option to speak to fully, but they still have some pretty helpful or friendly lines. It’s the characters that you can speak to (and there are hundreds of them) that truly set the bar, and create an incredibly deep and immersive RPG experience. Every person you can interact with either has some sort of issue that spawns into a deeper quest, has something that can benefit you, or is crucial to the story.

Fallout 3 has a Mass Effect like speech system that gives you the option to choose what you say to the people of the wasteland. These aren’t just for show, as certain words can make a character shun you, making access to a particular item or quest very difficult. On the flip side of that, if you say something nice, or something polite, or just aren’t a jackass, you’ll have access to a quest, or a special privilege. The Karma system is what weighs all of this down, and it basically brands your character as good or evil.

This system isn’t just window dressing, it’s much deeper and more important than that. Everytime you do something significantly nice such as giving a dying beggar a bottle of purified water, or generally speaking, choosing the good path instead of the evil path, your karma rating goes up. Again, if you decide to blow that beggar’s head off with a plasma rifle, your karma rating would go towards the other side of the spectrum. It’s mainly because of the consequences and rewards of karma (not to mention the sheer immersiveness and fantastic acting) that will have you pondering every decision before you make it, and will have you feeling either very good about yourself or very bad afterwards.


Visually, Fallout 3 is a genuinely beautiful game, despite its attempt to depress the living hell out of everybody. That just adds to the believability of the game world. The draw distance is near flawless, with only a tad of pop in every now and then. The detailed environments, and the incredible art style really drive home the fact that despite its size, Fallout 3 manages to be a fantastic looking game, that is pretty enough to make stun you.

Animations are much improved from past Bethesda games, but still need a little work, and bugs do exist, but the game is polished enough that nothing becomes a distraction. The title runs smooth, and looks great.

I can’t fully describe how high of quality that the sound design is in Fallout 3. Not only does it sport a rather epic soundtrack that captures the rather epic nature of the game, but it’s the voice acting that raises the bar way above the competition. The number of well delivered lines of dialogue is unprecedented, and is simply astounding. Nearly every single line is delivered right on the money.

Fallout 3 has a really unique personality to it. The setting gives it a really dark tone and feel, but you can’t help but notice the game’s blatant yet under the counter style of humour. It’s clever and often unexpected. When you do see it, it’s never cheap, always well written, and never forced. It’s not just in the one liners, but it’s all over the world. Billboards always have a cheesy 1950’s style of advertising, and several of the locales feel the same way. Fallout 3 manages to be both serious, but light hearted all at once.


Besides all of those previous goodies that I mentioned, I’m going to be extremely cliche here (which is something Fallout 3 never does) and say that we play games, for the gameplay. Luckily, Fallout 3 is a greatly crafted RPG that is both a refinement of the FPSRPG, and a revolution. The core gameplay seems like a shooter on the surface. You’re given a load of guns, and some pretty resilient enemies. You have the option to aim manually, and it seriously feels like a shooter, and you definitely can play the game that way, and it’s completely functional, and then some. However, it’s the sincerely revolutionary Vault-Tec Auto Targeting System (let’s just call it VATS) that is the coolest, funnest, and most awesome way to play the game.

Depending on your skill while using VATS, you can pause the game and take aim at an enemy, choose from one of their body parts (don’t get any ideas) such as their head, left and right arms, and their legs and torso. If your small guns rating is high, then your chance of actually hitting them is increased. It also depends on any obstructions in the way, your luck rating, and how far away from them that you are. This is controlled by your Action Points, which is a forever refilling meter. If you don’t have enough Action Points, you have to wait to use VATS again. It ensures that you switch between aiming manually, which also has to do with your ratings.

While VATS may seem boring, it certainly is anything but. This is due partially to the fact that it makes leveling up worth it, and that when you shoot an enemy’s head off, a shower of blood and guts goes everywhere, and if you happen to be lucky enough, all of their limbs shoot off. This is kind of like an awesome pinata of gore. It’s awesome.

Leveling up in Oblivion was a tad unpolished. The game felt like an RPG because of its blatant fantasy world full of dungeons and dragons (excuse me), but the level system was severely marred. The amount of attributes was extremely overwhelming, and you could get your guy good simply by sneaking into a wall. In addition to that, enemies leveled up with you, so any progress felt superficial as opposed to something like Final Fantasy, where training actually paid off.


Where Oblivion fell extremely short, Fallout 3 does the standard RPG system, and yet expands on that. The S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system gives you seven main attribute which max at 10. (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, Luck). As a young child, you stumble upon a story book entitled, “You are Special”. The game lets you edit your stats here. The seven attributes really impact the way you play the game, ranging from your encounters with enemies, and citizens alike. Among that, the sub attributes are all up to you to edit as you play the game. Players earn experience for successfully sneaking past enemies, defeating enemies, completing quests, changing their karma rating ,etc. As such, Fallout 3 is an extremely deep and rewarding game experience.

Experienced shooter/RPG fans could find a minimum of 15 hours from the main quest of Fallout 3, however, there are several endings. On top of that, due to the RPG elements, the karma system, and other aspects that change the way each game is played, this is a title that demands replays. Bethesda never makes games without side quests, and Fallout 3 does not disappoint here. Hundreds of people out in the wasteland require your help, and many of these quests are all different from each other, they all have a different context, new opponents, and new corners of the land for you to explore. If you’re an appreciative player, you could easily find up to 60 or 70 hours on your first playthrough. I won’t spoil any details of what’s out in the wasteland, but I guarantee you you’ll want to witness it all, and take it in.

Fallout 3 is a lot of things. It’s beautiful, it’s dark, it’s depressing, it’s engrossing. The RPG elements are to die for, the world is extremely full and polished. There’s a lot to see and do in the wasteland, but most of all: it’s main quest is its strongest point. I always hate reviewing games this good. It’s impossible to explain the game’s complexity and greatness in a couple thousand words. The only thing that I can tell you is that no matter who you are, you should play Fallout 3. Not only is it one of the best games of the year, but it’s in fact one of the best games ever made. It takes elements from 28 Days Later, Bioshock, Mass Effect, and Oblivion. These are four of the greatest popular culture phenomenons of the decade. Now, be prepared to add a 5th to that list. This is not only a game, it’s an experience.

~ by smithbubbajones on December 4, 2008.

13 Responses to “Fallout 3 Review “Depressing and dark… in a good way.””

  1. Wow great review. I am definetly going to get this for christmas now!

  2. Nice paid advertisement.

    The main quest is a joke, it’s as weak as in their last “masterpiece” Oblivion (you know an invasion in which no one really does much attacking unless it’s the player).

    The SPECIAL system has been consolisized and “modified” to a point where it’s isn’t SPECIAL anymore, stats matter very little.

    The karma system is broken as it’s very easy to get it to a level of a saint or a demon, if you know what you are doing (a hint: thief/water donator).

    It’s not goty material in anything else but in how many units it shipped, and don’t get me started on that “one of the best games ever made” part as that’s something it isn’t anywhere near to.

    Just as Oblivious this one is a “action & adventure” game at best and a FPS wannabe at worst. So if you want a REAL RPG, then forget FINO3, only small devteams make those.

  3. nice

  4. great review, although when you say “Billboards always have a cheesy 1950’s style of advertising” and think it is Fallout humour; it’s not. The timeline split in the game in the 1940s and we progressed into the 1950s vision of the world of Tomorrow. So that was intended to be like that, not as a joke. Like I said, great review, but do a little more research next time.

  5. wow. great review. I saw these comments above. People can be real aholes on the internet.
    I have played a little bit of Fallout 3 and about 200 hours of Oblivion and I can understand how youre feeling about the game!
    Great review. Although you must always add some criticism so that your review looks genuine and helpful. Just saying….

  6. Fallout 3 was/is decent. It’s just oblivion in nukeworld with guns. Whoopdeefuckingdoo.

  7. I dont care what bad things anyone has to say but,
    well put Fallout is tha best game ever, yes i cant get enough.. being a good character is the way the game was soo ment to be played, its so beautiful and epic and … well depressing but only more lovable, I know you assholes think, no fallouts about nuclear war and blowing up things and fucking around, but to you merssiah’s out there <3! i love you :3 fallout is incredibly epic, just amazing ^_^

  8. Haha sorry for the swearing, I dont like devilish characters.. ive tried to make one for the GP and curiousty of the story change, but I cant i feel like sh-crap -.0 so im good with being good, always :3 yay for 100+ hours in game!

  9. You understand it Samantha,Kudo’s

  10. Patton Oswalt had better star in the movie and not as one of the mole rats either.

  11. Man some of these comments. Unless you guys are rolling dice and writing stats you should stfu about all the pretentious “not an RPG” crap. That said, if you liked Morrowind and Oblivian and you like shooters and can take the post-apocalyptic setting then you will love this game above most others.
    And the article was well written but could have used some more criticism for a more balanced review. But all in all I give the game and the review a thumbs up.

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