Anthony's Film Review

Fallout 3
(Video Game, 2008)

A science-fiction action role-playing game that is outstanding for its exciting gameplay and immersive detailed world...

Third time's the charm, as the old saying goes. This is true even for video game series, where the gamemakers produce the third entry that greatly surpasses the first two. One example of this is Fallout 3, a three-dimensional game with a first- or third-person perspective released a decade after the first two Fallout games in the late 1990s, both of which are two-dimensional games with an overhead perspective. Anyone who plays Fallout and/or Fallout 2 will undoubtedly be blown away by Fallout 3's graphics and story. This is a great example of a game that was developed over a long time but with very impressive results.

For those of you who are new to the Fallout series, here's an overview of its fictional world. Imagine that, during the 1950s, the United States engages in a prolonged worldwide nuclear war. The conflict is so intense that America is locked in the same nuclear war mindset, such that the culture and technology of the U.S. in the 1950s stays that way even as many years pass. Eventually, a company called Vault-Tec manufactures self-sustaining fallout shelters across the country for select Americans to inhabit. Once these shelters, or Vaults, are occupied, their inhabitants are safe from the nuclear apocalypse that wipes out virtually the rest of the human race. Generations of people live in the Vaults over time, before some Vaults open up and people step out into a world filled with radiation, massive piles of rubble, burnt and unstable structures, mutant creatures running amok, and artifacts of 1950s America that did not perish in the nuclear apocalypse. This is true no matter which Fallout game you play, whether it's the first Fallout game set in Southern California, the second Fallout game set in Northern California and Nevada, or the third Fallout game set primarily in Washington, D.C. plus Maryland and Virginia.

What makes each Fallout game unique is the main character and story. In Fallout 3, your are a resident of Vault 101, born to a mother who dies after bringing you to the world and a father whose favorite quote is from the Bible's Book of Revelation. You begin the game as a child growing up in the Vault, which provides you with a tutorial of the game's controls. Eventually, once you become a young adult, the story goes into overdrive. Your father has escaped the Vault for reasons unknown, and the Vault's security force is ready to apprehend you. You have no choice but to flee Vault 101, to escape the clutches of the Vault 101 Overseer and to find your runaway father.

The world that lies ahead of you is, no doubt, a vast one. This is one of the game's main strengths. In addition to completing quests that advance the main story, you have the opportunity to do many side quests that are not part of the main story but provide additional opportunities to gain experience and skills, accumulate weapons and health supplies, and improve (or worsen) your moral standing. While you can call them nonessential tasks, they are so much fun to do that you cannot help but accept whatever side quests come your way. Plus, if you strictly stick with the essential quests, you might find the game to be somewhat short, another reason to explore as much of post-apocalyptic D.C. as possible.

Besides the fun side quests to do, you will meet all sorts of fascinating characters in all sorts of interesting places. Your first stop is the settlement of Megaton, where makeshift buildings surround an atomic bomb, but the bomb remains a threat because a local cult worshipping the atom prevents anyone from disarming it. Elsewhere, a clan of people who feast on human blood like vampires have taken refuge in a subway station. Other characters and places you may encounter include the following: abandoned Vaults with chilling histories (the Vaults are, in fact, part of a secret unethical human experimentation project to observe human responses to different Vault conditions), a talking tree, Super Mutants in trenches dug into the National Mall, a radio DJ named Three Dog ("This is Three Dog. Owwwwwwwwww!"), giant fire-breathing ants in subway tunnels, the Republic of Dave (with a population of less than 20, all voting to reelect President Dave who has no challengers), a luxurious apartment complex (complete with CLEAN water!), slaves held captive at a place called Paradise Falls, an old aircraft carrier used as a city, the Brotherhood of Steel headquartered in the Pentagon, and the mysterious President Eden whose appearance is a total surprise. And this is just a SAMPLE of what the game's world has in store.

Fallout 3 involves a lot of exploring new places and conversing with various characters, as well as a LOT of deadly combat with human and nonhuman enemies. You can fight using handheld weapons (such as baseball bats, lead pipes, and sledgehammers), mechanical firearms (including small pistols, assault rifles, and sniper rifles), energy guns (like laser rifles), and even weapons created by combining specific items according to any weapons schematics you come across. Whereas the first two Fallout games involve turn-based combat, this Fallout game lets you fight in real time as well as think of your next move. Basically, you can fight as you would in any shooter game, or you can freeze the action to select the opponent to attack and the opponent's body part to strike, with the aid of calculated hit probabilities based on everyone's position and direction during the freeze. With these options, seasoned action gamers and action game newbies can enjoy the game equally, no matter what combat method they prefer. Also, players can zoom the game camera in or out, to vary how much the player's character occupies the screen or switch to a first-person perspective.

Speaking of choice, you as the player can customize your character in many ways. You can choose which apparel to wear and weapons to wield. When your experience level reaches specific milestones, you have the opportunity to increase any specific skills you have, like Lockpicking, Science, Repair, Melee, Small Guns, Big Guns, and many more. Also, when you increase skills, you can also acquire special bonuses called Perks, like additional points for certain skills, an increased weight limit for items you carry, improving target accuracy in combat when freezing the action, and many, MANY more. You can even select your character's race (Caucasian, African-American, Latino, or Asian) and sex (male or female, which can affect certain character interactions) at the beginning of the game. Finally, you can raise or lower your Karma by doing good things or bad things, respectively, and impact the epilogue once you reach the end of the game (which can take many hours, so enjoy the ride).

Fallout 3 was a game I played after a period of several years in which I played no video games. I felt great excitement in playing a computer game once again, as well as the thrill of playing this imaginative and well-made game. I love how the game provides the experience of being a traveler who has to fight for survival in deadly situations. Also, the game's artists did an outstanding job with creating a post-apocalyptic world in intricate detail, whether it's the rubble and debris in just about every locale or the fictional 1950s products and advertisements from a world destroyed long ago. Other admirable things worth noting include the variety of real-life 1940s music that was licensed to appear in the radios throughout the game, the casting of Hollywood actors (including Liam Neeson as the player's father and Ron Perlman as the game's prologue and epilogue narrator), and amazing graphics that make everything look real. All in all, Fallout 3 is, simply put, a fantastic game, not to mention one of the best video games I have played in a long time.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Fallout 3, visit the Internet Movie Database and Moby Games.


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