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January 2014

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Wow, what a surprise this game was.

I played Fallout 2 way back when, and enjoyed it a great deal. I was shocked that anybody would be making a sequel at this point - the old games were turn based, isometric RPGs. Classics. And it's really hard for me to imagine continuing that tradition now.

Fallout 3 succeeds, in part, by not being bound by this tradition. Bethesda realized that that old style gameplay had no place in today's market. Even though war never changes, video games do.

So they ripped out the turn based combat, got rid of the 3rd person view. This is a first person, action RPG. It's almost at times like playing a straight up shooter. This is, as they say, Obvlivion with guns.

And man, is it awesome.

It's easy to romanticize the earlier games. They earned a lot of praise, and rightfully so - when they were released, they were the cream of the crop. Such a compelling and bizarre retro-apocalyptic setting, such freedom to explore the world and interact with it as you will. The player could do and be whatever he wanted. There was nothing else quite like it.

Some of this is lost in Fallout 3. As the 3d environment now becomes more complex, as every line is now voiced by talented actors, the player's options dwindle a bit. But my god - the second you exit Vault 101 and survey the crushed world from a "scenic overlook," you know it really was all worth it.

SPECIAL is still around, underneath it all. While the game plays like a shooter, the dice are still rolling behind the scenes. Skills and perks matter, especially in VATS, which pauses the action of the "action RPG" and turns it into pseudo turn-based combat, if only in brief spurts. VATS is genius. The best of both worlds.

The glue that holds this all together, the common thread, is that this world really feels like Fallout. Everything feels right - the crazy perks, the retro sci-fi artifacts, the bizarre humor... everything is in place. If they'd screwed this up, it wouldn't have worked. But they didn't. They took the world the first games gave us that distant 3rd person view of, and they placed us right in the middle of it.

The game takes itself a bit more seriously, but it has to. There are elements here that wouldn't have worked otherwise. Wandering through a disintegrating building, listening to audio recordings of a man's slow degeneration into a mindless ghoul. Descending into a failed Vault, uncovering the disastrous experiments that lead all of the inhabitants to their doom. Stumbling across a supermarket filled with raiders, with the corpses of hapless wastelanders strung up on chains.

At times, in the darkest caverns of the Fallout 3 world, you truly feel terror. At times, it feels like you're playing The Road.

The game works on almost all levels. It has its quirks, but it's impossible to care too much about them - there are way more hits than misses. If you play it straight through, sticking to the main plot, you can probably burn through the game in 8-10 hours. But don't do that - take your time, and revel in the horrific glory of the wasteland. You won't be disappointed.


Edward @ Thu Feb 19 18:14:23 -0500 2009

I don't know if it's addiction or actual fun, but I can't break the MMO cycle. I've turned them all off, then found Beta WoW, now pirate-server WoW. Both supply premade characters, which cut out some of the original time requirement. It still seems like single player should be more fun than this option, since no one I know joins me.

I got your 3 single-player recommendations all pirated; GTA IV pirated, and still have GTA:SA at some save point on the first island. I've got lots of choices.

Something about the apocalypse is appealing to me, maybe Fallout is the best option.

Of course I could always substitute my massive TODO list with the gaming time: Install a porch door to replace the big hunk of plywood, remove the paint and reapply for all my cabinet doors (baby is crawling and all the cabinets are open). But after being forced to commute so far and work such long shifts, only to come home and be the designated taxi (wife works her ass off at home, but won't drive anywhere), I just never feel like doing work at home lately.

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