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Fallout 3 360 Review

05/05/2010 Thinking Story Gamer Review
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Fallout 3 360

Fallout 3

Format:
360

Genre:
Adventuring

Style:
Firstperson
Singleplayer

Buy/Support:
Support Mark, click to buy via us...


Other GamePeople columnists have reviewed this from their perspective - huh?:
Perpetual Gamer (360)
Eclectic Gamer (360)
Mousey Gamer (360)
Perpetual Gamer (PS3)



Further reading, films and books that create similar stories:

Fallout 3's core storyline, with its blank protagonist and cliched daddy issues, isn't the greatest story in the world, but step off the narrow path of your central quest and you'll find dozens of stories worth exploring out in the Capitol Wasteland.

Fallout 3 begins how a hundred RPG and RPG-flavoured games have before it - with a protagonist striking out from his or her home, and out into the wilderness to explore, on a quest to find their lost father. It's the classic beginning for a hero's quest from any number of fantasy stories and RPGs, except the community you're leaving is Vault 101, an underground survival bunker, and the wilderness is the post apocalyptic wasteland surrounding Washington DC.

Actually, that beginning is about an hour of play into the game, after a period in Vault 101 where you live the entirety of your character's life to adulthood, tweaking stats and characteristics along the way, before a crisis forces your departure from the vault.

It's an indication of the size of Fallout 3, and the hours that can be sunk into it, that relatively speaking that first hour or so, the self-contained world of the vault and the entire lifetime you live there, can be dismissed as a mere blink of a prologue.

Because, to steal a phrase from Douglas Adams, Fallout 3 is big. Very big. It's entirely possible to play the entire main quest, and a number of side-quests, while never bumping your nose on the invisible barriers that surround the Capitol Wasteland's sprawling map.

You can stick to the path if you want, but as Little Red Riding Hood found out, it may be safe on there but it's also boring.

I had a real sense of creating my own story, of freedom to explore this world and engage with it how I liked.

Fallout 3 is best experienced by going off-road, by exploring everything, by picking up missions and heading off into the Wasteland, then letting yourself get distracted before even reaching the next waypoint. The Capitol Wasteland is a great place to explore, hauntingly lonely but with many, many points of interest to discover.

Out in the wastes there are little communities,full of eccentric characters and missions to be undertaken, places that need to be actively sought out.

By picking and choosing quests, and by making certain decisions which affected my moral status (often in unexpected ways - sometimes good deeds can lead to bad results), I had a real sense of creating my own story, of freedom to explore this world and engage with it how I liked.

Of course, blundering off into the wilderness has its dangers. Freedom comes with the responsibility to look after yourself, and I occasionally found myself facing down enemies out of my league, and getting trapped in a loop of bruising conflicts, diminishing supplies and too-frequent deaths bouncing me back to the last save.

I've been a bit unfair to the main storyline in this review, mainly because so much of the pleasure of Fallout 3 is the opportunity to explore a large, interesting world with a great degree of freedom.

I fought through though, because I got myself into trouble and I was going to get myself out of it, and because all the XP gathered through hard missions just helped me level and power up, allowing me to attack the next wave of bad guys with renewed force.

Don't get me started on character customisation - that's a whole other review. Suffice to say boosting certain abilities opens up further story options, and provides a whole other set of incentives to explore.

For example, a certain door may require a high lockpick skill to get through - and there's nothing more tempting to the curious than a mysterious locked door.

I've been a bit unfair to the main storyline in this review, mainly because so much of the pleasure of Fallout 3 is the opportunity to explore a large, interesting world with a great degree of freedom.

The core story has its place - like an open-topped tourist bus, the main plot of Fallout 3 will make sure you see most of the major locations and gameplay elements on offer. It provides a thrilling enough adventure with some great set-pieces, but it's a loose, predictable narrative about your relationship with your father and his good works, and the ending is sudden and a bit perfunctory.

My character's story isn't quite finished yet. There's more to be told.

If you buy one piece of DLC to complement the riches provided by the standalone game, get the Broken Steel expansion, which not only takes the finality out of the main game's ending, it expands the level cap as well. This is a game that doesn't benefit from forced closure.

Closure will come naturally, at the point where you stand in a deserted town, or on a rubble-strewn city street, and decide that, for now at least, you've seen all you want to see of the Capitol Wasteland. At which point you save, eject the disc and step away.

But the Wasteland will always be there, when you think there's more to tell. I know I'll head back there, sooner or later. My character's story isn't quite finished yet. There's more to be told.

Written by Mark Clapham

You can support Mark by buying Fallout 3



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Mark Clapham writes the Story Gamer column.

"I love a good story. Games tell many different stories: the stories told through cut scenes and dialogue, but also the stories that emerge through gameplay, the stories players make for themselves."


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