The game’s ‘dungeons’ come in the form of sewers, abandoned Vaults (which tell eerie stories about their former inhabitants) and the Washington DC metro system. Here you’ll find hordes of enemies to boost your XP and scrap to scavenge, which is used to create new weapons. Our favourite custom weapon’s the Rock-It Launcher, which is created by combining a leaf blower, a vacuum cleaner and some other bits. When you get this, ammo isn’t a problem as the device uses random objects as deadly projectiles; coffee mugs, books, rocks etc.
You customise your character’s abilities by choosing perks. Selected after each level, these include Cyborg (permanent boost to endurance and strength, but a loss of charisma) and Lady Killer (or its female alternative, Black Widow) which lets you seduce characters to get extra info and caps. We recommend Mysterious Stranger. With this, during VATS a random guy in a trenchcoat and hat will appear accompanied by a sting of Wild West music and kill the enemy with a pistol.
Our only major gripe is the weak voice acting, which often doesn‘t match the face of the person it’s coming from. Raiders will threaten you in a perfectly-intoned medieval brogue and every child has the same voice. It’s a critical oversight, and shatters the illusion that you’re in another world. The celebrity voice talent, however, is excellent. Liam Neeson has gravitas as your father, Malcolm McDowell is excellently pompous as the mysterious President Eden and Ron Perlman reprises his narrator’s role from the first two games. Fans will beam at his famous opening lines, “War… war never changes.”
Fallout’s genius is that there’s so much to see, do and discover, and it’s rare you’ll find a character who doesn’t have a quest or directions to a new location. The game buckles under the weight of its own ambition in some of the epic scenes at the end, but wandering the wastes, finding new towns and getting involved in the world’s politics is a thrill. The role-playing isn’t as far-reaching as Oblivion and as an FPS it’s merely above average, but there are almost no other shooters of recent memory as deeply imaginative and rewarding. Only BioShock offers such a consistent, well-designed world.
Until you’ve sat with it for 30 hours, from birth to epic ending, you won’t realise how engrossing it is. The freedom may scare people used to more linear shooters and the simplified customisation might disappoint hardcore RPGers, but if ever a game was worth broadening your horizons for, this is it.
Oct 28, 2008