Fallout 3 review

A huge, varied, epic, ambitious masterpiece

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By any other standards, the game’s ripe with highlights. In a town called Canterbury Commons, two rival superheroes (the Antagoniser and The Mechanist) are at battle, turning the streets into a warzone and terrorising its residents. The mayor asks for your help, and you end up battling through each hero’s secret underground lair to end their reign of terror. You even get their ridiculous costumes as a reward if you finish the quest a certain way. And working for the slavers (human slavery is rife in the world of Fallout) is deliciously evil; especially when you’re tricking hapless eight year-old kids into a life of eternal, thankless servitude. “Here, try on this necklace, kid…” you say before explaining that it’s designed to make their head explode if they run away.

The first two Fallouts let characters with high charisma and intelligence finish the game without killing anyone, but Fallout 3 is action-packed like Call of Duty. Your VATS skill (Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System) lets you pause the action during real-time combat, then target an enemy’s specific body parts for tactical takedowns. The ability is limited by a finite allocation of Action Points (AP) that recharge over time. Your percentage of success is relative to your position and stats, so it’s no cheap fix. Do you go for a sure-fire shot to disable the enemy’s weapon? Or a risky one-kill head shot? It’s great fun, but the game’s confusing mix of familiar FPSing and RPG-style combat grates. If you fire at an enemy manually and unload ten rounds into their head, the damage you do will still be partly determined by your weapon stats, not your accuracy. And despite early promises that you’d be able to talk or sneak your way out of most situations, far too many missions leave you no option but to murder everyone with VATS, especially toward the end of the main story.

Fallout 3’s world looks incredible, tinged by the chill of the desolate, post-apocalyptic emptiness. But, sadly, the PS3 version compares poorly to its 360 and PC counterparts. It’s not a deal-breaker, but PS3 clearly wasn’t the lead platform – disappointing, since Oblivion looked better on PS3 than on 360. Which, in the parlance of the Internet, obviously means: "THE PS3 VERSION SUCKS! XBOX WINS! ANOTHER CRAPPY PORT!" But that isn't the case. The PS3 version just looks SLIGHTLY WORSE than the other versions. Towns are populated with dozens of characters, all with their own stories, quests and personalities, and some locations are stunning, like the Museum of Technology (filled with interactive displays and real-world relics), Little Lamplight (a gorgeous candlelit underground city populated entirely by children) and the Lincoln Memorial, now ironically overrun by slavers.

More info

GenreRole Playing
DescriptionThe freedom may scare people used to more linear shooters and the simplified customization might disappoint hardcore RPGers, but if ever a game was worth broadening your horizons for, this is it.
Platform"PC","Xbox 360","PS3"
US censor rating"Mature","Mature","Mature"
UK censor rating"Rating Pending","Rating Pending","Rating Pending"
Alternative names"Fallout III"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)