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Fallout 3

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Click to open the official website.

Click to open the official website.

In Fallout 3, Bethesda’s update on the post-apocalyptic pastiche, there are exactly three things wrong:

  • Chance upon a female Raider and odds are she’ll be wearing armor that clearly reveals all she’s wearing is a bra underneath. Shoot her, kill her, take her armor, and all of a sudden there’s a tanktop instead of a bra. This is a censoring decision, sure, but it breaks the world.
  • The character animations, frankly, suck. They look like they’re walking on the moon. All other animations feel like they belong in 1995.
  • The dialog and the dialog animations. The voice-acting is atrocious. The lip-syncing is horrible. The face-syncing is unforgivable. They look around every which way like drug-addled morons, eyelids at half-mast, delivering their lines with the finesse of George W Bush. In this post Half-Life world, they really have no excuse.

And that’s it. You could point out many other things, sure, like the uninspired interiors, the repetitive dialog trees, the stupid enemy AI, and so on, but these are necessary evils for a game with such a grand scope.

And by grand I do mean that in every sense of the word. Please note that I got the negatives out of the way because the rest of this review is going to be shameless, drooling praise (minus screenshots, because I was stupid and didn’t install FRAPS beforehand). So, to begin with the best thing about the game: the (grand) world.

I waited a week after finishing the final level before beginning this so I could be sure I was over the initial wonder. Waited for the woman to let her hair down, so to speak. But that seminal moment when you leave the Vault, that blind flare of light that then fades out into the bleak landscape that forms The Capital Wasteland. It’s beautiful, with nearly no expense spared in depicting this desolate beauty, marred only, I’m sure, by limitations of current gen hardware. Ever building shows signs of decay. Every structure is meticulously crafted. Some of the places you’ll see make for such awesome vistas you have to wonder how they managed to ship this game at all.

Much has been said about the missions and VATS and the game’s historical innacuracies (the buildings would have fallen off and decayed if it really had been so many years since fallout, not be in more or less structurally sound condition) and the game’s departure from previous Fallout games, but the things no one talks about: the missions are quite varied, and some are great, but the stupid dialog and the animations almost always ruin them. VATS is quite hit and miss – I decided to play a missile launching, mohawk wearing jackass, so I decidedly had more opportunity to see things getting blown up in slow motion in VATS than, say, a small weapons expert, but it still gets old quite fast.

But for  every single time you think they could’ve done better, things right themselves when you step out into the open. You have to experience it. I was never once irritated that we had to traverse such long distances on foot because there was always so much to see. Example? One of the first things you’ll probably do after getting shafted from the Vault is make your way to Megaton, a remote settlement wrapped around an undetonated nuclear bomb, complete with its own cult (Children of the Atom).

On your way, hey, look, a big water tower. Naturally, I explored. Had my mohawk guy take a nice big gulp. But wait, the water is radiated. Lost HP. Curses and bollocks. Looking around to get back on path to Megaton, but what’s that in the distance? Head there. This boy comes running at me asking me about his father. I say, stuff it, jackass, I got bigger things to worry about.  Right to my left, a mall. Explore, of course, expecting zombies, because a mall and zombies are like the  internet and porn. Except, it’s full of Mad Maxesque raiders. Die, reload, run to Megaton… but, look, a shiny future car sitting unattended next to a gas pump. Head there. Enclave eye bot broadcasting some political bullshit. Shoot it with the BB gun. Turn around to get back on path to Mega… but hey, is that… is that a fucking two headed cow?

The game keeps throwing this shit at you in a constant flurry. If you’re the sort who considers exploration a vital part of your gameplay, as opposed to running and gunning your way through like some jackass on crack.  I confess that near the end of the game I started losing the patience to explore every interior room, but when outside, my word, you cannot stop.

There’s a story amid all this, but it’s competent at best. With a supporting cast that, again, suffers from the horrible dialog. But it is, without a doubt, true, that the best missions in the game aren’t part of the main quest at all. Much has been made of the Bladerunner-esque android-identity mission. But the game is littered with such gems.

The worst of these involve traveling for ages in underground railway lines. But even these aren’t enough to just put you off.

But enough about that, because shitloads of reviews talk about them. Here’s the one thing not many do: the final level. You become a spectator to perhaps the greatest robot to grace videogame history. A giant behemoth of clinking metal, built as a line of defense against Communist China at the height of whatever war destroyed civilization as the Fallout world knew it. He shoots tremendous lasers, tosses mini nuke bombs at targets like it’s going out of style, rips apart defenses with all the grace of an animal tearing his meal, and looks cool like you wouldn’t believe. You never realize how fucking huge this game world is till you’ve seen him destroy it. All the while mouthing lines that mock our Cold War with eerie accuracy.

What happens afterwards is a killjoy, but fuck it, man, I’m all for backing a horse that runs for his life and stumbles at the finishing line than some graceless wonder.

Now, if only we could ride bikes in this crazy world.

Written by Jesus Eastwood

July 10, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Game Review

Tagged with , , , ,