Fallout 3

A deeply immersive game with an unrelentingly dire, subversive display of Man's dark side.
Reviewed By: Dustin Bailey - Staff Reviewer
Content at a glance:

Drug Use: Your character can use and become addicted to both medication and illegal drugs.

Extreme Violence: Heads and limbs frequently explode in slow-motion, briefly showing a graphic display of bloody and organs spilling from the wound.

Mild Sexual Content: A few minor characters are prostitutes, one of whom can be hired by the player. (Nothing is shown aside from the two characters sleeping in the same bed, fully clothed.)

Strong Language: Most characters make frequent use of R-rated profanities.


Fallout 3 by Rexman, trachean

Easily among the most highly-anticipated games of all time, Fallout 3 hit store shelves late in 2008. Sporting a rich role-playing experience, unique play mechanics, and impressive next-gen graphics, the game aimed to take the gaming world by storm. Developer Bethesda promised a deeply immersive game, and it is safe to say that they delivered with this post-apocalyptic shooter.

The first thing that any player will notice about Fallout 3 is the excellence of the graphics. The quality is amazing. Objects and textures are rendered with crystal clarity; buildings and characters are modeled with incredible realism; dust storms blow and skeletal structures loom across the landscape. Everything about the visuals suggests a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It is a visual experience that really must be seen to be appreciated.

In terms of game-play, Fallout 3 is a first-person shooter that explores the freedom of choice. The setting does much to allow this freedom: a ravaged, post-apocalyptic United States, where civilization has all but disappeared. In most of the settlements that have managed to crop up, survivors are lucky if they can scrounge up supplies enough to feed themselves; affording protection from roaming gangs of slavers, raiders, and super-mutants is a miracle. The landscape reflects the same terrible condition. Any buildings left standing after the mushroom clouds dissipated are crumbling into ruin. Nearly all that the eye can see is brown, burnt, and dead, and what isn’t soon will be.

The game attempts to be a semi-realistic portrayal of an America lying in ruin, 200 years after nuclear war; for the most part it succeeds. As immersive as its premise is dark, the game world is populated with striking detail. It reaches a level of realism that borders on parody. Rubble lies where buildings used to be; canned goods, lawnmowers, and house decorations lie strewn around what were once residential areas; and cars lie abandoned on and around destroyed freeways. NPCs, too, are realistic in their speech and interaction. The order of the day is personal survival, pure and simple. Selfishness is the one characteristic common among all characters but a few. Even in the towns, one gets the sense that if something went wrong, it would be every man for himself. It is into this world that the player character emerges.


In such a dark future, interactions with most NPCs are gruff, to say the least. R-rated profanities are commonly spoken by nearly all characters, whether they are men, women, or children. Any humor to be found in the game is morbid at best. The player may choose to lie in situations where it might be advantageous. In most of the main- and side-quests, the choices available to the player may be boiled down to Save Lives, Save Lives for Money, End Lives for Money, and End Lives for No Real Reason. Any and all options are open to the player—every lock can be picked, every computer can be hacked, every NPC can be pick-pocketed or even killed. The player may choose to save a town, or he may choose to destroy that town, either en masse or person by person. However, no action, for good or otherwise, is without consequence. The Karma system in the game monitors the player’s choices. Good players and evil players are rewarded according to their actions.

Though many options are open to the player throughout the game, one aspect that is not an option is combat. There are many situations where the player may choose to save lives, but there are many more where the player has no choice: It’s kill or be killed. No matter whether the player is good or evil, hundreds of creatures, human and otherwise, must die at the player’s hand. Good players may be threatened by mercenaries hired to end the spree of good deeds; evil players may face vigilante warriors. Creatures bent on killing the player, regardless of alignment, range from mutated animals to human raiders to huge, mutated humans. While all other aspects of the game approach realism, the combat goes over the top. The combat system hinges on a mechanic that pauses the action, allows the player to target specific areas on offenders’ bodies, and plays out the results in slow-motion. Players are rewarded for well-aimed attacks with up-close scenes of exploding body parts and showers of blood and organs.

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Overall, the main storyline of Fallout 3 is only minimally compelling: The player-character’s father disappears, and it’s up to the player to go find him and find out why he left. More or less exciting things happen along the way, but the game begins and ends on that premise, and frankly there isn’t much more to it. The game is really carried by its numerous side quests, which play out like short stories; a Tales of the Wasteland, if you will. Side quests can range from mundane (find a violin for an old woman) to weird (save a town from two costume-wearing marauders), from pleasant (discover locations of food to help other Wastelanders) to horrifying (capture children to sell as slaves).

The music and sound effects are well-suited for providing the intended atmosphere. The in-game radio plays music that adds to the morbid humor and nostalgic, destroyed feel of the game. Voice-overs and other sound effects are as well-done as the visuals—realistic and convincing.

Fallout 3 is a graphically breathtaking game, rich with detail and full of opportunities to choose. You may choose to stay on the upstanding path, doing kindnesses for people who nearly always try to take advantage of you; you may choose the low road, becoming one more selfish person in an endless cycle of violence and wrongdoing; or you may choose a path somewhere in-between. No matter what path you choose, Fallout 3 is a violent, grim portrayal of humanity from start to finish.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Answers Network.

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