It's finally here and I finally got to spend some good quality time with it. Fallout 3 has arrived and I was able to take it for a spin on the Xbox 360. Before you get into the game, Hellboy gives you a small prologue speech and Qui-Gon Jinn becomes your father. I, of course, am speaking about the two great voice talents that appear in the game: Ron Perlman and Liam Neeson. You'll witness your own birth and this is where the game begins. For starters, the character creation portion encompasses a few moments from birth to your teenage life. There are so many options to alter your appearance that you could literally spend hours fine tuning how you want to look when you are older. I wanted to get straight into the game so I decided to just pick some random appearance and start my life in Vault 101.
As you live through various moments in your life in the Vault before you leave, the game guides you through some small tasks in order to teach you the basics of the game. This tutorial portion helps you get acclimated with the controls and also adds some more of to the story as your father guides you in your early years. At this point of the game is also where you learn about S.P.E.C.I.A.L. which is an acronym for all the stats your character has. Besides this, you'll also have various skills to pump up such as Medicine, Big Guns, Little Guns, Speech, Barter, and so on. Players of the original Fallout games will recognize these pretty easily. Finally, the perk system gives you a little extra bonus and/or penalties. You can opt to gain additional points for V.A.T.S., have the ability to sneak up on someone and eat them but lose karma, and one of the coolest one lets you have a mysterious stranger show up and help you fight enemies while in V.A.T.S. You gain perks at each level increase so you're going to be constantly nabbing new traits which makes it a lot more fun than waiting every few levels. To get you started, you take a test called the G.O.A.T. which is similar to the character creation of Ultima IV whereby your responses to the questions determines the perks that fit you. Of course all these can be changed so you're not going to be stuck with a character you don't like. You have one last chance to customize all aspects of your character before you leave the vault so it was nice of Bethesda to give you these chances to create the character you want. Once you leave the Vault though, the real fun begins.
Combat is handled in two ways. You can play it like first or third person shooter relying on your skills as an action gamer to take down your enemies. But as much as I love FPS games and as much as I played them it just didn't feel right for me. The action is a little slower pace than say Unreal or Team Fortress but that's not a knock against the game. It's how it should be and because of this I didn't fight the enemies as much this way as I did using V.A.T.S. Pushing a button brings up the system and stops all gameplay. You're given a map of the opponents various body parts with the ability to target each one as well as their weapon. Labeled next to each part is a percentage showing you what your chances are to hit that certain area. Queue up your attacks based on how many points you have available and then sit back and watch the outcome. It's a nice system that does take me back to the first two games of turn based combat. You'll see all your actions and the enemies' in slow motion that would make John Woo and Michael Bay proud. Sometimes the enemies go down normally without any mess but just wait until the first time you see someone's head explode in various chunks. The slow motion makes these events almost beautiful to watch. It's certainly gruesome and sadistic but I always picked the Bloody Mess trait in the original games so I'm one of those that enjoy seeing my enemies being torn apart. The damage is random too as sometimes you'll blow a head clean off into tiny pieces or you'll decapitate a person and see his mug rolling on the ground after the animation is done. Still getting out of V.A.T.S. wasn't really that fun and while the game isn't a first person shooter, trying to kill your enemies the traditional way feels kludgy.
When you are out of V.A.T.S. points, you'll have to run around and wait for them to recharge but luckily it doesn't take too long and you can always activate V.A.T.S. again without a full charge and have less actions. So you'll never be fully out of action mode but the combination of the two really makes for a fun experience. V.A.T.S. does have a problem I've experienced a few times where I was behind cover but could clearly see the enemy. When I targeted the person, I had some OK percentages. As soon as I started the sequence, I found my character firing straight into the cover. Now, I know I may not be a good shot but I would think my character could fire over the cover I was in seeing as the enemy was in plain site. It's a little annoying as I'd have to move myself out of the way a lot more than I would expect to try it again having wasted a good amount of points already.
As with any RPG, you'll spend a lot of time trying to heal yourself after duking it out with the mutants, animals, and raiders. You'll have to take note of the condition of your limbs as some can become crippled making it harder for you to fight or walk around. Stimpaks will help out a lot but there are times where you have to ingest various meats. Some of the items have both a healing factor and a radioactive factor. Your Pip-Boy will keep track of your radiation levels and at various levels you'll have reduced stats. Being radiated over a certain point will cause you to cease living. Besides food, there will be some areas that are radioactive as well so you have to be sure not to spend too much time in those places. So not only do you have your health t worry about, you'll have your radiation level as well.
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