Giant Bomb Review

255 Comments

Fallout 3 Review

4
  • PC
  • X360
  • PS3

Fallout 3 has a few snags, but the quality of the overall adventure makes looking past its flaws worthwhile.

Perks let you further customize your character whenever you gain a level.
You know, let's just break it down up top. Fallout 3 takes the base level action of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, changes the setting from knights-and-wizards fantasy to mutants-and-raiders post-apocalyptic Washington DC, sprinkles on a handful of systems and references that are designed to remind you of the previous Fallout games, and sends you on your way. It's successful at giving you meaningful moral choices that, in a lot of cases, reshape the game pretty dramatically. But at the same time, by trying to be a wide-open game that accounts for multiple play styles, you really notice it when you bump up against the technical and storytelling limitations of the game and its narrative structure.

The world of Fallout is the United States after a nuclear attack devastates the country and turns most of it into a flat, radioactive wasteland. To stay safe from the attack, many humans locked themselves in huge, underground vaults and lived there in relative safety. Others survive on the surface, and attempt to make lives for themselves in the rubble of what used to be the United States. Additionally, the game has a retro-futuristic tone to it that is one of its primary sources of humor.

The game opens with your character being born, and there's a prologue in place that both serves as the character creation tools and a brief introduction to the game's world and controls. It's here that you set your stats, tag a few character skills as primary, and design the look of your character. You also get to know your father over the course of this sequence, which ends with him mysteriously escaping the vault, a move that has the Overseer of the vault hunting you down. So you escape the vault to avoid the Overseer's wrath, as well as to start tracking down your father. Along the way, you'll see how life on the surface works, follow your father's trail, and get wrapped up in a pile of side quests.

Most of the quests in Fallout 3 can be completed in multiple ways, and the way you finish a quest can have substantial ramifications. Take, for example, the side quest called The Power of the Atom. This is one of the first side quests you might encounter in the town of Megaton. Megaton is so-named because there's a live nuclear bomb in the center of town. It leaks a bit of radiation and some local nutjobs worship it as some sort of great deity. The local law enforcement would be appreciative if you could quietly disarm the bomb. But a shadowy businessman in the local tavern offers you a hefty sum if you can rig the bomb to explode, instead. Since Megaton has other side quests and is also the place where you find your first lead on your father's whereabouts, blowing up the town can be a pretty dramatic act if you do it early on. It's a very cool moment.

Unfortunately, most of the other quests don't quite have that level of impact. But that doesn't mean they aren't clever or interesting. You'll get sent on a lot of different missions, either purely as side endeavors or in order to satisfy a person and convince them to give you the next piece of the main quest line. And there are still others that you might be able to circumvent if your statistics are properly aligned. The speech skill seems especially useful for this, as talking your way out of violent situations is usually much faster and easier than blasting your way through the entire game. But some quests won't require you to have specific skills. It's more a function of whether you're going to play like a jerk, and choose the most negative thing on the dialogue tree, or try to be a bit more even-handed. The game does a good job of making you feel like your dialogue choices are meaningful, even if they're just different tones of voice that ultimately lead to the same conclusion.

Lockpicking is a very useful skill to have.
Avoiding combat was my method throughout my first playthrough of Fallout 3, and that's largely because I didn't find the combat to be very satisfying. Though the game takes place from a first-person perspective and you are often armed with a gun of some kind, this is not an action game, and it's certainly not a first-person shooter. If that's what you're after, you're going to find the combat flips between dull and frustrating. Since this still has the trappings of an RPG around the edges, things like your accuracy, damage, and chance to do critical hits are governed by statistics. Aiming for the head, however, is still your best bet.

If the real time combat is getting you down, you can drop into a time-freeze combat mode called VATS. This lets you take aim at specific body parts on enemies by clicking on them, then you confirm the command and watch the combat play out. You're limited by action points, which regenerate over time, so you can't just rely on this for all of the game's fighting. But it regenerates quickly enough to be used pretty regularly, and when you're in close, you'll often just get a 95 percent chance to hit an enemy's head with all of your shots, which can decimate most regular foes quickly. Once I got the hang of this, my combat tactics turned from FPS-style strafing to just running up into the faces of my enemies, triggering VATS, and blowing their heads off with a combat shotgun or a Chinese assault rifle (which is way better than the regular assault rifle). This turned combat into more of a chore than any sort of exciting gameplay element, but the alternative of facing your enemies head-on, in real time, wasn't any better. Though you'll gain levels and become stronger as you play, the combat seems to stay roughly the same throughout the game, almost as if the enemies are leveling up along with you. The only difference-makers I got were perks that made me more effective at taking headshots in VATS mode, and things like that.

Most of your enemy encounters take place in buildings, usually while you're trying to complete some mission objective. But there's also the wasteland of the game's overworld. You'll occasionally encounter mutant monsters, angry raiders, or wild dogs when you're running around topside, but it's called a wasteland for a reason. There's, like, nothing out there but scorched earth and rubble. So when you have to run from one torn-up settlement to a new one, you sort of just point yourself in the direction of the new place and hold forward until you get there. Maybe you'll want to stop and fight any random creatures that get in your way, but you usually run faster than they do, so unless it's a group of super mutants trying to gun you down, you can usually just keep running. Once you've been to a location, you can use your world map to warp around to the different locations you've visited, just like Oblivion.

It's probably this sort of cowardice and constant running that resulted in me finishing the game at level 15, even though the level cap is 20. Getting from the game's intro to the end credits took me just over 25 hours, and I feel like I spent just as much, if not more time taking on side quests than I did following the main quest line. Along the way you'll meet a solid cast of characters that breathe life into the wasteland via some quality dialogue and interactions that feel meaningful. Even if you're going to turn around and gun them down, or just act like a horrible bastard the entire time, your dealings with these guys is what makes the game worthwhile. One could probably spend 50 hours or more exploring every nook and cranny of the Fallout 3 world, but I came away satisfied after finishing the game as a "good" character and putting significant time into a pair of more opportunistic or "evil" avatars. Depending on how much of a completionist you are, your own playtime can vary dramatically.

Also--and I'll surely talk around the specifics of what actually happens at the end of the game--it must be said that the presentation on the game's ending is a bit unfortunate. You may have heard the talk from the developers about how the game has "hundreds" of endings. But the ending is comprised of brief static images and some bits of voiceover that detail what you did over the course of the adventure, and it sort of poorly stitches these moments together to form a stilted, jerky look at a few of the key things you did over the course of the game. Also, I feel like I outsmarted the game's final moments only to have it force me down a specific, undesirable path via one of the most angering lines of dialogue in recent memory. I'd really like to say more about this, because it still has me pretty riled up, but as it's effectively the end of the game, it would be uncouth to talk in specifics.

This guy's the law in these parts, so watch yourself.
The game also has a lot of little issues, many of which are straight out of Oblivion, though there are some new ones, as well. NPC characters behave oddly, sometimes randomly switching between a too-slow walk and a hyper-speed run, usually because they need to be standing somewhere else to perform some kind of custom animation for you. It's as if the director shouted "places everyone! The player character is coming!" You'll still need to deal with encumbrance, and if you're holding more than the weight limit allows you'll move very slowly and be unable to fast travel. Maybe I just like to carry more than is necessary to always be prepared, but I felt like I was spending a ton of time managing my inventory over the course of the game. The game also has a third-person perspective that you can optionally use to play the game, but it's no good.

Also, the game autosaves every time you walk through a door or enter a new location. I ran into a spot where I had picked a lock, angering a nearby robot, who gave chase and alerted the entire town that I was a bad guy. I ran through a door, which saved the game in a state where I had very little health and had like eight people chasing after me, guns blazing. It led to a situation where the game would load up, I would attempt to run away, get killed, reload in the exact same state, die again, and so on for around 30 minutes. I finally managed to find a spot where I could duck and the game's questionable AI couldn't find me, and everything eventually got back to normal. But I didn't have a recent hard save at that point. If I had been caught with less health and placed in a spot where there was no way to escape, I probably would have been caught in a death loop with no escape and nothing to do but start over again. That... seems kind of bad. Take that as a warning and try to remember to manually save from time to time.

Across the three platforms, the PC version of Fallout 3 is the best, provided you have hardware that can handle it. The PC version has better lighting, a bit more graphical detail, and just looks better, overall. It's a Games For Windows Live game, too, so if you're dead set on playing the game with an Xbox 360 controller, you can do that on the PC, as well. Additionally, it has achievements, just like the 360 version, though they're kept separately--this means you could technically double up, play the game to completion on both the 360 and the PC, and have double the points as a result.

The 360 version is no slouch, though. It might not be quite as pretty as the PC version, but it still looks fine. The load times remain pretty reasonable. The PlayStation 3 version is below the 360 version, by comparison. The level of detail when you're in the wasteland or other areas where you can see for great distances isn't quite as good, the game seems to be a bit more aliased, and the frame rate isn't as smooth. Plus, the PS3 version of the game doesn't have any trophy support (yet), and the game actually freezes every time a status message, such as "so and so is online" or "DUDE HOW DID U GET FALLOUT 3 EARLY!!!!???" is on-screen. That's bad enough to make you want to log out of the PlayStation Network before booting up the PS3 version of the game.

It's unfortunate that Fallout 3 is saddled with so many little- and medium-sized issues, because they get in the way of what's an otherwise fantastic experience. The world is well-realized and full of options. It'll be a struggle in spots, but I'm willing to guess that most people will be able to overlook a lot of the game's problems and still have a very good time exploring the irradiated wasteland formerly known as Washington DC.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
255 Comments
Posted by AgileNate

I like this review. People already know what this game is about and that its good(stated in review). Jeff points out the downsides that people will only talk about AFTER the game has been out for a while. Most made their reviewing decisions before the menu loaded on screen.

Posted by ManlyBeast

should have gotten 5 stars, but reviews mean nothing. We all now this is a must buy.

Posted by Snoopy

Will check this game out when done with farcry 2

Posted by Spiritof

The splitting of the hairs over the 4 or the 5 stars is giving me the headache.

I wished it was something other than stars, something like Life Savers candies or ham sandwiches or Gemma Atkinsons or something.

If you liked Oblivion and you liked the Fallout games, guess what? You should probably be playing this game. I don't need 5 billion stars to justify my purchase. I'm here for the thoughts and critiques, not for the subjective rating.

Posted by CreamyGoodness

great review. although i might hold off on getting it and finish fable 2

Posted by Gregomasta

I think I'm agreeing with Jeff on this one.  Damn.  Kinda lost interest on this and gained some with Fable 2.

Posted by EpicBenjamin

Nope, not yet at least, too busy with Fable 2, Saints Row 2, Far Cry 2 and Dead Space. Ughh, i'll never finish them all before i get Fallout! If i actually buy it of course.

Online
Posted by Virtua_Ben

I'm really looking forward to this game even though I didn't like Oblivion one bit.   My change in heart comes from the post-apocalyptic setting.  It just seems so much more interesting compared to Oblivion's fantasy environment.

Posted by RHCPfan24
"Avoiding combat was my method throughout my first playthrough of Fallout 3,"

Whoa! Jeff played this game more than once!  

Actually, according to his review, it sounds like he put a good 60-70 hours into this review with all the playthroughs and different platforms he played it on.
Posted by YoungBuck

new 8.8

Edited by Little_Greenie

You guys really need to quit suckling Jeff's teets.  This has got to be the worst, most cowardly or misconceived, review I've read in a long time.  How can mention no positives and then score the game 4/5?  Obviously, Jeff did not like the game from his words, but the score belies a deeper truth of either his underlying bias that he was afraid to expose, or simply his lacking the balls to truly give it a bad score like he wanted...less he fall further in the gaming industry.   Either way you look at it, this is a true fail.  Too bad, I thought this site held some increasingly scarse legitimacy.

Posted by perfectblu3

Wow, I tip my hat you you Jeff. You had the balls to give this game 4 stars. I may not agree with the whole thing, but I credit you for calling it like you see it.

Posted by chandlerr_360

I agree. Jeff your review sounds more like a 2/5 or 3/5 than a 4/5 score. I played the game for at least 4 hours before I put it down...seriously, it's just bad...really bad. Far too many loading times, probably the worst combat in a RPG that I have ever experience, and terribly bland environments. My suggestion? Get Fable 2, now that is a great RPG that can't be passed up.

Edited by TFG

It seems to me from reading the first half of the review, that Jeff is almost giving this a pity 4 stars. It doesn't really show that he is really enjoying the game to me at least. In fact it seems like he can't really get over anything that he finds negative about the game.

Anyways, I'm about to load it up for the first time right now, and i'll be my own judge of the game. I can't wait to try it out.

Posted by sionweeks

WHOOOOAAAAHHHHHHHH! 4 STARS!?!?!?

Prepare for massive flaming of this, and maybe other reviews that aren't 95%+

No one will flame on here of course, as it IS JEFF that's reviewing this, and everyone thinks that man is God (Which he IS)  I don't know if you get me...

Posted by Erdie

That doesn't sound too good.  I think I'll GameFly it.

Posted by LDub

I'm not surprised to read that this is pretty much 'Oblivion with guns', while that's not necessarily a bad thing, Fallout 3 has yet to appeal to me. I'll probably pick this title up during the summer drought next year.

Posted by CPlusPlus

It's really nice to see that some of you are no longer in your trance of thinking that everything this site writes is the most amazing piece of literature you've ever read. Get real, these guys are just a bunch of dorks who think they have some kind of credibility but the true fact is that none of these guys can write an article at a writing level above 5th grade. Jeff's reviews suck every time I read them and this just proves it. First Soul Calibur IV and now Fallout 3. Some of you need to get out more and read real literature and not focus so much on video game sites and these loser wannabe celebs that work here. You tools worship these guys like everything they write should be in a damn book of the best writing ever. How can anyone possibly post a review like giantbomb does and expect anyone to take them seriously except for a bunch of 13 year old kids who don't shower?

Posted by mrhankey

i may have to rethink this, i have yet to focus on lock picking i shall though.

Edited by joslop500

@CPlusPlus, and yet, you're the one reading the article, and thinking that someone gives a fuck about what you think.

Posted by dtran1212

anyone got this game for the ps3? is it bad as jeff described it or is it too minor to pick out?

Posted by bornagain888

Thanks for the honesty Jeff. I don't read your site for a bunch of PR hype. As for the Jeff haters, tell me this much, just what have you accomplished with your life so far?

Posted by AK47

you know. they should stop using a rating system with a score so jackasses who are too lazy to read and just look at the score can just fuck off so they cant really say anything seeing as they didn't read anything. you people who are bashing jeff for this are assholes. everyone is entitled to their opinion and that includes reviewers. when gamespot's editor aaron thomas gave ratchet and clank future a 7.5, i got pissed, seeing as the average of all reviews was an 8.9. did i give a damn? no. If you dont give a damn about 4/5 stars and are going to buy this game anyways then good for you, dont come and bash jeff for expressing his opinion about an overhyped game that wasnt equally developed for both systems. No, im not a PS fanboy, but i do believe after playing great games like dead space and other multiplatform titles that are equally great on both systems, games that are atleast really hyped and are expected to be GOTY should be developed properly on both systems so no system gets the edge. so fuck the devs for that. i dont give a darn for their excuse, they should have delayed it so it can atleast be just as good. anyways, i respect this review jeff. what i dont respect is you idiots who come here to talk shit, you want to praise this game? go right a review for it yourself or better yet go play it retards rather than wasting everyones time by reading your gay ass posts.

/rant

Posted by Godzilla_Sushi

Fair enough!

Posted by MooseBurger

That was the most negative sounding 4 star review i have ever read.  This is definitely a rent first for me.

Posted by Derios
Posted by Fawk

Nice review.  Great game.

I do have a big problem that you gave GTA4, a murder/sex/drug simulator, 5 stars and this game 4 stars.  It's easily as good.

Posted by kagekage

great review jeff.
the problems wit the game may be lengthy in the review but the overall game itself is so good that you can overlook those minor ones (cept the ones in the ps3. it shames me ppl take the ps3's impressive hardware and take it for granted).
oblivion4 had a few glitches wit the ps3 version too (sounds lik bethesda has something against sony lmao)

Posted by artofwar420

PC version FTW. Great review.

Posted by Roger_Klotz

Good Review, I've been playing this game all day and I am hooked on it. In my opinion it is better than oblivion.

Posted by xruntime

Holy shit! ... did Jeff just say the PC version is the best?

Posted by coletrain

im sry but i cant give dead space and bf bc 5/5 and this a 4/5

Posted by insanejedi

Tsk tsk tsk Jeff. an 4/5. Come to my office and CNET will tell you how all your stuff is outside of your locked building you bought.

Posted by studnoth1n

hey jeff!  if you happen to do a video review, could you possibly post a clip of you trying like mad to escape one of those shitty auto-save moments?  for some odd reason, i could see that being wildly entertaining.  thanks!

Posted by CPlusPlus
@dcpc10
you just proved my point, thank you very much.  You said, and I quote, "He may be a bit bias and sometimes he does review games that dont seem to fit his best interests but he's still an awesome dude that that has really inspired me to become someone apart of the gaming industry not-to-mention, without him, this wicked site wouldn't exist." You do know that reviews are supposed to be completely unbiased and objective right? You base your opinion on the review based on who wrote it and not the quality of the writing which just proves that you are a complete moron so maybe you do belong on this site. Keep playing your cards right and you might also end up being an employee of giantbomb.com and be worshiped by a bunch of tweenie boys. 
Posted by CPlusPlus

@joslop500
obviously you "give a fuck" about what I think, thank you very much for reading my post. Keep reading more buddy!

Posted by luv2xlr8

This game deserves 5 stars if you ask me.

Posted by rerty

This might be one of the most poorly written reviews I have ever read. I love this site and tend to enjoy Jeff's reviews but damn....I agree with the 4/5 but I'm not sure you do. If you don't enjoy the gameplay how do you still like the game?

Posted by pandemic

Overall I'd say this is a good review, but I'm on the bandwagon with a lot of the others here--the tone of the review definitely didn't match the final score.

Plus, and I know it's not really my job to be a critic, but the review, at least by this sites otherwise high standards, felt kinda lazy (count how many times he says "also" in the review).  It just felt like a laundry list of things you did, with maybe a little less editorial substance than we're used to.

All that being said it's a good review and I hope a video review is on the way!
Posted by lordofultima

Well I played a good twelve hours of this today, and can safely say it's awesome. If you liked oblivion, you'll like this. But I also agree with Jeff, in that the combat isn't very appealing at all. That's not the drawing point for me. I'd even say that I had more fun fighting dudes in Oblivion than I do in Fallout 3. It's also missing some of the more interesting parts of Oblivion, like the guilds (as far as I can tell anyway).

Edited by Smersh

Sorry Jeff, but this review is well underdone and depressing. You're 72 times more entertaining than this rabble of a review ... maybe you contracted the asian bird flu while at TGS? ... or rushed to have this "up" before the other sites? Don't get me wrong though, you are a legendary gaming guru! -  unfortunately this one is rubbish.

Posted by Cousken

Looking at this review... The texts is 75% bad things, 15% what's good about the game and 10% other stuff. And yet still a 4. I would really like to know what makes the game good, but i just can't find it here. After this review i'm even more sceptical forwards Fallout 3 :( GoodOldGames.com here i come!

Posted by oasisbeyond

Let's be honest here Jeff... You were never a fan of big deep games, like Morrowind or Oblivion. So this shouldn't have been reviewed by you. You enjoy games with plenty of action, or games that keep you on your toes.

Like Freedom Fighters... I remember you giving that a 9.2... Now I loved that game and it's still one of my favorite third person shooters, but it'ss no 9.2.
You also gave Tony Hawk 3 and 10... And again that's just crazy talk lol.

You'll always be a fan of simple and fun action games like Deadspace, but big world and slowly paced games no.

This game is amazing, and I've been playing it for 7 hours in a row now. I get so into these games, yet I still play all the other more generic games out there. I own 300 + games and 13 consoles. I know what a great game is and how it could make you feel.

This is one of those games 5/5 from mem a gamer that really has an open mind for all games out there.

Posted by oasisbeyond

You gave Battlefield a 5/5, Bionic Commando 5/5...
Freedom Fighters 9.2, Tony Gawk 3 a 10...

Let's face it you like face paced action games that keep you on your toes. Not slower paced games that take time to play.

I have been playing this for well over 7 hours and it trullly is wonderfull.
I give it a 5/5 it's a must have, putting this is the same category as Saints Row is a Joke.

I own over 300 + games and appreaciate all game genres, take it from me guys. If you really get into your games... This is a must have game for you.
5/5
9.5/10

Posted by Toothsaw

Actually, when you choose to have a 5-stars rating system, very different games with very different quality happen to have the same rating.

Moreover, that's an OVERALL rating, meaning that if the game is  a-hell-o-fun but the story is poor, it may be a 3/5 and the same rating could apply to a quite plain game with great visuals but poor storytelling.
It's a measure of the game as a whole.

Now, I played some Fallout 3 and the game feels very complex and deep, the RPG elements are solid, the multiple choices you have to solve each problem are well implemented, BUT the 3rd person camera is akward, the combat feels clunky and using the VATS in every fight is terribly action-breaking.
Ok, it's no action game, it's an RPG with 1st person viewpoint. But if you give me an interface where I can freely shoot real-time or choose to use VATS, they both should work fine. Otherwise, you'd best send me in some sort of turn-based combat sequence where I can play with all my stats and special attacks.
As it is, the real time shooting is very unreliable, so you are forced to use VATS when there are more than 3-4 enemies shooting at you if you want to survive.
I still think it's a very well done game, but they tried to make it more action than past Fallout games, so the action should be very present in the game.
As I said, I still value Fallout 3 a very good game, but I agree with Jeff on th 4/5 rating.

And please stop comparing games just by overall ratings.
"OMG!! Dead Space has the same rating as Tony Hawk 3, Chrono Trigger and Soul Calibur on the DreamCast!! OMG OMG!!! Heresy! Liars!! Bla Bla Bla..."
The are ALL pretty damn good games, each one for various reasons, but forget about

                                                SAME RATING = SAME GAME

Bioshock and Dead Space are wonderful games because of their atmosphere and partly because of their storytelling, but in comparison to GTA4, for example, they are much linear! But that doesn't make them unworthy of high ratings. Like I said in the beginning, very different games can have the very same rating for very different reasons, especially if your rating range is limitide (to 5 values, in this case).
If you want to talk about numbers, just remember that 4/5 stars DOES NOT MEAN a rating between 61/100 and 80/100; there might be a game worth 85/100, even 90/100 but still be rated 4/5 because the OVERALL feel is not fully satisfying. And there might be games with a 5-star rating that theoretically would just get a 80/100, maybe because they do something too simplisticly, but the OVERALL game is a lot of fun to play or so immersive you wouldn't notice you just went through a 9-hour-non-stop session on the game!

And, most importantly, the reviews on this site are PERSONAL impressions on the game. You might say each game should be reviewed by the guy who like that genre the most, but I think a truly good game shoud stand the test of a review made by non-fanatics; otherwise it would be quite surely biased.
Posted by HoNgKoNgPh0oEy

GTA Vaccine are you not getting Fallout 3 because of this review hopefully you are still getting it. Because it is awesome so far for me and shawn or go read IgN's 3 reviews.

Posted by Sharpshooter

Well I was planning the get this on PS3 but I suppose a change of plan isn't out of order. Thanks for the warning, Jeff

Posted by Dragonseer

Wow, what is with the haters?  If you want to binge on one-sided PR rants head over to IGN or something.  The losers over there will tell you that Fallout 3 is the biggest cultural event since Shakespeare.  I'm glad that Jeff is able to see through the hype and tell it like it is..  Another poster here mentioned Soul Calibur 4, well most journalists got sucked in by that bit of rubbish as well - while Jeff was the only reviewer I noticed that saw that game for what it is, a creepy cash in and easily the worst in the franchise.

Posted by coaxmetal

so, despite all these comments on the quality of the review, nobody here has asker or answered the really important question: Is Dogmeat in the game?