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October 28, 2008



- Wideopen environment with tons of things to do
- There are “real” consequences for the choices you make
- VATS manages to incorporate real-time and turn-based into the combat
- A gritty as hell wasteland



- It’s can all be a little lonely and the openness can make it all feel overwhelming
- Most enemies will run directly at you no matter what



Review: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC)

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Review: The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon (PC)



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Fallout 3

Score: 9 / 10


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I’ve been hyped for Fallout 3 since the first time I saw it back in 2007. At the time I compared the demo to watching a stripper then the having the curtain drop just before the big reveal. And at 2008’s E3, after playing a 30-minute demo I said it was “like being promised a lap dance then the dancer saunters in, quickly looks at her watch then leaves.” Needless to say, I was anticipating this game like few others games this season.


And it managed to live up to those wild expectations.


One of the worst parts of Fallout 3 is the very thing it does so well. The vast majority of Fallout 3 takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that used to be Washington, DC and the developers have done such a good job of crafting the world that after two or three hours in the game I actually felt kinda down. The place is gritty and depressing, as are most of the characters that populate the place (even the ones that don’t explicitly want to kill you). One of the earliest quests that can be taken is to rid an area of the Wasteland of an infestation of giant fire-breathing ants. The boy that gives the quest has a horrible backstory and, maybe it’s the fact I’m a dad, that I actually felt a twinge of emotion when I found that his dad had been killed by the ants. When I finally tracked down the queen, there was no question about what was going to happen, no matter the protestations of the scientist trying to return the ants to their original small size. There are a lot of stories like this where there are at least a couple of real choices when it comes to progress through each quest. One of the earliest, the destruction or salvation of Megaton, the first settlement you come across, can be 




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quite game-altering. All the choices aren’t so obvious in the results they bring about so I often found myself really considering my responses to each new situation for minutes rather than seconds. The story telling is one of Fallout 3’s strongest aspects – not Pulitzer Prize-winning stuff but entertaining and thoughtful enough to bring me back to a depressing game world.



As the Wasteland and its environs, like the subway system that connects many different areas, is filled with mutants and marauders your best friend, your (optional) canine companion Dogmeat notwithstanding, will be the VATS or Val-Tec Assisted Targeting System. It should be made clear that Fallout 3 is no first-person shooter and in no way would I recommend trying to play it that way. Only as a last resort did I ever start firing without the use of VATS because, to put it bluntly, the shooting is not very good. Activating VATS essentially pauses the action as the nearest target is brought into focus with a handy breakdown of percentage chances of hitting the selected body part. You have a limited number of Action Points to allot for each action you select during the VATS phase. After you’ve confirmed your choices, time slowly gets back up to speed as your selected actions are played out, sometimes to extremely gory effect depending on what you were aiming for. The level of strategy in what to shoot first actually involves quite a bit of thinking. Go for the headshot or a leg to slow the target down? Or shoot the weapon from the hands of the marauder? The form and function of VATS is something I’d like to see in more games since it almost turns a real-time game into a turn-based experience during combat.


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The management system for your inventory, quest logs, weapon and physical stats and perks, and maps – the usual role-playing information – is handled via the Pip-Boy 3000. In the early going, it felt a little clumsy and confusing but after about an hour of play it becomes easy to access whatever info you’re looking for in a couple of button presses. For someone that doesn’t play that many role-playing games, I really appreciate not having to wade through endless menus to access information or offload gear.


Spend enough time in Fallout 3 and you’ll start to find some of the seams of the place, like the fact most enemies will run straight at you after spotting you a mile away. The on-the-breeze ambient score carries a lot of weight with it and the spoken dialogue lends a certain level of believability to the world (as depressing as it is), but many of the sound effects are poor. And as much time as you spend creating the look of your character during the brilliant opening birth scene you’ll actually spend almost no time actually being able to see your character’s face, even if you decide to pop into the 3rd person view. It seems like a lot of wasted energy.


Though Fallout 3 is a good game and it lived up to all my expectations, it is certainly not for anyone wanting a quick game. Even though the main story line is relatively short in comparison to other role-playing games, you’ll still spend a lot of time doing nothing but walking across the desolate brown landscape – the option to quick travel will become your friend – and getting into conversations, it doesn’t fit well with a gamer that wants a quick fix. Besides that hesitation, I recommend Fallout 3.


- Aaron Simmer

January 12, 2009

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