June 6th, 2015

Hours Played: Lots and lots

Last played: January 25th, 2014

Fallout 3: Tunnel Snakes Rule

Although we all knew it was there hiding behind the curtain, it’s nice to finally know that Fallout 4 is, indeed, a real thing. And, surprisingly. coming this year at that! With the recent announcement, I thought I would write about one of my favorite Bethesda games, Fallout 3.

I think it’s safe to say that for many of us, Fallout 3 was our first introduction to the series as a whole. Not to say that Fallout 1 and 2 were not popular games, but being the fourteen-year-old I was in 2008, it’s easy to believe many gamers like myself were introduced to the series with Bethesda’s take on the famous franchise.

Going from an isometric turn-based RPG to a first person “shooter” is definitely a massive sea change. Although I wasn’t invested, I remember hearing some people were disappointed in the changes that a first-person perspective brought (and I can totally understand why), but Fallout 3 is still a game that I look back on, seven years later, with wonderfully fond memories.

One of the things, I think, that made Fallout 3 great was that while the world was rather vast and empty, that feeling of “emptiness” was very fitting for a world ravaged by nuclear war. There were pockets of life and activity, and you would randomly stumble across creatures or bandits out in the wilderness, but it wasn’t exactly “dense”. The game struck a nice balance between you finding encounters, and encounters finding you. It always seemed like, given enough time and walking, something interesting would happen. Whether it was being attacked by horrible Super Mutants in Downtown Washington, or stumbling upon a homestead that has seceded from what is left of the government.

The world had flavor. And that made it fun to explore.

Much like it’s predecessor, TES IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3 had a rather… ‘off’ feeling to it. Which was, in some ways, a great contrast to the bright 50’s aesthetic of the game world. While at the same time fitting for its post apocalypse setting. There was a nice conflict between what the world “was” and what it had become.

In Fallout 3, it felt like just about every abandoned home you entered had some kind of tragedy waiting to be discovered. Whether it was the remains of a family scattered through a home, or a suicide note left by a survivor. There were so many little details tucked away in the various places of the D.C. Wasteland. These touches made the world feel “lived in.”

Aside from the general “lived in” quality that Fallout 3 had, there were plenty of disturbing moments which were hidden in the world too. Walking into a school that had been taken over by cannibals, and seeing their “food supply” strewn across the floor… Exploring downtown and being ambushed by horrible mutants. Investigating a murder, committed by wannabe vampires… And of course, going down into some of the abandoned Vaults hidden in the wasteland… For a game made by a company notorious for stiff game design. There were some very good moments in the game, whether scripted or not.

For instance, Vault 108 was very memorable for me because it was full of Garys.

Gary had been cloned, many, many times, his clones were insane and hostile to all non-Garys. Eventually the Garys killed everyone else in the Vault, causing it to fall into disrepair. It was unsettling to walk into the silent rusted hallways of the Vault, only for the silence to be shattered by gunfire and unrelenting battlecry of: “Gaaarrrryyyyy? Gaaaarrryyy!!!!” And having three madmen, or truthfully three of the same madman, trying to rip your throat out.

Bethesda used the isolation in many of the Vaults to great effect. I specifically remember Vault 87. A crusty, dilapidated Vault, filled with Super Mutants and Centaurs. The isolation, the oppressively low ceiling and close walls. Combined with the darkness, large amounts of human remains, and the overall nastiness of the enemies made for a very memorable experience.
When the game was new, I remember playing through this area at two in the morning. While I was slowly making my way through the tense halls of the Vault, a dog started barking outside. I remember peering  through the blinds trying to figure out what was going on… Before I realized the game had stressed me out and I was reacting to the stress.

But nothing came close to the Dunwich building, although it wasn’t the scariest thing in the game, it was certainly the most upfront about it. In most cases the tension was due to thinking you’re alone in a quiet, dark, place and suddenly being shot or attacked by monsters. However, the Dunwich building had special scripting for its events. There was nothing like it in the rest of the game, and I think that’s why it was so memorable. It was a little, creepy, gem left to be discovered. Uncovering what happened to the people there was very interesting and, simultaneously, off putting with a wonderfully creepy easter egg waiting for you at the end. I highly recommend checking it out.

Well done, Bethesda.

While the world of Fallout was certainly fun to explore and become familiar with, the mechanics of the game itself were, unfortunately, pretty clunky. Shooting was stiff, and in some cases felt quite weak. There was nothing worse than shooting someone in the head, getting a bad damage roll, and watching them shrug off a bullet like it was a spit ball.

However, what made the shooting in Fallout memorable was V.A.T.S. or, the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System.

This is the mechanic that made Fallout 3 for me, V.A.T.S. allowed you to pause time and select individual parts of your opponents, then shoot said targets. Plus, V.A.T.S. would show your shots in amazing slo-mo cinematic glory! It made the combat feel pretty epic. There was nothing better that blasting an annoying NPC in the face with a shotgun, watching their head fly apart in slo-mo, and then reloading your previous save to continue on.

“This Moriarty guy is infuriating…” *quick save* *murder* *quick load*

Seeing your dude shoot at the enemy, watching the killing bullet travel from the gun barrel into their head, and seeing it explode into a chunky red mist all from a cinematic camera angle was… satisfying…

Throwing a grenade into a group of bandits running at you with murderous intentions, seeing it sail through the air, land at their feet, and then watching their feet fly in six different directions was… satisfying…

Running up to a guard, punching him to death, and watching his body explode into little chunks because of the perk “bloody mess” was… hilarious…

Unfortunately, V.A.T.S. didn’t completely circumvent the clunky nature of the game, but it did make it tolerable, and in many ways wonderfully endearing. V.A.T.S. was, by far, my favorite part of Fallout 3 It was, and still is, a unique and interesting mechanic, that spiced up combat. And the idea of using it in the upcoming Fallout 4 is getting me hyped.

And hype is bad, hype is the game killer.

Now, as you may or may not know, Bethesda games are famous for being incredibly moddable. They come with a complete suite of tools used solely for the purpose of creating new original content for the game itself. Fallout 3 is no exception.

There are some amazing Fallout 3 mods floating around out there… and some really weird ones. If you feel like the game is missing something, chances are someone made a mod for it. Just be warned… There are a lot of…
“adult” mods too. But, hey, if that’s your thing… They got your back!

The modding communities for Bethesda games are spectacular, there are some great gems out there on the internet. Sometimes you just gotta do some digging to find them.
Just go in with an open mind, remembering that the game is from 2008, and expect some amount of ‘jank’ and you’ll be fine.

It might look and feel dated, but damn there’s a fine game in there.

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