Ok that title may be slightly misleading, I didn’t actually “hate” Fallout 3 but I’m rapidly learning to due to all of the fanboy-esque hype it’s receiving. Now I’m trying to imagine the arguments that I’ll be presented with and will do my best to counter them so please read on before you bite my head off via scathing emails.
Ok, “hate” is a strong word and it may not be how I describe my feelings towards Fallout 3. I’d be better off using words like: repetitive, uneventful, mediocre and predictable. Yes I played Elder Scrolls, yes I really enjoyed it, yes I logged far too many hours in it. No I did not go into this game thinking “Oblivion with guns” but by the end of the game that phrase kept nagging away at my brain which was frantically trying to find another source of stimulus. For me the game peaked very early on and then slowly crawled lower and lower on the graphical representation of the fun I was having. The game looks and feels exactly like Oblivion which is fine because it’s the same engine I know but at least try to make it a separate game. I couldn’t help but having thief guild flashbacks every time I pulled up the map screen. So a big part of why people bludgeon their poor friends over the head with their special lunchbox edition of opinions on this game is that the second you leave good ol’ Vault 101 you’re in an open world where you can go anywhere, do anything, drink any puddle and stink palm any infant. Now I feel like I’m constantly bitching about the drooling legions of sandbox game loving cultists so I’ll try to turn over a new leaf in 2009 and lay off a little but as worlds get bigger and players are given more freedom the gaming experience will end up feeling disjointed and poorly structured. Now maybe I’m getting old and lazy but Fallout never gave me that feeling of excitement of exploring the bleak earth-toned landscape and going “ooo look an abandoned town” or “ooo look an abandoned train station” or even “ooo look another abandoned town.” Yes Oblivion and practically every other RPG in existence suffers this problem but every new location I discovered in Fallout felt and looked exactly like the last location that I discovered but instead of mutant scorpions it was mutant crabs.
Ok, let’s talk about the V.A.T.S. system for a bit. This combat system was a lot of fun in the first 30 minutes of the game where ammo was in short supply and my guy was inept at every weapon but shortly after that it just served as a means to slow down the already sluggish gameplay and make sure that I took every opponents head off by stopping time and not letting them get a shot off. Ok maybe if I leveled and built my character into someone that wasn’t a head erupting juggernaut with extreme firepower and range the game and V.A.T.S. might have been a bit more challenging but why wouldn’t I build a character that’s good at the core gameplay mechanic? By the end of the game I was dreading any kind of combat because it meant that I had to essentially pause the game, go into a glowing green menu where I constantly selected the same option, fired two rounds and moved on. After a while I completely abandoned V.A.T.S. and just played the game as a twitch based shooter and had a lot more fun.
As for the story, it was interesting but not very engaging. I never felt compelled to find out what would happen next but rather just fed my OCD desire to keep my quest log clean. Also, the fact that while pursuing a side quest I “discovered” a location which caused the main storyline to skip a fairly sizeable chunk left a bitter taste in my mouth. Now granted I play MMO’s so I’m certainly no stranger to gathering or “hey go kill so and so” quests but Fallout certainly didn’t make any attempt to change the formula. I got tired of the main quest’s “hey go over there and get that” repetition of quests so I picked up a good chunk of side quests which were also more or less “go into those same abandoned places and get stuff and I’ll give you camps.” By the time I finally wrapped up the game’s main story I was happy to pick the certain non-spoiler giving away ending that let me feel safe in the fact that I wouldn’t have the chance to continue playing and could go trade in Fallout for Left 4 Dead. A game of infinite depth.