Amongst all the sequels coming out at the end of 2008 one had been beaming its gaze a bit more than the rest for being a completely new take on the popular cult series - Fallout 3. Whilst Gears 2, Resistance 2 and the up and coming Prince of Persia games try to inject new glory into what seems like fairly familiar ground to their last outings, Fallout 3 enters the first person shooter view and takes on a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) state to explore in full 3D in what is an instant classic RPG.
I'm not one for retro gaming and so I'm fairly new to the world of Fallout and its design. Having seen visuals and videos of the game before purchasing it myself I knew that this looked to be something special even if it shares similarities with older brother Oblivion. However if, like me, you enjoyed Oblivion, the game wasn't without its flaws. Exploration was probably the main aspect that most enjoyed as well as the varied missions you could pursue depending on the guild you were working for at the time. Oblivion failed however more than anything in its combat. Too easy was it to simply use block and then strike and for a game of its size; this soon became the most tedious part. Fallout 3 however, does almost the opposite to Oblivion making the combat intense and varied. Quests in both games are as varied as one another however Oblivion feels to have more of them than Fallout 3. Exploration is far more interesting and original than Oblivion as the almost non-existent genre of post apocalyptic in games takes over the now dreary and predictable medieval fantasy genre.
But this isn't about whether Fallout 3 is better than Oblivion, this is JUST about Fallout 3. And the reason why this is JUST about Fallout 3 is because it quite possibly is a masterpiece of gaming, art and design.
Starting off in what can only be described as the best and most original training set up I've ever played, you begin your life inside of Vault 101, safe from the radioactive surface, the raiders and super mutants who try to cover their reign over the state of Washington DC above. Of course you know you're going to be leaving and will inevitably have to fight the previously mentioned beasts but why do you leave? You're sent on a journey to search for Liam Neeson... Sorry I mean your father (played by Liam Neeson) having never set foot on the surface before so your character is new to the area as well as the player. On first glance as you step into the bright sun, your jaw drops and you are in one word - amazed. The landscape is totally torn from life, dusty, sandy, dry and creepily silent. Instantly, Fallout 3 doesn't just become an action game you pass along when you've done with it, it becomes totally immersive, totally exciting, totally gripping and completely epic. Just from the first overlook of the dry land you know you never seen anything like this before.
It's not just the detail of the graphics of which some are a little shoddy close up but it's more about the propaganda, the symbolism of buildings and structures, radio signals constantly explaining the on going desperation for humanity to survive. It's all just so clear to the player from one look at the landscape that this is an eerily beautiful looking game that drips originality and style. When experiencing something as amazing as this one almost forgets, in fact almost doesn't care how the game plays, you will make yourself play it and get use to it because you want to discover more, find out more, and being an RPG, be more as a character.
Guns in Fallout 3 range from the pistols to the rifles, from the missile launchers to the mini nukes... yes, that's right "mini nukes". You are totally in control as to how you want you character to go: what you want them to specialise in and how you want their personality to turn out. "Perks" are offered along side levelling up and add new abilities to your character and even open up new doors in the world. You also have level points that you assign as you see fit to various skills giving practically complete control over what you want your character to be like. Although one is most likely going to focus on the weapons skills, repairing and/or lock picking.
Music comes in the form of 1950s tracks played through the radio signals found throughout the land. That's right no hip-hop drive bys going on here. Also Fallout 3's score, when the radio is off, brings about the excellent ambience of Oblivion and the crazy change into panic when something is chasing you or shooting at you. Sound FX is a job I never want for a game like this and voice acting is as always top notch, even if the same actors are used here and there, it still adds that all important atmosphere.
There is just no way one can describe a game of this size in a review. You need to play it whether interested or not as I'm sure some people could be easily turn to the FPS-RPG genre as this is simply THAT GOOD. Personally it offers everything I've ever wanted from a game and it delivers. Sure the main quest could've been a bit longer, there could've been more factions/ guilds you could join that have a whole other list of mini quests for you to do, there could've been more involvement and generally more human Ghouls around, there could've been vehicles, Bethesda could've of expanded on the balance of gaining experience points and removed the capped level 20, one could go on but there's no need as there is plenty to see and do for one game. This is without the consideration for obvious expansions to come so who knows what will be next for this fantastic vision of gaming.
So is it a masterpiece? Well, put it like this, when you find a recording somewhere out there that has a mother talking about the mushroom cloud outside her window and she starts to panic about what to do and the recording comes to farewell close leaving you speechless as to how good the script and voice acting is, leaving you with an unmoveable sad feeling in your stomach you tell me whether you think this game is a masterpiece.