Despite all the die-hard fans of the previous Fallout games boo-hooing this one, I am actually enjoying this game a lot. First, let me state for the record that I have indeed played Fallout 1 & 2 as well as the less well-received Fallout Tactics. I loved those games when I played them, but Fallout 3 is a different animal and should be judged as such.
The most obvious difference between the old and new games is the viewing perspective: the old games were played from an overhead isometric perspective like many older RPGs. I enjoy playing these types of games still. Fallout 3, on the other hand, is played from a first or third person perspective (3rd person for console people, 1st person for PC gamers IMO). But the tone and game world are similar. In fact I think Bethesda has done a fine job capturing the look and feel of the Fallout world from this perspective; it truly has a feel like you’re there atmosphere to it.
The combat is either real-time or turn-based through a pausible system called VATS; VATS is similar to the previous games in that you have a certain number of action points to do what you want, but you are not penalized anytime during combat for changing weapons or healing – in fact, this pauses combat (since it can only be done during real-time) and makes it a lot more accessible.
Some other nice features include a world map that is not “blacked-out” (you just can’t see locations unless you find them or are told about them) and the ability to fast-travel to places you have been (a real time saver, but unavailable if you are over your carry limit, which also prevents you from running). The main interface uses a compass system to show which direction you are moving. If you are on a quest that involves going to a place, the world map will show a dotted line from where you are to that place and the compass will have a solid arrow to show what direction to go to get to the place. As there are many random and not random locations to find in the world, Bethesda has included a nice feature on the compass of using small triangles: solid triangles show a location in a particular direction where you have already visited and hollow triangles show places you have not visited, which makes finding them easier.
Fallout 3 also includes mini games for lock picking and hacking computers. A nice part of this is that you are told the difficulty of doing these tasks when you put your pointer on an item and, if you are not skilled enough to try breaking-in, you are told what skill level you need to try so you can come back later if you like when you are more skilled and try again.
There are many side quests besides the main quest and a lot less hand-holding then the previous games. You can just stick with the main quest and finish the game fairly quickly (as my son did) or explore and do side quests and just have fun with the game as I am currently doing (my son actually went back to a previous save after he won to play the game more).
Some of the coolest things I have seen so far in my 20-30 hours of playing the game include fighting 2 super mutants, killing one of them who was shooting a mini gun at me, then having the other super mutant pick up his friend’s mini gun and start shooting me with it. I also went to a mine-filled town where this guy kept shooting at me and at cars around me with a sniper rifle. When I was close enough to barely see him (about a block or two away and 2 floors down), I crouched, pointed my hunting rifle at him, and fired. Sneak critical hit (or something like that) flashed on the screen and I wondered if I just got an incredible kill-shot off. After climbing the building where the guy was, I did indeed find him dead – that was pretty cool.
Fallout 3 is not for everyone: there’s plenty of gore and cursing, but it is Fallout of course. But if you like immersive RPGs or had fun with the previous games, give this one a try with an open mind; you will not be disappointed.