Review: It's the Fallout 3 you love, along with alien abductions, inbreds, and... teddy bears?
After many years in limbo, Fallout 3 released to rave reviews in 2008, garnering many Game of the Year awards and other accolades. In the past year, Bethesda has supported the game with five new ?expansions? that furthered the Fallout 3 experience, each offering a unique take on life after the bombs dropped. Owners of the launch Fallout 3 would have to spend an additional $50 to acquire all five new adventures, but for those who waited, Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition is here...and it's all on one disc, accessible without taking up more of your hard drive space. Compiling the original game, the five new expansions, and the various fixes and updates ushered in over the last year, F3GOTY is the ultimate version of this FPS/RPG hybrid. For $60, it's basically the best value game of this not-so-crowded holiday season.
Fallout 3 begins in the year 2277 in fallout shelter Vault 101, where you're born...and supposedly, this is where you'll die, approximately 200 years after the bombs fell on the US. Upon being born, the game digs into the character creation system you're used to, but what's different is the affect it has on your father, who is modeled around your own character choices. Your formative years are used as the tutorial for the game; scenarios present themselves to show you're a nice guy or gal, an ambiguous guy or gal, or a mean-spirited, jerk of a guy or gal. Alas, while life in the vault is just so very interesting (and by interesting I mean OH GOD LET ME OUT), a huge event changes your dull life in this sterile environment. Your father, played masterfully by King of Men Liam Neeson, suddenly leaves the vault without warning. This puts you in danger, as the Overseer (more like Dictator) puts a hit out on you simply for the familial ties, forcing you to escape the vault in exchange for life in the Wasteland of the greater Washington, DC area. The goal? Find your father and find out why he suddenly ditched the vault without warning.
...Of course, you don't really have to bother right away. Upon exiting the vault, with the Washington Monument in the distance, the game becomes your own little amusement park, free to basically go anywhere and do anything the game world allows. Moreso than Oblivion, the last game from Bethesda, the choices are more open; almost every quest has tons of directions depending on the kind of character you create and what kind of attitude you carry. For instance, the first town you encounter close by Vault 101 is Megaton, named that way because of a live, but not yet detonated, atomic bomb in the center. Because this is a stop on the main quest, chances are you'll come across a quest asking to neutralize the bomb so Megaton isn't threatened anymore. Do so, and the town is yours; the local sheriff gives you a house, an awesome robotic butler, and the townspeople really like you, except for maybe the crazies that worship the nuke. Yet if you don't instantly go down and disarm the thing, you might encounter someone with a reverse proposition ? detonate the bomb and wipe Megaton out. It alters a couple quests that usually originate there, but there's still a nice little reward including lodging in a different location, which in and of itself offers another open-ended quest with many possible outcomes.
In comparison to Oblivion, Fallout 3 doesn't have quite as many quests ? instead, they're just larger and more open in how they can be handled. How you handle them all dictates your character and how others respond to you. If you're a goody two shoes, mercenaries will come and randomly attack you; a nice deal since they usually have good loot to add to the collection. Yet if you're a real scumbag, a different band of avengers will hunt you in the same fashion. I noticed as my level increased these attacks lessened, maybe they just give up knowing I'm a lean, mean, life-ending machine. Some quests lead to others, and there's a large amount of small, undocumented adventures one can take on, like traversing the other vaults, which tend to be even more screwed up than 101, or collecting recordings that reveal numerous secrets in the wasteland. There's even a town of people who are really friendly on the outside, but let's just say they're quite insane. Granted this is somewhat of a theme here, life in the wasteland isn't exactly normal. All told, we're looking at a 40-50 hour game here if you spend time doing all the quests and finding all the locations on the map.
The main quest is, in the Bethesda style, not quite as memorable as the rest of the game, since it's really only there to keep focus for those who want one. It's not super lengthy either; I'm guessing less than 10 hours if that's all you do. It can be interesting enough, especially when you find another vault to enter and see the ensuing insanity, and ultimately arrive at Rivet City, a huge town built on an old aircraft carrier and containing people important to the mission of the game. The catch to the main quest is the finality of it ? based upon your choices, the game world is vastly different by the end of the main quest, good or bad. In the original release of the game, completion of the final main story mission was the end of the road; the game ended and there was no post-game adventuring like most open-world games, requiring you to keep a save before this final mission if you wanted to adventure on. The first PlayStation 3 DLC, Broken Steel, remedies this situation - instead of the game ending, you're able to continue with the main story and ultimately bring it to a real end, and get to both adventure endlessly and also increase your level thanks to the increased cap.
In addition to Broken Steel, which is effectively the real ?expansion? to the game, the four other new adventures take you to very different places. Operation Anchorage places you in a simulation (a game within a game, how meta) of the US-Chinese battle the game frequently mentions. Completing it opens up new content in the ?real? world. The Pitt drops you in the former Pittsburgh, a raider town full of slavery but also a charismatic leader who isn't quite what you'd expect. The core quest centers around a disease that has a potential cure, and ultimately the choice you make dictates how that all progresses. Point Lookout is arguably the best of the extra content; a crazy main quest, a batch of fun sidequests (fulfilling the mission of a Chinese spy over 200 years late is quite fun despite a lack of combat), and constant attacks from crazy inbreds. It's also the largest of the DLC, which makes it a great value if you're an owner of the regular version and just want to pick and choose content. Mothership Zeta is the weirdest of the group, offering a satirical take on aliens and the abductions that usually are tied to them. Each of these quests contain 3-5 hours of play depending on how much time you spend messing around, so one can expect 15-25 hours of extra adventures alongside the 50-something hours it takes to see and do everything in vanilla Fallout 3.