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SummaryThe Rosemary Kennedy of the Fallout family.
The GoodFallout: Brotherhood of Steel is the Rosemary Kennedy of the Fallout family, with Interplay taking the mentally challenged Fallout Tactics and lobotomizing it. Sadly, this mistake, which should have been locked away, was released to an unsuspecting platform public, hoping to hide among the Dark Alliance-type games it tries, but fails, to emulate. But, I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself.
Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel appears to take place between Fallouts 1 and 2. Acting more like an alternate history than the other Fallout entries, Brotherhood of Steel seems to take place after a post-1950s nuclear war. The basic story is the same: humanity has left the massive underground vaults it sought shelter in, returning to a wasteland of an earth overrun by mutated life. The Brotherhood of Steel is attempting to make order from the chaos and this is where the player (or players) enters.
After selecting one or two-player game, the player picks one of the three starting characters (a few more are unlockable): a big guy named Cyrus, a faster woman named Nadia, and a ghoul (mutated human) named Cain who falls somewhere between them, in terms of ability. While Fallout has traditionally eschewed class-based role playing, picking one of the three main characters determines their ability set—mostly dealing with what kind of weapons they can use.
At its core, Brotherhood of Steel is an RPG, but it does away with the acclaimed SPECIAL attribute system. Instead of worrying about strength or endurance, players earn points when they level up (by completing quests and killing enemies) that they can spend on skills, like better bartering, better weapons usage, better healing, and the like.
In terms of gameplay, Brotherhood of Steel feels more like an older splatfest like Total Carnage, rather than a newer action RPG. The first of the game's three areas is the town of Carbon. While there are five people to "interact" with, all the missions involve entering an area, fighting your way through to some objective, fighting your way back through, and reporting to someone. For instance, after a brief bar fight, the town's mayor asks you to kill all the Radscorpions in the town's warehouse. While this sounds like one of those "Kill the Rats" tutorial levels, the mission is a long one taking place over five levels.
Since Brotherhood of Steel is all about the killing, you'd hope for a wide range of armor and weapons. All the usual Fallout suspects are here, from crudely assembled rifles to space age laser weapons. There are also plenty of melee weapons: metal gauntlets, spiked baseball bats, and the deadly Ripper. Armor follows the typical Fallout progression: leather through Power Armor, although more emphasis is placed on piecemeal armor: boots, helmets, gloves. Enemies also progress in typical Fallout fashion: Radscorpion through Supermutant.
The BadAccepting that Brotherhood of Steel would be complete crap as a Fallout game, I was actually surprised that it was complete crap as an action game as well. To begin with, the game should have been rated I for Immature. Every time Cyrus swung a melee weapon he yelled, "Bullshit!" Most characters use the word "fuck" like a fourth grader. Conversation options are asinine and pointless, since there isn't any branching gameplay. So it really doesn't matter what you say to Armpit. Ha Ha, Armpit, get it?
The controls are pretty bad, bordering on sluggish. Things you should be able to do on the fly (i.e. during combat), like switching weapons, don't seem to work. The game is also surprisingly picky about melee combat. If you are right up against someone, the melee weapon doesn't always register. Ranged weapons are slightly better, since there's an autoaim, but enemies often target you offscreen, which doesn't seem fair. This is also the first Fallout entry to feature godawful jumping puzzles.
All this wouldn't be so bad, if the core game was interesting. After killing a hundred or so radscorpions (and a few rats), you go to another area and kill a few hundred more—and this takes hours of gameplay. After that, you slog through tons of raiders. What this game is lacking (ha) is strategy and variation. It's not a Fallout game where you can use a variety of methods to achieve your objectives, or even Fallout Tactics where you could use… tactics. It's a big, dumb splatfest, without big, dumb weapons that make it fun (think Serious Sam). Forgive me for not playing this through to the end, but if the first third is garbage, I doubt the other two thirds are shining examples of gaming.
The Bottom LineI love how self-destructive Interplay is. They take Fallout, a solid franchise, and release Fallout Tactics when the fans are clamoring for Fallout 3, mock fans by using Fallout as a codename for Lionheart, then move the franchise away from the PC, by making Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel a platform-only game. Was it shocking that this watered down, sophomoric title failed to sell?
I can't imagine any gamer, Fallout fan or not, enjoying this game.