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The GoodRecently I ate in an Italian restaurant in Shanghai and had an argument with my mom. She kept saying that Chinese noodles were way better than Italian ones. "They are so soft", - she said. - "They melt in the mouth. Those noodles are difficult to chew. And I can't stand those sauces". To which I replied that the very idea of Italian pasta is to cook the noodles less, so that they maintain the characteristic hard-to-chew texture. And that the various sauces were part of the game, as opposed to Chinese sauce-less, soak-it-in-the-soup approach. And that I also loved Chinese noodles. They were just different. My mother agreed.
Now imagine her going to the chef of that Italian joint and telling him: "Dude, your noodles suck. They are too hard and nobody gives a damn about your bolognese thing. I dig Chinese noodles".
What would be the only answer here? Right. "Then go to a Chinese restaurant. Here we do noodles the Italian way".
Oooookay. But what if those Italian noodles were called "超级中国面条3"?..
Well, I suppose a couple of guys would probably say: "This ain't Chinese, no matter what it says". But then they would remember that they went to Italian restaurant to get Italian food. If those Italian guys are paying homage to the Chinese, fine. But who in his right mind would go to Italian restaurant expecting Chinese food, no matter what the dishes are called?
To make that even more to the point, imagine that Chinese cooking fell out of fashion. That now Italian food is hip and even if you want to throw some Chinese tradition in, you still have to do the noodles hard and saucy.
Call it stupid and deplorable. Mourn. Throw ashes over your head. But it's a fact. This is the age of hybrids. Globalization. Multi-culti. You meet an FPS and he doesn't even know himself whether he is an FPS or an RPG. Or maybe even a little bit of adventure. We are mixing. Is it good or bad? You decide. But it's a fact.
Nobody wants to remake the first Fallout with 3D graphics. Definitely not Bethesda. They do a different kind of thing, and they do it well. If Oblivion was heavy on medieval-style action combat, "Fallout 3" reaches a hand to FPSs. And it's a damn good decision if you ask me.
Play a little mind game. Force yourself to imagine that "Fallout 3" has an FPS heritage instead of RPG. Now open your eyes and play the game. I can almost guarantee that you'll like it much more this way. The game started to grow on me after I stopped comparing it to RPGs and compared it to FPSs instead.
"Fallout 3" is similar to "Oblivion", hell it's similar to Deus Ex. It's an atmospheric action game above all. Feel the destruction. Feel the decay. Immerse yourself into this world.
A huge world, not just a bunch of "levels" slapped together. So much to explore, and there will always be something to discover. "Fallout 3" is free-roaming, engrossing, addictive FPS.
It's great to see this universe in 3D. It's great to be able to grab everything in sight. It's great to undress corpses and to rotate them left and right while everybody are watching (I'm weird that way).
And it still has a hell of an RPG element in it. Most RPG-related stuff was worked on. The system is of course simpler than before, but is still solid and entertaining. The dialogues are peppered with lively expressions, making us forget the mild impersonal babbling of Oblivion. Characters are more interesting (I love Fawkes). Quests are more diverse, so I think I'll be able to recover from the nightmares caused by the abysmal quests of Gothic 3.
When you take this RPG goodness and add it as a diversion to the already terrific free-roaming FPS concept, you begin to feel the greatness. You don't want to put the game down because you know that even though the RPG part is not enough to hold your interest, there is always the bone-chilling physical sensation of exploring the world and blasting enemies to pieces.
There is the typical Fallout humor. Lots of secrets. Lots, lots, and lots (and I mean LOTS) of references to previous Fallouts. Vaults, iguanas-on-stick, enclave, deathclaws - you name it, it's there. Probably were scared of the fans. (Ohmygod! They made Fallout 3 and the brahmins have three heads instead of two! My life is over!!") No worry dudes, just a look at "Fallout 3" will make any Fallout jargon-using geek salivate.
The storyline of the main quest is better than both previous Fallouts and Oblivion. There aren't enough moral decisions to make, but those that are there are way more substantial than anything Bethesda has come up with until now.
And there were highlights, too. I loved the beginning. Playing as a small child was so sweet. Some dialogues and characters and locations were quite memorable.
And of course, Tranquility Lane. Now that was an episode that reminded me of my favorite RPGs. Charm. Personality. Very cool moral decisions. It was a drop of RPG greatness in an ocean of FPS normality (hey, I should've become a poet).
The BadMillions of small things, for once, as always in Bethesda games. I can just randomly name stuff until I'm tired.
Lots of unrealistic NPC behavior, weird reactions, etc.
Didn't love all those subways. First time I discovered one I was thrilled, but then I realized it was just one of several thousands same-looking ones.
"Can't sleep in an owned bed"... Man... Is there anyone out there who didn't hate this nonsense?
Huge piles of crap blocking your way in some places. They just screamed "we (designers) played those BioWare RPGs and they were cool and linear, so let's make our new game a bit linear too". Problem is, there is linearity and there is linearity (I gotta work on those writing skills of mine). If you are going to be linear, just admit it right away. Don't first scream "we are more open-ended than People's Square in Shanghai" and then throw those boundary-defining piles of crap on us.
Okay, I'm tired.
Bigger problems? Poor voice acting. Not enough interesting characters (although considerably more than in "Oblivion").
Next time, let me make more decisions. I know there were some, but not enough. The main story went unaltered for the most part.
And sometimes it's just... I don't know, politically correct. They should've pushed the whole "maturity" thing further. People curse and all, but that's pretty much it. They should've added more edge to dialogues and characters. In many places "Fallout 3" is like Sichuan food without spice. Like a diminished seventh chord without an added major seven. Like sex with a shapely, but tired whore! (hey, it's late).
The Bottom LineLook, the biggest mistake people make here is coming from the wrong angle. They always expect every sequel to be a copy of the original and won't understand the basic truth: times change. Developers try new ways. Why, pray tell, did "Fallout 3" have to be exactly like its older brethren? For what? Nostalgia? You can always play Fallout 1 and 2 if you are nostalgic. But let's be fair. "Fallout 3" is great in what it was supposed to be, and that is FPS/RPG hybrid, period. That's what they aimed for, and that's what you get. "Fallout 3" is not a great RPG as in "a game where you can role-play a character a thousand different ways", like the first two Fallouts were. Neither is it a great RPG as in "something made by Black Isle, BioWare, Obsidian or Troika", you know what I mean. It's not a great RPG because it's not really an RPG, it's a FPS/RPG hybrid and should be judged as such. It's much closer to Deus Ex than to anything I mentioned above.
Fallout fans - do yourselves a favor. Relax. Enjoy the game for what it is. It's fun. It's atmospheric. It's addictive. It's a superb FPS/free-roaming adventure with good, solid RPG elements. Okay? There. Now grab a bottle of nuka-cola and be careful not to get blasted by those super mutants.