It's buggy and it falls a little short, but it works for me.
Let's see, I think one of the real good things you can say about this game is that it really manages to capture the Fallout feel. It doesn't feel like a forced spin-off, and it plays like a legitimate member of the family. The cursing is there, the black humor is there, the wasteland is there, essentially everything is back and it is all good. The wastelands are now seen under a higher resolution engine which gives much more detail to the gruesome post-apocalyptic cities and towns, and it's shady cast of characters who now come in much more varieties and colors with newer music and great sounds. Clearly the npc interaction is not as important as in previous games, so that aspect of the game is somewhat toned down, but what little there is, makes you feel like you are "in there" just like in the previous games.
The game has a well laid pace, and a balanced learning curve which slowly introduces each aspect of the game as missions go by. And whenever you do play a mission the battles can get really exciting when your squad faces hordes of enemies and you are forced to think of different ways in which to deploy your squad members. The amount of options and control you can have over your squad is quite impressive, especially under ITB, and it gives you a feeling of real satisfaction when you take out a bunker with the combined forces of a pincer attack or luring your enemies to a cleverly made ambush with the consequently gory results. This is not really new, since such things have been seen since the days of X-Com and Jagged Alliance, but the scale of the battles have never been like this, and the detail and destruction never looked better.
The rpg element is quite fun to toy around with, since it makes it possible to get those seemingly stupid perks and options you never did before afraid of wasting exp. Now, you can have a fully thief-like character without worries, since you can complement it with a war machine-like character anytime.
As far as I'm concerned the game is immersive, fun, has a nice story (with several endings) and is an engrossing post-apocalyptic experience. Really a worthy addition to the Fallout series.
Well for starters it's buggy. I think this is a tired subject since everybody knows how the industry treats the games nowadays (release it when it's profitable to do so and patch it up later) but really the Q&A boys at Interplay deserve a kick in the balls for this one. Even after the final 1.27 patch the game is prone to occasional crashes and slowdowns, heck I ran the thing on a 550 Mhertz CPU with 194 megs of ram and a Geforce2 MX and the thing kept giving me choppy scrolling and animations whenever things got a little crowded...It really pisses me off how they treated this game.
But well, moving on, the only big gripes I have with the game design-wise, is the fact that it doesn't really take advantage of all the features it boasts. Sure, you can have mutants, robots and ghouls in your squad. But you can be nothing but a human. Sure, you can use vehicles around the map, but not so in 90% of the missions. Sure, the game throws some subquests and bonus thingies at you every now and then, but the game is completely linear and your behavior doesn't have a lasting impact on the game (I really hated that you didn't have a rundown of how you affected each town and location based on your actions like in the originals), etc., etc.. See what I mean? The game has all the stuff to propell it to stardom, but makes no use of most of them, essentially falling short of what it could have been.
Also the game has a serious lack of variety. I know the combat is good and all, but every mission can be summed under one type: assault. Go that place, kill every enemy, achieve objective, return home. There are variations thrown into that, but that's as far as it goes. You won't find any espionage mission, any ambush mission, nothing, zip, nada. Plus I really hated it that you can't return to a mission location and see what changes have occurred due to your actions, all that's different in the towns is the corpses lying around.
Since we are in the "bad" I should mention that the bundled editor is nice and all, but really misses the point. It is cool to have a powerful editing tool available, but if in order to use it you have to make a part-time job out of it then it ceases to be fun. Only the hardcore "mod-ers" will dig into this feature and the rest of us will have to learn C++ and enough programming lingo to become John Carmack the 2nd in order to fulfill the time-honored tradition of crafting a level based on our local mall.
The Bottom Line
Fallout:Tactics is a good game, it is worthy, engrossing, with lots of neat features and a great sense of style. However, a series of crappy design decisions prevent it from attaining the gaming Nirvana the previous Fallouts have and make it look like the black sheep of the family. But make no mistake, it is IN the family, and that means a lot.