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SummaryA definite classic.
The GoodI am generally not very fond of CRPGs, or RPGs in general for that matter. I have always held the firm, conservative belief that RPGs should be limited to fantasy (AD&D) and CRPG to hack'n'slash (Eye of the Beholder 2). I know it's lame, but that's the way I always thought. That is, before I played Fallout.
To tell the truth, I never knew of this game (well, maybe by name) before a friend of mine urged me to play it late in the year 2000, about three years after it came out. I was definitely not disappointed. Fallout is an extremely unique game that has much going for it, with good reason:
- Fallout's game engine is, basically, very advanced. Utilizing a decent SVGA resolution along with some clever palette optimization techniques the game is able to draw an extremely detailed playfield. While not absolutely visually astounding, the engine does the job very well and puts out a fairly smooth framerate without sacrificing quality. Good thing.
- The atmosphere in this game is superb. It is difficult to say which supports which, the story or the atmosphere, but the two work in tandem to create one of the most realistic and frightening experiences I've ever had the pleasure to play. I recall one of the reviewers complaining about the lack of colour in the game (something along the lines of "nature will survive") - that's fair enough, but I believe that the uncolourful graphics in Fallout corrolate much better with its plot, and one also has to consider that the world you move about in Fallout is referred to as The Wilderness. The graphic artists did an excellent job of conveying an appropriate image of the outside world, as I would have imagined it had Fallout been a book. The dreary, for lack of a better word, visual design in Fallout contributes to the atmosphere tremendously. The lack of many visual stimuli actually contributes to the game.
- Aside from the outside world, the visual design in Fallout is incredible. The effort that went into the various structural types (desert village, vault, city, sewer etc.) is evident every step of the way. Everything looks exactly as it should - shattered cities bombed back into the stoneage; the high-tech, metallic look of the vaults; the claustrophobic, eerie Necropolis; the old, decaying Cathedral. This point cannot be overemphasized, as the contribution of proper visual design to the overall atmosphere in a game is simply something that cannot be described in words.
- The storyline in this game is worthy of a decent novel. While it won't earn its author a literary prize, it is definitely worth noting that depsite the seemingly banal nature of the story (post-nuclear world, mutants roaming about), the execution of the story in the game is - despite being partially linear - extremely rewarding.
- The three primary characters are well-rounded, plus the ability to generate your own character provide for a varied gameplay - where in one you run around beating people into a bloody pulp, in the other you must rely on charisma and quick fingers to get what you need. The amound of personality traits and special abilities is seemingly limitless, and the radically diverse nature of the various perks is truely genius (my personal being Bloody Mess - it's funny as hell). The effect each and every one of your character qualities will have be detrimental to the process of the game.
- Fallout is one of those games, one of a select few, whose introduction sequence leaves me with a feeling of DAMN!!!. It has one of the most memorable intros I've seen in my whole life - funny at first, profound and amazingly touching later. I will easily place Fallout's introduction sequence right up there with the likes of Dune 2, Reunion, The 7th Guest and Star Control 2. Trust me; coming from me, that means a lot.
- Where it actually features it, Fallout enjoys excellent background music. Unfortunately these tracks are fairly scarce, usually limited to an eerie tune playing in the background; however, as already said - whenever there is music in Fallout, it is definitely worth hearing.
- The ending sequence (though not the ending itself) in Fallout is absolutely magnificent, giving you an account of what you have done and what the ramifications are. The ability to play the game as either a good or evil person also makes it a lot more interesting.
- Fallout is littered with injokes (did you know the Brahmin sometimes utter "Moo, I say"?) that add a lot of flavour to the game; for example, if your character is lucky, you just might run into a crashed alien ships during your travels, where you will find (a) an alien weapon (literally, a Death Ray), and (b) make note of this: a picture of Elvis!
And in summation, I will only say this: Fallout is one hell of a game.
The BadDespite its greatness, Fallout is not without its flaws.
To begin with, it is basically a very difficult game, at least in the beginning. You'll have to be extremely careful not to run into too many fights at first, simply because you might not make it out alive. This changes over time, but the Super Mutants towards the end of the game will still give you a major run for your money.
More importantly, the interface in Fallout is not very intuitive; it makes a lot of sense basically, but the learning curve is extremely steep. I had my brother (who finished the game before I even got around to playing it) to give me a kickstart (in the ass), but it still took a good few hours to get used to it. Occasionally, due to loads or whatnot, I still make stupid mistakes using it, that quite frankly should not occur. I wouldn't call the interface cumbersome, but there's definitely room for improvement.
The NPCs are spectacularly... useless. Ian will do all the work for you at first, or should I say, you're as good as dead without him. Towards the middle of the game, however, he becomes a bloody neusance (constantly shooting you in the back etc.) and not much help, and in about two thirds of the game the only justification to keeping him around is as a human baggage (or cannon fodder). The NPC AI in Fallout is extremely handicapped, and it is quite unfortunate.
Another major drawback is that some of the parts in Fallout are very trial-and-error based, for example: The Glow. It took me three tries to get the damn thing right, and I still didn't go as deep as possible into the complex. The military base also took some work, as you will have to find a way to move about the troops without making too much rockus (five Super Mutant Guards with SMGs are not to be trifled with, even when fully armored and with the best weapons). Getting the damn Powered Armor working also took quite a while. This is unfortunate, because it puts an unnecessary and unwarranted blemish on what could've otherwise been nearly flawless gameplay.
Last but not lesat, your nemesis, The Master, is not a very good character IMO. To begin with, it looks like it was taken directly out of Phantasmagoria 2 - it even sounds the same. Second, it's damn near invincible (I couldn't kill it no matter how hard I try; I hear other people managed though). I also gave it about 30 tries and still couldn't convince the bloody thing that I was right. I had to blow up the entire cathedral, which was an incredibly bothersome ordeal. This basically makes the actual ending of the game very unsatisfying, at least for me. I feel the same way towards how the designers chose to end the game (won't spoil it for those who haven't played it yet though).