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Nega-Review: Fallout 3

Kyle Orland

"Fallout 3 is not the game that hard-core, longtime Fallout fans are hoping for." (4) "The game is not the infallible masterpiece many ... expected." (6) "The real trouble is there's this air of ... incompetency to the game at large." (7) "You really notice it when you bump up against the technical and storytelling limitations of the game and its narrative structure." (3) "The game's filled with cock-ups so glaring that you almost wonder if it ever got play-tested before release." (7)

"There's no denying Fallout 3 is, as many already observed, 'Oblivion with guns.'" (5) Superficially, the world that Bethesda has created for Fallout 3 seems like Oblivion with a Fallout paint job. (4) "As was the case with Oblivion, they stumble badly when it comes to details and production values." (7) "Combat in Fallout 3 is also an obvious evolution of Oblivion's, right down to having the exact same delay timing when swinging a melee weapon." (4) "Dialogue is another element very similar to what we've seen in Oblivion." (5) "Fallout 3 does suffer the same failings as Oblivion, and one can't help but think these could have been improved upon." (8)

"Fallout 3's story ... just isn't as good as those of past Fallout games." (4) "The biggest single problem is the scriptwriting, which varies in quality throughout the whole venture. ... Every once in a while you'll hit upon something that's wincingly overblown, or else simply not appropriate for a Mad Max-style wilderness." (9)
"It even occasionally feels a bit stiff and sterile, thus diminishing the sense of emotional connection that would give some late-game decisions more poignancy." (1) "The silly comments made during fights and the consistently inane conversations detract from the overall sense of accomplishment." (6) Indeed, "the double whammy of shonky dialogue and wobbly acting rips the affecting edge off [the] atmosphere." (7)

"Additionally, the franchise's black humor is ... not nearly as prevalent." (1) "Gone is the series' trademark dark humor." (4) Instead, "generally it's a toss-up between deadly earnest exposition, not-quite-there humour and the occasional pantomime villain." (7) "What the first two Fallout titles did so well was to show that even in the darkest of times, the irreverent human spirit remains." (4) This time, "an upsettingly unfocused teenage veneer threatens to undo all the ... world-building." (7)

"I didn't find the combat to be very satisfying." (3) There are "a few combat system annoyances" (2) and the whole thing has a "slight clunkiness." (1) "The standard shooter controls are not very good. That's actually an understatement. Any shooter fanatic will find the controls to be utterly imprecise." (6) Yes, "shooter fans may find the lack of accuracy frustrating at times -- especially when your character misses near point blank shots." (2)

"The [alternative] V.A.T.S. system isn't perfect." (2) In fact, "the game relies on the V.A.T.S. mechanic far too much." (6) "[V.A.T.S.] turned combat into more of a chore than any sort of exciting gameplay element, but the alternative of facing your enemies head-on, in real time, wasn't any better." (3) "It's not particularly well implemented, and, when the novelty wears off, players are left longing for a more conventional approach to combat." (6)

"V.A.T.S. also has an issue with your player is near corners or if there's an obstruction between you and the target -- when it indicates that you're likely to hit it, your character pops up and wastes ammo by shooting a rock, wall or other item." (2) "Frequent glitches were noted when my character aimed with V.A.T.S. while behind cover. When pausing the combat, my character had a clear shot at his target and yet when firing, the bullet never reached the enemy. Well, apparently it was supposed to hit the cover, but it was blocked by thin air instead." (5)

The game also "lacks a diverse spectrum of enemies." (2) "There's far too much reliance on mood-breaking mutants (really -- crabmen?)" (7) "Maybe you'll want to stop and fight any random creatures that get in your way, but you usually run faster than they do, so unless it's a group of super mutants trying to gun you down, you can usually just keep running." (3)

"More of a problem is the boneheaded enemy AI." (8) "Sadly, occasionally quirky AI behavior caused certain enemies to jam between rock formations or objects that got in the way of their movement." (5) "Enemies equipped with clubs, or creatures who have no firearms charge straight towards you, meaning the most effective tactic is to walk backwards as you unload round after round into them." (8)

"NPC characters [also] behave oddly, sometimes randomly switching between a too-slow walk and a hyper-speed run, usually because they need to be standing somewhere else to perform some kind of custom animation for you." (3) "Passers-by bump into one another and grinding to a enmeshed halt" (7) and "companions assigned to head into combat with you tend to get lost, confused and often fall behind while you're out there doing all the hard work." (5) What's more, "friendly NPCs ... run directly in front of your bullets (even in the slo-mo VATS mode)" (7) and you'll also encounter "people greeting you pleasantly in one second then threatening you in the next." (7)

"The game's presentation suffers from an outdated engine." (6) "Most of the character models look like they fell out of a five-year-old tech demo" (7) and "move somewhat stiffly, lacking the expressiveness of the models in games such as Mass Effect." (1) In addition, "you'll see hills and buildings popup suddenly in the distance." (2) Yes, "pop-up is a common occurrence and again it's visible within a circle about 50 yards around your character. ... It does detract from the realism of the wasteland." (8) "A new game engine ... would have served this title well" (6) and "it's clear an extra few months of development could have done it wonders." (7)

"The star-studded voice acting is fairly grating." (6) "Most performances are polarised between oddly dispassionate or am-dram over-enthusiastic -- the net result being that no-one's especially likeable or memorable, many are downright irritating, and every third character's flat delivery gives the sense of immersion a brutal shoeing. (7) "We desperately wish Bethesda had saved the money they burned on unnecessarily hiring Liam Neeson and Malcom McDowell to voice a couple of key characters, and spent it instead on more actors, rehearsals, better script-writers and animators, [and] another proof-reader." (7)

The "optional third-person view [is] so badly animated you'll never want to use it." (7) "Your avatar looks like he or she is skating over the terrain," (1) and "most people are likely to get fed up with the slightly floaty way your hero moves." (9) Simply, "it's no good." (3)

Finally, "the menus in Fallout 3 are unforgivably complex and lack a necessary amount of user-friendliness. (4) "There's no Pip-Boy tutorial, so it takes trial and error to learn how to device to manage items and skills. . This trial and error can be frustrating." (2) What's more, "about half the [menu] screen is taken up by static, futile aesthetic frills, leaving the important stuff cramped into tiny, monochrome text in the middle. ... it's one of those 'What the bloody hell were they thinking?' moments." (7)

Welcome, PIP-Boy's and PIP-Girls, to the Joystiq Nega-Review. As usual, we've taken the small negative points from some highly positive reviews of a high-profile game and combined them into a truly apocalyptic whole. The point here isn't to unfairly nuke a quality release, but to provide a bit of medication to mitigate the radioactive effects of too much hype.

The most striking thing about the Fallout 3 reviews was the crushing weight of expectations placed on the game. Between the examples of the first two Fallout games and Bethesda's own Oblivion, reviewers seemed to feel they had a good idea of what this game should have been like. When the game failed to live up to these crushingly high expectations, they seemed to react slightly worse than expected. Then again, the game's pedigree obviously helped with reviewers who happened to be fans of both series. So the expectations game obviously has its pluses and minuses.

(1) GameSpot
(2) GameDaily
(3) Giant Bomb
(4) Wired
(5) ActionTrip
(6) CheatCC
(7) IGN UK
(8) Kikizo
(9) VideoGamer

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