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Fallout 3 takes place during 2250, in Washington D.C. after a nuclear holocaust. Before the bombs were dropped in 2050 the United States lived in a 1960's like era, because of advancement in weapon technology, more and more weapons developing companies were formed. Because of this no one was interested in creating computers or advancing forms of art. For this Fallout 3 has a very old feeling to it, a lot of the worn down cars you will see look like something someone from the 60's might think a car from the future would look like. Also a lot of the architecture in the game looks like it came from a post 60's time period.
The player starts the game in Vault 101 a nuclear fallout shelter that is almost like an underground city. Before the war people around Vaults would sign up to try and get in, because of the nuclear war scare that was happening at the time. Vaults were created by Vault-tec a company that built and maintained Vaults before the war. It is later found out that each Vault was supposed to run a different experiment, if you decide to go into any Vaults later you might find an army of hostile clones, or a Vault that makes the player hallucinate.
Fallout 3's game world is enormous, there are over 170 locations for the player to visit, and there are at least ten major missions (two plus hours each) with at least 30 through 40 minor missions (10-30 minutes). Fallout 3 also gives the player tons of little back stories about Fallout 3's world, some of my favorite were finding a clone army of "Gary's" in one Vault, and learning about how to make a beef jerky recipe out of glue and mole rat meat. Fallout 3 also surprising has some dark humor into it, I laughed for a long time about when I read on a computer about how an old man kept on demanding pillows for his hotel room and the maid got angry and killed him by smothering him with his pillows. Since the game takes place in Washington D.C. you will be able to go into downtown D.C. as well as visit historic landmarks like the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial. Seeing a familiar place in ruin is an amazing sight.
Right from the start of Fallout 3 you are given choices, will you be the savior of the wastes, or a greedy, ruthless, killer? Also some of the choices in the game are really cool. For instance pretty early on in the game you discover a settlement called "Megaton" that is built around the crater of an undetonated nuclear bomb. You get to decide if you want to defuse the bomb for a small amount of money and good karma, or you can rig the bomb to explode and watch it from a distance for a large amount of money for bad karma.
Choices that you make in the game affect your "karma". Karma is basically if you are a bad or good character in the game. For example if you kill an innocent person you will lose karma (bad), but if you rescue a group of slaves you gain karma (good). Karma affects the player in the game world, if you are an extremely good or bad character people will put a price on your head and send bounty hunters after you, or if you decided to detonate the bomb in Megaton earlier, occasionally you will meet groups of survivors of the explosion that will try to kill you if they see you. Details like this further Fallout 3's experience greatly.
Most of the enemies you will encounter in Fallout 3 are mutated animals that
survived the nuclear holocaust. These can range from a two foot cockroach, to a bear three times the player's size. Besides the regular mutated animal, there are zombies, super-mutants, raiders, slave traders, insane settlers, cannibals, a fifty foot high super-mutant called the behemoth, and much, much more. The two main enemies you will fight in the game are the super-mutants and, surprisingly, what remains of the U.S. government.
Super-mutants are Hulk like creatures, they have green skin, are about ten feet high, completely bald, extremely muscular, and their lips are completely ripped off leaving the gum showing. Super-mutants were the result of tests in certain Vault-Tec Vaults; the experiment was created to try and perfect the human race and create radiation resistant humans. This is only referenced briefly and you have to look for the information in a specific Vault. Super-mutants can't reproduce so they have to create other super-mutants out of humans, it is never explained how they do this but in previous Fallout games it says something about exposing the human to some kind of acid.
The remnants of the U.S. government in Fallout 3 are named "The Enclave". The Enclave have their own radio station which you can listen to as you are walking in the wastes. Their station is basically just patriotic music, and occasionally "John Henry Eden" (the current "president" of the wasteland) talking about how one day the Enclave will restore the U.S., but some of the citizens of the wasteland think the radio station is just a looped message and that The Enclave have disbanded. Early on in the game however you find out that The Enclave is still alive, you will have to fight them, and they end up becoming your biggest enemy by the end of the game.
The weapons you obtain in Fallout 3 are very diverse and fun to use. For example, you can wield a mini, handheld chainsaw, Lincoln's rifle (yes Abe Lincoln's rifle), a mechanical brass knuckles type weapon, a gun that shoots garbage at your enemies, and many others. One of my favorite weapons to use is the "Fat Man"; the Fat Man is a handheld nuclear bomb catapult that shoots soccer ball-sized nuclear bombs at your enemies. There is also a variant, or special weapon, of the Fat Man that shoots five "mininukes" at a time. For every kind of weapon there is a special weapon. A special weapon does more damage then the normal weapon it is a variant of, for instance the regular shotgun deals 20 damage, but the special shotgun deals 50. The player is also able to create weapons with random junk he finds in the game. The player is able to use a lunchbox, a motion detector, and some cherry bombs to create a homemade landmine! Sadly there are only nine weapons you can craft in Fallout 3 but the nine that you can make are all equally fun to use.
The graphics in Fallout 3 are a little more dated then most current games, but the lighting and some areas of the game are extremely well made. There are full day and night cycles, and the hue of the wasteland changes with the time of day. The only downside I can think of is sometimes the terrain will have a gap in it that will let you see through the floor, but this is excusable because the game world is so huge and I'm sure it would be hard trying to perfect every detail.
Also the sound design in Fallout 3 is very well done. All of the weapons in the game have there own sounds attached to it, and the firing sound effects are really well done. Nearly all of the items in the inventory have an activating sound, so when ever the player uses an item a sound is played along with it. Every line of dialogue in the game is voiced, and there are literally hundreds of lines of dialogue. Some of the less important NPC's (non player character) lines are repeated pretty often though.
The controls for Fallout 3 are pretty well done but Bethesda Softworks (developer of Fallout 3) could have chosen a slightly better layout. They're easy to use and easy for someone to just pick up and play, but the d-pad on the Xbox 360 feels very clunky. I'm glad the d-pad is not a required button but often you will need to hotkey a health pack to a slot on the d-pad. It's easy for the player to move around, but on some uphill areas you will have to fight the game to get up a hill. Sometimes the game can be easy but Fallout 3 can also be unforgiving. In Fallout 3 you will occasionally get in a difficult situation, but after a couple of try's the player can eventually figure out a plan to escape the situation.
If you have ever played Bethesda Sofiworks' "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" then you will recognize the game mechanics. Oblivion and Fallout 3 use the same game engine, but sadly some of the problems with Oblivion carried into Fallout 3. For example the melee combat in Fallout 3 and Oblivion are almost identical. Even though it isn't really a problem, some of the animations look like they were taken from Oblivion, and as I talked before about fighting the game to get up of higher areas.
One of the best features in Fallout 3 is V.A.T.S., which is stored on your "Pip Boy 300" (a mix between a wrist watch and a computer that acts as your inventory), the "Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System" lets you pause the game and choose a body part that you want to fire upon. This can be extremely useful in parts of the game where you need to clear a room or take a break and plan out what you are going to do to avoid the most damage during combat. V.A.T.S. can also be used to spot enemies from a distance, this can let you see if a large group of enemies are ahead, and decide how you can avoid them or how you should fight them.
Overall I couldn't recommend Fallout 3 enough, in my opinion it is the greatest game I have ever played and I think everyone should try it. There is no multi-player option in Fallout 3, but I hope this doesn't turn you away from this game because it is one of the greatest single player experiences I've ever had. For what you get, it is an extremely better deal over recent games that only give you less then 10 hours of game time. My current playtime in Fallout 3 is over 60 hours, and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon.