||Fallout - Review
Of Two-Headed Cows
& Mutant Cults...
By: Mike Lemmer
Sure, we all like the old sword-and-sorcery
games, but sometimes we just want something a little different.
Twelve years ago, old school gamers' craving for something new
was satisfied by the classic game Wasteland. Set in the post-apocalyptic
future, this game had a somewhat-tactical combat system (you
could run up to the enemy or run away), cool weapons (put that
gun on burst, baby!), more skills than you could shake a stick
at, and one of the coolest environments around. (Who can forget
Harry the Evil Bunny Master, or the giant scorpion robot roaming
around Las Vegas?) Ten years after Wasteland, the creators of
it made an "update" of the game called Fallout, and
the classic RPG was back, kickin' butt and takin' names. Take
a ride through Scorched California, and don't forget yer SMG.
Before you get in over your head, though,
we should discuss the story. Fallout takes place in what remains
of California, 80 years after a nuclear war caused the end of
the world as we know it. You are part of a small group of people
that locked themselves away in a "Vault" before the
nukes hit, living in isolation with no idea how the rest of the
world has turned out. When the water purification chip gives
up the ghost and there's no way to build a replacement, the leader
decides that they have to send someone out into the outside world
to get a duplicate chip before the water supply runs out and
everyone's forced to drink their own bodily fluids. Guess who
Now that you've been chosen, it's time to
create your character. This is the first time you get an inkling
of what you're in for. You could always choose one of the premade
characters specifically designed for certain paths (the Warrior,
the Thief, and the Diplomat), but if you're like me, you'll go
straight for the "Create Your Own Character" option.
On the Character Creation screen, you're presented with a bewildering
display of statistics. First, you got yer Prime Stats, the basic
stuff like Strength, Endurance, and Agility that should instantly
sound familiar to anyone RPGer. I would recommend choosing your
Primes VERY carefully, cause you won't get a chance to increase
them until you're almost done with the game. Next up are the
Skills. These cover everything from Guns to Lockpicking to Bartering
to Science. This is where you make yer character unique. Just
about everything has its use (although some are used more than
others). Finally, you have the Traits: options you can choose
that simutaneously raise some things while lowering others. You
want a weak, fast character or a burly, slow one? This is where
you pick them. (The award for coolest trait goes to Bloody Mess,
which causes everyone around you to die in the most horrible
and gory way possible. Neat.) Once that's done, you're ready
to head out!
The world you venture out into is a harsh
and foreboding place, but perhaps the scariest part is that it
all seems FAMILIAR. Two-headed cows are raised for food, junked
cars are sliced in half and used as wagons, bottle caps are used
as currency, and gangs roam the streets around movie posters
that look like they came from our time. You can even visit what
remains of Los Angeles. Of course, your quest evolves into something
more important than just finding a water chip while playing.
You eventually uncover a plot for world domination (big surprise
there), and guess who has to stop it. However, you can actually
feel the tension as you try to stop it. Rumors start circulating
about an invading army, and if you wait too long, some of the
towns you used to go to will be invaded. Things get even spookier
if you decide to unearth the mysteries of The Glow. Deep within
this abandoned military base, miles from any other living thing,
you will discover data disks containing information on how this
whole mess got started. It gives you goosebumps.
|No Wonder Real
Estate Prices Dropped So Much...
Besides the main quest, there's dozens of
smaller side-quests you could take, such as escorting caravans,
wiping out Deathclaws (also known as THOSE DAMN LIZARDS!), and
eliminating hardened criminals (or the coppers, if you're feeling
evil). Many of them require multiple skills. For example, on
one quest you have to get damning evidence of an assassination
attempt by an evil casino owner, then give it to the sheriff
and help the law take him out. There's two ways you could go
about getting the evidence: You could try to act like a mercenary
that wants a job and get the owner to spill the beans (all while
wearing a hidden microphone), or you could try to (steathily)
bug his desk. Then it's time to take out the trash, and you better
hope your combat skills are high enough. However, you could ALSO
actually take him up on his assassination offer and kill the
sheriff that sent you in the first place! Little jobs like this
are placed throughout the game, both for the do-gooder and the
evil dude. Just be careful what you do, though. The consequences
of your actions will be revealed before the final ending credits
Of course, all the plotlines and subquests
in the world can't help if the interface is crummy. I'm glad
to say that Fallout has a good interface, although it could use
some work. Everything can be accessed from the bottom of the
screen, from messages to attacks to special skills. All actual
control of the character is performed using the mouse and three
different modes: Move, Attack, and Interact. Each mode has a
unique cursor, and switching between them is just a matter of
right-clicking (or option-clicking). Using the Inventory is also
easy. You can have one type of Armor & two Items equpped,
and your stats are shown on-screen and updated accordingly when
you switch what you're using. Having it give a detailed description
of what each item does sure helps, too.
Combat is also easy-to-use, yet interesting.
It's turn-based, with the number of things you can do determined
by your AP, or Action Points. You can move around (and run away),
attack (duh), get something out of your backpack and use it,
reload, etc etc. There's plenty of ways to attack, too: You can
do the "normal" attack (just try to hit them), target
a specific area (shot to the groin!), or set your gun on burst
and empty half a clip at them (the whole purpose of having an
SMG). Factor in the variety of weapons you get, from sledgehammers
to shotguns to flamethrowers to plain-old brawling, and you can
see why combat is so much more enjoyable than the usual "Attack
Attack Attack" found in most RPGs today. If you ever wanted
to hit someone right between the eyes with a rocket launcher,
you'll be in hog heaven.
The graphics are gritty and dark, but what
do you expect from a post-apocalyptic RPG? For this game, they
work great. They have that "pre-rendered" look that
players of Baldur's Gate will recognize immediately. In a strange
turn of events, graphics are actually used when you converse
with the more-important NPCs. If they like what you said, they'll
smile; if not, they'll frown; and if they want to splatter your
organs from here to Timbuktu, they'll scowl at you. The other
thing that stands out about the graphics are the death animations.
Ways of dying include just falling over, getting chunks of your
body blown off by a burst shot, being fried to a crisp, and being
sliced in half by a laser. It's enough to make you wince when
one of your enemies dies a particularly gruesome death. Definitely
not for the squeamish.
The sound also seems to fit a post-apocalyptic
future. Music is very sparse, and is usually limited to ambient
sounds, such as howling wind or the soft humming of computers.
Nothing to write home about. The sound effects are very good,
though. You can hear the bullets richochet or thunk in soft flesh,
and listen to the rockets explode. You can even make burly mutants
scream like little girlies when you fry 'em with the laser. And
yes, it has spoken dialogue, although it's limited to certain
pieces said by important NPCs.
|Help Him or
The replay value is pretty high. The sheer
amount of things you can do and paths you can take, combined
with relatively short time it takes to finish the game, makes
it easy to go back and give the whole thing one more try. In
fact, my only true gripe about the game (besides the hideous
amount of game-crashing bugs in the Macintosh port) is how short
it is. With a game world this well-made, you want to spend dozens
of hours immersed in it. Thankfully, they made a sequel that's
a heckuva lot bigger than Fallout. Plus the original Fallout's
packaged with it, so you get both games for the price of one!
Not only is the game a bit too short, but
it also gets very easy towards the end, if you do the right things.
Once you get the upgraded Laser Rifle & Power Armor and take
a few ability-enhancing surgeries, you can even mow through packs
of Deathclaws without breaking a sweat. It gets a bit pathetic.
Of course, if you want challenging, you could try getting through
it without the upgrades. Good luck to you if you try. You're
gonna need it.
And so, in conclusion, if you haven't already gotten this
game, get it. Even five years after its release, its still one
of the most unique gaming worlds you'll ever come across, with
some of the coolest weaponry, skills, and subquests ever seen
in an RPG. Just remember: The SMG is your best friend, especially
if you're aiming for their eyes.
THE GOOD STUFF:
-One of the most interesting gaming worlds ever.
-Play as good or evil as you want.
-The weapons rock.
-Plenty of subquests.
-Random encounters that encompass everything from mysterious
cow herds (dun dun dunnn!!!) to references to old sci-fi shows
(Dr. Who, anyone?)
-Did I mention the weapons?
THE BAD STUFF:
-WAY too short...
-Combat almost gets TOO easy at the end of the game.
-Plenty of save file/cutscene bugs in the Mac version. (Notes
for Mac users: Get the patch immediately, save before exiting
an area where you completed one of the two major end objectives,
and NEVER use the first 5 save slots, EVER.)