Maaaybee, I Can Figure Out What I'm Supposed To Do
Before beginning the negatives of the game, I'll cut right to the chase and point out that this game is to be an instant classic, and will live on for a long time as one of the great games. Still, there are some caveats to consider.
First, to look at Fallout on a technical level, there are a few sizable issues to consider. The first major issue is its memory footprint. The game sucks up an immense amount of RAM in proportions that makes Oblivion look like a laptop friendly game. If it runs out of RAM, bad things...very very bad things...can happen. Game freezes and crashes aren't entirely uncommon, though this may or may not relate to memory usage, it seems to be more common when you push the upper thresholds of your available memory. V.A.T.S. also has some trouble, regardless of memory, but, again, it seems to get worse when you start running out. Targeting and evaluating chance to hit appears to have some tremendous calculations to perform. If there are several enemies around, these calculations can be amazingly slow to process, resulting in some uncomfortable gameplay like trying to play Quake 2 on your old 486 without a GLIDE card. Needless to say, this can be frustrating. It's also worth noting that, while unsubstantiated, the console ports have yielded a disturbing number of complaints in forums that the game "killed" their consoles. If their claims are true it would appear to be an overheat issue on BOTH the XBox360 (not overly surprising given its record) and PlayStation 3 (vastly more surprising.) This may be related to the same issues that bog down the V.A.T.S. system, though the PS3's sophisticated CPU shouldn't be affected by that. It may be coincidence, but it's worth keeping in mind. If you aren't sure what platform to get, you may want to go with PC...let's face it, Fallout is a PC franchise. REAL gamers would only play it on PC, right?
Returning to gameplay elements, one of the more confusing aspects of the game can be figuring out where you're going. Quests are not always terribly verbose, and there are vast distances to cover from central MD through DC. To make matters a bit more confusing, the DC Metro area is littered with collapsed and ruined buildings, leading to a concrete and steel jungle of dead ends to navigate;correction: a super-mutant and raider ridden concrete and steel jungle of dead ends to navigate. The obvious solution is to follow the network of Metro Transit subway tunnels for a more direct route. While a relatively brilliant concept to eventually recreate the fast travel the Chrysalis of Fallout 2 created, it very quickly becomes boring navigating the same dismally dark subway tunnels and the smattering of zombies....err, feral ghouls littering the tunnels. Tuning your in game radio to the Enclave's repeating Sousa marches, or Galaxy News' Great American Songbook classics helps the monotony a bit, but Perry Como can only get you so far through zombie infested irradiated subway tunnels before it becomes boring again. Especially when it's frequently interrupted by Lando Calrissian's shock jock overtures.
When you finally do figure out where you're going, all too often you hit situations you're simply not yet prepared for. Over the top battles against far too strong enemies, against which you're under powered, have too scarce ammo, and not very great armor. Oh how I miss getting power armor early in the game. While you can obtain it early, you can't actually wear it until you're nearly done the main quest. But be careful not to finish the main quest, once it's complete, unlike Oblivion, you can't resume the normal quests that make up the bulk of the game. While the scarce ammo is in line with a post apocalyptic scavenging environment, and the tough battles are certainly par for the rest of the series, it sometimes feels a lot more difficult to be fully prepared.
Finally, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. While the newfound realism in the game immerses players far more than before, it quickly reveals how the blocky pixelated isometric world's detachment in the previous games allowed you to play more frequently and for longer periods of time while having fun. The realistic world does indeed place you in the grim and disjointed nightmare...a world that can become very tiring and dismaying much more quickly than you'd think. I think there needed to be something to break it up a little bit, though the bleak gaming environment may appeal to some, for me, if I want a grim and impending sense of doom, I'll watch the TV news...gaming should be a bit more of an escape than that.
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