Nostalgia: 'Fallout 3' strangely hollow years after release

Video by Bethesda Softworks

It seems like almost each one of my friends is playing the new “Fallout 4,” the latest piece of arguably Bethesda’s most popular franchise (either that or “Elder Scrolls”) on a next-gen console. In fact, Life Editor Ward Pankowski actually reviewed it not too long ago when it came out.

Naturally, because I don’t have the money to see how the game works for myself, I figured I’d reboot an old classic I had in my basement: “Fallout 3.”

Don’t know what the “Fallout” series is about? Well, imagine a world where the 1950s esque culture continues into the second millennium, only for a sequence of even more crazy alternative history events (like the United States annexing Canada) to eventually lead to the end of civilization as we know it. In “Fallout 3,” you play as the Lone Wanderer, a player-customizable character that escapes a “vault” (an underground nuclear shelter) to find their father and explore the desolate world on the outside.

For reference, “Fallout 3” was probably my favorite game through high school. And what’s not to like about it on the surface? It has great RPG elements, a gripping post-apocalyptic foreboding atmosphere and also has the strong elements of a first person shooter. Not to mention, at the time I thought the graphics were stellar.

Sometimes when the in-game clock had the game’s setting as the early morning, I’d have my character just casually stroll through the Capital Wasteland the game’s desolate environment and watch the gorgeous sunrise.

Or at least that’s what I thought at the time. Almost nine years later, the graphics aren’t exactly bad, but the game suffers through a ton of glitches that I guess I never really thought too much about when I was younger.

One time, after fighting a soldier from the Enclave, one of the “bad guys” in the game, I noticed the corpse of the soldier waving his arms in a chicken-dance esque motion. Moreover, the character models look pretty awful, with their facial animations being comically bobble-heady.

Maybe all of this adds to the game’s long-time charm, but what about the actual gameplay? While the occasional massive firefights between you and multiple parties of opponents can be initially fun and occupying, the randomness of the encounters begins to fade away and every fight begins to feel tedious over time.

The VATS (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) mode of the game effectively makes every encounter too easy, considering it literally pauses the game and lets you choose what to attack, albeit only with limited, but still a plethora of uses. Or it does at least until you play the game on hard or a higher difficulty, where the combat just becomes a sequence of pausing through VATS, watching an animation, possibly pausing the game again to use an item and then mashing a button at your opponent.

Get the point?

You’re supposed to have direction and player choice in how you want your character to end up, and the game does mostly a good job of that on the surface. Yet the skills in this game range from incredibly overpowered to being impractical.

If you want to make a character that’s charisma-based instead of intelligence-based, you’re going to have to work much harder and go through a lot more frustration than the other way around, which makes the game ridiculously easy.

Despite what my criticisms about the game are, “Fallout 3” is still fun to play if you accept its numerous flaws. Just don’t expect another game of the year experience that you might have had if you were younger.


Anokh Palakurthi is associate life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at anokh.palakurthi@uconn.edu. He tweets @DC_Anokh.