PS3 Game Review – Fallout 3

While I’m still far from completing this game, I have played more than enough to give a review IMO. 

First off, I have not played a Fallout game since the first one, way back when.  So unlike many people out there, I’m not as steeped in Fallout lore as I could be.  So, I come at this game with something of a “noob” perspective, which I’m sure will color my review.

Fallout is based on a post-Apocalyptic USA.  Fallout 3 specifically takes place in Washington DC and its envrions.  Humanity struggles on some 200 years after a nuclear apocalypse between the USA (an Eisenhower 50’s futuristic idyll), and Communist China.  You play a Vault dweller (a decendent of people who moved into survival bunkers sealed away), who goes out into the world to pursue your father.

Anyone familiar with Bethesda’s previous 1st Person “RPG”, Oblivion, will be immeadiately familiar with the basics of this game.  The actual game play is almost identicle, unsurprising given it’s from the same company, and utilizes the same basic engine.  Some people have even described this game as “Oblivion with guns,” which has some truth to it, but doesn’t cover everything.

Beyond the basics, Fallout 3 diverges greatly from Oblivion.  Yes, you can still roam around freely, and aren’t tied to just following along on the main quest.  I don’t think that the Fallout world is quite as extensive as Oblivion, either in terms of over all size, or in the number of side quests.  Even so, there is still more than enough stuff in Fallout to keep a player busy for many many weeks.

Unlike Oblivion, the main quest is rather narrow.  You are essentially “stuck” as a Vault dweller.  You can do some customization, mainly cosmetic, but that’s about it.  You can’t play as a Wastelander, or a Ghoul, or as a member of the Brotherhood of Steel, or the Enclave.  Your starting point is in Vault 101, so no other option can work.  It would have been nice if alternate starting options were available, or to have made the starting point more generic to allow for a wider degree of style play choice.

Even so, you do have a great deal of lattitude as to how you play, just like Oblivion.  Want to be a crusading do gooder?  No problem.  Want to be a complete jack ass mass killer?  Go for it.  Somewhere in between?  It’s all up to you.  Your actions and choice do effect game play, though probably not to the extent that many will hope for. Depending on your game play style, and in game choices, some quests will open up for you (or be locked out of), and various individuals who you interact with will have different reactions, and you will get different dialogue options.  You can always check how your over all good-evil direction is going through your PIP-Boy (stats, inventory, notes, map), which shows as your “Karma level.” So, be aware of this as you play thorugh.  One other thing to be aware of: radiation exposure.  Yes, you can get radiation poisoning, and it will adversely effect you.  You cannot escape exposure, but you can get rid of your “rads.”  The effect on you is dependent upon your level of exposure, and can become quite debilitating.  So keep an eye on it.

The biggest deviation from Oblivion is in the character development system.  Fallout 3 goes back to a more “traditional” method of character improvement.  Instead of having your level based on your skill progression, as in Oblivion, it is now a direct Experience point (XP) based system.  You get XP for killing enemies (duh), completing quests, hacking computers, picking locks, and even for discovering locations on the map.  Each time you “level up,” you get boosts to your Health, a number of points to put into your skills, as well as a “perk.”

Perks are a traditional feature of Fallout games.  You get 1 perk per level.  The list of available perks is dependent upon your statistics, level, skill levels, and even on your Karma (good-neutral-evil).  Some are very useful, others less so.  Some are just plain fun (like Bloody Mess).  There is a good variety to the list of perks, and allows for a greater degree of character customization. 

In terms of graphics and sound, Fallout does improve upon things from Oblivion.  It’s worth while just to wander around the ruins of DC, and see how wonderfully the destroyed monuments and iconic builds have been rendered.  One thing missing, or at least not that I’ve found, is a sports stadium, either RFK or Griffith’s Field.  Should be at least one here, given how much Baseball gets metioned on some of the radio broadcasts available.  Even so, the graphics are gorgeous.  The sound really compliments things IMO.  You will learn to dread hearing the scuttling of chitinous legs on rocks (Radscoprions), or the whoosh of missiles from Supermutants, or the whirr of a minigun spooling up to fire, or the tinking of grenades as the land, or even the beeping of a mine. 

The voice acting is slightly above average.  It’s still canned lines, but what do you expect?  I’d have too look, but there’s at least one “name” actor providing voice work.  Liam Neeson provides the voice of your father, James, in game.  His work isn’t as stilted or flat as many others have done for video games, so it was a bit refreshing in that aspect.  Otherwise, it’s about what you should expect form a game like this.  A lot of voice actors get reused for various characters, so the uniqueness of some is diminished.

On the whole, Fallout 3 is a rather addictive game.  Not quite in the same way as Oblivion, but just about.  I’m not quite the cheerleader for this game that some of the various magazines are.  It’s not a “prepare to suspend your life for a few months” type game.  It’s close, but not quite there.  You still should expect to spend many weeks doing everything in game.  Even just barreling through the main quest will still take several days. 

I do have complaints.  As I previously mentioned, you’re restricted in only having cosmetic customization for your character.  Your starting point is fixed, and the main quest is far too narrow.  It would have been terrific if you could have chosen to play as a Ghoul, or a memeber of the Brotherhood of Steel.  Or to have started outside of the Vault, in say Megaton or Rivet City or Underworld.  How cool would it be to play as a Ghoul, and have raditation exposure heal you rather than hurt you?

So far, I’ve only come across 1 bug (unusual for a Bethesda game), and it was anything but a game killer.  Specifically, while looting a Raider body, I somehow got the body “stuck” on my cross hairs.  As I moved the corss hair around, the body got dragged around with it.  Annoying, but easilly corrected by going to the menu screen, and back to the main game screen. 

If Bethesda builds on Fallout 3, and takes some more of the game play form Oblivion, for Fallout 4, that will be an incredible game.



Band of Brothers (Blu-Ray)

I had been holding out on getting this set, waiting first for a wide screen version at a reasonable price.  Then came the announcement that HBO was going ot release it on Blu-ray, so another wait on getting this.  But it was finally released on November 11th, Veteran’s Day here in the USA, Rememberance Day in the British Commonwealth and Western Europe, more than vaguely appropriate. 

I had preordered this through Amazon, for about 50% off retail, which made it a real bargain.  This is HBO’s seminal series (produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg) covering the story of Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne from D-Day to the end of the Second World War.  Based on the excellent book by Stephen Ambrose (controversy aside), this 10 episode series was so well done, in all aspects, that it should be considered “must see TV” for anyone over the age of 12.

It is not always an easy show to watch.  Then again, it’s not supposed to be.  It is a warts and all account of the men of Easy, the highs and lows, and the changes that they went through.  The Blu-ray format, especially with a decent surround sound system, truly enhances this experience for the viewer.

First off, I must speak about the sound,  The Dolby digital sound is simply incredible.  Case in point, I was watching Episode 7 I think (The defense of Bastogne), and as the attack began, I found myself actually ducking as you can quite literally hear the bullets whizzing past your head, or the mortar and artillery shells screaming down at you. 

Unable to avoid repeating myself, the picture is super clear, and you can see just about any detail you care to look at.  Some poeple I’m sure will complain about some sections having a “grainy” look to them.  This is not a defect, or a problem with the format, or a bad quality print.  It is intentional, a cinematic “trick” to give an “aged” look to some scenes, especially close ups. 

But the real value here is in the extras.  Unlilke many DVD’s, Bluray or regular, the Band of Brothers set has extras that are more than worth while.  In fact, to get the absolute most out of this set, you will want to watch the series three time, in its entirety.  You will not be disappointed.

First, watch the series with out any extras.  This will allow you to more fully enjoy not only the series itself, but the extras as well.  Second, you watch the series with the “maps” extra turned on.  This feature gives you an interactive map of the progress of Easy Company, and how the episode in question relates to it.  Third time through, turn on the “In their own words” feature.  This is the gem of the extras.  With this feature turned on, you will get Picture in Picture (PIP), interview segments from the actual Easy memebers talking about the events of the episode.  This is priceless stuff really. 

In addition, there is the usual extra type stuff to be had.  A documentary on the making of the series, and some additional interviews with the members of Easy company.  These extras should not be over looked, but as stated, are not the real special features of the set.

All in all, I can find no fault with his set.


Paring the Blog Roll

Not that anyone probably noticed, but I’ve trimmed out the dead wood from my blog roll.  Links were removed for either not having been updated in a dog’s age, or the target site has been deleted.  So, I’m doing some site clean up, and this is the first round of cuts.

Obama now President elect

Barrack Obama is now the President elect of the United States.  Congratululations to him on his victory.  He got the votes, and he will be sworn in as our next Presient in January.

While I am not pleased with the outcome of the election, it is done and over.  Barring an unforeseen situation, he will become the next President.  It is now up to us, the voters, of all persuassions, to keep Obama and his cohorts in the Congress on track, and yes, in check. 

Obama and the Democrats have now been handed the keys to the Kingdom.  Now we shall see what they do over the next two years.  You see, two years is all they can count on, as the next Congressional elections will be in 2010.  Obama and the Democrats will have to work a lot of miracles over those two years, or face the wrath of an electorate that will turn their cyicism on them like the did the GOP in 2006. 

A person on a message board I regularly post on was worried that expectations may be too high for Obama and the Democrats, and she is an ardent Democrat.  Of course the Obama campaign was already laying the ground work for “reduced expectations” several weeks ago.  But a great mahy of Obama’s supporters have extremely high, and unreasonable, and unrealistic expectations of what will happen. 

Two years.  Everything will have to go perfectly for Obama and the Democrats over those two years if they hope to carry on beyond that.  The economy will not only have to rebound, but accelerate.  There can be no international crisis, especially not one of a violent nature.  Al-Qaeda will have to remain silent (web videos don’t count).  They will have to meet every voters wants and desires.  If they don’t, the electorate will turn on them.  They’ve done it before, they’ll do it again.  Americans are fickle, self indulgent people, who only care about “what have you done for me lately.”  With control of Congress, and the White House, the Democrats will have no one to blame if things don’t go as well as expectations.  It’s put up or shut up for them.

The word mandate is being bandied about in some quarters.  Sorry, but no, this is not the case.  The numbers don’t support that concept.  For that matter, very few Presidents have ever had a mandate, the last being Reagan in 1984 (and maybe Johnson in 64).  I have not yet poured over all the numbers as yet, mainly because they’re not all available as yet, but a mandate is not indictaed.  Too many close races, too many states were close (vote wise, not percentage wise) that a mandate cannot be concluded.

“Always in motion is the future.”  Yoda said that.  Even though it came form a muppet in a movie, it still is true.  We cannot control the future.  We can’t even predict it much (all you Edgar Cayce fans just go away now please).  Even so, I will get a smug smirk on my face when things don’t suddenly become all wine and roses (or is that Rojas?) next January.  The excuses as to why should be entertaining as well.

Obama Bad for NY?

Maybe according to NY Governor david Patterson.


Of course this should be a widely known fact by now, but it’s not in the interest of some parties.  Heck, I’m suprised the Daily Gazette even bothered to publish this. 

It should be no surpise today that the Democrats in Washington, including our “esteemed” Senators, Clinton and Chuckles Schumer, ignore the State in favor of power grabs.  Schumer has been all but absent from anything of importance to the State, as he’s the iron fist behind the Democrat’s Senate campaigns.  He’s more interested in the joke candidacy of Al Franken than in getting the State of New York back on track.  Of course this is the same idiot who once was “proud to never have been north of Yonkers.”  And Hillary has been so busy campaigning for everyone else, that she too has all but forgotten about the State.  Not that she ever cared about NY, just as long as it was useful for advancing her own political power and ambitions. 

Ahhhh, I shouldn;t even bother anymore.  No one cares about this stuff.  It’s all too much for the average person to bother with.  It doesn’t effect their daily lives, and they’re quite content to have information spoon fed to them by the mass media outlets, lready predigested and pre-analyzed for them.  They don;t have to think anymore, others will do it for them.

Be Sure to Vote Tomorrow

Tomorrow Americans go to the polls to vote.  Well, many will, but many will stay home and not bother.  Sad but true, and has been for years now.  A 60% turn out is large by today’s standards.  How can anyone complain if they don;t go out and vote?  George Carlin once said he can complain because “he didn’t vote for any of them.”  Sorry George, but if you don’t vote, you “break the system,” and we get stuck with the same old nimrods year in year out.

So be sure to go to your polling place, and cast your ballots.  All I ask is that you vote for the candidate you feel is the best for any given position.  Get over and past the usual clap trap, and take an honest, rational look at the available candidates.  Try to set aside your personal self interests, and look at who will be best for the country/district/county/community (depending on the position being sought).  Probably asking too much from the mindless sheep in this country.

Even so, go vote.  It is the one civic duty all Americans have, and a right that must be exercised at every opportunity.  Don’t vote, don’t complain about policies or changes.  You had your chance to voice your opinion.