Posted 02 November 2008 - 07:51 PM
Note - I have never so much as watched someone play the original Fallout games, so my opinion is completely unbiased in that regard - please save the snide comments for Betheseda hate forums. In addition, I've logged all of perhaps eight or so hours playing the game (Not much time left to devote to hardcore gaming these days...), and thus can give my first impressions only. I'm also playing this on the PS3, though the game is essentially the same, excepts for a graphical downgrade in comparison to its PC and XBOX 360 counterparts.
Right from the start I can see why people have referred to this game as "Oblivion with Guns" - it uses the same engine, some of the same basic mechanics, and retains the same awkward animations. However, don't let this confuse you into thinking that you can go in guns blazing like most FPS games. The engine does not seem to be tailored for such firefights, and you'll generally find yourself resorting to use of the VATS option as much as possible rather than relying on the very weak excuse for real time combat. VATS itself is really nothing more than a pseudo turnbased system that freezes the action and allows you to queue up a series of attacks aimed at specific bodyparts. The number of possible attacks are limited by your action points (AP), while the chance of hitting and damaged done is based on skills and the weapon used. I'm sure you've all seen the resulting cinematic orgies of blood of gore, so I will not bother to describe them - though I will mention that the action can be fast forwarded if, for some inexplicable reason, you become bored of watching blood and gore spatter itself in slow-mo across your screen after your umpteenth raider bites the dust. The system does allow for rather detailed strategizing, as each limb as a certain amount of specific health, not entirely related to your target's main health - so it's possible to cause "critical damage" to an arm or leg, and partially immobilize your victim - but more often than not I've found that my enemies tend to die by the time a limb is damaged to that point anyway, sort of negating the point. Of course, this might change further on in the game when enemies become more powerful, but at the moment I've not noticed it to be exceptionally important.
The characters themselves, though fewer in number, are far more engaging than many might have feared after the wooden dolls we were presented with in Oblivion. They fall short of reaching the personality of a character in a true RPG, but all in all are decently fleshed out. I found myself able to immerse myself fairly well into the game environment, while the wealth of dialogue choices were a true breath of fresh air after the laughable yes/no/maybe I had grown accustomed to. Choices in answers and actions range from downright evil to completely angelic, with one or two options thrown in between the two extremes. I actually felt as if I had the option to develop my character in whatever way I wished, instead of being limited and forced into the same mould every time. I cannot speak for the storyline, as I've not yet progressed far enough to say much.
The graphics are what we've come to expect from Bethesda - beautifully detailed landscapes filled with poorly animated and rendered characters. The wasteland itself does, in my opinion, capture the essence of a truly desolate place. Contrary to what others may have said, I do not find it to be an incredibly overcrowded jumble of everything. It's true that there's a lot packed into a small place, but I've not yet begun to feel cramped. Friendly faces are virtually nonexistent, while enemies are scattered about with a fair amount of distance from one to the next. The quick travel (identical in every way to Oblivion's) can ruin the atmosphere and immersion at times, but then again it is entirely up to the player's discretion whether they wish to use the option or not.
I'm not exactly sure why, but I am enjoying this game immensely so far - perhaps because I'm provided with a large, virtual playground to create my own sort of story and personality. There are plenty of ugly quirks along the way, but nothing I can't live with. Love it or hate it is what I think it all boils down to; I just so happen to love the game (so far), but I could easily see why someone else might hate it just as passionately.