There are good games, and then there are GOOD games, titles that simply beg to be played, titles made timeless by their outstanding quality, their uniqueness or their ground-breaking features, features that changed the face of gaming.
These games are paragons, princes, kings and queens, able to show their peers, contemporaries and even successors a thing or two about gameplay and, more importantly, lasting appeal. So I’ve decided to compile a list, a Bucket List, if you will, of games I feel you need to play before you shuffle off this mortal coil and retire to that big arcade in the sky.
This edition’s game is Fallout 3, as nominated by Twitter user Stephy-Jay Rushton (@Dauntless_85), because it’s “got great gameplay, it’s loads of fun and it’s a brilliant story of what happens after the shit hits the fan”.
Title: Fallout 3
Format: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Behesda Softworks
Launched in 2008 to immediate acclaim, Fallout 3 may carry the name and share the universe of Interplay’s isometric strategy franchise, but that’s where the similarities end. The switch to first person (or, if you prefer, 3rd person) was an obvious choice and one that instantly modernised the concept of post-apocalyptic survival in a barren, radiated world – not to mention that developers Bethesda were able to use an engine similar to the one that built The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion a few years previously.
Where Fallout 3 differs from other FPS’s of its time is in its use of RPG elements like open-world exploration, levelling, looting and acquiring companions. The huge gameworld, almost intimidating at first, is a prime example of how to create a video game setting and get it right. It’s a futuristic-fantasy world with its own version of knights and monsters, as well as new prejudices, new challenges and new mythologies that mirror our own but twist them through a lens of radiation poisoning, 1950′s-style propaganda and violence. Lots and lots of violence.
It begins with your birth, during which you select your name, future appearance and starting traits via an unobtrusive menu. Moving on through your childhood from birth to seventeen you learn the intricacies of the game such as shooting, fighting and interacting with others – not to mention the famous “G.O.A.T” test wherein a series of amusing and slightly disturbing questions will help mould your character’s personality.
Once your beloved Dad (played by none other than Liam Neeson) does a runner from the underground Vault you grew up in and have never, ever left, you’ve no choice but to step out into the blinding sunshine for the first time and go after him. Choices you make even in the opening hours affect the entire game (do you help your childhood friend during your escape? Leave her to her fate? Kill her father, the Overlord of your Vault, and forever alter your relationship?), not least the game-changing decision you’ll make when you reach the little shanty town of Megaton.
Named for the undetonated atomic bomb at its centre, Megaton is a town teetering unknowingly on the edge of oblivion. When faced with a VERY generous offer to rig the bomb to blow and walk away to a life of comparative opulence, do you take it? Or do the honourable thing and cause yourself a whole heap of trouble?
It’s these gameplay choices that affect the narrative in sometimes subtle, sometimes catastrophic ways, and make Fallout 3 a hugely personal and involving game.
I could go on and on about vampire dens, a futuristic throwdown between actual costumed superheroes, giant insects, towering robots and cities built inside ruined cruise ships, but If you haven’t played Fallout 3 I don’t want to ruin too much. And if you have, well, you’ll have your own personal memories of the Capital Wasteland that may be completely different to mine thanks to dozens of random events and free-roaming NPCs.
Yes, there’s an elephant in the room and I suppose I should address it for the sake if balance: Fallout 3 is a Bethesda game, and as such is riddled with some horrendous bugs and glitches from diabolical collision issues to game-breaking crash-triggers. But it’s so vast and deep, you’ll find it easy to forgive.
I for one wasted no end of time watching the sunset from the dilapidated Washington Monument, spent hours hunting bandits and building weapons from scavenged parts, helped an enthusiastic researcher write her Wasteland Survival Guide and made it my business to put a bullet in every mirelurk I came across, but that’s just me.
That’s the beauty of Fallout 3 and why it really deserves to be played: its 30 – 60 hours of playing how you want to play, in an intricate, lovingly-realised world. Oh, and it’s got some of the best DLC packs ever, too, adding whole new areas, upping the rather stingy level cap and giving you infinite doggie companions. If you’ve never played Fallout 3, I implore you to give it a whirl. It’s absolutely worth your time.
Next time on the Bucket List: Kingdom Hearts