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Fallout 2 - Review

PC RPGs get no respect!

By: Paragon


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 4
   Originality 10
   Plot 7
   Localization N/A
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium to Near-Impossible
   Time to Complete

7 - 50 hours

 
Overall
perfection?
Criteria

Title Screen
 

   I've noticed a severe lack of support for this game. It seems to be a virtual unknown in the RPG community, despite its legions of fans who have deemed it a classic. Fallout 2 is, obviously, the second in the Fallout series. Made way back in 1998 by Interplay, this is the finest example of the PC RPG style. It is also the best example of why the typical PC RPG fan considers himself or herself the better in the console vs. PC debate. While critically acclaimed, the average gamer has not played this game. They also have no idea what they're missing.

   Unlike most modern RPGs, the battle system is completely turn-based, giving it a much more traditional, old-school feel. Characters take turns in a cycling system similar to Super Mario RPG, in which the fastest--or, in this case, most perceptive--character gets to act first. Also unlike most RPGs, you are not magically transported to a huge battlefield when combat begins. You fight wherever you are, using the same locations that you do for anything else in the game, similar to Chrono Trigger. The biggest difference, however, is the lack of swords and sorcery. Rather, the weaponry of choice is firearms--or, for the layman, guns. In addition to this, there are realistic effects on battles, ranging from range, to lighting, to objects which are in the way(including other possible targets). All this coupled with the ability to target specific body parts for different effects, and you get a battle system that is, to use a cliche, easy to learn, tough to master.

   However, the use of guns brings about another difference. It is not simply a matter of power when choosing your weapon. There are many different features for weapons, including range, ammunition, damage range(minimum and maximum), and category. This can make choosing your weapon somewhat difficult--should you go with that powerful G11E, or use a weapon that you are sure to have plently of ammo for, like that hunting rifle? Should you pick your targets off from a distance with that sniper rifle, or go up-close and personal with a sawed-off shotgun? This all may seem slightly confusing, but the variety of weapons allows anyone to have fun with their own playing style.


Horizontal?
Aah, the wittiness of NPCs.  

   The interface is simple and effective. You do not have to go through a series of menus just to equip that spiffy new armor you just got--you can change equipment and use items all from one screen. In many cases, the information you want can be found without going through any menus at all; a simple interface bar at the bottom of the screen tells you just about everything you need to know about your character, and gives you access to all of the menu screens, so you don't have to remember every little keyboard shortcut.

   Fortunately, the biggest flaw is only the music. Unfortunately, it is a big flaw. The music is often absent, and always poor. There are no heart-pumping, theatrical masterpieces, nor are there any dark, foreboding themes to set any kind of mood. The sound effects are realistic, and the voices are well-acted. That being said, the poor music and merely adequate sound effects do not take anything away from the game, since sound and music are the least important aspects of any game. Like all games, you can turn the sound off and play your favorite CD without making the game any less fun.

   Originality is one of this game's strong points. A completely non-linear approach to the game comes as a welcome departure from the linearity of traditional games. Unlike most games, you can choose to be good or evil. That's right, although you do have to accomplish the ultimate "good guy" quest, the rest of the game gives you the freedom to choose what to do and how to do it. Let's say you have been sent on a generic fetch-the-item-from-a-guy-I-don't-like quest. You can sneak in quietly and steal it. You can talk your way into getting the item. You can even charge in and perforate some skulls, then simply take the item.

   However, there isn't much of a plot to speak of. You are sent by your village elder to explore the post-apocalyptic wastes of Northern California to find an item which will save your village from starvation. Along the way you discover a plot by a certain organization--no spoilers, but you will be surprised--to kill all of the "impure" people who live in the remanants of North America. Eventually, it becomes your duty to stop this organization. However, in an incredibly original example of freedom, you do not have to stop this organization simply to save the world; there are other, less altruistic reasons to do so. Throught the game, you encounter a variety of towns, all fitting the post-apocalyptic motif. There are Old West towns, hillbillie farming towns, and mafia-controlled towns. In addition, the issues of drugs, racism, and slavery are in the game. The unique thing about this is that the designers managed to put these into the game without taking sides. You can be a racist junkie slaver if you want, you can stay as far away from these subjects as possible if you want, or you can take it upon yourself to be the hero and exterminate these evils. Nonetheless, these encompass a small portion of the many mini-plots that are scattered throught the game.


Vertical too?
You're just not cool unless you have a pair of mirrored shades!  

   There really is no localization to speak of. This game was made by Americans, for Americans. Every single line of dialouge, every single joke, and every single item description is in perfect American English. One of the best things about this, is the lack of idiot-text. You know, the over-sized, multi-colored text found in games that were originally in Japan. There is none of that here, and I couldn't be happier about it.

   Replay Value is the absolute strongest positive point of this game. There are a countless number of quests to take, most of which have multiple ways to solve them. In addition, there is a unique and effective character creation and customization system that allows a nearly limitless amount of freedom in choosing how to develop your character.

   The visuals aren't all that great. There are only a few character models to portray an endless number of NPCs. The backgrounds can be surprisingly detailed, and the items look very realistic when shown in your inventory screen, but there is nothing special about the visuals. There is little FMV to speak of.

   There is an adjustable difficulty setting for Fallout 2. However, if you prepare for a task inadequately, you will most likely fail, even on easy. If your unarmed combat skill is 10%(out of a possible 300%), you're not going to win that boxing match. If your speech skill is very low, you won't be able to lie your way out of a paper bag, much less a fight. The combat AI is not what you would think on hard; rather tha simply being stronger, the enemies are smarter. Whilst usually you will be attacked only in the torso(no special crippling effects can happen when targeting the torso) on easy, increasing the difficulty level makes your opponents more likely to attempt to cripple or blind you.

   Overall, Fallout 2 is a masterpiece. In my fastest attempt, I managed to beat this game in under seven hours, although I missed out on just about every single quest the game has to offer. At its longest, Fallout 2 can take more time to complete than any Final Fantasy, not counting the long, repetitive fighting to gain levels which is present in the FF series. The game itself is more than fun enough to distract you from the poor graphics and sound, which, thankfully, don't matter in an RPG anyway.





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