been nearly five years since I last played what I consider to be one of
the greatest RPGs of all time, Fallout 2, and still, on the late nights
when my blood courses warm with gin and Im reminiscing of the old
times, I find myself retelling stories involving my trusty
scope-modified rifle and ever-handy Gatling gun. Apparently lost upon
the world at large, Fallout 2 mixed humor, guns, and a closed-road plot
structure to provide an experience that was second-to-none. Not entirely
satisfied with Fallout Tactics, Ive been on the lookout for another
Fallout game almost since the day the last title laid waste to the tiny,
Sims-like characters that populated the inside of my computer. In a
desperate act of applied psychology, therefore, when my editor assigned
me to cover PC titles only at this years E3, I stared sullenly at the
blacktop toes of his shoes and mumbled, "Yes, sir," in such a whinny and
pathetic voice that he quickly retreated a step, and, possibly concerned
I might lash out, grumbled, "Alright. And maybe an Xbox game or two."
I thought to myself. Passive aggressiveness wins again! One positive
side effect of keeping your editor dubious of your mental stability is
that he doesnt stand between you and the games. Instead, as I heard him
once remark to a fellow reviewer, eyes wearily directed at me, he just
"tries to keep everyone happy." When he says everyone, he really means
the wild-eyed figure huddled in the corner of the hotel room, clutching
his pre-E3 Nokia backpack, caressing it and muttering, "Precious."
In other words, me.
on the first day of E3 this year, I bee-lined for the functioning demo
of Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel for the Xbox, wedged between two
displays of Brute Force. I dropped everything I was carrying, even my
prized Cat-in-the-Hat transparent mouse Id picked up at another booth,
and dove in. A passing spectator hesitated to watch.
"Mind if I play?" he asked after a moment. I gave him a blank look.
"Precious?" I asked, and did an impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger
in the final scenes of Total Recall. The man wandered quickly away.
on the engine of another game I greatly enjoyed, Fallout: Brotherhood of
Steel resembles Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance on more than just a passing
glance. Much of Baldurs Gates equipment screen and camera perspectives
have made the transition from wizards and warlocks to post-apocalyptic
chaos virtually intact.
as Baldurs Gate ditched its turn based combat in favor of a more action
oriented fighting system in the transition to Dark Alliance, Fallout
waves goodbye to the slow paced, turn-by-turn way of settling personal
disputes. In its place is an easy to use locking system that allows you
to target different enemies and keep them in sight using your trigger
fingers (on the Xbox, at least), and waste them with the weapon of your
choosing. If youre a fan of the franchise, dont expect the same pace
of gameplay as in the past; Brotherhood of Steel has been streamlined
for console play, which in some ways means its been dumbed down. Yet
many things are the same. Brotherhood of Steel promises over 50
different weapons, not counting armor and items, including everything
from a rail gun to a portable Gatling gun that dispenses bullets like my
old Super-soaker 2000 dispensed water (with a bit more range). It
remains to be seen if this will satisfy fans used to the 80+ weapons I
counted off-hand in Fallout 2. Still, the graphical effects are cool. At
the time, I felt an overwhelming desire to show them off, to share the
"Look," I exclaimed, startling the nearest stranger, who happened to
be a young woman in a Dead Alive T-shirt, as I pointed to the screen.
"Like a super-soaker 2000!"
She brandished pepper spray.
not everyone shares my enthusiasm for mowing down two-headed cow-like
creatures locked in a stockyard. No matter. She was promptly arrested
and charged with "threatening a nerd with deodorant", which apparently
is a crime in California during E3. I hesitated a moment, experiencing
guilt at having been responsible for the womans expulsion from the show
she was probably one of the three women not there fulfilling her
obligation to a modeling agency, which meant Id just alienated one of
the three girls who might have smiled at me even though not being
paid to and then returned to my game. After all, there were still two
other fish in the sea.
Fallout series was originally defined by a number of elements; the three
on the top of my list besides the weapons are humor, story, and
closed-road pathways. Brotherhoods website promises that the game is
"darkly humorous", but can they match the gutsy style of the originals?
I can still remember encountering the bridge keeper from Monty Python
and the Holy Grail during one of the random encounters of Fallout 2, and
the ability to use the "holy hand grenade" as a rather effective weapon.
How about discovering the crashed Star Trek shuttlecraft, or the café
containing characters from Fallout 1 that didnt reappear in Fallout 2?
Or the ability to become poisoned after . . . *cough* . . . assisting at
the adult film studio? It remains to be seen whether or not Fallout:
Brotherhood of Steel contains the same humor, but if they can pick up in
the strand that Fallout 2 left off, Brotherhood will be worth playing
not only for the action, but for the laughs as well.
humor isnt all that Fallout had under its belt. The Fallout universe
was a dark and richly imagined world, containing racial tensions
(between the mutants some of them friendly and regular humans), and
some rather complex ideas. Additionally, Fallout was one of the first
games to offer what I call closed-road plotting, meaning that your
actions or inactions directly affected how you could play the game. I
can still remember accidentally killing a child during a raid early in
the game, only to discover posters of myself scattered from town to
town, hunted as a "child-killer". There was at least one village I was
never able to enter due to that single act of violence. Had I played
more considerately, other options, and more roads, would have become
available. There is some question as to whether or not such an
open-ended form of gameplay can fit into the Baldurs Gate: Dark
Alliance engine; that game walked the players along a linear path. Yet
the development team promises ample opportunity to develop your
character on quests.
another benefit of using the Baldurs Gate engine; you can now venture
co-operatively into Fallout with a friend. Ah, I thought to myself, no
more having to tolerate my friends staring over my shoulder, trying to
distract me while they steal the mouse. No more having others touch my
character. Mine. Mine, mine, mine. Having seen enough to whet my
appetite, I left Fallout in all its glory, feeling dark and depressed.
October, Fallouts expected release date, seemed so far away. I
slouched, letting my shoulders droop, and sulked away. After leaving
Microsofts area, I passed a large cardboard castle showing the new Two