The fourth Fallout was released by Bethesda in 2015, some seven years after Fallout 3, and five years after Fallout: New Vegas. In fact: I would call this the fifth Fallout game, because Fallout: New Vegas was more than just game number 3.5, in my humble opinion – it was the best game in the entire series. But anyway… What do I know?
After a gap of some ten years – between the release of Fallout 2 and “the void” of there being no other Fallout games – came Fallout 3 from Bethesda. Like a bolt from the blue: Fallout was back, and this time it was in 3D.
The year was 2008, and it seems like an age ago now, but the release of Fallout 3 onto the market really invigorated the RPG scene. Not to mention: brought back a much-loved series with a modern twist on the game world and mythos. Not everyone was happy, though. A few fans were unhappy with the change to first-person, or the fact that Super Mutants were ubiquitous early on in the game (when, in their minds, Super Mutants should only appear at higher levels). Which is nonsense. Fanatics will be fanatical…
What were slight problems with Fallout 3, though, were the bugs (the game is notorious for having an abundance of game-breaking bugs); the sometimes ridiculous story-telling (the ending is much debated on those terms); and the rather trite voice acting. Not all the voice acting is bad – only some of it – and it kind of holds the game back a little.
Personally: as an admirer of the original two Fallout games, I spent hundreds of hours playing Fallout 3 and enjoyed every minute of it (except when I had to replay because I’d saved a game-breaking bug into my game). I was just so happy to be back in the Vault again. It was only later, after I’d played the superior Fallout: New Vegas, did I realise how limited Fallout 3 was.
Fallout 3 is still a huge amount of fun to play now. The seamless mixing of real-time action and (optional) turn-based combat impresses me a lot. The combat system – called V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) – is a joy to use and gives you a great view of the action while it plays-out. As long as you’re not taking on an opponent who is way stronger than you, you always feel in a control of the action, and as you level up you can face stronger and stronger enemies. Which is just how it’s supposed to be.
Released in 1998, Fallout 2 is a sequel developed by Black Isle Studios, for Interplay, and using mostly the same post-apocalypse setting, graphical style, and game mechanics, of the first game.
Which is no bad thing – the first game being as good as it was – although Fallout 2 was criticised at the time for not being much of an “improvement” over the first game. Which I think is hogwash – Fallout 2 is better than Fallout [one], because it’s more detailed and complex. And more refined. Of course it doesn’t have the “wow” factor of the first game, but from a storytelling point of view it continues the series brilliantly. It’s darkly humorous (again); it’s scary as hell in places (again); and it expands the Fallout mythology even further, while at the same time giving turn-based combat-lovers even more weapons and armour to fetishise over.
In Fallout 2 you play a direct descendant of The Vault Dweller, called “The Chosen One”, and who is asked by a local village elder to help find a mystical device called the Garden of Eden Creation Kit (the GECK), which in turn he hopes will end a severe drought.
To find the GECK, The Chosen One must find and enter Vault 13, its supposed location. Armed only with a spear, a small amount of money, and a Pip Boy 2000 (a cool wrist-mounted computer that appears in all the Fallout games), he must investigate and see where the story takes him (hopefully not to an early death).
Fallout 2 has lots of interesting characters; quests and side-quests; items and places; moral dilemmas; darkly-humorous conversations and relationships; radiation; imaginative tech; statistics screens; not to mention a very detailed levelling system with lots of cool, imaginative character perks.
Interplay‘s 1997 release, Fallout, began its existence as a post-apocalyptic Role-Playing Game based on the Steve Jackson “GURPs” ruleset, and also as the ‘spiritual successor’ to the classic 8-bit RPG, Wasteland. When Jackson objected to the levels of violence and gore in the game, Interplay decided to change the game’s “back end” to use their own internally-developed system, called “S.P.E.C.I.A.L” (an acronym for “Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck”). This move turned out to be a good thing, because Fallout – as we all know – has gone on to great heights over the decades, and a lot of that success could be attributed to the RPG mechanics of the “back end” working so well.
This first Fallout game is set on an alternate planet Earth, where history advanced differently after World War II. In 2077 a nuclear war breaks out forcing many inhabitants underground, to shelter in so-called “Vaults”. The game begins in 2161, 84 years after the war, and sees you playing as “The Vault-Dweller” – a man thrust out into the irradiated landscape looking to try to save his underground home. You can recruit up to four companions at the same time, to help you even the odds in battles.
The engine for Fallout was designed and coded by the game’s lead designer, Tim Cain, and features atmospheric, isometric landscapes, and suitably “eroded” inventories and menus. Combat is turn-based, highly tactical, and highly-detailed (and somewhat reminiscent of the X-COM games, which the developers have admitted they were big fans of). The combat in Fallout, though, does take tactical, turn-based combat to another level. When you’re good you can decimate anything set in front of you, but when you’re bad you can blow not only yourself up, but also the building that you’re standing in. What this first Fallout game did was set the standard by which all other post-apocalyptic sandboxes should live by. It also created much of the lore that the Fallout series adheres to, to this day.
Fallout‘s quests featured a backbone that had to be completed in order to progress, as well as hundreds of optional side missions that could be bypassed. That said: missing the experience granted by completing the side quests ensured that you weren’t strong enough to complete the game when you reached the final battle. So their description as “optional” is somewhat arguable.
Designer Tim Cain resisted internal pressure by Interplay to make the Fallout series real-time and multiplayer, and kept the sequel ‘hardcore’ and single-player, like this first game. Which I (and most of the gaming world) should be glad of, because it later led to the Bethesda series of Fallout games, which are excellent re-imaginings of these classic isometric RPGs.
Still available to buy and play now, Fallout is well worth the time and effort, in spite of its age.
Alien Rampage is an old-school run-and-gun shooter from 1996 with all the ingredients required to make an entertaining game. Smooth scrolling; cool explosions; lots of different weapons; plenty of different monsters; gory gibs; an agile central character. But… there’s something about it that misses the mark. A number of things, I think.
Firstly, the graphics are patchy. While the main character (an obvious ‘tribute’ to the Predator) is well animated, and the explosions are nicely done, the background graphics are a bit rough IMO, and (initially at least) somewhat blandly-coloured. The foreground jungle grass and hanging vines get in the way of the sprites in a rather disconcerting way – I’ve seen the technique used far better in other games.
Secondly, I think the main character is too big, which impacts on the gameplay as a whole. If he was smaller, you’d be able to see more of your surroundings as you run and shoot. As it is: the play window – due to the scale of the graphics – feels too restrictive.
On the plus side: the controls are responsive and the main character moves about well. He does have a rather strange jump when swinging off a rope though…
Still available to buy on Steam/GOG.com, Alien Rampage is a fun blaster for a short while. It’s even more fun if you play it with the hidden cheat mode switched on…
Note: What is interesting about Alien Rampage is that it originally started life as a 2D Duke Nukem game developed by 3D Realms, but was shelved then eventually sold off to Inner Circle Creations, who renamed it and released it with an alien lead character.
This 1995 arcade beat ’em up from Kaneko is an obscure Mortal Kombat clone, with digitised pictures of Jackie Chan and his stunt team playing a set of fairly weird fighting characters.
“But is it any good?” you ask. “Not bad,” is my reply.
Apart from the flashing shadows underneath the fighters (which are unnecessary and distracting) The Kung Fu Master Jackie Chan is reasonably well designed and executed. The digitised graphics have dated badly, but they are well-produced – at least compared to other games like this – and the control system is refined enough to give any one of the six playable characters a fighting chance in a match.
Unfortunately Jackie Chan himself isn’t playable in The Kung Fu Master Jackie Chan – he instead appears in various guises in three different boss battles. A later remake of this game – called Fists of Fire – does include Jackie as a playable character though.
The Kung Fu Master Jackie Chan is an interesting obscurity and a relatively decent digitised beat ’em up. It’s nothing special though.