Monday, May 21, 2012

Top 50 Video Games: Number 10

Platform: Xbox 360
Absurdly Specific Genre: Living, chatting, and murdering in the End of the World
Difficulty: 5
Beaten: Yes

Oblivion always annoyed me. It looked beautiful, had a believable enough world with which to play, and had a host of interesting things you could do in that world. Yet I could never make it more than about two or three hours into it before turning it off. It wasn't just that I lost interest - I was actively repulsed by the game. I tried to reason why that might be. The best answer I ever came up with was the it was just squirrely (this is actually the same reason I ended up putting down why I was never able to make it more than a few levels into Descent 3).

Therefore, it seems odd that Fallout 3 would be one of my favorite games of all time. After all, it's been called 'Oblivion with guns', and that's not at all a unjust descriptor. It has that same 'squirreliness' built into it that made Oblivion unplayable. So, why is it Top Ten material?

I mean, other than the fact that you get to battle giant scorpions...
A large part of this is due to the level that the game wants immerse you right from the beginning. This game is about exploding heads, talking with every single passerby (I am obsessive about talking to everyone in any video game that allows me to do so, Fallout ends up being conversation porn), and just being a badass in general. More than anything, though, Fallout 3 is about immersion. The game starts as you are being born, and through a series of quick flashes, teaches you the basics of the game while at the same time building the world around you. By the time you break out of the vault you've lived in your entire life, it feels like a big deal. The way the screen goes completely white when you step into the sunshine for the first time in your life is a brilliant and understated method of making sure you identify with your character... and the game is only beginning.

It would all be for nothing if the gameplay was bad, but the VATS system really made it work for me. It adds a dimension of RPG-style chance to the proceedings, while maintaining the first person view. Some people didn't care for this, prefering a straight FPS experience, and that's okay, you were never forced to go into VATS, it was simply there for you if you needed it. For me, it took the squirreliness out of the game and let me soak in the ambiance that the game fed off of.

Like Moira, your friendly neighborhood Minnesota stereotype
The music was just the final piece in a perfect puzzle. Nothing said 'hell yeah, fuckin' right' like killing raiders in the moonlight as Bob Crosby sang about life 'Way Back Home'.  I might never figure out exactly what it is that makes Oblivion not work for me, but I have no problem figuring out what made Fallout 3 perfect. Every action had meaning, every conversation carried significance. The game tossed you into life after the end of the world, and made you feel like you were there.

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