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Entertainment / Video Games / November 20, 2008

At its root, Fallout 3 is about cleansing the world of life, stealing and hoarding. This makes it a real innovator in the world of role-playing gaming. The last innate human drive unfulfilled was simple raw power, and as the video game evolves, it evolves to look like the kind of power that was adaptable to the evolving human species. Whether it’s Nazis or Lovecraftian horrors, you can safely de-humanize tribes of enemies, then annihilate and profit from them. Our modern civilization is such a bland purgatory in contrast to what our savage desires really lust for, that we have no option but to invent gaming worlds where this behavior seems plausible.

Fallout 3’s world is the long-nuked and obliterated, irradiated husk of Washington, DC, re-named “The Capital Wasteland.” Square miles of urban wreckage and barrenness lay wide open from the start. Scavenging, hustling, questing, stealing and butchering, you can visit the corroded but still standing Washington Monument, the blasted capital dome, the crater where the White House was. They’re all infested with grotesque, mutated vermin as loathsome as the politicians that used to roam the same streets. Buildings are totally destroyed, food and water is contaminated with radiation, cannibals and mutants roam the hills and ruins. You can murder anyone and plunder anything. Scattered inhabited settlements still remain, but they’re only there for you to wipe them out — which you can, and should. Even as a “good” player, there are several mass slaughters available to increase your karma rating, including a slaver camp and a fortified tower headed by the world’s last rich asshole, who shoots people from the top with a sniper’s rifle in something he calls “wasteland safari.” I exploded his head with a single shotgun blast at close range, and took his Hugh Hefner robe and rifle for myself.

Maybe the writerly nitpicking is irrelevant, though, as what you primarily do is Fallout 3 is kill, kill, kill, with a huge variety of powerful weaponry, including a minigun, flamethrower, and mini-nuke launcher. You can blow limbs off, decapitate cleanly at the neck with high-caliber weapons and awesomely detonate heads and bodies into clouds of incredibly gratifying, slow-motion blood. The monsters are really gross, too, from enlarged cockroaches, to something called a “mole rat,” to something else entirely called a “centaur,” which has these sick grasping tentacles. This sort of death porn makes this thing a boys-mainly kind of violence-wank, but women have always been manifestly inferior in their comprehension of raw pornography, a failing of their sex.

Barring intermittent narrative brilliancies along the way—including a cult that believes each atom is a distinct universe, thereby making atom-splitting, atomic explosions a creative, life-bringing force—some of the writers for Fallout 3 didn’t bother creating stories as great as the setting. There’s laughable post-apocalyptic gender equality, even amongst the cannibals. But even the idiotic and stock residents start to make sense after a while. The boring shanty-town dwellers you meet everywhere — who are without perspective, consciousness or self-awareness — just serve to remind you of the intellectual paucity of human beings, how absolutely and thoughtlessly survivors would actually adapt to their circumstances as post-apocalyptic hunter-gatherers. As you wander through the vast and comfortingly dead landscape, occasional sublime sensations creep up on you. It’s not the expansive Old West, but a deteriorating, ever-degrading world, plummeting from the ideal. It is the cosmology that the medieval priests of old probably once whacked off to in their monk dormitories. It is a reality that Karachi kids will be enjoying in 2070 as their personal secret adventure.

Considering how embarrassingly lifeless American novels, art films essays and music are, it’s disappointing that a game like Fallout 3 does not go the extra mile to be able to grab the praise it deserves. The ideas innovators of science fiction brought into existence are still in circulation here, but the obsessions with anthropology and human nature that birthed the notions are safe in the library. It’s a distinction that ultimately prevents Fallout 3 from carrying out a decisive coup in America’s literary scene.

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16 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. wYSe Guy  |  November 20th, 2008 at 11:02 am

    You F_ckers!

    I am From Karachi !!!!

    😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

  • 2. Barry  |  November 20th, 2008 at 11:56 am

    This is the best review of “Fallout 3” that I’ve yet read.

    Thank you, once again, (the) Exile(d), for bringing some reality to journalism.

  • 3. ewank  |  November 20th, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    i’m glad exile is doing videogames now. after all, it’s becoming a norm in our society, a melding tool for our military to instill violence and war in our future soldiers. it’s relevant. and it’s fun.

    anyways, fallout 3 really does fall short in the story/writing side. it’s no black isle/tim cain fallout, the people responsible for FO 1 and 2.

    bethesda pretty much watered down anything literary and made it into their own violent sludge of a pudding, to feed it to the short attention spanned children we love to call gHEys over mulitiplayer HALO 3.

    now review Call of Duty World at War! Cartman loves the japs in that game.

  • 4. Flaser  |  November 20th, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    I wonder if the reviewer ever encountered the original classics in all their flat-isometric 8-bit color glory?

    -Striving through a hellish desert, dealing with all the wackos, twatters, tweeters and the odd philosopher who preach their own inane gospel: a handful of shotgun shells.
    -Hitting each and every hooker on the way, spending your wasteland adventures in a perpetual alcohol and drug induced stupor: a big pile of bottle caps.
    -Through a prolonged conversation that is both rhetorically and morally challenging forcing the ultimate well intentioned extremist and would be “savior” to pull the plug on his “project”: a shot of amphetamines and whole lot of questing to reveal his story.
    -…and having saved the world realizing, all was for ‘naught, ’cause people are really-really *that* nasty, venal and stupid: PRICELESS

  • 5. Grimgrin  |  November 20th, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    Every now and again, exploring a ruined house you’ll find for example, a skeleton in a bathtub with a radio. Or a skeleton on the ground, with a pistol lying on the ground next to in and a box of ammo on the table. The people didn’t all adapt well to survival in the post apocalyptic wasteland.

    It’s touches like that that make me love the game.

  • 6. Klink  |  November 21st, 2008 at 1:57 am

    The setting is wonderfully realised visually with a great attention to the 1950s-science-gothic detail, but the writing wasn’t quite good enough and the rpgfps-meld didn’t quite work. San Andreas managed it with a better control scheme, hopefully the modder out there will be able to realise the game’s full game play, balance and story potential.

  • 7. Eric Sizemore  |  November 21st, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Hey, great review. I love your writing style. You also have some very interesting ideas, and some good things to say about the game itself. I wish you would elaborate. Please be so kind as to provide more details, more insight and relevant notes on your thoughts about the game. Modders and gamers alike will rejoice when the wheels are set into motion along those tracks. Thanks!

  • 8. Delfosse  |  November 22nd, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Fallout3
    1- has no sex scenes: you just _sleep_ with a whore on a same bed, you can’t even hear some groans
    2- has shitty music: wtf are orchestral compositions of Ion Zur doing there?!
    3- has 1257952532 less dialogues than fallout1&2.

    Thank you for this piece of shit, Bethesda scumbags.

    The game simply sucks and I rule.

  • 9. frundsberg  |  November 22nd, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    “Thank you for this piece of shit, Bethesda scumbags.”

    Why do you think the author is from Bethesda? Honestly I am pretty sure no one here could write such an article. Such people simply dont live here, this is the least inspiring place I have ever been to…

  • 10. Raad  |  November 23rd, 2008 at 1:48 am

    @9
    Yeah ’cause Fallout 3 screams inspiring, dunnit?

  • 11. They Radio  |  November 23rd, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Well, you can’t kill everyone. As usual in these games, child slaughter is off limits.

  • 12. John Smith  |  November 26th, 2008 at 1:35 am

    I’m also glad to see the exile doing videogames. So do you exile writers think Braid is brilliant or just pretentious sludge? How about Portal? (Although that one may be far too old for a review.)

  • 13. Lenny  |  November 30th, 2008 at 10:36 am

    @11: Give we mod creators some time >:)

  • 14. b  |  January 14th, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    ha you critics.. none of ya can even make a solid pile of shit

    the game is brilliant – go smash your head into cement and let birds eat your brain

  • 15. John  |  February 20th, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Sorry but for those who just want
    to take the game out of the box
    and play without a formal
    education, this game is a total
    piece is SH*T!!!!!!

  • 16. junior  |  March 14th, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    tbh ure all just whiney little children this game was, as b. put it , brilliant, it had everything u, or at least i, could want. i thought the story was at least interesting. the side quests were all unique and the only thing which i found repetitive is my obssesstion with locating every single place which i meant i occasionall stumbled into a similar looking house to a previous one i saw, but apart from that wat is there to complain about . how can you say there isnt enough dialogues i litrally spent more than 50 hours on this game and im sorry but if you want to spend more time on games then ure a sad bastard who needs to get out more


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