Wired reviews Fallout 3. Verdict: Gorgeous but charmless fanfic

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Wired's look at Bethesda Softworks' Fallout 3 praises its visual flair and combat mechanics, but little else. In a sharply-worded review up at its Game|Life blog, Earnest Cavalli slams it as "almost entirely lacking" the series' iconic charm. And a review it certainly is, with little in the way of hedging to conceal the author's judgment, even of a storyline he saw only half an hour of.

It really feels like someone wrote a fanfic based on the Fallout universe and somehow got the funding to create a game based on it. ... I predict a heavy backlash from long-time fans. At best Fallout 3 will be the blacksheep of the series: An oddity played only for completion's sake by those who absolutely adore the original games.

Grist for the mill for those who want it to fail. For the rest of us, sigh. If nothing else, it's a reply to those who insist that one must play a game to completion before setting the lead. Thirty minutes!

Hands On: Fallout 3 [Wired: Game|Life]

Published by Rob Beschizza

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25 Comments

  1. how can that be called a review, he hasn’t even played through the whole game! I think the title here should be changed to ‘preview’?

  2. I agree with ridestowe.
    a half hour playthrough of a almost finnished product is hardly called a review.

  3. Yeah, I’m agreeing too: this is called a preview, and I really have to question this guy. He sounds just like one of the foaming-in-the-mouth tardos over at No Mutants Allowed. Maybe those guys

    It’s very strange to see Wired, of all pubs, publishing such a judgmental hands-on of a completely unfinished product they only saw a small snatch of. No, you DON’T have to play a game to completion to review it… but you at least need to wait until the damn game is FINISHED.

  4. How well would you be able to rate Fallout 1 after 30 mins? After all it is at its heart a roll-playing game and you generally need a couple of hours just to break into it!

    And Cavalli has established a real reputation as little Ms Contrary. He would belly-ache endlessly during his time at Destructoid and his transition to Wired seems to have not dented his lack of detached judgement.

    Ho hum.

  5. I’m going to get my pointing and laughing out of the way now, because when it comes out, I expect I’ll be too busy playing.

  6. One veteran games reviewer said that the 30 minutes was basically enough to see the intro and fight a few battles. Another says that Bethesda did not show off the central storyline at all!

    What Wired’s doing here is break a barrier: it’s reviewing something as early as possible on the first possibly justifiable basis for doing so. No-one could confuse this for a preview — the tone and thrust of the piece draws solid conclusions and even makes determinations about who will and will not like the game.

    The basis that Wired’s chosen, however — 30 minutes dinking around in an unfinished build of limited scope — is one that I think most will object to.

  7. This feels a bit like reviewing a novel after reading the dedications and the epilogue… 30 minutes isn’t much of any game, and less so of one that’s said to have over 100 hours of gameplay.

    One thing that’s worried me from the screenshots and videos is the lack of NPC allies, something that was a key element in the original games. Of course Bethesda could have skipped that, but maybe it’s more likely that they are holding that as long as possible since finding out who you can recruit is a part of the experience.

  8. While I agree that you can hardly review a game based on a 30 minute play (it’s like reviewing a movie based on the preview — how is that even possible?) I think it says a lot, however, that the original charm of the previous Fallout games wasn’t very apparent to the reviewer in those 30 minutes. While we can all remember the hours we spent playing Fallout, we can also remember the humor that hit us as soon as we walked out of those Vault doors.

    That’s my only fear, that the FPS crowd has been catered to so much that the constant barrage of puns and otherwise good bad jokes will be curtailed.

    Regardless, I’ll wait to play it myself. 🙂

  9. @9: in the first thirty minutes of Fallout 1, you slaughter rats in a cave. If you reviewed it based on that, you’d think it was a rat killing simulation.

  10. This is supposed to be a 100 hour game too, so he played 1/2 of a % of the game and came to the conclusion that it lacked depth of story.

    He could end up being right, but I don’t think it will be because of evidence gathered during a half-hour of gameplay.

  11. ok, this is a hands on, not a review. Don’t be so quick to cry foul. While Cavalli can be a tool occasionally, dude knows his games.

  12. I actually am siding with Cavalli on this one. I think by calling the thing a “hands-on” and stating he only spent a half hour with it, the reader has enough information to properly parse the context of his preview.

  13. Siding with him on what? I don’t think there are “sides” here, just the question of whether you can make conclusions about the entirety of a game after half an hour’s play.

    His general impressions are interesting and well-considered, given the context and access provided. But 30 minutes is not enough time to present such impressions as conclusions or judgments, especially regarding such things as a game’s “entire world,” such as he refers to. Nor it is reasonable to describe the writing as fanfic and as a “key problem” — particularly when you have only seen a press demo.

    Another quote: “The entire thing simply feels like it’s trying too hard to adhere to the tenets of its predecessors.”

    There’s that word again. The *entire* thing? In 30 minutes? Not a chance.

  14. To be fair, if it’s similar to all of bethesda’s other games, 30 minutes of play time is more than enough time to get a hold of the mechanics, and at that point you had better like it, because it’s going to be pretty much the same deal for the next 99.5 hours.

    The whole thing that made fallout great was that it was so engrossing. I’ve beaten both fallout games numerous times, and different ways each time, and I’d have to say that I was fairly addicted to both the characters and the setting in less than 30 minutes. If Fallout 3 can’t pull it off, than it can sit with the other black sheep, “Brotherhood of Steel”, covered in dust on my shelf.

  15. Those citing the “100 hour” figure do keep in mind that those numbers usually come from the developer themselves, and are a hype-penis that they will engorge in any way they can possibly justify.

    It basically means that if you methodically obsessed over each and every opportunity to pursue an action in the game to OCD completion, it’d take you 100 hours. The full game experience seen by any individual player could easily be 1/3 of that, or less.

    Given that most of the “hours” in Oblivion assumed you repeatedly ran through all the little effectively identical cookie-cutter caves they tossed out onto the map for you like they were offering a beer-bottle cap to a bemused raven… who knows how many of those “100 hours” are based on an assumption that you will find great joy in repeating the exact same scenario dozens of times in slightly different-looking surroundings made of the same modular components.

  16. I was once a video game reviewer myself. I had the opportunity to review the “Mario Bros” arcade game when it was first introduced as a “Donkey Kong” spinoff. I said it was much too hard and had none of the charm of DK.

    To my eternal regret. As this fool will no doubt be feeling.

  17. He didn’t sound that harsh to me. He praised the gameplay. As for how Falloutish it is, as long as it’s a good game, I don’t really care (and I loved 1 and 2, I’m just not religious about it).

  18. I really enjoyed Fallout 1 & 2, but there were some bug issues with one of them, I don’t remember which (2, I’m thinking). I also played Wasteland back in the days of the Commodore 64 and appreciate that they kept some of the same humor and and thematic approach. I had heard that Fallout was kind of an unofficial tribute or sequel to Wasteland in internet rumor-dom.

    Anyway, as long as it isn’t another “Brotherhood of Steel,” and is a little more geared toward thinking adults with a sense of humor, rather than 15 year old boys, it should be good.

  19. So what if he played the game for only 30 minutes and based an opinion on that, just take a look at other “hands on/previews” especially those before E3, by people who didn’t even had those 30 minutes to see the game and praised it to high heavens, called it the next “game of the year”, and what not. Those so called journalist were like brainwashed zombies, they just repeated feature sheet that Bethesda gave them. Unfortunately because of those highly contradicting previews and too much hype I won’t be able to have any grasp as what the game is going to look like until it actually hits the shelves.

  20. Basically, most of these comments are saying 30 minutes is too short to make a negative opinion. But, 30 minutes is long enough to form a positive one, right?

  21. You can finish fallout 1 in under thirty minutes and although the article was pretty bad their have been some pretty bad positive previews with misinformation in them that haven’t had multiple articles by other journalists on the internet written about them

  22. oh common.. look at gameplay video of diablo 3 (~20 min) -its enought for me to understand – this game the same as original and i like graphics, sound and gameplay. what about f3 – it looks creepy, sounds creepy and plays (as i see on video) like game i dont wanna play. dummy ai, old graphix and etc. so why everybody so agressive about it – 30 min enougth to get your own opinion i guess.

  23. Folks,
    The original Fallout 1/2 was not a entirely great game either. They both had their flaws – especially looking at them now. Bugs, crashes, quest issues (dull and boring dialogs anyone ? , also, every time you went into wastepand and you got into some fights, most otf them were dully repeatable (wasps / dogs / wasps / dogs / raiders / wasps etc).
    so lets just stop mambling and wait for the game, its a fekkin FPS so the combat looks like FPS whats there to add ? I mean, i really dont get people saying it looks like COD or something, it does because of the game engine, but it as well might have the same feeling like the originals. Heck, at this point we shouldnt really even say “the original fallout” because part 3 its not like a remake or something, its a different game altogether.
    Its a new game, new engine that powers it, its not going to be perfect or real or anything close to it. But its fallout, its a post-apocalyptic world full of bad things waiting to happen to you, so grab your rifle and off you go, let alone the fact the game’s done be something we should be happy of. I mean seriously, stop bitching. its fallout and its going to be great.

  24. Huh. Wonder how I missed this before.

    Allow me to clear up a few misconceptions about that piece. First, it isn’t a review. I agree with everyone who said that 30 minutes is far from enough time to review a game, so the article was pretty clearly labeled as a “Hands-On” preview. It’s even in the title.

    Then again, the amount of confusion it generated may indicate that it wasn’t as clear as it should have been.

    Second, now that Fallout 3 is out, did anyone actually play it for “100 hours?” I beat the game and did something like 80% of the side quests in my main play through and that was just shy of 40 hours.

    Third, I’ll point out the review that I did eventually compile for Wired on the title: http://blog.wired.com/games/2008/10/incomplete—-r.html
    The flaws I found in the hands-on were also present when I played the full game and I said as much in the newer piece. It’s far from a bad game, but it lacks the dark humor and clever writing to ensure true “classic” status.

    Finally, I wouldn’t so much call myself “contrarian” as I’d say that I just don’t get a literal hard-on for games like certain websites do. IGN, Gamespot, 1up and their ilk all hand out perfect scores like a pedophile hands out free candy, and it only serves to completely fuck up the review system for the rest of us. In my 3 years of doing this sort of thing for cash money I think I’ve given 2 perfect scores, and as you can see from my Fallout 3 piece I’m even rather wary about handing out 9s to games that actually have tangible flaws.

    But hell, I fully support everyone’s right to call me an idiot. I get paid specifically to air my views and bear the backlash they generate, and I’d never deny anyone’s right to disagree with anyone else, particularly if they’re clever about using their swears.

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