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Fallout - The Brotherhood of Steel Review (Xbox)
Chris 'limesix' Rediske, 2004-04-05

By now, fans of the classic Fallout series of RPGs are just getting used to the idea that we may never get to play Fallout 3. After months of speculation and postings on webboards and confirmations of features and building of excitement, the erstwhile Van Buren was quietly done away with, along with the majority (if not all) of the players that made up Black Isle Studios, where Fallout made its home. In the meantime, Interplay (Black Isle's parent company) was busily readying an Action-RPG based in the Fallout universe - Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel. As you might expect, it makes a poor consolation prize for those of us salivating for Fallout 3. Unfortunately for Interplay (and for us), it's also a pretty poor excuse for a game.

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It seems like a recipe for success - run around the Fallout universe blowing enemies to kingdom come - and there is some fun to be had here. There are plenty of nods to the classic games - weapons have the same names, areas and events from Fallout 1 and 2 are referred to winkingly, radscorpions and mutants are in plentiful supply - you even run into the ghoul Harold (and recover some lost body parts for him). Combat is simple - you target with the R trigger and fire with A. You can strafe while firing, jump, toggle between weapons with the black and white buttons (you can equip up to three at a time). However, even here some deficiencies are obvious - where's the gore? Fallout 1 & 2 had some of the most inventive death animations of all time, so you'd think BOS would at least have that going for it… not so. Enemies fall over when killed, or explode, if you've done enough damage. That's it… and it's boring.

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And the boredom is pervasive. The fighting can be tense and somewhat strategic - for the first few levels. However, the more hours you put into the game, the more you realize that it's repetitive, and far less engaging than the thematically similar Dark Alliance games. Basically, for each mission, there will be three or four areas to clear of enemies. You clear one, move to the next, then the next, then the next, then head back to the quest giver, then the plot moves slightly forward, then you have to do the exact same thing again. In general, there are one or two types of enemies in a level, and you might have to fight them all again on the way out, as they've miraculously respawned. It's the kind of lazy level design that you can forgive for one level or two, but when the entire game consists of little more than this, it quickly gets tiresome.

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The weapons are fun and varied, and they really do serve different purposes - shotguns for close battles, the rifle for range, the pistols for a balance of the two, energy weapons and explosives to really wreak havoc. However, ammo can be quite scarce, and it's very possible to get stuck in the middle of a long level with only ammo for your most useless weapon. Plan on spending most of your caps on ammo, and make sure it's for the weapons you actually want to use.

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Fallout: BOS uses the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance engine, to varying effect. It suffers somewhat from the sequel feature moratorium - namely that any improvements to the engine were reserved for the Dark Alliance sequel, while BOS is left to labor with an older version of the engine, much like Icewind Dale had to make due without all the Infinity Engine improvements that Baldur's Gate 2 later debuted. However, BOS adds some odd quirks to a perfectly adequate engine, and ends up detracting from the experience because of them. First, the perspective is fixed, with no zooming options. In addition, the perspective is at a sharper angle than in Dark Alliance, resulting in a reduced viewing distance, which seems odd for a game where guns are the main weapon. There are other minor changes in the interface and inventory screens, and none of them are positive.

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The story is passable but obvious, and told mainly through conversations with NPCs. The voice acting ranges from pretty good to pretty damn bad, and there's plenty of profanity to go around… but considering the setting, I didn't find it out of place or excessive. If games are going to be made for adults, they should be able to have adult language. The character models speaking the lines, however, are generally atrocious, especially in comparison to Dark Alliance. The game looks OK otherwise, with no real improvements on the engine, or anything that messes it up too badly. Sound is passable - some sound effects suffer from obvious clipping, but most are fitting and adequate.

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Which is about all that can be said for the game as a whole. It's basically a barely adequate piece of entertainment, suitable for a weekend rental. Looks OK, plays OK, gets a bit boring my halfway through. What's ironic about the whole thing is that the people most likely to be attracted to Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel are the same people that Interplay screwed over by canceling Fallout 3 - the fans. It's not a good enough game to draw in casual gamers looking for a good action-RPG, and it's going to disappoint fans of the series, which makes it a lot like the latest Liz Phair CD - it's not really going to satisfy anyone. Screw it, I'm firing up the PC and playing through Fallout 2 again - I've had enough of this crap.

The Verdict
Graphics (15%) 75%
Sound (15%) 70%
Control (25%) 80%
Fun (45%) 50%
Overall 64%

The ups and downs:
Well, it's Fallout...kind ofHowever it's not Fallout 3

Reviewer's System
Version: Xbox

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