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Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition
Score: 97%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Shooter/ Free-Roaming

Graphics & Sound:
After many months of waiting, PlayStation 3 owners can now have what is arguably the "complete" Fallout 3 experience. Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition is the compendium for a year's worth of downloadable content originally only available on the Xbox 360 and PC, along with the full game of last year's winner of numerous awards. So, is it worth the price of admission? Short answer: yes. For the long answer, keep reading.

As I mentioned last year, Fallout 3 is a beautiful game. The meticulous attention to detail sets a new standard for what the term "immersive experience" means. The Game of the Year Edition includes all five of the expansions that were released throughout the year, which includes: Broken Steel, Operation Anchorage, Point Lookout, The Pitt, and Mothership Zeta. Each of the five DLC packs is still based off of the original Fallout world, and while each one has a distinct theme that carries the visuals through to the end, the original graphics engine is already starting to show its age.

From the impossibly manicured spaceship of Mothership Zeta to the scary hillbilly scenery of Point Lookout, each expansion of the story still shows the earnest dedication to detail that we have come to expect from Bethesda. The effort pays off, because unlike any other game where strong visuals are meant to hide poor dialogue or crappy controls, the graphics and atmosphere of Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition creates charm and charisma like no other before it.

Each new character is still fully-voiced and acted well. There are still many familiar faces in some of the DLC, but the new characters will steal the show. One of my favorite characters was a Japanese Samurai who couldn't speak English but was clearly very angry, somehow managed to slaughter an entire platoon of alien soldiers all by himself. It's these type of moments that make the Fallout experience unique every time you play it. You never know what you will see or hear in the Wasteland.

Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition is a huge game. Easily spanning sixty hours for the main story quests alone, there is an awful lot of game on the disc. Instead of breaking down the basics of the main story or explaining where your dad went off to (you can read that in last year's review), I thought I would break down each of the five DLC add-ons one at a time in no particular order.

Since all of the DLC packs are on the disc, the moment you put in the disc for Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition, all five install themselves immediately. No matter where you are in the Wasteland, the first add-on will prove useful. Broken Steel is the only add-on that adds a fundamental difference to the game-world. Instead of capping out at level twenty, Dungeons and Dragons style, Broken Steel raises the level cap to thirty and still adds a slew of new quests after the main game story is complete. No matter which ending you earned, your character wakes up from a coma under the care of the remaining Brotherhood of Steel. Each of the subsequent quests focuses on helping the Brotherhood rid the Wasteland of any last remnants of the oppressive Enclave including escorting the enormous robotic weapon, Liberty Prime, one more time. Of all the add-ons, Broken Steel seems like the most unpolished. Numerous bugs, crashes and glitches mar an otherwise excellent chapter in the Fallout legacy.

Operation Anchorage, on the other hand, is much more subjective experience. After you seek out a radio signal and help a satellite group of Brotherhood soldiers, you have to use your Pip-Boy to unlock a vault. The vault can only be opened once you play out a simulated sequence that chronicles the events that led to the Great War that wiped out humanity. Set in Anchorage, Alaska, you are a frontline soldier that has to hold back the encroaching communist forces of the Chinese Army. After a quick infiltration mission, you are in command of your own squad as you attempt to take out the General of the opposing army. Unfortunately, this add-on actually does a disservice to the game's shooter system. You are only issued weapons that you find throughout the virtual simulation and you replenish health through health stations scattered throughout the battlefield. Fallout wasn't designed to be a shooter and shooting isn't its strong suit, even with V.A.T.S. Once again, freezes and glitches are plentiful and it most certainly does not ruin the enjoyment, but it can kill the momentum.

Trading the frozen tundra of Alaska for swampy marshland, Point Lookout is the most open-ended of all five packs. What is essentially a whole new area of the map to explore, Point Lookout has numerous quests and side-missions that will occupy many more hours of your time if you let it. Be warned though, this expansion was initially released after the level cap was raised, so the enemies in this area are much tougher than usual, even though they are wearing nothing but overalls. The local flavor of the residents is quite humorous whether it is the gentlemanly ghoul that is defending his mansion at all costs or the jerk of a riverboat captain that won't sell you a cheaper ticket - each new person is fully represented and realized in this world. Once again, the only downside to any Fallout story are the inevitable technicalities. At one point in the main story, a seemingly insignificant gameplay bug soon blossomed into a game-halting situation where I had to lose about two hours of progress to continue. It is incredibly aggravating to have to make so many concessions for such flaws in a game like Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition, but the core-game is so strong, it is like an addict going through withdrawal. You can lower your standards a lot to get your next fix, but at the end of the day, was it worth it? With Fallout, the answer is always an emphatic "Yes!"

The Pitt suffers the most from the compilation. Notoriously broken and buggy upon its initial release, Bethesda had to release three different patches before it was able to run smoothly. I don't think it is nearly as bad as its initial release, because it wasn't available on PS3 until now, but the common detriment of Fallout 3 still looms quietly in the shadows. The "Pitt" is short for Pittsburgh, as in the steel manufacturing capital of America. Or at least it was in the Fallout universe. The residents of The Pitt have all been mutated by the irradiated rivers that flow around the city and most of them have been taken into slavery because of their "condition." There are a few new quests like the other packs, and at least one cool new weapon, the "auto-axe," but I could not finish everything in The Pitt, so I haven't fully seen what it has to offer. Like Point Lookout, it, too, has its own map with new areas to explore and items to collect like steel ingots and the short time I spent there did seem like a lot of fun.

Lastly, my favorite additional chapter in the Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition is Mothership Zeta. It plays very similarly to Operation Anchorage, but I think the charm more than makes up for the gunplay. A mysterious alien signal is detected in the wastes and you discover an alien crash site. As you approach the spaceship, a beam of light pulls you toward the sky and you awaken surrounded by aliens performing a strange operation on your helpless body. You are deposited into a holding cell where you start to plan your escape. At first, you have to play dirty by ambushing your alien captors and beating them with their own shock batons. Soon enough, though, you retrieve all of your old equipment and the war in space begins. Some argue that the focus on action in this entry detracts from the overall experience. But with the super-powerful alien weaponry literally laying everywhere aboard the mothership, I would argue the focus isn't on the action, but on the set-pieces. Space-walks, death-rays, and horrifying alien experiments are all included in the final chapter of the epic saga, but being able to recruit a cowboy, a samurai, a spaceman, and a futuristic soldier all at once definitely trumps some shoddy aiming.

The best part of having all of the expansions on one Blu-ray disc is that you will never have to install it to the hard-drive. All of the quests are available from wherever your last saved your game, (except for the post-ending Broken Steel.) So whether you are still playing last year's copy or picking it up for the first time, there are still a few hundred hours of game to play.

Much like last year's game, Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition is what you make of it. Depending on your skills and perks, you might have a breeze blasting through every encounter with a Rock-It launcher or you may hate every fight because your shyster skills kept you out of harm's way. Either way, there is always enough of a challenge, no matter which skill path you travel towards.

The only thing that will affect every character is the save system. If you aren't already the type to save frequently and often, then you better start soon or be forced to repeat many sections of add-ons. The auto-save feature still works the same as it does in Fallout 3. Every time you enter a town, walk into a building, or complete a story event, the auto-save takes care of pesky checkpoints. It seems the developers forgot to add checkpoints to the beginning of each DLC. Far too often, I would have to travel across miles of Wasteland being hunted by killer robots and werewolves, only to find that once I start the new content and die before the first auto-save, I am booted back out to Wasteland before I found the DLC. It should save by default, but doing it manually is the only sure-fire way you know you won't have to repeat the same ten minutes of dialogue multiple times.

Game Mechanics:
The only real addition to the gameplay style of Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition are the added perks from level twenty to thirty. Some are incredibly useful, like an AP refill perk that replenishes your Action Points after every attack. Others feel contrived like the instant Good, Evil, and Neutral Karma perks that only feel useful for earning the trophies for reaching level thirty with each karmic state.

Many of you will still V.A.T.S. your way through combat, and while only two of the add-ons focus more on combat than story, it is starting to get bit tedious having to stop every time an enemy is in range. The system is by no means broken, but after killing over 100 Chinese soldiers, you will start to feel the repetition of it all. Although the five DLC add-ons are just as fantastic as the main game, I can't help but feel like Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition was a missed opportunity to fix some balance issues and severely buggy code.

Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition continues to be a great game even a full year after its initial release. The multiple content add-ons extend the lifespan of the original significantly and still hold the charm and attitude of what makes the series so special to so many. Although it still faces many technical issues, most memorably system freezes, Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition would easily be Game of the Year for 2009 if hadn't already been released last year. I couldn't recommend it harder.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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