For her entire life, the Vault Dweller had slept on a small cot in a small room of the dilapidated fallout shelter of Vault 101. She lived under the totalitarian rule of the Overseer and saw him clash with her idealist father, James. One morning, after 17 years of dull, tranquil life, she awoke to the news that her father had broken the one rule of Vault 101: no one ever leaves.
Deemed a menace to the peace of the vault, she escaped into a world more horrifying than she could ever imagine, the Capitol Wasteland. With a post-nuclear holocaust Washington, D.C., ahead of her, she set out to find her father and discover the purpose of his actions and the part she’ll play in his attempt to save the world.
The Capitol Wasteland is an eerily familiar place. The U.S. Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, even the National Archives are recreated as rundown husks of their former glory. Filled with giant scorpions, violent mutants and anarchic Mad Max-look-alike Raiders, these former bastions of America’s success are overrun with all manner of evil.
The only way to stop evil, in the world of Fallout 3, is with all manner of grungy, do-it-yourself weapons. Average weapons like assault rifles, pistols and the occasional missile launcher exist (as well as science fiction staples like mini-nukes and laser weapons), but the real shining stars of the Fallout series are the homemade variety. Freddie Kruger gloves made from the hands of velociraptor-like reptiles, the Rock-It Launcher that relies on empty soda cans and cigarette cartons as ammo, and my personal favorite, the Railway Rifle, a steam-powered gun that fires railway spikes as bullets (with an obligatory toot of a train whistle after each shot) are just a few examples.
Fallout’s story revolves around the exploits of James, the vault exile. James seeks a way to honor his wife’s memory by devising a way to purify the irradiated waters of the Potomac River’s tidal basin. The player’s job is to assist James and later, ensure the remnants of the national government, the Enclave, doesn’t destroy everything her father has worked for.
But the main quest only takes around eight to ten hours to finish. The real bulk of the game takes place in one of the many secondary quests. Exploring the entire world of Fallout 3 can take anywhere over 40 hours to complete. Little gems lurk around every corner, like small settlements of people who have developed a rather bloody appetite for other survivors or even an apocalyptic Pinocchio, an android who wants to be a man.
Fallout 3 shows that great games don’t need to be over-the-top bloodbaths (although the game doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to shootouts) or be about a plumber looking for a princess. It shows that while a nuclear holocaust spells disaster for most people, it can also be a lot of fun.