From a gamer's perspective making a game go from PC to console and from 2D to 3D is one of the bolder moves a company can make. The two first Fallout games gathered a huge fan-base because of their style, story, and excellent gameplay. When something works as well as Fallout did, the fans usually want more of the same, which would’ve been Fallout 3 – and instead we got Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, which does have a certain Fallout look and feel to it, but doesn’t really play much like it.
As you may have expected the storyline takes place in an alternate reality. Some time after the 1950s some serious nuclear warfare took place, leaving much of the world in radioactive ruin. When gameworlds get radioactive, foul things tend to happen, and in this case mutants started appearing. Unfortunately these mutants aren’t your everyday run-of-the-mill zombie mutant, so it didn’t take long until they started capturing and “converting” people into their kind. Furthermore, a gang called the Raiders has been causing trouble, led by a sexy, but lethal female. Fortunately a small group of people called the Brotherhood of Steel started fighting back, so maybe there’s a glimmer of hope after all.
When starting the game you choose between one of three characters; a female, a rather huge male, and some guy who looks like a half-mutant. Each of these characters has his own proficiencies, can use different special attacks, and so on. The game begins with you taking an interest in the Brotherhood of Steel. You want to join their ranks, but first you need to actually track them down, which isn’t easy in itself. During the game you’ll run around in a few towns, save a bar, look for a prostitute’s cat (named Mr. Pussy, of all things), save innocent people, etc. Even though the game has a set of main quests, it can be smart to talk with the various NPCs, because the quests they offer might just let you afford that armor upgrade you wanted, or get you a deadlier tool of destruction. There aren’t a lot of vendors in the game, so you’ll find most of what you need fighting bad guys. During your adventure you’ll fight the Raiders, who are at least technically human. You’ll fight huge scorpions, some of which have powers augmented by the radioactive waste. Many of the quests culminate in a boss fight, most of which provide a decent challenge.
What actually tends to make the game a bit tricky is the distribution of stimpacks (for health), or rather the lack of. Since you won’t find a lot of vendors to buy stims off, it can be a smart move to let your character regenerate his or her hitpoints, saving the stims for harder fights. Fortunately it doesn’t take long to regenerate your health, and you’ll find saving “stations” every other minute.
As you spend time kicking ass you’ll obviously earn experience points. When you get to a certain point you level up, meaning your health increases and you’re given a certain number of points that you can spend on abilities. The entire abilities list is quite long, but they can boost your armor, melee / ranged damage, let you dodge more, give you special attacks, and more. Each can be upgraded about five times or so, at an increase in point cost, but also in effectiveness.
Managing the inventory is also pretty easy. Pressing the select button brings up several menus that you can cycle through. The inventory is split into weapons, armor, and other kinds of items like stimpacks and so on. To dress up your character you just activate or deactivate whatever is in your inventory. Weapons are slightly different, because here you equip up to three weapons, which can be cycled through while playing using the black and the white button on your XBOX controller. This takes a little while to get used to, but it works reasonably well after a while. The weapons you’ll find are actually pretty cool. You start off with a rather bad home-made pistol, but as you progress you’ll stumble across energy guns, shotguns, combat knives, rifles, boxing gloves with miniature flamethrowers on top, a baseball bat, a torch, and a whole lot more. In most games of its kind, it’s usually best to specialize in either melee or ranged, but in this game you’ll actually need both a lot. Some creatures can be disposed off fairly easily with for instance a torch, but if they’re trying to fire radioactive goo on you, then a desert eagle can be much more efficient, and safer for your health.
So, how does the game play? That’s the ultimate question really. Well, it’s far from turn based – that’s for sure. The game uses a overhead view of the game where you move using the left stick and rotate the camera using the right. The game feels similar to games like Take No Prisoners and other overhead run-and-gun games, but what separates it a bit from the crowd is the storyline, character customization, and fairly good weapon assortment. I do wish the controller would rumble more when you attacked, just so it felt a little less repetitive, and a bit cooler.
Graphically it looks fairly nice too. The developers obviously wanted to have a similar style compared to the previous games, but honestly it’s far from as detailed as the 2d drawings. Some nice pixel shaders are used on metal, water, and a couple of other things, so that doesn’t hurt. I can’t say Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel pushes the XBOX’s graphical boundaries, but it could easily have looked worse. The characters look rather bad, but that’s much because of the overhead view.
The audio isn’t too shabby either. Most of the voice talents did good or even great jobs, so it matches the whole southern-themed area. The music is a bit repetitive, but it doesn’t have that many loud recurring beats, so it doesn’t get on your nerves that easily.
A cooperative multiplayer mode would’ve been fun in Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, but there’s no such thing as multiplayer in this game, so we’re left with the dream.
I wanted Fallout 3. I really, really wanted Fallout 3. In my opinion it’s unfortunate that Interplay wanted to go with consoles and 3D instead of continuing what we all know kicked ass on the PC. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel isn’t a bad game, but it’s far from memorable. It’ll keep you entertained for a good 10-12 hours, but beyond unlocking harder difficulties there’s not much replay value. I think this is a game for those who thought Fallout was too hard, or too weird, but if you were a die-hard fan of the games, then a rental will be enough. Those simply looking for a new action game might like the game for its good arsenal of weapons and foul language, but in my opinion it’s not a game worth owning.