Were you old enough to enjoy 1 & 2 at the time of their release? If so, then you are old enough to play Fallout 3.

Game Release Date: October 28th, 2008.
Game Review Date: November 17th, 2008.
ESRB rating: Mature

Fallout 3's release has garnered controversy, despite its impressive sales. The Fallout series was initially started by Black Isle Studios in 1997, which has since closed, & the license was picked up by Bethesda Game Series. The overall theme is retro-future post-apocalyptic. Let me explain. Imagine a post World War II vision of the future 200 years after nuclear Armageddon. The music resembles 1940's pop, computers are bulky, & glimpses at pre-war culture have a "Leave it to Beaver" feel. Add to that all the trappings of a Mad Max movie & you are getting close to the intriguing black comedy world of Fallout.

The game play approximates the basic role playing game (RPG) .RPG's follow the concepts laid out by Dungeons & Dragons . One creates a unique character with unique abilities (for instance, devoting points to charisma or strength). As one progresses, one further develops skills which aid your quest (i.e. maximizing lock picking skills, firearms, or speech, etc.). These skill sets enable a character with multiple means in which to interact with their environment dependent on their various strengths & weaknesses. Further, many quests require making moral decisions, which will influence a character's Karma, both good and bad.

An RPG typically allows options; a good path, or a bad path. In Fallout 3, if one chooses a good path, one can choose to be very good. The developers tout that the main quest can be completed with the player killing only one roach. Thus, if you are not a fan of violence, one could avoid it (albeit with great difficulty). It's far easier to advance the game by engaging in combat. On the other hand, if one chooses a bad path, one can be very bad. Contract killings, selling people into slavery, cannibalism ,and destroying a small town with a nuclear weapons are all options as well. Of course the game does have its limits. Although prostitution is present, there is no nudity. Also, killing children is a no-no. Language is coarse, and kills can be graphic. However, these tend to keep in line with what you'd expect from most games of the genre.

The production quality is top of the line. The world to explore (the Washington DC metro area) is vast. The voice acting is excellent (Liam Neeson, & Malcolm McDowell among others). There are complaints that the character movements are stiff. I've played approximately 40 hours, exploring many side quests, and I am nowhere near to completing the story, so you definitely get your money's worth.

Areas of controversy develop around drug use. Alcohol is present & does affect player statistics. This is fairly common for RPG's. Game drugs have real-life equivalents (buff=steroids, jet=meth). Australia felt the depiction of drug use was too strong, & representation of its use was toned down for release. Interestingly, drug use in Fallout 3 can result in addiction, causing negative effects for the player. Throughout the game, there are persons encountered struggling with substance abuse issues.

In conclusion, it's an epic game with a wonderful sense of humor for anyone who enjoys RPG's. Questions have been raised about the moral content, but those decisions rest with the player. Of course the ESRB rating is Mature (17+), which is very appropriate, & hopefully will guarantee an audience old enough to allow their moral compass to influence the game, instead of the game influencing them.

Dale Peeples M.D.
dpeeples@mail.mcg.edu