Review: Fallout: Brotherhood Of Steel (XB)

It’s been labeled Fallout for Non-Fallout fans, Fallout for Non-PC gamers, a festering sack of crap, Spelljammer but not in space, Baldur’s Gate: Nuclear Alliance, and a decent game.

And it’s only been out for a week.

Fallout: BoS is the latest game in the series that started in 1997 to critical acclaim. Fallout Tactics followed eventually, garnering the same kind of cult following the original Fallout had.

And now we have a Brotherhood of Steel. Which follows the Fallout Pattern of changing up the game style with each passing game. The first Fallout was an open ended, very violent game with a funny story and turn based combat. Fallout Tactics was well…it has Tactics in the title. Do you really need me to explain? And now we have BoS, which is a dungeon crawl real time action RPG using the classic Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance engine.

The game contains a lot of trademark Fallout features, from mature and funny dialogue, to send up’s of 50’s sci-fi movies. It looks and feels like a Fallout game, but yet it’s also obviously a Baldur’s Gate game. And I think that’s where the little bit of resentment to this game has come from. Fallout fans pissed because it plays different from the original Fallout, which is bloody stupid considering Fallout Tactics played differently from Fallout. And people who are Baldur’s Gate: DA fans having a cow because their precious engine following 3rd edition D&D was stripped down for a Fallout game. Which again I feel is stupid. But hey, what else is the Internet for except a place for people with marginal spelling ability and ever worse grammar to post diatribes on games that aren’t exactly like they were in their own personal masturbatory fantasies?

But enough pointing out the obvious, let’s get to it.

Let’s Review

1. Story.

It’s approximately the dawn of the 22nd century. Nuclear war occurred in 2077. Although the US government built nuclear proof housing called the vaults, little of humanity made it to their safehouses because they assumed the sirens and warnings of a nuclear war were in fact…a false alarm. After all, in 30 years, it had been teased so much, the thought of a glowing irradiated planet was akin to crying wolf. Especially as natural resources began drying up big time since 2025.

And with radiation came mutation. Some was natural, like the ghouls. Some was un-natural like the man-made Mutants, which were humans dipped in a vat of the Forced Evolutionary virus, which made people giant sized, and also totally psychotic.

However, a few humans banded together to create some sort of law and order in this new desolate world. They are called the Brotherhood of Steel, and that is where you character comes in.

You play one of three new initiates to the BoS, a big strapping black guy, a nimble and athletic redheaded woman, or a diseased sociopathic ghoul. Guess which I picked for my first run-through of the game?

You begin in the city of Carbon and in typical BG:DA fashion, you start doing little simple missions like killing a bunch of giant scorpions to saving a village, fighting a city of ghouls and uncovering a mutant conspiracy.

I find the story to be well written, with a good mix of black humour, drama, and a shitload of profanity. Where the other Fallout games earned their M rating from violent graphics, this game earned it from the sheer amount of times the word motherfucker appears in the text of this game. The way the game is able to be exceptionally linear and yet have the plot feel long and detailed is a credit to the writing of the game. Of course, BG:DA managed to do that as well.

If you’re looking for a game that manages to be a very adult game, but can still give you a few moments of sick hilarity, this is up your alley. It’s decidedly not BG:DA in story, but it’s still a good one.

Story Rating: 7/10

2. Graphics

Well, the opening cut scene that plays before you start the game is excellent. The cut scene that plays after you pick your character is…okay.

The problem is that it’s still the same BG:DA engine that kicked ass two years ago, but without any graphics updates. As well, BG:DA was shiny and colourful, and Fallout is dark and grungy, which means a lot of detail is blurred or just not there.

Some of the character models look excellent when you see them, such as a certain mystery character voiced by Duke from GI Joe, which totally had me marking out. But most of the characters look flat. Cain the ghoul is exceptionally ugly. And not because he’s undead. I mean he just looks like a blob on the screen. Same with Ruby the town hooker. She looks very…weird.

A lot of the graphics are average at best and often times it is hard to tell what something is. There’s a level where there are tons of bottomless pits, but it’s also nearly pitch black, even when wielding a torch and you just find yourself getting annoyed in those situations.

Still, some graphics, like the VERY large Radoscorpion are well done, and so is the town of Carbon. It really looks like a shitbox. But overall, the game is pretty lackluster in appearance, which is a shame, because the very real and graphic look of the original Fallout was a large part of its appeal.

Graphics Rating: 5/10

3. Sound

Nuclear Blues is the best song for a video game I have heard in a long long time. Cheesy. And yet very 1920’s southern blues to me. As well, BoS features groups like Killswitch engage, and Chimaira. And also Slipknot, who I despise as they are nothing but a bunch of third rate GWAR wanna-bes.

But the music is superb and one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard for a game in a long, long time. When the music plays actually.

The odd thing is, that with the amount of major name bands that Interplay got for this game, you’d think they’d have music always playing in this game. But in fact, there are long stretches of the game without any noise but the screams of the dying. And I actually like that. Every time music started, I’d jump or get paranoid something big was going to happen. And I loved that!

As well, the voice acting is top notch. A lot of great stereotypical southern accents, and a lot of familiar voice actors. I’ve already mentioned Mike Bell. I’ll let you find the others out on your own.

The game blew away with the sound quality and I have to admit, this more than made up for crappy graphics to me. I couldn’t think of better music or voice actors than what F:BoS ended up with, and it actually adds to the replay value because you enjoy the sounds so much. Best game in a very very long time in terms of audio.

Now if only they had included the ability to just play the songs…

Sound Rating: 10/10

4. Control

Okay. This is the engine that won best RPG in 2002. So anyone hating the engine is hating sheerly for the sake of hate. HOWEVER, the Baldur’s gate engine has been stripped down to remove any real traces of its D&D heritage. There are no stats to manage. Just health, armour and skill points which you can put into various things. It’s okay I guess, but I went in hoping to see what a ghoul’s constitution would be and to see how the names of the stats were changed without arousing WotC lawyers. And I find they did that by just cutting that part of the engine out altogether.

Controlwise, the game handles like a very advanced version of gauntlet. A button attacks, B button lets you charge a special attack, the triggers are for aiming and healing. And you can cycle through your inventory with the colour buttons.

The game handles like a dream. In fact, aside from a few graphical errors here and there (Is that a bottomless pit or a shallow lake…AIEEEEEEE) I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with the control scheme of this game. You’ll learn the controls damn near immediately and the game even gives you a tutorial JUST IN CASE. Very nice to see that.

The camera stick works beautifully, and aside from accidentally hitting the L trigger (Healing) instead of the R trigger (aiming) I never had a problem at all. Beautiful. Simply beautiful

Control Rating: 10/10

5. Replayability

With three characters to start with, and more to unlock, you’ll be playing this game more than once. Especially with the story and voice acting. All characters have different stats and abilities, but compared to BG:DA, they all play pretty much the same. SO I suggest playing as the ghoul as he actually can heal from radiation instead of taking damage and can get hit points for killing things dead. Nadia is the second best choice as she can use two weapons at once, can get a pet dog, and can heal from killing things as well. Cyrus is a waste.

Although the game is as linear as it gets, multiplayer gives it a whole new feel. ESPECIALLY when you turn friendly fire off. Like BG:DA, this may be a game you memorize the plot of completely, but it’s still always going to feel fresh and fun.

Replayability: 7/10

6. Balance

The game gets progressively tougher, but never really hard. In fact, I only died once in the whole game, and that was against a certain boss who set mines, and because of the graphics and the whole thing being rather dark, I couldn’t tell if what I was running over was a mine…or a healthy restoring Stimpack. Oy.

As I said above, all the characters play roughly the same with some unique differences.

Although a bit easy, the game makes up for this by making money somewhat hard to come by at times. Do you buy that new super weapon, or do you buy a crapload of stimpacks knowing you’ll need them later on.

But there are four levels of difficulty. And the book is right. On the highest difficulty, the game is very very hard. VERY HARD. Good for it. You can play at pansy all the way up to “Thanks for playing for five minutes. Now you are dead.’ Again, little things go a long way with me, and I was glad to see this.

Balance Rating: 8/10

7. Originality

Well…it’s the fourth Fallout game I believe. And the fourth game to use the BG engine (Others include BG:DA 1 and 2, and the upcoming Everquest game, Champions of Norrath). So there’s not much here that hasn’t already been done before.

I will admit I think the crossover between the two games is neat, but other than that, it’s just a good rehashed theme combined with a good rehashed engine.

Originality Rating: 4/10

8. Addictiveness

I got pretty into this game. I was constantly monitoring my XP level, telling myself “Just a few more butcherings so I can level up and then I’ll go do something else.’ I had a lot of fun with BoS, but I will admit I am a huge BG:DA fan, and that could be part of it. I enjoyed the story, loved the customization with weapon, armour and skills, and liked seeing what would happen next in the game. I enjoyed it far more than any other RPG I have for the Xbox right now save for Morrowind. I am sure BG:DA2 will replace it in my heart though. But for a brief and fickle time, Fallout: BoS is a game I cherish.

Plus it’s nice to have a Sci-Fi RPG once in a while…

Addictiveness Rating: 8/10

9. Appeal Factor

Fallout is a cult game. BG:DA is a cult game. You’d think combining the two would almost make it mainstream popular. But in fact a lot of people seem to be bitching about this game. Why I covered and dismissed above. But when the game has alienated a portion of its fan base of the bat, it’s not a good sign. Still, SNK fans bitch every time a new KoF game comes out and they still buy it and praise it after it is in their grubby little hands. So I’m sure the same will happen here.

Anyone looking for a very adult and violent RPG need look no further. And if you’re not an RPG fan, you’ll still be able to enjoy this game thanks to the real time action style play. If you’re not into profanity and hookers and killing things just because you can, you may want to look elsewhere for your gaming entertainment.

Appeal Factor: 6/10

10. Miscellaneous

It’s like Smash TV. But with a plot. And levels. And giant radioactive Scorpions. And a very fun multiplayer game. With hidden characters, various levels, a shitload of customization options and a great plot and even better voice acting, I can’t see any RPG on the horizon outdoing this one unless it is Dark Alliance 2 or PokeCol.

This game may be a stripped down version of the BG engine, but it still manages to pack in enough stuff to make the ten hours of gameplay worth the price tag.

Miscellaneous Rating: 8/10

Short Attention Span Summary
Two headed cows, machine guns, playable undead, and more four letters words than a drunken sailor convention. And yet the game still manages to be fun and witty. A game I’d recommend to just about anyone. Sure it’s ugly. But ugly babies need the most love.