Reviewed: April 23, 2004
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: January 13, 2004
While PC gamers were lamenting the loss of Fallout 3, a residual effect of the closing of Black Isle Studios, Xbox owners were getting excited about this cult favorite finally making its debut arrival in the console world.
Fallout: Bortherhood of Steel takes place in the world created for the first two PC games but is not a sequel. You play as a group of rogue survivors in a post-apocalyptic world populated with radioactive mutants. The Brotherhood of Steel is the fighting force called upon to go up against this mutant threat. The entire premise is very reminiscent of the Terminator future, only they are replacing robots with mutants bent on the destruction of the human race.
Brotherhood of Steel features:
If youíve played any of Interplayís other action-RPG games you probably know what to expect. Using Snowblindís increasingly popular engine (Champions of Norrath, Baldurís Gate: Dark Alliance), the gameplay is primarily action oriented with a subtle leveling-up and skill point system to give them enough reason to call it an RPG.
You get to pick from three character classes, each with several unique skills and over a dozen that are shared among all three characters. Cyrus and Nadia are both human while Cain is a ghoul, quite creepy and a total badass. All three characters offer a unique approach to the game that will likely have you wanting to replay until you have explored all their subtle nuances.
Most of your time in Fallout will be spent fighting endless hordes of mutants, and this is where the wonderful command and combat interface come into play. There is a great lock-on feature that lets you target an enemy either with a ranged or melee weapon. Once locked on you can circle-strafe and do tumbles to dodge their attacks.
While the auto-locking works for the most part there are times when you really need to be attacking something other than the closest target facing you. Itís not a serious issue in a way that is detrimental to the gameplay but it can get confusing at times from a tactical standpoint.
The selection of weapons is vast and wickedly cool. Whether you are using rifles, melee weapons, or homemade explosives, there is always some unique way to destroy those nasty mutants. The weapons complement each other in multiplayer so you can have one person using ranged weapons while a melee fighter protects the other player.
Fallout is a 3D game played from a 2D perspective that isnít as isometric as you might expect. In some ways the gameplay reminded me of the old Gauntlet games, and as such you lose a lot of detail in the characters and the environments. For this reason alone I found it very hard to get caught up in the gameplay. Everything just seemed very distant and detached. The camera also has a mind of its own in some instances, dropping down close for conversations with NPCís or zooming or panning to get a scripted shot of a specific event.
Ultimately, Brotherhood of Steel becomes just another button masher, not so different from games like Baldurís Gate, Gauntlet, or Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes, and with the inclusion of a two-player cooperative mode the similarities are even more apparent.
Brotherhood of Steel looks just as good as any of the other games that share the Snowblind engine, however the elevated and more distant camera not only eliminates a lot of the details but actually makes the game slightly more difficult to play with the exception of the larger-scale battles.
The levels are quite original and surprisingly diverse, although I found a few of the environments a bit dark, but Iím sure this was intentional to showcase the colorful lighting effects and flashy explosions complete with particle effects. The textures are varied and nicely detailed, but you never really get close enough to see any flaws if they do exist. As good as the graphics are, Snowblind engine has seen its day and Fallout is simply not up to Xbox standards this far into the systemís life.
The menus are clean and easy to navigate and the HUD is informative while remaining non-intrusive. The mini-map works quite well and the weapon icons are easy to identify. The character information screen is also laid out nicely and itís easy to reference important information quickly.
The sounds in Fallout are very good with excellent weapon effects, explosions, and environmental noises. The dialogue is very funny, bordering on hysterical at times with plenty of explicatives to warrant that M rating.
SKINLAB, Slipknot, Messhugha, Chimaira, Killswitch Engage, and Klayton joined forces to create the soundtrack that is just as harsh as the language and the environments in this game. Personally, itís not my favorite genre and the music wasnít consistent throughout the game. The opening song was nice enough but then there were long periods of no music followed by searing rock during the boss fights. The final chapter offered some interesting atmospheric tunes that only emphasized the lack of music in the previous chapters.
Fans of the action-RPG genre will find about 10-12 hours of enjoyment with Brotherhood of Steel. Admittedly, itís a button-masher, but it never pretends to be anything more, and the inclusion of the cooperative two-player mode will breathe a little more life into the title if you have a friend to share the experience.
Perhaps it was because I had just finished Dark Alliance II but I couldnít help but think Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel was a bit of a cookie-cutter game that was simply taking an established engine and an established genre and putting a post-apocalyptic facelift on it. I suppose if you enjoy grenades over spells and machines guns versus swords then Fallout would be a logical choice for your RPG experience.
The adult humor was actually refreshing but will ultimately alienate the younger teen crowd, and fans of the original PC games will find plenty to complain about. Itís been a long time since I played the original Fallout on the PC, but I distinctly remember it being a lot more fun than I had this time around. This is a good game that should and could have been so much more. It might be ok as a rental or even a budget purchase but only serious action-RPG fans will likely even care to try it.