Fallout 3 would have easily been my pick for game of the year — until I finished it.
What happened, Bethesda Softworks? Run out of money for writers and artists after filling a post-apocalyptic world full of pathos and intrigue?
There is probably 100 hours worth of stuff to do in Fallout 3, but don’t count the main story quest among them. The ending makes little sense, and doesn’t allow you to continue to explore what is otherwise an astounding experience.
I walked all over the virtual map in Fallout’s post-nuclear wasteland (the remnants of Washington, D.C., and the surrounding territory), and I found things that made my heart sink. An abandoned home with a child’s skeleton in a room full of toys. The remains of the Lincoln Memorial, with a headless statue keeping watch over the irradiated National Mall. An audio recording of a father, hiding from deadly creatures, telling his daughter that he’s sorry he won’t be there for her as she grows up. A nuclear explosion that takes the lives of dozens of people you know (and that you had a hand in detonating).
There are little moments in Fallout 3 that make up for the over-the-top ones, like the cartoonish gore, the idiotic AI and even a crashed UFO. What can’t be overlooked, though, is a main story that comes off as an afterthought more than a unifying theme.
I’d still heartily recommend it, but it was so close to being a classic that it’s almost as tragic as the setting.