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Developer: Black Isle Studios
Publisher: Interplay
Platform: PC
Release Date: November 1998

by Jonas Kyratzes

Review Date: November 9, 2002

Fallout 2 -  PC box front



I loved the first Fallout game. I really, really did. The post-apocalyptic atmosphere was incredible, the gameplay was revolutionary, and it was as addictive as hell. So when Fallout 2 came out, I couldn't wait to get it. But could the success of Fallout 1 be repeated? The answer is yes.

STORY

Fallout 2 is set in the same world as Fallout 1 - Earth after a nuclear apocalypse. The surface is one huge desert, full of gangs, mutants, and large amounts of radiation. People live in cities that are full of dust and trash, in buildings that are barely standing. Violence, murder and prostitution abound. It's not a pretty world.


Some humans survived the war in underground vaults. In Fallout 1 you played such a human - the Vault Dweller, as he is now known. You were sent out of Vault 13 to find a water chip, as the base's water chip no longer worked. In the outside world, you met many people and learned many new things. You found the water chip, but your quest was not yet over, for there was a threat to be defeated: a creature called the Master, which wanted to turn everybody into a mutant. When you defeated him, you returned to your people as a hero - only to be exiled for being too different. Fallout 1 ended with our hero walking off into the desert.

click to enlarge -  Fallout 2 screenshot


Now, in Fallout 2, we finally learn what happened to him. He traveled to the north and founded a small village, Arroyo. There he lived out the rest of his life. But now, after many years have passed, Arroyo is dying. The Garden of Eden Creation Kit (the GECK) is needed to save the village. You, the descendant of the Vault Dweller, must go out into the far world to find it. And there is more waiting for you out there than you could ever imagine.

The story gets an A.


click to enlarge -  Fallout 2 screenshot

ATMOSPHERE

The atmosphere in Fallout 2 is similar to that of Fallout 1. You could call it a 'retro apocalypse'. The videos in the beginning look like they're straight out of the fifties, and so do a lot of other game elements. The game world itself is bleak, dark, and depressing, but there's also a lot of black humor. This may sound like a strange enough mix, but add to that hundreds of small pop culture jokes, movie references and some Monty Python insanity, and you've got Fallout. Fallout 2 has an interesting new addition, which is the 'tribal' element - you belong to a tribe, and you meet several other tribals during your travels. This makes the atmosphere even stranger and even more compelling.

The atmosphere gets an A+.


GAMEPLAY

You start out by creating your character. This is a lot of fun, as there are many skills, stats and traits. You can create a really detailed character. There are several things about the character creation system that I particularly liked.

All your statistics (Strength, Endurance, Intelligence, etc) start at 5, and you can increase them up to 10 (or decrease them). You don't have a lot of points for increasing your stats, and that is a good thing. You will never see a 10/10/10/10/10/10/10 character in this game. Each and every stat points makes a huge difference in the game itself, so you have to choose very wisely. Every stat is equally important and does a lot more than just raise your skills. If you have a low intelligence, your character will only be able to say stupid things. If you have low charisma, everybody will hate you. If you have low luck, you'll probably blow your own foot off. And so on. This stat system allows you to create a truly unique character with interesting abilities and disabilities.

click to enlarge -  Fallout 2 screenshot


The skill system (pretty much identical to that of Fallout 1) is also great. There are many skills, and many are non-combat skills such as Science or Speech. Non-combat skills are just as important as combat skills. You also don't get all that many points to increase them, so again you have to choose wisely.

Then there are traits, a truly wonderful idea. You can choose up to two traits for your character. Traits are unique characteristics that your character has, such as being particularly strong but not very quick, or being able to shoot two-handed weapons with only one hand. All of these traits have good effects and bad effects, and they greatly influence gameplay.

Later in the game you can also choose perks - one every three levels. These are similar to traits, the difference being that they don't have any negative side effects. Perks let you further enhance and refine your character. The result of this character creation system is that character creation and development is a lot of fun and allows you to create really unique characters. The fact that every character is unique and plays in a unique way also adds to the game's replayability. I have replayed Fallout 2 many times with different characters, and the game was different every time.

The game's conversation system mirrors the game's nonlinear nature. You can choose what to say, and your choices matter. Be friendly with a character, and he might help you with something later. Be unfriendly, and he and his buddies might try to kill you. Or you could just shoot him. That's what Fallout is like - you have to choose. You can kill an entire town if you wish to, but you'll have to deal with the consequences. You could go through a large part of the game without killing anyone - I did. But in the end, you will probably be forced to fight a few times. And fighting in Fallout is so much fun.

The combat system in Fallout is the best I have ever encountered. It's turn based, and you have a certain amount of action points each round. These depend on your stats, and so does the sequence of movement. If you're really quick, you get to move/shoot/etc first. If you're slow, the enemy shoots first. Now to the shooting: using one of the hundreds of different weapons there are, you can shoot every opponent full of holes. There are many options. You can choose to target a specific body part (the leg, the head, the eyes, the groin *ouch*), you can start shooting like a maniac (burst), or you can just punch the crap out of them.

I must warn you that the game is extremely violent (and often extremely funny). All sorts of body parts fly around the screen, and there is a whole lot of blood. But it's all in good humor. There's even a trait called 'Bloody Mess' which makes your opponents die in the most violent manner possible. The little illustration that you see when you choose that trait is particularly funny.

Fallout 2 is a game of options. You can do so many things that it's almost impossible to get bored. There are tons of side-quests, hundreds upon hundreds of items, almost as many characters, and more baddies to kill than you could imagine. I could go on and on about the level of detail, but this is a review, not a book. Just believe me when I tell you that it's great.

The gameplay gets an A++.


GRAPHICS

Some people complain about the graphics in Fallout 2 because they are too similar to those in Fallout 1. I think that's silly, because the graphics in Fallout 1 were just right. The isometric perspective is practical and keeps you from having to move the camera all the time or nonsense like which plagues 3D games. The character models are detailed and interesting, and everything looks very realistic. The drab colours are monotonous, but that's the point. Would you like a game set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland to be full of bright colours?

The graphics help create the game's great atmosphere, and I wouldn't change them even if I could.

The graphics get an A-.

click to enlarge -  Fallout 2 screenshot


MUSIC AND SOUND

The game's sound is also great. There is no loud music preventing you from concentrating on the game. The music is ambient and becomes one with the game. It greatly adds to the game's haunting wasteland atmosphere. Sound effects are great and unique, never becoming boring.

Here and there you will find some characters which have voice-overs. The voices were done by professional actors and are really good.

Music and sound get an A.

IMPROVEMENTS

Fallout 2 is a sequel, so there should be some improvements, and there are several. The interface has been improved and is more useful. Interaction with the NPCs who join you has been improved. They can finally equip armor as well as weapons, and they even gain levels. You can also tell them to fight in specific ways (aggressive, defensive, etc).

A great improvement is the 'hand' icon which makes an NPC move out of your way. It was sorely needed in Fallout 1, where you would often get stuck in some narrow passage with an NPC blocking your way.

Fallout 2 is also much longer than Fallout 1, and there are no timed missions (OK, one, but it's really small).


click to enlarge -  Fallout 2 screenshot

SOME FINAL WORDS

Before you play the game, get the patch. Otherwise there will be a million bugs, which will all disappear when you patch the game. So get it.

If you like detailed and original RPGs, Fallout 2 is your game.


Final Grade: A+

System Requirements

Required:
  • Windows (R)r 95/98 CD-ROM
  • Pentium (TM) 90 or faster
  • 16 MB RAM
  • 30 MB available hard drive space
  • Direct X certified SCGA card
  • Direct X certified sound card
  • 4X or faster CD-ROM drive
  • Windows (R) 95/98/NT SP3 Only
  • 100% Microsoft-compatible mouse

    Recommended:

  • Pentium (tm) 120 or faster
  • 32 MB RAM
  • 150 MB hard disk space
  • DOES NOT WORK IN DOS


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