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Developer:
Interplay
Publisher: Interplay
Platform: Xbox, PS2
Release Date: January 13, 2004

by Jason Ferguson




Fallout is one of the most beloved PC RPGs ever, so there were a lot of skeptics back when Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel made its way onto the consoles. Unfortunately, the skeptics were proven right, because Brotherhood of Steel is lacking in virtually every way.


Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel takes place on a post-apocalyptic earth, where civilization has shattered, and raiders and mutants rule the wastelands. You are a member of the Brotherhood of Steel, the unofficial peacekeeping force of the wasteland, and itís your job to fight back and restore some level of peace before all is lost. Unfortunately, the story takes a back seat to the hack-and-slash gameplay in Brotherhood of Steel, which is extremely sad because many RPG fans have fond memories of the story in Fallout.


Brotherhood of Steel is an action-RPG spin-off of the critically acclaimed Fallout. This adventure is similar to Baldurís Gate: Dark Alliance with its top-down perspective and hack-and-slash gameplay. Unfortunately, the final product doesn't live up to Dark Alliance, as gameplay is extremely repetitive and will likely grow dull in a matter of hours.


The RPG elements of the game have been heavily watered down since the original Fallout, and even some since Dark Alliance. As you obliterate enemies, your experience meter will fill up. Once itís totally full, youíll level up and gain skill points that you can distribute among your characterís skills. This will allow your character to learn new abilities or increase the strength of those that you already know. The original Fallout allowed players to totally define their characters by customizing their Primary stats. Everything from your skills to your HP and how much you could carry depended on how you set up your Primary stats, so it was an important part of the game. Because of this, there was a lot of opportunity to customize your character, and plenty of strategy involved in how you did it. That sort of depth and customization is totally missing from Brotherhood of Steel. Rather than creating your own character, you instead have three virtually identical characters to choose from.


In total, Brotherhood of Steel features 18 skills for each character to learn, some of which can be upgraded up to 5 times. There are also plenty of weapons and items to collect throughout the game, including pistols, knives, spiked baseball bats, and shotguns. While this is far from the customization that a Fallout fan will be seeking, it still adds a bit of depth to the game and helps to break up the monotony of hacking away at baddies all day.


If you're starting a new game, you can load a character from a previous game so that you don't have to start from scratch. The two-player mode is probably the best feature of the game, because the social aspect can make up for some of the shortcomings in the game. Beating enemies down can get pretty repetitive after a while, so having a buddy to talk to and enjoy the experience with will certainly add a lot. Although, I was disappointed to see that you canít resume a single-player game with a second player. Considering how mediocre this game was, I was hesitant to start all over in order to allow a second player to join in. There are four levels of difficulty to try your hand at, ranging from pansy to apocalyptic. If you simply canít get enough of the game, then the two-player mode and various difficulty levels will allow you to keep on playing.


Dungeons are extremely repetitive, and youíll often find yourself having to backtrack, which makes the whole experience even more boring. In combat, you can lock on to your enemies in order to assure success, and you can jump or roll out of the way to dodge an incoming attack. You can have up to three weapons equipped at the same time, and can switch between them by pressing the white button on your Xbox. This will come in handy when you need to quickly rotate from a melee weapon to a ranged weapon in the heat of battle. Should you find yourself hurting, the right trigger can be used to quickly use stimpaks for health. Outside of battle, the menus are simple and easy to navigate. Character upgrading is very straightforward and the zoomable maps make staying on track easy. If nothing else good can be said of Brotherhood of Steel, at least the controls are relatively friendly and the learning curve of the game is ridiculously small, so youíll have the hang of things in no time. On the negative side, by the time youíve got the hang of it, youíll probably already be sick of it. There's not much need to go into a lot of detail with the gameplay because there really isn't much to it.


Overall, Brotherhood of Steel isnít very deep or original. If youíve played Hunter: The Reckoning or Baldurís Gate: Dark Alliance, youíve already played superior versions of this game. While the Fallout label attached to the game might be enough to grab the interest of some RPG fans, it will probably leave most of them disappointed and yearning for a Fallout 3.


The game is several years old now, so obviously the graphics arenít up to date. However, they werenít particularly good for their time either. The camera is so far away from the action that you can never really see any sort of detail or effects. Sound effects, such as gunfire and monsters roaring, were decent, but the soundtrack seemed nonexistent and was certainly overshadowed by the sounds of battle.


In some ways, this game does manage to stay true to the Fallout series. The environments, enemies, equipment, and humor are exactly what a Fallout fan would expect. In many ways, the developers have managed to recreate the Fallout world, but they forgot all of the depth that made it interesting.


In short, diehard Fallout fans will be disappointed by Brotherhood of Steel, and even fans of hack-and-slash titles have much better options available to them. Itís a bargain bin-title by now, though, so itís at least worth a thought.


Final Grade: 53%




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