Published by: Interplay
Programming & Design: MacPlay
Street Price: $50
System 7.5 or greater
2x CD-ROM drive
95 MB free hard drive space
20000K free memory
640 by 480 (or greater) monitor
Boldly, you stroll through the streets of the Hub, the largest city in the wasteland. It's fairly crowded, after all, it's noon and everyone is on lunch break. You notice people giving you dirty looks and making their way to the other side of the street as you approach. You wonder why, then realize that the Power Armour you just conned out of some idiot and the combat shotgun you boldly carry at your side might be intimidating to some people. Too bad for them. The rumbling in your stomach reminds you that you haven't eaten since yesterday. A block away you see a man selling some sort of meat on a Popsicle stick. "It'll do," you think, and you jog over. You ask the man for one and he tells you that the price of one is fifteen thousand dollars. Enraged, you quickly level your shotgun and fire off a few rounds, aiming for the head. Success, your bullets meet their target and the man screams, right before his head explodes. The other people on the street ignore this, like it's an everyday occurrence. You grab a handful of his food items from his cart and satiate your hunger. You then proceed on your morning stroll, hoping to get some clue as to where you can find a waterchip for your vault.
Just another typical day in Fallout, C|Net Gamecenter's Mac Game of the Year. Fallout is officially labelled as an RPG (Role Playing Game), and that may scare you (it certainly had me a bit afraid) if you normally don't like RPGs. Of course, that's assuming that this game is like all the other "traditional" RPGs like Exile, Realmz, etc. It's not. Fallout takes the definition of RPG and rips it apart, making the RPG accessible even to people who only play shooters like Quake and Duke Nukem 3D. There are no mages, centaurs, or magic spells in Fallout. There are no puzzles to speak of; you certainly don't need to run around trying to find some item or place which will cause the game to "progress" one step further. Fallout is completely non-linear. It's just like real life; you can go anywhere you want at any time. Of course you wouldn't, because you would have lousy weapons, no
armour, and a small number of hit points.
Fallout does keep what I feel are the two best things about RPGs. The first, is a rich game world where you get to interact with characters and change their lives. When you kill someone, his or her friends and relatives will not be pleased. If you help someone, he may help you in the future. If you've been running around, robbing stores and killing innocents, the "good" charcters you meet will not like you. Conversely, if you've been squeaky-clean, the "bad" characters won't think very highly of you and be more reluctant to help you (in fact, they may just downright insult you to your face). If your character is more intelligent, you may be able to talk your way out of situations where a dumber character would have to fight. Fallout's gameworld is extremely diverse and there are many ways to finish missions.
The second thing from RPGs that Fallout keeps, is character creation. Part of Fallout's replayability comes from character creation. To create a character, you divide up points among major traits like strength, charisma, perception, intelligence, etc; as well as minor traits like lock-picking, small guns, energy weapons, speech, etc. You pick three areas to specialize in; you will be much more talented in these areas than the average person. You can also pick three optional traits such as "Night Person" (you function better at night and not so well during the day). If all of this seems overkill, then just pick one of the three characters that come with Fallout. All of the creation stuff is done for you. But it sure is nice to be able to play the game however you want by making a custom character. You can load up on strength and weapon skills and play as Sylvester Stallone; or you can distribute your skills, placing emphasis on intelligence and charisma, and play as James Bond. You can even choose your gender; this will have a small effect how characters treat you in the game.
After you're done choosing or creating a character, the fun begins; you start the game. Unlike many other RPGs, the quality of the graphics will amaze you. No thirty-two pixels wide, squarish looking characters here. All the characters are fair-sized (about 4 times the size of the characters in Postal or Warcraft II), smoothly animated, and highly detailed. The surroundings are also shown in lush detail. Fallout also doesn't skimp on sound either; there are a variety of rich sound effects for firing weapons, dodging attacks and other actions you will perform. Furthermore, Fallout has a decent background score, which is the perfect accompaniment to the environment you're in. If you're in a modern city, contemporary tunes accompany your travels. If you're in an abandoned, spooky setting, eerie, haunting music accompanies. Fallout's graphics and sound deliver a truly immersive experience.
Multimedia is all well and good, but if a game doesn't deliver on gameplay, it gets tiring quickly. Recall the fad we had a few years ago, of the movie games like "Johnny Mnemonic" and "The Daedalus Encounter." Games that cost millions to make and used the cutting edge in sound and graphics. But they didn't offer anything in terms of gameplay. Fortunately, Fallout does not have this problem. In Fallout, gameplay comes first. Like all games, Fallout has a plot. You have to find a waterchip for your vault, which is running out of water (there is background story which I won't get into). You start your quest in this context. But you will quickly discover new people and places. You will be offered quests that have no relation to the waterchip quest but which will get you a lot of money, experience and other cool stuff. Stuff that is helpful in any situation. You won't be able to accept every quest, which is why you can play Fallout over and over again. There is simply so much to do. The great thing about Fallout's quests is that they are so open-ended. You can go about them however you want to. You will use a variety of tactics including but not limited to combat, sneaking/stealth, lock-picking, and setting traps. The game world offers virtually unlimited possibilities.
Of course, you'll have a lot of fun with combat. After all, roasting someone to a crisp is certain to put a smile on even the most sullen face. Fallout's combat system is exceptional and will let you do this with unparalleled ease. The reason why it's so easy to fight is that there is no separate combat mode. Many RPGs have you walk around normally, then jump to a separate "combat mode" when you encounter a "hostile" creature--a combat mode which is hellish to learn. Not so in Fallout since the exploration and combat modes are one and the same. This adds a whole host of possibilities to the game. Tell me, in which RPG can you kill a storekeeper and his guards and loot their bodies? If someone gives you a dirty look, introduce him to your friends, Smith & Wesson. Once you start attacking (or someone attacks you), you have a certain number of action points you can use up in your turn. These can be used to perform a variety of tasks including accessing inventory, firing weapons, walking, opening/closing doors, picking locks, etc.
A unique feature to Fallout's combat system is aimed shots. These cost you one extra action point, but if you hit the person, you have a good chance of causing what's called a "critical hit". These include crippling limbs, blinding someone, or knocking them out. For example, at the beginning of the game, it's rather useful to build up hand to hand combat skills. Why? Because then you can hit human male characters in the groin with your brass knuckles. As you can imagine, that would cause a certain amount of pain to the unfortunate character at the receiving end of the blow, just like in real life.
However, you have much more than brass knuckles in Fallout. Fallout has an enormous array of weapons for you to cause mayhem with. You have short-range weapons such as the ripper viproblade (delivers such a strong electric shock to a foe that he goes flying across the room) and the super sledge hammer. You have medium range weapons like the plasma pistol (usually causes a foe's skin to melt off) and the combat shotgun. And for the sniper in you, there are long-range weapons like the sniper rifle and rocket launcher. You'll never get bored of disposing of your foes with over two dozen weapons available.
All is not good in Fallout, though. Where Fallout comes short, is in the consumption of system resources. You are going to want either 650 MB of hard drive space free, or one fast CD-ROM drive for this game. On my PowerMac 6100-60, I opted for a 230 MB install (there are options for 95 MB, 120 MB, 230 MB and a full 650 MB) and used my 4x CD-ROM drive for the rest. Gameplay was quite acceptable, but level loading and game saving times became unbearable towards the end of the game. If you don't have a fast CD-ROM drive or you aren't very patient, free up some hard drive space and install as much as you can onto the hard drive. You'll appreciate your decision as you proceed farther into the game. Gameplay would probably have been somewhat quicker if I had more RAM. Fallout prefers 32000K allocated to it, but I got by allocating 20000K (and paid the price in speed). A final gripe is that you can't rename your hard drive once you install Fallout, or it won't run.
Now that you've heard both sides of the story, you'll want to try this game for yourself. This is why MacPlay/Interplay has created a demo. A word of warning, this demo was created when the game was in beta stage. Thus it is slow, buggy, and has a silly mission. The demo is only playable if you turn off background sounds (command-p to pause, then deselect "play background music"). Many people had gripes that combat was too slow in the demo. Players took forever to do something and there were too many "extra" characters walking around during combat doing absolutely nothing. Fortunately, Interplay listened and everything has been fixed in the full version. Why, the full version even has an option for you to speed up combat and adjust the difficulty of the game. Keep this in mind and use the demo only to get a taste of the game. The faulty demo has most likely cost MacPlay countless sales, as many people were turned off by the demo but loved the full version. The full version is so much more fun and is literally three times as fast. Just read some of the posts on comp.sys.mac.games.adventure to get an idea of how much better the full version is than the demo. You can find the demo on MacPlay's website or on some of the more recent MacAddict (which give it a "freaking awesome" rating) CDs.
Unfortunately, Interplay has decided that there will be no Fallout 2 for the Macintosh. Even though it would use the same cross-platform libraries as StarFleet Academy and Fallout 1, they claim that testing costs are too high. Well, the only way to change their mind and show them that there is demand for Fallout 2 and that there is a Mac game market is to buy the game. If your decision is wavering between Fallout and another game (made by a company which is more dedicated to the Mac like MacSoft), get Fallout. If you're tired of Myth and Quake and want something new, get Fallout. If you're simply in the market for a new Mac game, get Fallout. It is one of the finest games to make it to the Mac in a long time and is worth every penny.