Versus series: 3D Fallout brawl…out

I need to apologize for the lengthy delay getting this entry posted, as it was finished last month as a Word file. said file has been sitting on my desktop, hidden in the clutter of game tiles, often overlooked and forgotten as I search for what to play next. Then yesterday, I was starting to think of my next review when I thought, Crap, did I ever post the Fallout battle? I did not, so here we are.

For me, the Fallout series (or at least the 3D iterations of the series) are kind of like Borderlands 2. I don’t really like the overall story, and a lot of the details “under the hood” annoy me. So why would I play them? Well, it’s because I like how the shooting feels.

Both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas were games my husband bought to play on our Xbox 360. I remember trying Fallout 3 for the first time, entering Megaton, and meeting Mr. Burke. As he was offering caps for killing an entire town, I told him to leave. He said he would, and then he just sat there, staring at me. I pulled out a 10 millimeter pistol and shot him in the forehead. He immediately stood up and shouted, “Uh, you’ve got blood all over my suit!”

I shot him six more times in the head before he died, and then I shut off the game and walked away for almost a year. Mr. Burke is not wearing an armored helmet. He does not have a metal plated skull, but the damage of a Fallout gun is so pathetic that a fedora can count as effective armor.

I would later bounce out of the game again for side quests that made no sense, for the godawful way Karma works (or doesn’t, in so many cases), or for random bullshit like VATS firing all of my selected shots through the doorway behind the gun instead of the target just two inches in front of the barrel.

And yet, like a fungus, certain aspects grew on me over time. I liked picking locks and hacking terminals to get into secret stashes or through shortcuts to sneak by guards. I liked slowly sneaking up behind those same guards to assassinate them, even as they spout lines like, “When I find you, you’re dead!”

So once I beat the main game (I don’t like Fallout DLC from any of the games, so there won’t be a contest between them), I went on to play Fallout: New Vegas. When Fallout 4 came along, I got it a few days after release. How could I not? Weapon decay? Gone. Karma? Also gone. Dialogue could be walked away from instead of having to say goodbye. Loot in containers could be accessed more easily. Greater graphical fidelity. A far more detailed wasteland. All of this sounded great.

To be sure, Fallout 4 does have a leg up on both of its older siblings for all the quality-of-life features combined with a much more stable experience. Oh, it could still crash from time to time, but it did so far less frequently. Like the other games, bugs could pop up from time to time, and it’s a guessing game which bugs will or won’t be in each playthrough. But overall, Fallout 4 finally felt like the work had been put in to provide a smoother, less janky taste of life in the post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Since its release, I have frequently gone into Fallout 4 and the previous 2 games to test random builds, or to ask specific questions like “Which game had better laser guns?” (Fallout 3, by the way.) It’s during these kinds of cross plays that I started to notice some irksome habits of Fallout 4. Fog can roll in and blind me at any given time, making navigation almost impossible. I have to find a working chair or bench to pass time instead of just pressing a button and waiting. Ghouls go from slow shambling to sudden impossible bursts of rollerblading, sliding their feet over three meters of pavement before leaping another ten to clothesline my character. Raiders who are wasted off of a massive cocktail of drugs somehow still possess the accuracy of a sober soldier and can snipe a headshot from 500 meters away.

We’re just about to get to the crowning of a winner, but before we do, let me explain why Fallout: New Vegas takes last place in this three-way race. Certainly, stability factors into it. I’ve heard a fan brag that the game was made in only 18 months, and given how broken it is, I don’t feel like that’s something anyone should hold out as a brag. But even after buying the game on PC and adding mods to patch a laundry list of problems, it can still crash to the desktop or freeze the computer entirely from a loading screen. Every time I enter a new building or use fast travel, there’s a chance that I will have to reset my computer because the game locked up so hard that I can’t open the task manager.

Beyond that, I have to add another mod to slow down the rate of weapon and armor decay because the fine folks at Oblivion apparently thought firing a shotgun four times would make it damn near unusable. Get shot once? Ooh, that body armor is ruined now, buddy. I don’t want the decay to go away, you know? I just don’t want it so aggressive that I’m spending more time micromanaging my wardrobe and arsenal than I am actually playing the game.

Then there’s stuff that mods can’t help. The eponymous city in the game is a barren collection of tiny courtyards gated off from each other because the game struggles to load even a few characters. Megaton has more people in it than any part of New Vegas. There’s no excusing that level of brokenness. Or try visiting the city and fast travel away. Now listen carefully and realize the sounds are still coming from the city, and will remain that way until you save, quit, and reload.

In the first Versus contest, I mentioned making a “Kill Everyone” run. There is a mod that supposedly makes this a bit more difficult because everyone, even wandering merchants will turn hostile at the first sight of your character. But I wanted to test how the game reacts when I’m being an absolute “Chaotic Evil” aligned character. It simply does not work.

Let me explain. I first went to the NCR prison to kill all of the Powder Gangers. I didn’t take the mission to do it; I just went in there and killed them. That act led to me gaining good Karma with the NCR. Because of that, my Karma can never drop to reviled status, and because it can’t I can wipe out a whole building of NCR soldiers, exit the building, and have the guard outside greet me as if we were allies. I was on my way to being reviled in Novac, but killing motel owner Jeannie May gave me a positive Karma boost. It’s didn’t matter that I’d already killed all of her residents, both her guards, and the shop owner. I killed a Bad Person, so it all balances out. THAT’S NOT HOW KARMA SHOULD WORK, PEOPLE.

That’s leaving out that no one, not even the radio news broadcaster has anything to say about the continuing string of mass murders moving methodically from town to town. Nothing about Goodsprings, or Primm, or Novac. Even after wiping out every person at The Topps, the radio is still playing a news piece about the new owner consoling people after the death of Benny, and the new owner is dead, too.

Oh, and I cannot move on without highlighting how terribly inaccurate and underwhelming lasers are in Fallout: New Vegas. In Fallout 4, their damage is a bit meh compared to Fallout 3, but they’re still mostly accurate. And why shouldn’t they be? It’s a beam of light. There’s no risk of lower accuracy due to bad rifling (or no rifling in the case of pipe weapons), and no weapon kick to throw off your aim. And yet, somehow I can fire a laser with iron sights ten times in Fallout: New Vegas while standing still, and only hit my target once. Just so you understand, this is still true after spending skill points to get energy weapons to 100. Yes, Fallout 4 screwed up lasers in their own special way, but Fallout: New Vegas broke them so pathetically that to use them exclusively in a run should be considered its own form of a punishing challenge.

With that out of the way, it’s time to crown a winner, and the W is going to Fallout 3. I needed a lot of time to debate which game should get the honor, and as much as I wanted to give it to Fallout 4, I simply prefer the wider assortment of options that come with Fallout 3. It’s so much easier to walk away from the main story and just do my own thing.

The skills and perks are more satisfying to use. Take Grim Reaper Sprint, for example. In Fallout 3, killing an enemy while using VATS will refill your action points. In Fallout 4, it only has a small chance of doing anything. Why break one of the greatest perks in the game?

Plus, there’s something to be said about the “feel” of both games, and Fallout 3 nails the right feel for so many reasons. Darkened rooms mess with my eyesight, as they should. I fear traveling at night because I don’t know if I’m going to stumble over a wild dog or mole rate, or worse, a Deathclaw. In Fallout 4, I can see even at night, and while it’s nice to see stuff coming, it’s not as immersive.

Finally, there’s the weapon and armor decay. Yes, I like that Fallout 4 doesn’t have them. But if I have to have decay as an added mechanic, Fallout 3 nailed the right balance between no degradation and insane levels of breakdown. Is it realistic? No, not really, but neither is no decay at all. Besides, why am I going to quibble about realism in a game where giant ants are spitting fire at my character, right?

So there you have it, another surprise winner in the Versus series. I hope you’ve enjoyed these entries, and I hope to bring you more in the future. But for now, this is the final entry. I could try something like pitting all of the Borderlands games against each other. But I would have to play them all again, and making it through Borderlands 3 is…well, it’s a task and a half. I’m not saying I won’t get to it eventually. I’m just saying don’t expect it to go up next week.

With that, thanks for checking the series out, and I’ll see you soon with another review.