Fallout 2 serves up a mess of nukes and kooks

Fallout 2
Genre
Reviewed On
PC
Available For
Mac, PC
Difficulty
Intermediate
Publisher(s)
Developer(s)
ESRB
ESRB
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When I reviewed the original Fallout, I said that 80 years after a global nuclear war, the old neighborhood had changed a bit. Now Fallout 2 takes place a generation after the first, but things in the wasteland haven’t changed that much. Your character still has to face all the greed, crime, corruption, murder and mayhem that a degenerating society can throw at them, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

When the original Fallout came out, people were amazed that such a quality role-playing game could take place without an elf, magic-user or dragon in sight. Many people probably don’t remember the game Wasteland on the PC, that’s the IBM PC (or XT), that originally introduced a post-apocalyptic RPG to the masses back in the 80s. Fallout was the unofficial sequel to Wasteland, and brought the genre onto PCs (that’s the more modern use of PC, not a brand name) using modern technology. Now Black Isle Studios, the RPG arm of Interplay, has made lightning strike twice with Fallout 2.

Besides a few cosmetic changes in the interface, and a more intelligent interface between players and their non-player character (NPC) allies, the game looks and feels exactly like the original Fallout. It’s good that Black Isle did not stray too far from the original, because doing so would have been an unforgivable crime. In talking with other GiN reviewers about the game, we unanimously agreed that Fallout was not really a game, but more of an experience.

But improvements have been made. For one, there is no longer a time limit on your original quest, so you don’t have to rush your way through the game. Your ultimate goal is to find the holy GECK, or Garden of Eden Creation Kit, a sort of automatic farmer that is going to save your village from a slow death at the hands of a dying earth. But unlike Fallout, where you had like 200 days to find a water chip before your vault ran dry, you can now take your time.

You get pushed every so often, but if you want to take your time and explore every nook and cranny of the game world, feel free. Just be sure you have a lot of time on your hands. The world of Fallout 2 is gigantic compared to the first one. I played the game for two weeks and only got to four of the closest towns to my original village. Another reviewer was not even that far. And like the addictive wasteland drugs in the game like Jet and Buffout, you really need to keep playing. We concluded an editorial meeting at midnight one evening and another staff member commented that he thought he could get about three hours of Fallout 2 in before he fell over asleep. The game is really that good.

The world of the wasteland is still a hazardous place, as players soon find out. You can find any variety of guns and weapons this time out, and they do the same head exploding, limb ripping damage that was a trademark of combat from the first game. For the younger players, there is a violence filter that can eliminate some of the gore.

Actually the amount combat in the game is one of my few complaints. Basically, you really need build a combat character right from the start of the game. A few people I know tried to make diplomats and traders, as the game suggests is possible this time around. As soon as the diplomats hit the wasteland, they found themselves on the wrong end of a combat shotgun. Sure you can make a diplomatic character, but solving the game with one, I would argue, is all but impossible. There are a lot fewer quests where you basically have to go somewhere and kill a bunch of people, and a lot more thinking-type ones, but don’t expect a real strong mental challenge.

The other problem I have with the game is that it seems Interplay released it a bit before it was truly ready, or at least before extensive beta testing. Some characters don’t act quite the way they should. For example, I was asked by the mayor of a town to find a special part that could fix the ailing nuclear reactor the town was using for power. I went out and searched and finally found it.

But when I returned, the same person would not talk about the part I was holding, and I could not give it to him. I had to go into the reactor building myself and install the part, which involved stealing keys from the people in charge, and fix everything in secret. Then the mayor thanked me for my help, but he really should not have even known what I did. The design folks on the Fallout 2 Website keep adding patches to fix logic problems with the game, but you would think this could have been done quite easily had people played the game extensively before it was released. The game is quite buggy when it comes to logic, in part because there are so many interlocking quests.

But despite the few logic problems, which are mostly fixed by the patches, the game remains what its predecessor was, one of the best RPGs on the market today. For anyone who enjoys the Mad Max type of genre, or RPGs in general, dim the lights in your shelter, lock the pressure door, and play Fallout 2. It’s a game I would certainly want in the bunker with me.

Fallout 2 gets 4 ½ out of 5 GiN gems, with just a few points shaved off the top for some logical holes in otherwise extensive and engrossing plots.

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