Fallout Tactics – Brotherhood of Steel takes the very-cool post apocalyptic world of the Fallout role-playing universe and uses it as a setting for a tactical combat game. It has the same look and feel as the Fallout RPG, but without the detailed inter-party relationships and without the myriad of external side quests.
I am a huge fan of the Fallout series. Perhaps it was one too many Mad Max movies growing up or one too many generic sci-fi movies set following a nuclear war, but this is a universe that I enjoy. It probably goes back to one of the very first computer games that I really got into: Wasteland. Wasteland was put out by Electronic Arts for the IBM PC and was an instant classic. You had to use your brains to solve puzzles like the Chessboard of Death and your shooting arm to eliminate gangs of roving desert scum. When Interplay put out the original Fallout, it was hailed as the unofficial sequel to Wasteland.
Later Fallout 2 was released, and although the pre-patch version was cursed with many bugs, it was still a lot of fun to play. Now Fallout Tactics continues in this fine tradition.
The plot of Fallout Tactics is pretty easy to grasp, and is set between the time of the first Fallout game and Fallout 2. You are a young tribal – which is what the Brotherhood calls a person who lives in the wasteland and scratches out a living farming, raising cattle or bartering for goods and services. As part of a protection agreement with the Brotherhood of Steel, the enigmatic enforcers of the law in the wasteland, your village agrees to send young recruits to fill up the Brotherhoods ranks. You are one such person.
As a new recruit you complete basic training, which is how the tutorial is introduced into the game, and then are given assignments by your Brotherhood commander. You can pull up to five other recruits into your party of equal or lower rank. As you complete assignments, you are given promotions within the Brotherhood and thus have access to more advanced Brotherhood members to fill out your squad. Your squad members also earn levels as you kill monsters and gain experience, so you can take your original team all the way through the single player game if you choose. For your squad members to also earn promotions within the Brotherhood, you will need to download the 1.25 patch however, as this was overlooked in the original game.
But if you can upgrade your team, why not do it? Team members have no personality, which was my single greatest disappointment with the game. So you won’t get attached to any of them. Other than their picture and stats, there is no difference from one to the next. I would have liked to see some personality conflicts or personal quirks. The character bios suggest these quirks, but in combat they basically do whatever you tell them based on your commands and their stats.
Once you arrive at your mission, which you do by either walking or later in the game by driving, you are taken to the tactical screen where you will spend most of the game. You can set the game to be either real-time or turn-based. In turn-based mode your squad will run around in real-time until they detect an enemy, or until one detects them. At that point turn-based combat ensues. Since the original games in the Fallout series are like this, it is how I played the single player game here. I found the real-time mode to be too fast paced, which led to my characters making some pretty stupid decisions like firing with guns that had low chances to hit (pistols at long ranges) when they had a sniper rifle in their pack. However, lots of people like RTS games and it is nice to see that you can pick your play style here.
When people get hit, they bleed. If you blow someone up, their arms and legs are going to splatter. When you unload a fully automatic weapon into them they are going to spin around, spewing blood in a circle across the ground before falling. Sometimes you can even cleave people in two depending on your weapon.
There are a few side-quests that you can find while on your missions, though they are all accomplished on the same map. For example, in one town my mission was to rescue the mayor from a gang called Beastlords. I did this and then explored the town a bit more. I went into the shanty-town part of downtown and found a group of ghouls (a race of former humans that were warped by radiation) that were also under siege by the same gang. I agreed to help them and fought off a strong attack by manning their makeshift defenses alongside the ghoul warriors. This side quest led the ghouls to join the Brotherhood and from that mission on I could pick ghouls to be part of my party. So you are encouraged to think and explore, though much less than a standard RPG.
Sound is worth a mention as well, since it is quite good. The guns sound different when fired depending on the caliber of bullet. Bad guys scream when hit and scream really loud when hit hard. In addition, Fallout Tactics has the freakiest soundtrack you will hear. It’s sort of a gothic choir combined with music that blends into the environmental effects. It will put you on edge when you are sneaking around corners and suddenly you hear "Ahhhh" like 1,000 angles signing. And it helps that the voices crescendo out of the wind. Spooky indeed.
Multiplayer is also very fun. You can build a squad of people from any race present in the single player game like humans, ghouls, deathclaws, robots, supermutants or even dogs. Once your squad is assembled you can combat other squads.
The game users the GameSpy arcade service for matching with other players, or you can play using a direct connection if you know someone else with the game or if you have several players on a LAN. The GameSpy software does not install by default, so you will have to go in and click on the setup icon on your CD-ROM to install it.
Multiplayer is what was sorely needed in the Fallout universe. I love the single player game, but with all those guns it just calls out for multiplayer fun. You can lose many hours of sleep playing the multiplayer version of Fallout Tactics. The average number of players we saw online was about 200, so you should be able to find a good game almost anytime. You may even find yourself not playing the single-player game anymore once you fall in love with the multiplayer version.
In all, Fallout Tactics gets an impressive 4 1/2 GiN Gems. We took a small half-point away because we really, really wanted to see some more personality differences between squad members along the lines of another Interplay game: Jagged Alliance 2. But JA2 does not have multiplayer and Fallout Tactics is basically designed for it, so Fallout Tactics should rule the roost. Fans of turn-based games or hybrids like the X-Com series will LOVE Fallout Tactics. We loved this game, and if you disagree you can talk to our little friend the plasma rifle.