Fallout 2

a game by Interplay Entertainment Corp.
Platform: PC
Genres: Action, Adventure/RPG
Editor Rating: 7.5/10, based on 2 reviews
User Rating: 9.0/10 - 2 votes
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See also: Fallout Games

Apocalypse, anyone? Fallout 2 is an old-skool role-playing game with a dispiriting theme: it takes place in the aftermath of a globally devastating nuclear war. The environment you explore in the game represents the precise opposite of DisneyLand: there's little foliage; hardly anyone smiles; drug use is rife and violent death commonplace. If you're planning a move to London in the next few months, here's your training ground.

Of course, the numeric appendage that dangles from the end of the title like a scab of dried mucus from a pensioner's nose alerts you to the fact that this is a sequel. Back in issue 6I we awarded the original Fallout an impressive 91% - a score which some of you felt was a tad low, if anything. While not much to write home about technically, Fallout was absorbing, addictive and atmospheric. It also made a pleasant change from the usual RPG staples: ores, dwarves, and wizards didn't get a look in. It's much the same with Fallout 2.

The plot's a bit more 'New-Agey' than before: you play 'the chosen one', a descendant of the first game's main character. As before, there are countless subplots and side-quests to keep you occupied, but the main thrust of the storyline has you searching for a Garden of Eden Creation Kit, which apparently has the power to transform irradiated land into lush green meadows. And then off you go - into an endless vista of exploration, conversation and unspeakably violent turn-based combat (it's gorier than ever).

The engine that powers the game hasn't changed - it's workmanlike and slow (on anything less than 'large installation' the pauses between locations can be infuriating). The graphics are all familiar, with many of the sprites and locations apparently lifted wholesale I from the original program. What's more, the kind of situations you encounter aren't massively different either.

Sounds damning, but none of those issues make this a bad game. The original Fallout was very, very good, and so is Fallout 2. It's still peculiarly compelling -a real 'time sponge' of a game, in that you'll boot it up, and before you know it days have whizzed by. If you've 'done' the original and enjoyed it, you'll like the sequel. Think of it as another entry in a popular series of paperback thrillers, or a new episode of your favourite TV show not different, but familiar and fun. If you haven't played the first one and you're curious, you might as well start with this one, because it's the bigger of the two unless you're a bit pressed for cash, in which case look for a cheap Fallout.

So What's New?

Played the first Fallout? Want to know what's changed? Or perhaps you're just reading this on the toilet, and you'll do anything to pass the time? Whatever. Here's the list...

It's set 50 years on and it's bigger. The action in Fallout 2 takes place half a century after the original came to a close; you play a descendent of the first game's star. The area you're exploring (still based on Northern California) is significantly larger than Fallout numero uno's scorched wildernesses.

The Npcs Are Smarter

For those of you who don't understand sad geek jargon, NPC stands for Non-Player Character. This refers to anyone you meet or interact with during the game. Also, you make close 'pals' who join you on your quest, piling in alongside you each time you get Into a fight. In the original Fallout, you were dogged almost continually by an exceptionally stupid NPC called Ian. Ian was okay most of the time, but in combat situations he tended to act like... well, like a jerk. If you gave him an Uzi, he'd spray it around the room without checking whether your head was in the way first. Fallout Zs NPCs have had their intelligence levels boosted, so careless gunfire is less of a worry. You also have more control over their behaviour yourself, and can issue orders relating to their style of fighting.

Having said that, there are problems. If a fight takes place around a doorway, you tend to get a log-jam of characters queuing up behind one who's standing still - and you cant get past them either. Doh.

Fewer Random Encounters

No longer do you have to dread crossing the wastelands for fear of annoying, time-wasting spats with rad-scorpions and the like. In Fallout 2 you can get hold of a clunky old car and move from town to town with the minimum amount of fuss.

More Blue Language

The original Fallout was nice and gritty and all that, and so is Fallout 2: In fact, the sequel seems determined to outdo its predecessor in one respect - the dialogue is filthy, it's almost as if someone loaded a blunderbuss with swear words and fired it at the script. The 'F' word in particular occurs with all the rapid-fire frequency of an angry kick drum in a particularly frenetic drum 'n' bass workout.

Stands to reason, really: these characters are living in a post-apocalyptic landscape filled with radioactive mutants, drug-dealing gangsters, genuinely bonifying monsters and an overriding atmosphere of bleak despair. Would you give a toss about a few rude words under such circumstances? Of course not You'd be beyond shock. In fact you'd be so bitter you'd spit out a wasp's nest each time you opened your mouth. It'd be this and 'c' that every moment of the day, even if you were talking to your maiden aunt You can 'filter out' the invective out thanks to the conscientious options screen, if you like. But that would make you a f****** c**.

Game Reviews

Overview

Fans of Interplay’s excellent RPG, Fallout, will be pleased as punch with the next installation in the series, aptly titled Fallout 2. Though the game was seemingly pushed out the door before all the bugs were worked out (I’ll get to that in a moment), this is a very worthy installment in the blossoming Fallout legacy. Those of you who are not familiar with the original game may want to start with Richard Law’s Fallout review.

In Fallout 2, you play the Chosen One, descendant of the Vault Dweller from the original game. Your ancestor, after having saved the world, was unceremoniously exiled from Vault 13, spending the remaining years of his life in the small tribal village of Arroyo. 80 years later, with treasured Vault 13 relics in hand, you venture forth into the Great Unknown (a.k.a. post-apocalyptic Northern California) in search of the Garden of Eden Creation Kit (G.E.C.K.), your only hope for making a habitable environment out of the desolate wasteland your people call home.

Fallout 2 is much broader in scope and storyline than was its predecessor. There is much more to see and do in this game. Best of all, the much-maligned time limit from Fallout is absent. You can spend as much time exploring the desert wasteland as you like. Furthermore, while Fallout was fairly linear in plot and quest arrangement, Fallout 2 is a great deal more open-ended. I can remember being a little frustrated playing Fallout when I did not visit areas or accomplish tasks in the expected order. Occasionally, this meant that I had to repeat steps or backtrack and do things "properly" in order to move forward in the game. Because many of the areas, adventures and characters have nothing at all to do with fulfilling your main mission, you could play Fallout 2 for quite a while, exploring nooks and crannies, and never get very far in the main quest. This is not to say that the main objective is obscured or terribly difficult, just that there’s plenty else going on to keep you pleasantly occupied or happily diverted.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

If you’ve played Fallout, you’ll instantly feel at home in Fallout 2. Its gameplay and interface are nearly identical to the original, with a few little tweaks. These include: better interaction with the NPCs in your party (you can now give them armor and control their behavior more closely) and the ability to combine some items (for instance, add a scope to your new rifle). There are also many new perks and abilities (even a Kama Sutra perk!). One of the more useful and fun additions is the car that you can repair and drive between destinations, greatly reducing your travel time in the game world.

Fallout 2 seems a little darker in personality than the original. It also has many more cultural references and items, which are great fun to discover. Among the items/characters you might run across are a boxer named Evan Holyfeld, a robot that attacks while saying "I’m sorry, Dave," and a box of Cheezy Poofs. In Fallout 2, you can do some bizarre (and entertaining) things. You can get married and pimp out your wife (you heard that right), visit a prostitute (you’ll have three varieties of condoms to choose from), get addicted to drugs, etc. Parents should be warned: Fallout 2 is intended for adults. Besides the adult situations mentioned above and the graphic violence, your ears might start burning due to some very adult language. One of the game characters even used the word c%sucker (which didn’t offend me personally, but there you are). The game settings can be changed to tone down the language and violence, but this game will never be confused with Barbie Story Maker.

The shipped version of Fallout 2 has some bugs which can be frustrating at times. None of them are game-crashing or quest-ending problems, but for instance, you might use an item and still see it in your inventory (though you cannot use it again). You might acquire the car and have certain game characters think you are not alone (game logic seems to equate owning the car with having companions). Or you might run away from monsters, close a door behind you (effectively escaping), and not be able to turn off combat mode. These are, as I said, not a big deal; just a wee bit of unnecessary tarnish on an excellent product. Having said that, there is a patch available (ftp://ftp1.interplay.com/pub/patches/f2patch.exe) to address some of these issues. But it will wipe out your saved games, so if you’ve already started playing the game, you’re out of luck -- unless you want to start over.

Graphics

Built on the same engine as Fallout, Fallout 2 will look very familiar to those who have played the original. As the graphics were of excellent design and implementation in Fallout, so are they here. There are some little upgrades to the lighting effects and some death animations that outgross those in the original game (quite a feat), but the developers at Black Isle smartly refrained from altering their successful graphics engine in any fundamental way.

Audio

As with the graphics, the audio is very similar to that in Fallout. There is some nice new music, however. Especially noticeable are the "tribal" accents in the music played in and around Arroyo Village. The sound engineers did a commendable job of matching the music and effects with the environments throughout the game.

System Requirements

Required: Windows 95/98, Pentium 90 or faster, 16 MB RAM, 30 MB available hard drive space, DirectX certified SCGA card, DirectX-certified sound card, 4X or faster CD-ROM drive, Windows 95/98/NT SP3, 100% Microsoft-compatible mouse.

Recommended: Pentium 120 or faster, 32 MB RAM, 150 MB hard disk space.

Documentation

Very well done. A detailed game guide steps you through character creation, gives you the background story, and explains in depth the game interface, character perks, and most of the important items you will find. The only thing that seemed lacking was some sort of map of the world, as Black Isle did for Baldur’s Gate. Maybe they thought it would give too much away ...

Bottom Line

If you played and enjoyed Fallout, Fallout 2 is a must-have. If you were lukewarm about the original, you may want to give it a shot anyway, because the game world is greatly expanded. For those who have not played Fallout, I would say try the original first. You’ll get more enjoyment out of Fallout 2 knowing the history of the series, although you certainly need not play the original to play or enjoy this sequel. One final caveat: if you buy Fallout 2, patch it before you play or suffer the consequences. Despite its glitches, Fallout 2 is good enough to earn a score of 89 from this reviewer -- 92 if you patch it before playing.

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