The Forgotten Fallout Game

Fallout 4 has become my favourite video game.  So unsurprisingly, I’ve read up on the previous games in the Fallout series, to get an idea of what those games are about, what the lore says, et cetera.

That’s when I read up on what is a largely reviled game for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox called “Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel”.  Among Fallout fans, it’s better left forgotten, and when I saw it brought up for discussion, that was the main sentiment.

But that only made me more curious.  So I looked into it.  And it looks to me like Interplay wanted to cash in on the Fallout IP by making a game for the console-owning audience, and that led them to make an action game based on the world and story that had been built up in the role playing games Fallout and Fallout 2.

But oh god, did this not go over well with fans of that series.  Here’s a lengthy article I read by an enthusiast that describes the key complaints about this game, far better than I could.  The main objection boils down to “Fallout is an RPG, it should not be reduced to an action game.”

But just how bad could “Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel” be?  Even if it’s a Hack & Slash game where you just go on a linear path battling enemy after enemy, that can be fun if it’s done right.

So I bought a re-surfaced disc on ebay and played it on my PS2 emulator, PCSX2.  I have to say first of all that PCSX2 ran this game almost perfectly, with only a little bit of slowdown during one cutscene and boss fight.

And I proceeded to play the game… for 9.7 hours.  I really tried to finish it, actually.  But I soon realized a couple of things. First of all, this is not a “terrible” game.  Second of all, this is not a good game.

“Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel” is mediocre, through and through.  The combat is actually well done, which is good, because it’s basically all the game really has going for it.  But one really big drag, at least for me, is the level design.

Oh, and by the way, if you had notions of this being some kind of open-world or even free-roaming kind of 3D environment game, then nope.  Each level is designed like a maze.  And it gets to the point of ridiculousness when you have to take a convoluted route absolutely everywhere, and even backtrack in some levels to get things accomplished.

So even if you went into this game expecting a Hack & Slash, you’re getting a Hack & Slash & Wander & Find.  If you’re one of those weirdos who buys those maze activity books at the grocery store checkout, this might just be the game for you.  Otherwise, you’re probably not going to like the “where the fuck am I and where the fuck do I go now” aspect of it.

Not helping matters are the fact that your little yellow star quest marker on your mini map often points exactly back to where you came from, not where you need to go.

And now would be a good time to talk about the camera.  Oh god the camera.  This game came out in 2004, when cameras and views in 3D video games had basically been sorted out.  I mean, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas came out in 2004, for crying out loud.  This game’s camera is pointed almost straight down at you from above, unless you interact with some atrociously-voiced NPC.  And though the right joystick lets you shift the camera view right and left, if you push it too long, it will send the camera view literally fucking spinning until you push back in the opposite direction.

Oh, and Vault Boy is in this too, as you can see in this screenshot here.

There are “perks” and even Dogmeat, which is available from a perk you can get several levels into the game.

There are many things from “Fallout” in this game.  It’s like someone watched someone else play Fallout and Fallout 2, and said “I’m gonna make a Fallout game too!” and then made this.  But there’s one extremely strange change that’s been made, and that’s the absence of Nuka Cola, and the blatant, unwanted insertion of Bawls.

It’s obviously paid advertising, but come the fuck on.  And while I’m talking about things that don’t belong: the music.  Right at the intro there’s a really cool 50s sounding song about the atom bomb dropping, but that’s about it for that kind of music.  There is some nice “atmospheric” music when you wander around in early levels, but as the game progresses, you get to hear generic Nu-Metal and stuff like that.  One music loop in particular includes what sounds like my computer’s fans ramping suddenly up.  It probably sounded like Xbox or PS2 fans suddenly working too hard back in 2004 too.

One more gripe I have to mention is the story itself.  At the start of the game, you are a “Brotherhood of Steel” initiate, who is looking for the rest of the Brotherhood of Steel.  Read that Fallout fan site above to see the many lore problems with that, but what I find jarring about this is that with no contact at all with anyone else from the Brotherhood, my character gets promoted from Initiate, to Page, to Soldier, to Knight.

WTF?  Is she just promoting herself when she finds better weapons and armor?

The rest of the story involves you fighting off a scantily clad female raider boss, finding super mutants and ghouls, and, well, that’s where I stopped playing.  I’m pretty sure that one of the NPCs you meet is supposed to be the Vault Dweller from Vault 13 in the original Fallout.

Interplay’s slogan when they made this was “By Gamers, For Gamers”.  I think a more appropriate slogan for this game would have been “By 14-year-olds, for 14-year-olds”, because the overall tone of the game is just immature and dumb.  If you thought that Beavis & Butt-Head was too high-brow, then you might laugh your ass off at the pee pee, poo poo, fart, and sex “jokes” in this.

Remember how I said I was determined to finish this?  Well, screw that.  Today I spent the last 90 minutes stuck on a particular level, with no indication on how to proceed, and no way out of the maze.  So I’m not going to bother with this Hack & Slash & Wander & Find.