Fallout Tactics or Tactics Fallout?
The new Fallout plot is based on the history of Vaults creation in prewar years. While first game series mentioned only some Vaults (approximately from 11th to 18th), there were no slightest details available about other ones. Also, it was a mystery what is the company - VaultTec, what kind of people has built these Vaults. Now the Fallout plot is tightly linked through the trilogy chain.
Plunging into the history, we'll find out that US government has tried to save the citizens by the creation of several underground Vaults. There was planned a single control system for all Vaults. Theoretically, it should have been a kind of underground state for the time of nuclear winter. But the things have gone wrong - VaultTec simply have not had enough time to complete their work - Caribbean crisis begun, followed by full scale nuclear war. The Vaults were isolated because of communication system malfunction. Nobody known what happens to others. Vault 0, with all its robotechnics and general Vault control system was abandoned for long long years. Only robots and supercomputer a la SkyNet inhabited it.
I must note Fallout Tactics plot has been sufficiently affected by Terminator dylogy. Sky Net itself was present in Fallout 2, as a joke or even parody. Now it is the one of plot backbones.
The robots were designed to help the people conquer and revive the dead lands. But the computer gone crazy and reached the surface by its own will. Another example of creation turned upon its creators. Like Sky Net, the computer has decided the people are not necessary. At the same time, far far away, on former Californian shore, Brotherhood of Steel warriors have decided to send the expedition to the east of continent (or to some other distant lands). The Brotherhood scientists have even invented a "new" airborne vehicle, zeppelin. They have crossed the impregnable mountains and were struck by terrible storm. Several zeppelins have got a million volt kiss from the lightning and perished with all the Brotherhood commanders, supplies and equipment. Those who survived have been forced to land near the city once known as Chicago. Here the adventure begins…
The reason of such detailed plot description is the intro designed for the game. Obviously, the developers have admitted the initial version of intro is not reflecting the story line (moreover, it reflects nothing but animator talents), and created the additional movie. This new movie at last contained the traditional Fallout phrase: "War, war never change…" The story, though, is presented as the pages of black and white book (perhaps, the notorious Fallout Bible form, initially planned for the game manual) and not so brilliant as we expected.
Well, what IS Fallout Tactics? It is not RPG, even not the sequel to those Fallouts. It is strategy game in Fallout universe. Reading the above text, you have already understood on what side we should play. The minor question remains: how, where and what enemy should we fight.
In the image and likeness of…
There is same old map we can explore in Tactics, however the locations are becoming available not by simple travels but after assigning a certain task in the Brotherhood bunker, in the manner of "go there, bring this thing and shoot a pair of @#@$$ off some badguys". Generally, the size of Tactics world probably exceeds the joint size of both first Fallouts. There are as much as almost thirty locations in 26 missions divided into six chapters. At the beginning of each new chapter, you are reaching new Brotherhood bunker to acquire new tasks.
The system of traveling over the map remained the same. The map design has many features common with old versions - same sectors system, random encounters, scorpions and overgrown cockroaches combats… But during these travels, you'll find no new locations until certain missions are completed and the commanders mark new missions with green circles.
Map travels may be useful, though. There are much more random encounters - about a dozen, and, in addition to pure fun, they brings a practical advantages. They kept the humor peculiar to initial series - for instance, the armor a la Diablo 2, or… Well, just find it in the game for yourself! :)
Generally, the game is not so linear as was spoken about. Tactics has four different game endings. It is quite advantage for a strategy game, especially remembering that common strategies have just one possible final. What will happen to the future of Tactics world depends on the way of mission completion and the tasks you've done.
Tactics wouldn't be a Fallout game without main character generation system. There are not so much innovations in it. All the changes are making the game just more interesting. The number of perks is raised to more than 70. New set of special skills allows to "cultivating" different soldiers - to form the specialists.
Develop your character
One of long-awaited Tactics innovations is the option to play for different species. There are six races in the game: humans, mutants, ghouls, dogs, deathclaws and robots. You can select anyone except humans in multiplayer only. Each race has own merits and demerits expressed in main stats (SPECIAL) minimum and maximum values and skills available. E.g. mutants cannot use pistols - they are too small for their arms. The humans can hardly train themselves to the sate when they can carry most heavy weapons. Ghouls are resistant to poison and radiation, the dogs are fast moving and painfully biting, and deathclaws are just walking killing machines. However the last ones are quite different from common deathclaws. While in first Fallout series the creatures have had a really alien appearance, in Tactics they are more similar to the hybrid of cattle and ape.
Starting the game, you can select one of six standard characters or create your own hero. Among new skills there are vehicle driving and mine arming/disarming. The developers have provided a very useful for multiplayer option, setting your character's hair, skin and armor color. The armor color is the only thing perceptible, though. There is no time to look at unit hair color.
The only demerit of all system is lack of option to save your "creation" as some template or print the character statistics file, like in Fallout 1 and 2.
For further compliance with tactical game standards, the soldier portraits were added to tactical screen. They are quite nice-looking but I haven't expected to see so much marginal in Brotherhood! It seems there are no nice guys, just brigands. Maybe Dan Levin was right saying the Brotherhood is no better than mafia? Anyway, BOS warrior of first Fallout have looked much more respectable and, maybe, noble…
The green was dominating color in Fallout design. Unfortunately, the developers have pushed too far the idea of retro style infusion into Tactics. Usual, pseudo crushed and torn brownish character photos from first demo were much nicer than final interlaced "green hue etudes". The abundance of toxic green color in interface is just making the atmosphere more depressive and preventing player from pleasant submersion to Fallout world.
Fallout allows you to develop many stats, and the success in their improvement is defined by pre-set initial priorities for a certain character. Each soldiers, while collecting his frags, earns the experience for all combatants. Correspondingly, the more people you have in your team, the slower improvement rate is. The perks assigned after each three levels to humans (four levels for other races) are most important moments. The selection of perks is the factor affecting your character formation, his skills, traits and professional orientation - for snipers, campers, scouts or medics.
The vehicle isn't luxury - it is vital thing
Besides the experience gained, the characters earn the ranks and reputation. The ranks are being assigned for missions completed and allow buying cool items from Brotherhood stores. The reputation affects the relations with local residents and communication with not numerous NPC.
The team may consist of no more than six soldiers so there no sense to recruit too much mercenaries at once. You can return to base any time to hire the soldier you are lacking. You can even get cool mercenary after the completion of some certain mission. Everything is depending on you.
Tactics provides us with another long-awaited option, to ride the car. There are several vehicle types in the game, Hummer, tank, heavy armored troop carrier, etc. The driver skills define his success in vehicle driving. Unfortunately, the car is not invulnerable. It can be hit, blown by mine or even badly shot by pistol bullets if left unprotected.
Intelligence or reflex?
The best feature of vehicle is the option to drive over the enemy! Since the age of Carmageddon this is the best game allowing such action. Additionally, vehicle can carry your stock of weapons; and tank, for example, can hit the enemy with big big shell.
Any hardware requires the cautious handling, so you better get good driver/mechanic. The vehicle will help you travel over the world faster and more comfortably.
We should appreciate the huge work by Fallout Tactics developers - they have optimized the game for three combat systems. Tactics is the game for any taste… You can try your best in real-time mode (the developers tried to omit the painful topic of game shifting to real-time system by all means, however CTB is nothing else but real-time), or you can try playing in your familiar good old turn based mode. Finally, if you cannot decide what system you wish to use, select the system of simultaneous control of whole team. The attempts to fight computer in CTB mode just causing you become irritable in constant pressing of the keys controlling quick save and load functions. In CTB mode, you have to compete with computer iron brains so both artificial and natural intelligences are simply reduced to reflex level! :)
AI, unfortunately, is so artificial that I can hardly call it intelligence. The developers have paid most attention to unit placement on the map, not to their ability to act. Check the screenshot No.9. There are about a dozen of enemy corpses on less then three square meters. Make the noise, and enemies will run to its source like trained Pavlov's dogs reacting to the bulb - nothing but reflexes. AI is not even trying to outflank the tent covering my sadistic character waiting for them with shotgun.
However I cannot say the AI is complete idiot. The opponent sometimes makes good decisions - to cover, go prone or even retreat. But in most cases, encountering well-armed enemy, it has no idea there are alternative solutions - e.g. burst mode, or, otherwise, it spends enormous amount of ammo trying to hit me from maximum distance with no chance to hit.
All these negative AI aspects become apparent in turn-based mode (your obedient servant is true fan of it). In CTB mode the situation is much simpler and AI's reflexes are very handy when it tries to send your guys to kingdom come. If you wish to compensate the AI demerits, you have to set the game difficulty at maximum level (fortunately you can do it any time). In result, the opponent becomes deadly dangerous, and the experience amount for each frag is higher.
Thanks God, the developers have heeded my sincerest request and added a very useful for hardcore gamers feature to single player campaign. On the stage of main character generation you can enable one small option, "Tough Guy". As a result, you'll be able to save the game only in Brotherhood bunker, between the missions. Minor but nice thing. This equivalent of Unfinished Business Iron Man mode allows prolonging the interest to single player game. The mission complexity grows, and any miss or fault may cause the fatal end of well-developed character. Additionally, it feels very good to complete the game without cheating!
The multiplayer is possible the main focus of game developers attention. It does not require AI, the character development system is ideal for such game, and map design is optimized for online duels from the very beginning. There are four game modes: skirmish; capture the flag, assault and scavenger. Skirmish is simple death match, when the player who killed all opponents is winner. Assault game requires conquering the key positions on enemy base territory, when opponent have to protect his positions. This mode has also alternative variant, when wins only player who captured the key positions first. CTF, as you know, requires capturing the flag and delivering it to your base. The last mode in the list is interesting, but has only one map. Within a limited time, you have to loot the maximum number of bodies and prevent the opponents from the same action. Well… something close to necrophilia but quite fun! :) Generally, the game is nice, but I wouldn't call the GameSpy Arcade service the best choice for such games. If you wish to play - play with your friends, on LAN or through IP.
What do you need, old man?
At the end of the article, I cannot stop myself from advising you some things. To my sincerest regret, the developers have excluded several items very important for the whole game. You'll find no Alien Blaster, or .223 gun, or 14 mm gun. Trifles? Of course, but these items have already became the objects of cult. Almost every picture of previous games has featured the PIPboy wielding these items. Fortunately, at least Stealth Boy absent in Fallout 2 is back. The game is lacking classical Power Armor, as well as Combat Armor replaced with Metal Armor, which is more similar to Breastplate from Diablo. The game manual is disappointing too. No, its self-descriptiveness is blameless - but where are those funny post nuclear cuisine recipes? The tables with key values, "censored" marks over the text? These things contributed to the charm of previous Fallout series game descriptions. The current manual style is too close to the one of IceWind Dale.
And I can hardly dare to speak about the dialogues removed from the game. First, they have removed 3d renders of character heads, and then all dialogues were reduced to eloquent monologues. (Remember their promises!) Well, let's hope Interplay will decide to release Tactics add-on with all these things fixed.
Generally the game is cool, if you wish to break 3d shooter monopoly to network game. The time will tell how viable the game is…
And finally, there comes our assessment of the game by ten-grade scale in categories, and overall rating.
Background music and sound FX: 8/10
Interface design: 8/10
Graphics and visual FX performance level: 9.5/10
Map/mission design: 5/10
AI level: 5/10
Game balance: 7/10
Plot/game story originality: 7/10
Overall rating: 7.25 (Above average)
(Expected rating: 8.0)
Hoping for the best, I am killing the final frag and starting a new game! ;)
- Yuri Bushin (aga Yurg)