One thing I did not really enjoy was the attribute selection: you choose your attributes at the beginning of the game without being warned that you won’t be able to change them in the future. And when you realize that, it’s generally too late to start over. However, except for this minor issue, the leveling system is very well done and unlike the chaos in Oblivion, it’s quite easy to use.

Except for your attributes, you have skills and perks. With skills being pretty self-explanatory (weapon handling, lockpicking, speech and so on can be improved here) I’ll talk a bit about perks. These are usually limited to one per level and are extremely varied, allowing you to design your character as a post-apocalyptic Rambo, a little Einstein or anything in between: the choice is yours and it will certainly not be an easy one to make: will you choose extra life points or the chance of a “divine” event to happen while you’re in a battle? Extra equipment storage capacity or a paralyzing palm? Add to that a level 20 cap and you’ll have endless options, endless character development possibilities, more reason for you to spend even more time in the Fallout 3 wastelands!

But that should be no problem since the universe is a quite charming one (as charming as a post-apocalyptic wasteland can be, you know?). You will meet all sorts of people you can interact with, from the quest holders to the “dead meat” – you’ll always have the option to kill or let live anybody you meet. You have the option to be nice with the people or start eating corpses in front of them; steal their items or ignore them for good. Everything influences the game one way or another, as well as yourself: depending on your behavior some people will decide to follow and help you while, on the contrary, others will never want to hear from you. However, no matter how much of a devil or an angel you choose to become, I doubt you’ll ever be alone. Which is not necessary a good thing.

But no matter what path you choose to follow one thing is certain: you will always have to fight for your life, from the regular mole rats and giant ants, to mutated dogs, raiders, ghouls and all sorts of creepy monsters. And dealing fights will generally be done via the VATS combat system or the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System – one of the weakest parts of the game. Even though it is very fun to use at first, it can soon become pretty annoying.

The VATS system basically pauses the gameplay and lets you choose the following moves your character makes during combat: you can target various body parts of your opponents, each having an unique hit chance and limited by your number of action points; then you press play and watch the horror unfold. Unfortunately, the slow-motion action scenes are generally presented from the strangest possible angles, making them hard to follow, hard to understand and barely captivating, except for the gory bits, and huge amounts of blood splatter, of course. Even more, you will generally not be able to defeat all your enemies during this VATS-operated sequence, so you’ll have to finish the job in a pure first person, real time, combat sequence – since action points won’t be recharged automatically unless you have specific perks. A bit of a mess-up, after all, but not really a deal breaker.

As it happens in every RPG, after a fight you’ll start your looting spree and I must admit that, for a post-apocalyptic world there’s a lot of loot to be had and generally tons of stuff to add to your inventory. This indeed simplifies the game but having in mind that there are enough enemies to waste your looted goodies on, it makes complete sense.

The game also allows nostalgic players like myself to go for a third person view instead of the default first person one, but that is poorly implemented so, unless you want to hate your character’s way of moving and the strange environment rotation, you’d better stick to the safer first person view.