It's not often I give five stars to a game, but Fallout 3 deserves them all. It's a remarkable achievement, and a totally immersive experience. It's a huge game, although you might find the story is not the real meat of the gameplay here because ( a bit like in Grand Theft Auto 3 and its successors) you can spend so much time wandering around the game universe just doing whatever takes your fancy, that the actual plot almost comes in second place.
The game puts your character into post-apocalyptic Washington DC, starting off with a very amusing prologue in which you "grow up" from birth to maturity inside a sealed bunker. There is a sudden and life-changing event in the bunker which sees you suddenly ejected into the outside world, and it's here that the game suddenly leaps into life. I almost couldn't believe my eyes at what I was seeing: a vast, fully explorable wasteland that stretches as far as the eye can see and beyond. And this was just the beginning. Once you start playing you'll soon realise that there is no "right" way to play "Fallout 3". You just do what you think is right, be this helping people or killing wantonly. To progress through the game you need to make a vague nod towards searching for a missing character and discovering locations where there may be people who can help and clues to what to do next. But you don't have to do this until you feel like it. Wander around the blasted landscape and you will come across various bands of people and ruined locations, all of which offer various degrees of danger, help or need of your assistance. Just talk to people that you meet and hear what they have to say, and then you're ready to start making those moral choices!
As you might have worked out by now, the graphics in this game really blew me away. The scenery is simply stunning - the grim wasteland is home to derelict buildings like factories and shopping malls, most of which can be explored, but nothing prepared me for the scale of the capital city centre - massive, destroyed skyscrapers and freeways, tumbling down townhouses and twisted metal and debris everywhere. And it doesnt stop there, characters and enemies look fantastic too.
Apart from exploring, the other thing you'll be doing a lot of its fighting. The game provides you with a kind of point-based attack system (called VATS), which allows you to pause the action at any time and choose which enemies (or body parts of a single enemy) you would like to expend you attack points on. Simply choose all the places you'd like to hit, then unleash the attack and watch the results in slow motion. Once all your points are gone you need to avoid being hit while they build up again and them repeat until enemies are dead. I have to say this took me quite a while to work out. The game would really have benefitted from a detailed battle tutorial. But once you get it, you'll love it. Although, you don't even have to use this method. You can simply aim at enemies in normal play mode and shoot from any numbers of guns that are around to collect, or you can get up close and pummel baddies with melee weapons. I have no complaints about the VATS system, in fact I found it very difficult to survive fights without it.
What's really great (well, I thought so), is that you can choose to play Fallout 3 in 1st person or 3rd person. I played the prologue in 1st person and hated it...once I was outside the bunker I switched to 3rd person and never looked back. It's been said that the 3rd person mode is inferior - the main character looks like his feet aren't touching the ground when he moves, but the camera view can be zoomed in or out (a GREAT idea!!), so I set it to an over the shoulder view from about the knees up and: hey presto, can't see his feet!
Another good thing is the menu interface, it's a wristband/PDA type thing that the character always wears, and it allows you to do a massive amount of stuff such as item management, setting skills, repairing equipment, reading files and so on. And there are a lot of items! Every location has stuff you can pick up like weapons, ammo, healthpacks, drugs, but the wasteland is also overflowing with items like the "ruined book", "coffee cup", "spoon" and so on, which you can gather up until you inventory is overflowing and find no use for at all. I suppose it adds to the reality of things...
There are many great things about this game, although it is not perfect. Twice I was playing and the whole game froze and I had to reboot my PS3. And it was possible to plant the character in parts of the scenery (usually among big piles of rubble) from which it was impossible to step or jump out of - again requiring a restart. On certain occasions the camera went spinning into blind views, usually after a shoot-out in VATS mode, but I guess this goes with the freedom of movement allowed to you in the game as a whole.
However these are only niggles, and they didn't affect my top score - I think everyone should play this game. It's very easy to get addicted to it. The prologue is weak, but the amount of gameplay that succeeds it is immense and once you start you'll be unable to leave it alone.