Monday, November 3

Fallout 3 - to kill or not to kill

i know, i know. i've been talking a lot about TV lately. where's the movie reviews? where's the funny websites? where's the food reviews? well tonight i hope to get back on track with stuff that's not just TV. and i'm kicking things off with video games.

i started playing this post-apocalyptic first-person shooter / role-playing game (whew, what a mouthful) called Fallout 3, and within the first two hours of playing i came upon a decision wholly unlike any other i've ever had in a video game before.

to kill, or not to kill.

now, almost all video games present the player with the option to kill a major character, but they do so with blaring trumpets - they present it on a platter. press this button and the guy lives. press this button and the guy dies. and more often than not it's a matter of self defense.

nothing like this happened in Fallout 3. the guy was just standing in front of me and it was up to me to kill him or to let him live.

ok, let me back up. you play as someone trying to escape this "prison." you're trying to escape because your father (an important doctor in this prison) is missing and security thinks you know where he went.

in trying to find out where he went, security interrogates and kills one of his good friends. this good friend just happened to be a sort of uncle to you. now, you don't SEE the murder, but you hear about it and later see his dead body.

the man ultimately responsible for all this is the "warden" of this prison, the Overseer. to complicate matters, the Overseer has a daughter. she is your best friend. she aids you in your escape.

as you near the home stretch, you come upon a scene. the Overseer is interrogating his daughter with the help of a security guard. they want to know where you are. things are getting physical.

ok, first thing is first. the game actually allows you to just sneak past this scene and continue on with your escape (an amazing choice in its own right). of course, i was too emotionally invested in these characters to just sneak on past so i broke up the interrogation. i killed the guard (self defense) and my friend ran for it.

i was left face to face with the Overseer.

the option came up to talk to him, so i did. the only thing he was somewhat remorseful about was the death of my uncle. i questioned him about the interrogation of his own daughter. he basically said the needs of the many outweigh the few - even if the few are family. then he said i had to turn myself in. there was no way i was going to do that, so he started calling for the guards.

conversation over.

now i was left standing in front of him, unable to start another dialogue. i ran around checking for the guards he was calling for, but none appeared. then i checked on my best friend. she was ok but physically and emotionally shaken by the actions of her own father. i exhausted the dialogue tree and moved on, getting closer and closer to the exit.

then it hit me.

what happens to my best friend when i leave the prison? what is the Overseer - her own father - going to do to her if he was already interrogating her as he had been?

i had to go see what i could do.

i went back to the Overseer, but i still couldn't start another dialogue with him. he just kept yelling for the guards. then i pulled out my gun and aimed at him.

the game wasn't stopping me from killing him.

i put the gun down and went back to my best friend to see if she had anything else to say. unfortunately, she didn't. these were my choices:

1) kill the Overseer
+ prevent him from hurting his daughter/my best friend
+ small amount of revenge for killing my uncle
- best friend might hate me in the long run (she still loves her dad after all)

2) let the Overseer live
+ best friend won't hate me for killing him (though she could hate me for NOT killing him if he ends up ruining her life later)
- leaves my best friend in danger
- no revenge for the death of my uncle

i went back to the Overseer one more time just to make sure that the game really was letting me kill the guy if i wanted to. it was. unbelievable.

i thought the decision might be too big to make on my own. i mean what if this one action defines the rest of the game, or the end of the game when i eventually come back home? so i went online to see what other people did and do you know what i found out?

not only is the decision seemingly a minor one, no one else on the forums was talking about it like it was a major decision to be made! i was having my own crisis of conscience on a minor event in the game.

and that's what's so amazing.

there i was, not 2 hours into this 60+ hour game, and i am SO drawn into the world, so emotionally invested - by the dialogue, by the story, by the way the game presents itself - that i'm questioning whether or not to kill someone that ultimately may have no bearing on the game (or very little bearing).

i've never experienced anything else like it in a video game.

so many video games nowadays try and have choices that the player can make - Mass Effect, Fable II, KOTOR - but they usually end up boiling down to very black-and-white, scripted events. not Fallout 3.

and to think. if an event like this happened in the first 2 hours of the game, how many more events will there be like this in the next 58 hours?

if you couldn't tell by now, i am absolutely enthralled by this game.