As I stepped from the vault and took in the barren and desolate sights of the Capital Wasteland, I was completely sold into the idea of Fallout 3. It was a relief; after all, I had entered the game with some concern that as an old Fallout fan, I wouldn't be able to set aside my stony old ways and just enjoy the game. It was at some point shortly after that my fears became realized.
At the start I was prepared to divorce all my other games and devote my time to a richly developed world full of emergent gameplay and endless distractions. After a night or two, I began to feel the hollowness of the relationship running ragged at the edges, and by the final climax with a bad guy I cared nothing about - a trivially simple encounter - I was just glad to be done with the whole thing.
It's not you, Fallout. It's me. I was just looking for a different kind of relationship right now, and sure we had some fun for a few nights, but I don't think you're really the kind of game I'm looking to settle down with.
Here's the problem. Like I said, I'm a Fallout fan, and along with my occasionally ill-tempered peers I remain unable to get past my infatuation with a PC gaming industry that is by all measures entirely different. I realize the popular thing to say here is that PC gaming is dead, but if we're going to impart anthropomorphism on such a nebulous concept, perhaps we would be better served by saying that PC gaming has had plastic surgery, hormone therapy and new age psychotherapy. For those of us that liked PC gaming's old identity and personality, disfiguring scars and all, this new and clinically improved identity is tough to reconcile. After all, it's sleeping with the consoles now, and I'm a jealous and jilted lover of the more traditional concepts of isometric viewpoints and turn-based play.
Bethesda was unapologetic in saying that it wasn't really making Fallout 3 for Fallout fans, exactly. To be fair, the Fallout community, already known for being a tad on the unstable side, reacted with a kind of venom and incredulity that only reinforced the validity of Bethesda's decisions. Even now, combining the ideas of Fallout 3 dissatisfaction and being a Fallout fan runs the risk of seeming anachronistic and hysterical, so let me say this: Fallout 3 is not a bad game.
It's just not that great.
In the days leading up to Fallout 3's release, I replayed Fallout 2 and even Fallout Tactics, both games that hold up surprisingly well over the years, so when I entered the wasteland in the third person view I was well primed to play a Fallout game. On the other hand, exposure to the older titles also made the contrast that much more stark.