Amiss

Something is very peculiar about the rhetoric of 1 John, and this Saturday evening I had a sudden realization about why. Sometime this week I have to go to Harding and see if any commentaries have spotted the same thing that I have. They can’t have missed it entirely. Either way, if their explanations are not sufficiently rhetorical, I think I have the thesis for a third article.

Fallout 3 review

I finished Fallout 3 the other day and I thought I’d share my impressions. No spoilers.

Let me get something out of the way first. When I was younger, I wanted to make a game a lot like this. It’s a great game. I got more than my money’s worth from it. The following observations should be taken as constructive.

The Oblivion engine that Bethesda used for the game was probably not the best possible choice. It’s a very pretty renderer, and it’s blazing fast for what it is, but the camera controls and the animation are a bit out of style already. Putting this game next to Crysis is a bit offputting, especially when it comes to running and looking at faces, which is most of the game (the rest is shooting various organisms in the head).

Overall, I like the current state of the statistics system, but the level 20 cap was annoying. I hit it well before the game was over – certainly well before I felt the map was thoroughly explored – and there is no in-game warning that you will soon not be able to gain experience. Furthermore, it takes about the same time to get from 19 to 20 that it did to get from 10 to 11. My surprise was mollified by the incredible amount of carnage possible with the Grim Reaper perk.

The ending (again, no spoilers) was slightly disappointing because I didn’t feel my actions during the game had a sufficient payoff. Fallout 2 did a better job with this, in my opinion, giving a fairly detailed lowdown on what happened to the various communities. There is some of this in Fallout 3, but not enough for my taste. It’s closer to how Fallout Tactics ended, maybe about halfway inbetween that game and Fallout 2, in terms of payoff. Despite these misgivings, it deserves a fairly high placing in my earlier discussion of what makes a good ending for a game. The writers had the ending in mind for the entire game. As I played it as a ruthlessly good character, going far, far out of my way to root out evil (I’m pretty sure I killed every slaver in the game, for example, as I found them personally offensive), I suppose if I take it up again, I’ll have to do the exact opposite.

So that’s it for complaints, really. Highlights would include the radio stations. I think have all the songs on Three Dog’s station memorized at this point. I’ve been humming them at work. They were very well chosen.

I found the VATS system a reasonable compromise between the old turn-based system and FPS action. My only caveat would be that using stimpacks should take time; as is, it’s possible to completely heal yourself in the middle of any situation by flipping on the Pipboy. Am I getting critical again? I suppose so. I liked the wide variety of useful weapons and the need to repair them, but I was disappointed that I could, with a measly Strength of 5, carry 10 different weapons – including a Minigun! – and still have room to scavenge. I also found the limit of one follower annoying, though it was nice that the ever-loyal and generally unkillable Dogmeat doesn’t count toward that limit.

The humor was not quite the edgy, even raunchy style I was used to from the first two games. Most of it was more subtle, through the game’s art or the radio, than the dialogue or the quest system. Frankly, some of the funniest parts of the game have nothing to do with the main plot and require quite a bit of trekking around to find. I also enjoying finding the custom weapons and the Bobbleheads, though I didn’t quite finish either off.

Overall, it’s the best PC game I’ve played since Bioshock, and I think Fallout 3 edges it out. The first half of the game was incredibly tense, given the overall vunerablity of the main character and the constant need to scavenge. Later on, as the plot progressed and dying didn’t feel like a constant threat, I felt the urge to explore every corner, and it took me an incredible amount of time to exhaust the possibilities and feel like I was ready to finish the main plot. When I did, the payoff was reasonable. Also, I like giant robots that quote other, seminal giant robots. Ok, that was a mild spoiler.

Obama wins

I have a feeling that the Secret Service just placed a very large order for backup underwear. I was thrilled to watch Obama’s acceptance speech on TV – a million people in Chicago! – but it made me nervous at the same time. I can only imagine how many will make a pilgrimage to the inauguration.

Pennsylvania was called early and killed much of the suspense for me, but I was surprised by him winning not only Virginia, but Ohio, Florida, and now Indiana and possibly North Carolina. He made a serious foray into the South and won more votes than Kerry or Gore – so much for the Bradley effect. Tennessee isn’t going to fall into the Democratic column anytime soon, but I enjoyed running up the popular vote.

All indications point to Obama making his appointments quickly and proposing legislation immediately. With a landslide victory and comfortable margins in Congress, he will have a grace period of a few months to make sweeping changes.

Last-minute jitters

I actually don’t have any jitters, but I think a fair amount of Democrats are just holding their breath today, waiting for this election to be stolen by voting machines or for hidden racism to sweep away Obama’s commanding advantage in the polls (currently about 52-44). But the Obama machine is far stronger than Gore’s or Kerry’s, and I’m not worried in the slightest. The Democrats are organized and united this year in a way that I’ve never seen before, and frankly, Clinton was a far more challenging opponent for Obama, and he defeated her with a canny understanding of the primary schedule. McCain faces the same problem as she did – he can’t beat the math, whether we’re counting electoral votes, total votes, campaign dollars, or volunteers.

As a result, the electoral map is far easier to read this year. One really only needs to pay attention to one state – Pennsylvania. McCain has to win PA or his chances are effectively zero. If Obama wins Pennsylvania, it’s over. He can lose Florida, Ohio, and every other contested state after that and still win. And right now, the polls in PA mirror the national polls quite closely. Furthermore, any of the three states of Florida, Ohio, and Virginia are up for grabs, with Virginia looking very good for Obama.