Fallout 3 is one of those games that, on one hand, gets rave reviews and is called a great achievement for the company that made it, but on the other hand has a small but significant, vociferous and vehement hatebase. And I think I know why. One word. Expectations.
Like Bethesda's other main series, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout 3 and some of those who play it suffer from the categorephilia of our culture. We have to fit absolutely everything into a dozen or so labels which different people have vastly different preconceptions of. Fallout 3 is lumped in with the FPS genre. The problem is, the gameplay of Fallout 3 is utterly distinct fom the gameplay of most FPS games.
Almost every FPS ever put out has you spend at least 50% of the game shooting things. For the majority of FPS', that number is actually more in the 70-90% range. They are called first person shooters, after all, that's kinda the point -- you run around shooting things. Because it's fun! It's commonplace nowadays to have at least some other gameplay elements, puzzle-solving being the most common, but ultimately, most FPS games are about the shooting.
Fallout 3 is, at most, 25% shooting. In and of itself, that wouldn't be a problem, that wouldn't draw concentrated ire. What garners the game a small hatedom is that an equal portion of the game - 25% - is exploration. The Capital Wasteland is, after all, mostly an empty expanse, devoid of things to interact with. Some people love having a massive world to go exploring in, and have fun just wandering around and coming across the occasional irradiated animal or gang of raiders, but some people utterly loathe exploration. To they who constitute Fallout 3's hatedom, it's boring, meaningless, pointless wandering around doing nothing.
The real kicker is that, because Fallout 3 is filed under F for FPS, some people buy the game expecting a certain kind of experience, and when they don't get it, they hate the game that they'd otherwise just quietly ignore.
Just felt like posting this. For no reason, really. You know, as conceited as labels like "First Person Adventure" and such are, we really do need a more expansive system of labeling videogames. The labeling isn't the problem, the labels themselves are just too myopic. We need a concise way to say things like, "You're gonna spend most of your time in this game walking around the world and talking to NPCs, not shooting things, though you do also shoot things."
(Coincidentally, Half-Life 2, which is almost universally praised, also has a small hatedom also based on a conflict of expectations. Just as you spend most of Fallout 3 exploring and NPC-ing, you spend most of Half-Life 2 puzzle-solving in decrepit urban environments. People were expecting something like Half-Life 1 - blasting aliens in an underground labrynth - and weren't happy when their expectations were foiled.)
In 01, electric sheep dream of you!