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Fallout Tactics

Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: 14 Degrees East
Developer: MicroForte
Media: CD/3
Players: 1 - 16
Genre: Miscellaneous/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Fallout Tactics follows in the tradition of the other Fallout games when it comes to graphics, although it's at a considerably higher resolution. Instead of the old 640x480 titles, Tactics supports resolutions up to 1024x768. The world itself is much the same as the other games in the series, which is a good thing. It's gritty and foreboding, very much portraying the post-apocalyptic feel of the world of Fallout. That's not to say that everything you see will be from the previous games, so be prepared to be surprised as the whole thing progresses.

And, as always, the introductory cutscene and the movies in the game are entertaining and informative.

The aureal experience is just as solid as you'd expect from the series. Orders are barked at you, instructions are given with a solid voice, and you don't feel that the voice actors were picked up off of the streets to play the parts. [They're not -- a quick look tells me that everyone's favourite gunnery sergeant from Full Metal Jacket somewhat reprises his role here. This is a Very Good Thing. The sound effects are solid, if not amazing, and the music is both fitting of the mood and quite good.

So, despite the somewhat dated look (isometric graphics may turn off some), Fallout Tactics is presented solidly.


I wish that the game itself were as solid. It's not bad, by any stretch -- indeed, it's one of the best tactical RPGs I've played on the computer for a long time -- but it always feels like there's something missing, like the game could have been tweaked a little more to make for a better experience. Part of it comes from the overwhelming maps, which make other games of the genre look like terribly small potatoes, but end up making some battles more tedious than they should have been. Part of it comes from the buggy nature of the game -- fortunately, that's fixable. And part of it comes from the fact that the battle system tries to be a jack of all trades, but ends up as the master of none.

Since Fallout Tactics is primarily a tactical game, centering on the combat, the battle engine is really key to playing the game properly. MicroForte gives us three basic versions of the combat engine. The first, CTB, is something of an amalgam between real-time and turn-based. It's the default mode, and turns out to be both the most unique and the most frustrating mode in the game. It's simply too difficult to keep tabs on your six squad members when the game's running in real-time, and while it's certainly useful when you're maneuvering around the map, battles are too confusing in this mode to be all that playable, especially on the higher difficulty levels.

There are also two turn-based modes -- squad-based and 'standard'. In squad-based, each side takes a turn moving all of their units. In standard, everyone moves according to their initiative. Of the two, squad-based ends up working better, as part of playing Fallout Tactics is heavy utilization of group tactics. A single person running and gunning is probably going to fold in a matter of seconds; a carefully managed squad can tear through just about any opponent.

Thankfully, you can switch between the modes at will, helping to keep your sanity. And you'll need it -- at the beginning of the game, your warriors are almost as incompetent as they were in X-Com, missing at point-blank ranges and other silliness. If you have the enemy AI turned up, you can be prepared to do the save-load dance far more than you'd like.

There are definite RPG qualities to the game, although there's not the sense of completing quests like in 'normal' RPGs. Instead, your characters gain experience as they fight, and as they level, you can gain new perks that increase their abilities. These perks run a wide gamut, from skill-boosting stuff to ones that raise the number of action points you have and so on. You also have to worry about your skills and your stats, which all determine how effective you are on the battlefield.

If it sounds like I like the Fallout Tactics engine, well, I do. A lot. I've always loved the Wasteland/Fallout world, and I'm a complete strategy RPG nut. But the game definitely has its issues.

The main issue with the single-player game is the fact that many of the missions are just too damned long. Playing them on CTB can make them faster, but it also makes it much harder to keep tabs on your squad, and becomes virtual suicide on the harder difficulty levels. If you play it in turn based mode, you can expect some battles to drag on for hours, and most people will never find the time to beat the entire game. While I love long games as much as the next guy, the sense of progressing throughout the game just takes too long. While Tactics Ogre lasted well over a hundred hours if you wanted to beat the game entirely, those hundred hours were spent in well over twice as many battles. Fallout Tactics, on the other hand, has you spending hours per battle, which makes you lose the sense of urgency you need for a game like this.

The multiplayer mode is also somewhat problematic. It uses a point-based system, where you buy units based on points. The problem is that a single high-point unit can decimate a squad of low-point units fairly easily. The multiplayer modes are also not particularly enthralling. Playing in turn-based mode can be an exercise in frustration, and playing in real-time mode is fun yet somehow unfulfilling. And since your characters don't carry over like they do in the real game, some of the fun of the RPG concept is lost.


Chances are good that a casual gamer will put this game down in frustration, even when playing on the easiest difficulty level. The higher difficulty levels will have even the experts with the genre quaking in their boots. Think Jagged Alliance: Unfinished Business and you'll have a good idea as to what sort of challenge awaits you. The length of the game does nothing to help this, as if you barely squeaked by one mission, there's a good chance that the next will tear you a new one. Multiplayer gaming definitely depends on the setup of the server that you're on -- those that allow pretty much anything will be dominated by juggernaut units, so be forewarned.

Game Mechanics:

The game interface is similar to both the previous Fallout games and the standards of the genre, such as the X-Com series. It's only a matter of minutes before you'll be clicking and shooting your way around the map with nary a hitch. The tutorials are something of a tool to help ease you into the game, but it would have been nice to have a little more about team dynamics.

A quick look at the messageboards for the game shows an amazing number of bugs that people have been having, and indeed, a 70mb (!!) patch has been released for the game that fixes some problems that people were having with one of the game discs. That aside, the game itself still seems to be a little flaky. Stabilization issues, gameplay bugs, and even game breakers have been reported, and while MicroForte and Interplay are hard at work getting these sorts of things fixed, it's a shame that the game was released with so many problems. The past few Interplay titles have seen these sort of bugs, and I hope that the company realizes that the public would rather wait another month for the game if it means it will play better once it's released.

The game manual is also worthy of note -- or, rather, it's nowhere near as noteworthy as the ones for the previous two games. Gone is much of the humour of reading the instructions, and the manual seems to forget to tell you a few useful things, such as how to use your healing skills effectively and other little touches. Most can be figured out by tinkering with the interface, but it's still something of an annoyance.

Fallout Tactics offers a whole lot of gameplay. Some people may argue that it offers too much. With the current buggy state of the game, it may be a wise decision to wait until the next patch release before getting too far into the game. If you can get around the problems that it has, however, you can find a wonderfully deep tactical game with more options and bigger challenges than you can shake a stick at. Fans of the genre should definitely check it out, and those not into it but looking to be, may want to give it a look once a few outstanding problems are taken care of.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

P2 300, 64MB RAM, Win9x/2K/ME, 700MB HD Space, 4MB video card, sound card, keyboard, mouse

Test System:

Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

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