Fallout 3 has a lot to live up to. Many regard the first two games in the series as RPG classics - free-roaming worlds of postmodern danger and moral consequences. Fortunately, Fallout 3 is one of the most persistently absorbing role-playing worlds ever created.

Sheltered existence

My own experience begins, just as yours will, in a makeshift birthing chamber in a sealed Vault deep beneath the nuke-blasted ruins of Washington, DC. I chose a white male (but there are options galore) and tweaked him into a fair approximation of myself using facial dimension sliders and a small library of hair styles. I then leapfrogged through childhood and adolescence, shaping my vital statistics and core skills until I hit the age of 19; that's when my Father disappeared into the wastelands and I headed out on his trail.

It's easy to obsess about the decisions you make during your formative years. Do you fancy yourself a beefy brawler or a stealthy marksman? Do you put a little extra into your strength, so you can carry more gear, or boost your intelligence, so you earn more skill points to spend on thirteen core abilities? You can even choose from dozens of special "perks" as you gain levels, like Swift Learner or Gun Nut. However, not long after I set foot on the irradiated soil of the surface it became clear that these are the least of the choices I would face the sprawling and desolate wonderland. Within 10 minutes of stepping outside, I'm inspecting the nuclear warhead that rests in the centre of the town of Megaton, trying to decide if my character is the kind of guy who would defuse or detonate this dangerous relic.

NEXT PAGE: choose your own adventure

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