Fallout 3 has been out since the 28th of October. I realize that when I select free "super saver" shipping on Amazon, it's going to take longer to get to me, but never before have I had to wait as long as I did for my copy of Fallout 3 Survival Edition, which just arrived last Friday. It took so long that I started to wonder if it got lost in the mail. Then, schoolwork dropped like a ton of bricks. So if this forthcoming article is irrelevant, please forgive me for delays I didn't anticipate.
So, Fallout 3 Survival Edition. For starters, this Amazon exclusive costs $130, and I'm fairly certain that they sold out of the PS3 stock before the game even released, so either you'll be lucky to pick up a 360 or PC version (the latter being $10 cheaper), or you'll be getting price-gouged on eBay. If these options end up being too pricey for you, keep in mind that the Fallout 3 Collector's Edition is almost exactly the same, the only difference being some additional packaging and one major absence; if you go this route, you'll be happy to know that the Collector's Edition is widely available for every platform for only $80. Furthermore, if you had preordered from certain stores, you got some bonus items which I'll show off; these are easily available on eBay if you feel like some extra memorabilia.
So after spending $130 and your package from Amazon arrives, you'll open it up to find...a thin cardboard box. Huh. Well, wasn't quite expecting that. Granted, this is a box that's just going to sit in my closet and won't be seen on store shelves (despite a barcode on the back), but I was expecting...well I'm not sure, but something more. Hell, the Dead Space Ultra Limited Edition was intended to be dissected, but it still had a beautiful, high-quality box with tons of care put into the packaging. Granted, this is not a deal-breaker in the least. It could be that this was intentionally simple packaging, meant to be slightly old-fashioned in the face of snazzy modern packaging. And even if you dislike this packaging, keep in mind that there are two packages inside the box that have a bit more care put into them.
See? I wasn't lying. Inside the box is the first package: Fallout 3 Collector's Edition. This is the same exact version that is available in stores, so nothing has been changed for the Survival Edition. As is practically standard for these special editions, there is the requisite slipcover with the Xbox 360 branding and the game's logo. Not much I can say about the slipcover, other than the fact that it's too loose for my liking as usual, so let's slide it off.
The Collector's Edition comes in a snazzy metal lunchbox from Vault-Tec, designed in the signature style of Fallout 3. I don't think I'd actually use it for lunch, but that's mainly because I want to make sure it stays in great condition, so this is something I'd display on my shelf or work area. But rest assured: if you show up to your lunch break with this baby, you'll be the envy of every geek at the table. Which, I suppose, is a position enviable only by those people who feel the need to play Avatar to raise their gamerscore.
While the front of the lunchbox displays oft-used promo art we've seen for months - that of Vault-Tec advertising their vaults - the back has a new, retro picture on the back of a family enjoying an All-American picnic while Dad throws a football to Billy. Not as iconic as the one on the front, but a nice touch when added to the whole package.
Speaking of nice touches, the sides of the lunchbox feature Vault Boy in various poses, making it feel even more like an old-fashioned kid's lunchbox. I'd assume some of them are images of perks or features of Fallout 3, though I can't say for sure without having played the game. Overall, though, I'm very impressed by the lunchbox and will be proudly displaying it on my shelf.
Thankfully, there's a game inside the packaging. Somewhat disappointingly, the game itself is just the retail copy you can buy for $20 less, no metal casing or special art. Since they went all out on the lunchbox, I can overlook it, though it would have been nice to see some more thought put into the game's packaging. The manual, though, is a sight for sore eyes: 40 color pages detailing all the ins and outs of the action-RPG you now hold in your hands. Thankfully, Bethesda knows how to put out a nice, meaty manual during a time when many other companies are scaling theirs back or resorting to black-and-white printing.
You may be thinking that the bonus DVD comes on an extra flap in the game's case, but since the game is the retail version, the bonus DVD is in its own separate cardboard sleeve. I would criticize it, but when they took the effort to emulate the casing of a "holotape," I can't help but be charmed. Entitled "Making of Fallout 3," the disc presents your standard game documentary, though the effort is made to offer both scene selections and subtitles in over five languages, something not normally considered in these releases. The disc also contains two trailers and two art galleries. The DVD is, unfortunately, not a certified Xbox 360 disc, so you won't be watching this content in HD. In other words, it's a fairly standard DVD that doesn't do anything wrong but certainly doesn't reach out past what the diehard fans want to see.
Fallout 3 Collector's Edition also comes with an art book, which is usually my favorite part of any special edition. Though the lunchbox almost took this spot, I'm happy to report that this has not changed. This is no flimsy pamphlet, but a 96-page hardbound book, showcasing art that ranges from environment paintings to costume details, and even a few rare examples of storyboards they did for the game. Many of the renderings are done in a very rough 50s art style, even if they are not meant to be traditional 50s art, lending this book a unique flavor compared to other art books. I highly recommend looking through one of these at least once.
Last but not least is the Vault Boy bobblehead doll. Unlike most figurines given away in special editions that attempt to be highly detailed and rarely succeed, Vault Boy is rendered in minimal detail - this is meant to look like a mass-produced toy, from what I can tell. The paint is clean and simple, and the head delightfully bobbles every time I smash my omega pedal into the ground while playing Rock Band. It's not a bad toy, though it does have a few flaws, mainly concerning the stand. At least on mine, the left foot easily comes out of the stand. The stand itself could use some additional weight, because even though it adequately supports the figure, it seems like it could easily get knocked over. Still, for non-figure collectors, this bobblehead doll will be a welcome addition to any desk.
Now we come to the main difference between the Collector's Edition and the Survival Edition: the Pip-Boy 3000. Clock. Not an actual Pip-Boy 3000. Man, that would have been cool though, huh? Until science can make such a stylized retro gadget, we'll have to settle with this plastic clock replica. Let's take a quick look at the box, the second package inside the simpler cardboard box shown in the first picture. I like how it's presented as an actual product, "Inspected by 13 for Vault Deployment." Numerous different renderings and cut-aways give the impression that this "deluxe chronometer" is a real, working piece of machinery. Of course, a small box on the bottom says it's a digital clock intended only for display and not for wear, but screw that, let me have my fantasy.
As for the clock itself? Well, there's no getting around the fact that it's plastic, not metal. It's really detailed plastic, but it's still not as fancy as some weathered metal might have been. It does make some concessions, though, in placing a moveable knob and a moving gauge on the front, to give the impression of actual monitors and pointers. Other than that, this functions as a standard clock, with the three buttons beneath the display allowing you to set it. There is no option for alarms, and obviously no radio, so in actuality, this is quite limited. It feels like they lost some opportunity to make it function more like an actual model would, at least with some basic functions like an alarm and radio. You won't be smashing this when you wake up in the morning, so pretty much all you can do with it is put it on its display stand, which does make it look cool.
Oh wait, I'm sorry, that's not all you can do. Despite the numerous warnings on the outside of the box not to wear it - no this time we're serious - FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T PUT THIS ON YOUR WRIST - you can totally wear it. Hell, it even breaks into two halves along a hinge if you need help getting it on and off. However, the Pip-Boy 3000 is a very loose fit for most people. If I push it up on my arm to wear my hand is wider, I can keep it in place, but otherwise, it will flip upside down from being loose, unless you happen to have really fat arms. Anyone planning on cosplaying a Fallout 3 character will certainly like to have this option and will figure a good way around this, but for me, I think I'll stick to regular watches and leave this one on the stand.
I should note that this paragraph here was added after the rest of the review was written. Why, you ask? Because I noticed a rather glaring problem with the Pip-Boy 3000 - it has a terrible power design. The clock comes with three AA batteries, but if your clock is like mine, they will be used up within a week. Initially, I thought the clock was dying on me, and I noticed innumerable complaints in Bethesda's forums about dead clocks, as the display dimmed, only becoming visible with the lights out, until it was barely on and the time had reset to 12:00. After freaking out and getting pretty damn pissed off, I tried three new batteries, and lo and behold, the clock worked fine again. I don't know what kind of post-apocalyptic nuclear batteries they were expecting us to have, but if this new set of batteries wears out in a week again, I'm sure as hell not replacing them and will shelve the clock until some wall plug mod is conceived.
That's all the stuff in the Survival Edition, but depending on where you preordered the game, you might have gotten some goodies! I have no idea where you would find some of these things now that the game has been out for a while, but they're not that expensive on eBay and maybe your local stores might still have some of these promos. The first promo I grabbed was a magnetic Nuka Cola bottle opener from Best Buy. It reminds me of the refrigerator magnets at my grandma's house, like it would just blend in there with all her actual magnets from the 50s, so mission accomplished, Bethesda. I can't bring myself to actually use it and risk messing it up, but as with the lunchbox, you may be more adventurous.
If you preordered from Gamestop, you received a CD featuring selections from the Fallout 3 soundtrack. The sleeve is done up to look like an old record sleeve, and the CD looks like a tiny record as well. If I were producing it, I would have actually cut a hole in the sleeve and let the CD show through like a record would, but the image gives the same effect. The tracks consist of three licensed oldies and two newly-written background songs. Personally, I would have liked to see all of the licensed songs gathered together and put on the CD, but it seems that companies are reluctant to do so when they can release a full list of songs elsewhere and let the player go through the trouble of piecing them together.
Preordering at Gamestop also got you this poster. In case you can't tell, it's the art from the box. Not much to say about it, other than the fact that I'd have preferred if it was rolled up instead of folded, but I suppose it was much easier to ship these.
Finally, depending on where you ordered or what promotions you went to, you might have gotten your hands on one of these Vault Dweller's Survival Guide. This humorous look at the world of Fallout 3 is intended as a manual for those about to wander outside the safety of their vault. While it may be obvious information for those who have played the game by now, these are still charming promotional materials that I'd grab if you ever see one.
And now it's time to evaluate the Fallout 3 Survival Edition. In doing so, I'd like to also render a verdict on the Collector's Edition. There's no question that these are well-thought out bonuses; I for one am glad to have a gaming-related clock to spruce up my game shelf. However, I cannot overlook the differences in price. $20 extra for the Collector's Edition seems more than fair, considering you receive a lunchbox, an art book, a bonus DVD, and a bobblehead doll. However, the Survival Edition is $50 on top of that. And for what? A cool-looking clock that is severely lacking in features that you could probably do without unless you're a giant Fallout fan or a cosplayer. In addition, there's the severe concern about whether said clock will even reliably work in the long run; it comes with a 90 day warranty, but you have to pay to ship it back and include $10 to get it shipped back to you, since Bethesda refuses to suitably address the problem just because the didn't manufacture it. There is simply no way I can recommend spending that much on a clock, no matter how cool it looks. So by all means, pick up the Collector's Edition, you'll probably enjoy it. But unless you are just looking for ways to waste your money, it's safe to pass on Fallout 3 Survival Edition.
On a scale of one to ten winged-unicorn-bear-knights, Fallout 3 Survival Edition gets:
On a scale of one to ten winged-unicorn-bear-knights, Fallout 3 Collector's Edition gets:
Pros: Fantastic lunch box, inspired bobblehead doll
Cons: Clock is not worth $50, horrible clock power supply, Survival Edition packaging could have been done better