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Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel
A hard-edged, squad-based tactical game set in the post-apocalyptic Fallout universe? That's only scratching the surface.
By - Tim "Juan Golbez" McConnaughy

Join the Brotherhood of Steel, rescue dirty children!
For those of you living in a bomb shelter (get it?), the Fallout universe has been around a while. Though each developed a cult following, both Fallout and Fallout 2 went largely underappreciated as role-playing games.

I am ashamed to say that I never finished Fallout, or got a copy of Fallout 2, an error I shall be correcting as soon as I can tear myself away from the rich atmosphere and pulse-pounding gameplay of Fallout: Tactics.

The Plot

Timewise, Fallout: Tactics is set in between the first two Fallout games. A series of "vaults" were constructed before the nuclear war that decimated the US to house important people and supplies. Before all the vaults could be completed, however, the bombs dropped. After the nuclear winter, those who were safely in vaults emerged with supplies and technology.

One such vault housed a group -- the Brotherhood of Steel -- who took it upon themselves to save humanity with technological superiority, and guarded its secrets jealously. As time progressed, their numbers dwindled and a part of the Brotherhood wanted to recruit natives to the cause. They were voted down, and sent in airships east to hunt down the last remaining Super Mutants. These airships were hit by lightning and storms, crashing near Chicago. Fallout: Tactics tells their story.

Tactical Squad-Based Elements

If you haven't played the Fallout: Tactics Multiplayer demo (and don't have the game, of course), you should -- it will speak volumes more than I could say. However, if you can't swing a hefty download, the focus of the game is on the tactical element, and can be broken down into four sections: the control interface, environment interaction, using skills and vehicles.

The control interface is very intuitive. New players should be able to figure it out with the smallest amount of practice. Portraits of the squad members are on the bottom of the screen, and by clicking on the portrait (or the member itself) the tactical display will fill with information about what items that member has in hand, as well as their relative health and any conditions affecting them (bandaged, blinded, poisoned, etc). The map, briefings and mission objectives can be accessed at any time via the PIPBoy, the palm pilot of the future.

Environment interaction is as simple as point-and-click. Certain objects in your inventory can be double-clicked to use, while others (e.g. weapons or lock picks) must be dragged to the left or right hand.

Some of the coolest things in the game are the timed/set explosives. Dynamite has a timer setting -- after activating it you have some time to reach your target and drag/drop it from your inventory to the ground. Plastique, on the other hand, must be set to a radio frequency, and a detonator used to transmit that frequency. Very cool, and opens up some interesting possibilities for multiplayer games. Imagine the enemy team guessing your frequency!

The inventory screen is pretty easy to figure out.
Some of the skills in Tactics are automatically used with certain items. When using a First Aid kit on a fellow squad member, the skill is checked to see if it is successful, and how much of the kit was needed to heal. Lockpicks, on the other hand, raise the lock-picking skill when used on doors.

The Traps skill is automatic to detect mines and explosives, but must be manually selected to disarm them. The sneak skill is an opposed one, modified by light, proximity to cover and perception. There are far more skills available to use in the game, but these should give a pretty good idea.

Next: Role-playing...

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