On Oct. 23, 2077, the world ends. Not with a whimper, but with a bang. And while the narration at the beginning of Fallout 3 declares that war never changes, it's a good thing the Fallout series has made some drastic changes since its last installment a decade ago.

On Oct. 23, 2077, the world ends. Not with a whimper, but with a bang. And while the narration at the beginning of Fallout 3 declares that war never changes, it's a good thing the Fallout series has made some drastic changes since its last installment a decade ago.

The original games were turn-based isometric RPGs that featured an irradiated California. And while they weren't in the mainstream like, say, Halo or Madden, the games garnered loyal fans drawn by their black humor and postmodern settings juxtaposed with an apocalyptic wasteland.

Both of the core original titles featured heroes who rose from a closed-off community in search of some MacGuffin that would allow mankind to survive and thrive in the post-nuclear world.

Fallout 3 carries on in this tradition, but creative control has gone to Bethesda Softworks, creators of the popular Elder Scrolls games, known for their large open worlds and player-directed evolutions. The game also abandons the antiquated turn-based, zoomed-out perspective in favor of a first-person, real-time view.

This more intimate view plays like an Elder Scrolls game with guns. With the move from fantasy to modern combat, it'd be easy to mistake it for an action game like Call of Duty 4. At its heart, though, Fallout 3 is still a statistically driven RPG. In many ways, player skill is less important than the character stats and skills.

"Fallout 3"

System: Windows PC, Xbox 360, Sony PS3

Players: 1

Price: $60

Rated: M for Mature

Who Should Buy it?: Rangers of the atomic wastelands

GameOn! Grade: A

The core story is compelling. You escape from a sealed survival shelter in pursuit of your father. The factions of the surviving government, giant irradiated super-mutants and zombie-like ghouls serve as obstacles on your path to discovering the dark secrets of your birth and how that plays into the survival of the people of Fallout 3.

It's simple for players to shun the game's core storyline in favor of wandering around performing tasks for citizens of the Capital Wasteland. The game feels large and expansive, and it rewards those who spend some time exploring.

Like Oblivion, Fallout supports some basic player choices. Want to be the bad guy who chooses to activate a dormant nuclear bomb in the midst of a struggling community? How about the savior who deactivates the threat? The game allows for both. Like all good morality plays, the choice can drastically change the outcome of your play experience.

Fans of post-apocalyptic stories will find a consistent, enjoyable world to uncover over the hundreds of hours of play included in Fallout 3.