Fallout 3
Platform: PC
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Genre: Action RPG
Release: US Fall 2008
Japan TBA
Europe TBA

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The Pip-Boy 3000 is key to your survival in The Wasteland.
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Do I look like I care?
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The V.A.T.S. targeting system allows gamers to target multiple parts of an enemy.
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Post-apocalyptic science labs freak me out
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John McCarroll
Hands-on Preview
John McCarroll

Bethesda Softworks knows RPGs, but many gamers were skeptical when they announced they had purchased the rights to the Fallout series. After all, Black Isle's two iterations of the series are seen as two of the greatest games in PC RPG history, and the last two titles developed by other companies, Micro Forte and Interplay, weren't quite up to snuff. So what should gamers expect with the newest title in the series from a new developer? Based on the E3 demo, something entirely different... but also oddly familiar.

The most obvious change to the world of Fallout introduced by Bethesda is the fact that the game is no longer a hex-based title, but rather a first or third person action-RPG that provides players with the ability to pause and call some shots. The standard portion of the combat functions similar to Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Bethesda's last title. When players press the RB button (or equivalent on the PS3 or PC), they're provided with a PipBoy-style overlay which provides percentages for shots on individual parts of the body, much like aimed shots from earlier iterations of Fallout. While players lose the ability to shoot their enemies in the groin, players entering the VATS system gain the ability to stun, frenzy, maim, or confuse enemies based on where they are attacked. In addition, players can enter VATS with melee weapons, although the individual body parts cannot be targeted. After entering these commands, the player's AP is drained based on the attacks used and they're provided with a short cinematic with the shots. Most amusing in the demo was my attempts to defeat a trader's two headed cow using only a pair of brass knuckles, which, suffice it to say, didn't work out too well.

The other glaring change in Fallout 3 is the fact that the game is no longer limited to the 2D plane. While the console-only Brotherhood of Steel was a 3D title, this recreation of the world of Fallout is massively different. The game is absolutely gorgeous and uses the same physics engine as its predecessor-in-engine, Oblivion. This means that things move and sway and quite a bit of the environment can be destroyed. The demo threw players directly into the world just outside of Vault 101 and immediately there were vehicles that could be destroyed with massive explosions. Since they were nuclear powered as well, destroying them introduced radiation into the air, making the situation none too good for the main character. Players are also able to wear a great deal of clothing or armor (I was able to wander around in my underwear and a baseball cap beating people up with a baseball bat). Not many games come with a pedigree like that.

Fallout 3 uses the previous titles' SPECIAL attribute system. We had access to a small spattering of perks as our level 2 selves, which ranged from increased ability with numerous types of ranged weapons to the ability to have extra dialogue options with people of the female persuasion. While we didn't have access to a great deal of the dialogue with the perk or otherwise, Bethesda promises that the game's choices will be beefy and will actually matter to the player. In addition, choices the player makes aren't limited to dialogue options. When I killed the sheriff of Megaton and stole his cowboy hat, the citizens of the city were none too happy with me and began to mob me. I had to flee the city and I lost access to the quests in the city. On the up side, however, I had a cowboy hat.

While we had access to the game for thirty minutes, it felt like we were barely able to scratch the surface of the title. Fallout 3 looks incredibly promising and the folks at Bethesda know what they're doing with RPGs. Purist fans of the first two titles may not like everything that they see in Fallout 3, but the title is shaping up well and should be enjoyed by both those who have never played an RPG and those who have tried to run through Fallout with a 1 STR 1 DEX character. Keep watch for Fallout 3 when it releases this fall.

Neal Chandran
First Look Preview
Neal Chandran

1997 saw the release of Fallout for the PC. This post-apocalyptic RPG has become a bona fide classic and is much revered among RPG fans. A year later, Fallout 2 was released and has earned the same level of reverence. Although spinoffs such as Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel and Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel were released, the long awaited and much anticipated Fallout 3 is finally on the horizon.

The official website only reveals the humble beginnings of the story. In this tale, a global atomic war in 2077 left the US all but destroyed, and for 200 years Vault 101 has been the sanctuary of the surviving residents of the Capital Wasteland (formerly known as Washington D.C.) Within Vault 101 and its Vault-Tec engineering, the giant insects, raiders, super mutants and other nefarious nasties pose no threat to the people. However, one fateful day, you learn that your father has defied the Overseer and left the sanctuary of Vault 101. Being a good son, you too abandon the Vault for the Wasteland in search of your father and the truth.

Fallout 3 has many features, some of which will be familiar to Fallout fans. One such feature is the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. character system. This is an acronym that stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck, all of which are the traits you can build up in your character the way you want to. The game promises many unique skills and perks to choose from based on these traits, which can have a variety of effects on gameplay. For example, Agility affects your skills with small guns and sneaking. The game offers plenty of freedom and nonlinear gameplay where you can deal with situations in a variety of ways. The official site offers the example of either talking your way out of a situation in a civilized fashion or flashing your plasma rifle.

Another acronym used in Fallout 3 is V.A.T.S. or Vault-Assisted Targeting System. With this, players can pause time in combat, target specific body parts on foes, or cue up a bunch of attacks and let your Vault-Tec weapon go wild. The game also promises realistic AI where dialogue, behavior, facial expressions, and gestures are rendered in a lifelike fashion. A key tool in your arsenal is your Pip-Boy 3000, an arm-mounted computer that keeps track of your character's stats among other things, such as your level of exposure to radiation (too much cannot be good.) The menu interface appears intuitive and easy to use.

One feature mentioned on the official site is that players can switch between first and third-person points of view at the touch of a button. This is a wonderful asset to gamers who may prefer a first-person perspective while using guns and a third-person perspective during hand-to-hand combat. Regardless of which perspective you view the game through, the screenshots look great. The visual design of the grim, post-apocalyptic Wasteland and the detailing of polygonal characters and enemies are noteworthy. The detailing in characters' faces is quite apparent in screenshots, given the promise of lifelike facial expressions in the game. Enemies also look quite detailed. The screenshot of the Super Mutant shows well defined musculature, detailed armor, and a variety of colors. As far as music and sound go, the official trailer starts off with an oldies song that eventually morphs into an ominous symphonic piece and a deep voiced gentleman saying, "war, it never changes." The promise of good voice acting and solid music is present here. The subtle animations during the trailer attest that the visuals in Fallout 3 look good in motion as well as in stills.

Fallout 3 is one of the most highly anticipated games of 2008. It aims to please veteran Fallout fans with its use of classic Fallout gameplay systems, while also looking to gain a new constituent of fans via the enhancements afforded by new generation hardware. Fallout 3 is slated for a fall 2008 US release.


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