Fallout 3: It may be a wasteland, but it’s oh so beautiful

By Dan Zuccarelli . July 20, 2007 . 9:02am

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While it's true that Fallout 3 won't see retail shelves until the Fall of 2008, it's already shaping up to be a game you'll want to keep your eye on. It's from the folks at Bethesda and is a successor of sorts to Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, at least in game play style. Story wise the game is based on the criticially acclaimed PC series from years back. So with a hugely successful next-gen RPG already out and a lineage of great games to live up to, how is Bethesda doing with the game?

 

Thankfully, very very well from what we've seen so far. 

 

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Now I know a lot of people out there are huge Fallout fans, as the series has something of a rabid following. Sadly I can't speak to how this game does in the canon of those that came before, because honestly I never played the first few Fallout games. I know that loses me some geek cred but it's something I'm working to fix, trust me. But the creators of Fallout 3 took great pains to mention numerous times what big fans they are of the original games, and that this game will satisfy the old fans while opening it up to new fans as well.

 

You start the game at your birth in an underground vault, and over the course of a tutorial get older and choose what your skills will be. You'll choose your stats in-game by taking your G.O.A.T's (General Occupational Aptitude Test). It's a cool way to handle a tutorial without feeling like you're sitting there being lectured. As a cool little aside your fathers appearance will be based on what you decide you'll look like in game, so it really looks like you're related. When you reach adulthood you wake up to find your Father missing and you break-out of the vault to try and find him (thus ending the tutorial). You'll have one last chance to change any of your stats before leaving the vault, but once you're out… you're out. What you find on the surface of Earth is a scorched mess, the remnants of a long past nuclear war.

 

The demo made it's way across the wasteland, on the way killing some enormous bugs. As an added bonus you can shoot the fusion engine in the broken down cars to do both explosive damage and radiation damage. Radiation, it seems, it going to play a pretty large part in your day to day activities. You'll need to constantly need to be on the hunt for fresh water, and will need to balance your water intake with your radiation exposure. Water on the surface has a higher level of exposure than what you'll find deep underground.

 

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We come upon the town of Megaton, named after the unexploded bomb in the center of town. We met the "sherrif" pictured above. This gave us good look at how the conversation system has improved since Oblivion. The back-and-forth flow seemed a lot more fluid this time and while not as advanced as something like Mass Effect, seemed to build upon the Oblivion style. To those that played Elder Scrolls, you'll be at home here.

 

The detail in the structures and in the town in general is really amazing, far beyond what Bethesda was able to do in Oblivion. To show the wildly different paths people can take we're given the option of either disabling the bomb forever or rigging it to blow, essentially choosing whether this entire town lives or dies. There are characters here, and quests and plot points that will be forever closed if we blow it up. Vice versa an entire quest line will be shut off if we don't agree to do it. It'll be those kinds of decisions that will make the game hit home when you're playing it  (For the sake of the demo they ended up blowing up the town, and it looked awesome).

 

The sort of power will weigh heavily on the player, even watching the demo and not talking to anyone in the town before destroying it made it a little unsettling when they triggered the bomb. I can imagine what a hard decision it would be to make if you had learned the back story of some of the townspeople. It's easy to kill mutants and random baddies, but innocent people are something very different. Of course maybe you'll save more people by destroying it, or it'll turn out they're not so innocent after all. Either way the game's not only going to offer tough ethical choices but a good deal of replayability as well.

 

One of the things I noticed during the demo that I think fans are really going to like is a fully functional 3rd person mode. Unlike in Oblivion when 3rd person was essentially a broken mess this time it's being integrated well enough that you could play the entire game in 3rd person if you wanted to. I'll probably stick with 1st person but it's nice to know the option is there.

 

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Another thing is something they're calling the V.A.T.S. (Vault Assisted Targeting System). This may be carried over from the old Fallout games, but I'm not really sure. What you're able to do is freeze the game and choose where on your enemy you'd like to attack. So you can go for a head shot for max damage (but low probability of hitting) or aim for the arms/legs/torso. So you can cripple guys running at you with melee weapons and shoot the arms of those guys trying to handle firearms. You use a pool of points to pull off these maneuvers and you'll have to let them recharge over time, so it's not something you'll be able to totally rely on. It certainly made for cool headshots.

 

We still have quite a ways to go before the Fall '08 launch date, so I have a feeling we're only scratching the surface of what the game's gonna offer. So whether you're on a 360, a PS3 or a PC, this is one you're probably going to want to keep your eyes on.

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  • http://thegamespoilers.com Louise

    This looks gorgeous. I keep meaning to play the first two, but I think I’d need to take a few days off from work to really get into it.

  • http://www.nma-fallout.com/ Paul P

    Sir, please go play the first Fallout two games before you praise this one. Once you have finished them you will surely be compelled to come back and write a retraction of any praise you have given Bethesda.

    What Bethesda has done in it’s infinite fear is refuse to stray from the path that they are familiar with and essentially made a mod for Oblivion. They were given a game with superior story and a large fanbase already present and they were still too afraid to try something new to them. So they changed it, warped it till it became familiar, till they weren’t scared, and till it wasn’t Fallout anymore.

    They now knew what to do, they’ve done it before, it’s easy! But how often is the easier path the better one? Instead of trying something new, something hard and unknown to them, they tried to stay with what they already know and thus have alienated the fan base.

    This game doesn’t appeal to old fans as you can see by going to any of the long lasting fan sites still existing. Who will it appeal to then? Old Elder Scrolls fans. Their old fan base, not Fallout’s. They seek to rejuvenate their own series while tarnishing a better, but older one. The development team claims that they’re all Fallout fans, but that’s clearly been evidenced as just marketing drivel. Why work so hard to say it again and again? Because it’s not true. “Methinks you doth protest too much!” An apt quote for this issue. But you can see further that they do not care about keeping true to fallout in all these screenshots.

    There are so many pretty pictures. Distractingly pretty. Historically why have most games overemphisized graphics during previews? Cause the gameplay sucks. But more than that, what else have they done with their graphics? Oh my, they’ve changed things. This game takes place just a few years after Fallout 2, but, for example, the super mutants have warped into Hell Knights from Doom 3. Are the Ghouls now looking like something ripped from Resident Evil? Bethesda keeps telling us to look at the gorgeous scenery while dodging questions about betraying he Fallout style with a quick recitement of “We’re fallout fans, so do not question us!!”. The original Fallout games and even the newer Fallout: Tactics didn’t rely on shiny things to distract us, they just went and gave us good gameplay and story. This is why they’re still so revered and continually played to this day, despite being a decade old.

    Gameplay… gamplay never changes. Or does it? Bethesda thought that the tried and true style of TBS(Turn-Based Strategy) was archiac and useless, when all it needed was a little polish. So they decided to fall back on their own, Bethesda’s prefered style of FPS(First-Person Shooter). Great, take away one of the biggest ties to the original games. Further alienation of the real fans. What’s next? Take away the depraivity so that you won’t have Jack Thompson crying to you? Whatever is easiest, right? Whatever doesn’t force you to work harder. This gameplay style was great, especially with Fallout Tactics giving you the choice of RTS or TBS. Why couldn’t they stick with this? With some simple polishing up of the AI it would remove any clunky or slow feelings they claim to have. Personally I just say Bethesda is filled with twitch gamers wanting another shooter, but hey, I’m just one guy, so who listens to me?

    Going back to graphics for a moment, I’d like to point out the poor integration of Fallout elements into Fallout 3. Interplay was always very careful about making it seem more lifelike and not mixing up the cartoonish elements with the realistic ones. For example, there was a image in Game Informer that showed an ad for the vault, which mixed normal humans with the famous PipBoy. This wouldn’t happen before. PipBoy was around a lot, but it wasn’t mushed in with other things. This is a good example of how they knew to keep things seperate because it wasn’t proper. But that’s tossed away now. Also, Fallout has a very 50s inspired appearance, which I think most people are aware of by now. But this extends to many facets of the world. Archetecture, vehicles, decorum, etc. Bethesda hasn’t put enough effort in and many parts come off as being generic and without definition of a proper era. Many things look like they were from the 90s even. A far cry from the original. But they’re very well versed in removing things too, not just changing them.

    Bethesda has publically announced that they’ve removed the car from their game. Unfamiliar people are probably thinking, “Who cares? It’s just a car.” But for those that have played, they recognize it as a icon of the game. It’s a classic part of the game and is a very good example of the Fallout world. To simply rip it out and say who cares is just one more sign that they really don’t care about turning this into the next proper Fallout game. There are other things too that are very Fallout based, even if not part of the main story. Eye shots and groin shots were also ripped away. Bethesda claims that eye shots were removed because they want the head to explode anyway. Would it not be suiting that the target’s eye disappear and blood gushes from it, thus causing the target to clutch their face in pain, effectively disabling them? Oh wait, but that’s more work, something Bethesda fears. But fine, let this one go, why no groin shots? You can’t just claim that it’s too similar to another shot, because it’s definately a unique target. So why then? Dumbing it down and making it less edgy? More risque things like drug use and groin shots are far less acceptable by today’s paranoid and ignorant public than just simple blood and gore, right? Taking the easy path again. So will we be seeing drugs, alcohol, sex, child death, and other destinctively Fallout aspects gone with the groin shot? Time will tell. Perhaps they can get that E rating they’re shooting for by October ’08.

    So overall we have a game that is overemphisizing graphics, changing the traditional gameplay style to their own, failing to comprehend the true Fallout spirit and slapping together what they poorly perceive as Fallout symbols, removing aspects of the original game that made it unique, and generally just pandering to their own wants while neglecting the fans. Congrats Bethesda, I’m sure you’ll love playing your own game. If you have the time, perhaps making a version for us, the fans.

  • jeremyk

    I am as huge a fallout 1/2 fan as there is and I’m excited about this new game, oblivion-tinted or not.

    Having seen what black isle was going to try and pass off as a third installment – retreading the very same ground, but a decade later, I’m glad some new hands are going to have a go at it. Oblivion (and Gothic 1/2/3) are the games I’ve felt have gotten closest to the spirit of what made the fallout series so great to begin with, and I honestly would be SURPRISED if this new game disappoints anyone but the most rabid thoughtless fanboys.

  • rl2000

    Calling fanboys thoughtless is just plain ignorant. I really fail to see how oblivion not being PA, not being turnbased, not being isoview, not having dialog and not have shades of gray style choices that forever lock you out of other aspects of the game can come to symbolize the spirit of Fallout for you.

    This game WILL dissapoint a lot of people, people who’ve stood by a game like fallout for so many years and have just been pissed on and have endured countless dissapointments. So excuse these people for being a bit uptight about wanting what they’ve been witing for, excuse them for demanding that when someone buys the license they live up to a minimum of what the game the license is based on made them feel.

    Me? I loved fallout 1 & 2, I even preordere tactics, so I have the special box and the nifty little handbag that came with it. I don’t think FO3 will be a bad game, in fact, it looks like it’s going to sell a gazillion copies and looks great. But it’s isn’t fallout. 1st person may be what they call immersive, but that’s not fallout, the vault dweeller was you CHARACTER, he wasn’t you, that’s a very important part of the feel.

    But I could keep naming things that made fallout fallout, but that doesn’t change the fact that that’s not what Bethesda wants to do, which they have admitted, this game is not for the pople who liked the gameplay and feel of the orginal series. This is for the new kind of gamer, this is for their own fans and this is for massproduction on consoles.

    Now, this doesn’t make it a bad game, but it’s definately not fallout.

    I’m not a fanboy per say, I’ve never really been a forum activist and up untill lately I didn’t really follow fallout news since tactics. But I do love fallout, in my eyes it’s the best RPG ever made, it is unique and hasn’t been done before or since in the way it was done. And fallout 3 won’t change that, it will be more like a lot of other games, it will be more generic.

    But what can you expect, they kind of game fallout1&2 was won’t cut it for consoles, it was built for mouse and keybaord and a screen where you can actually READ, games today are mostly made for massmarkets, for crossplatform, that’s where the bacon is.

    I don’t blame bethesda for thinking their game is coolm I don’t blame them for wanting to make money and sell as monay copies as they possibly can, who wouldn’t.

    That just doesn’t make this a worthy heir to the fallout license.

    Van buren wasn’t even alpha yet, and still it made me cry when I saw what I could’ve gotten, my beloved fallout back.

    But I agree, this game won’t dissapoint anyone but the fans of fallout…

  • Jamey

    @Paul P: The decision to move Fallout 3 from turn based isometric to real time first person came way back in the Interplay days, it doesn’t originate with Bethsoft

  • Marco

    Since I never played the first 2 Fallout games (and even if I did, I wouldn’t care since I don’t really care if game series’ change since sometimes it can be for the better like Final Fantasy XII), I don’t really care if it changed, and as long as its enjoyable and good, and seeing from your preview, it WILL be, then its definitely going to be a buy for me! Unless it ends up being absolutely screwed up in the end.

  • moriarty

    i think it’s funny that the nma fanboy said fallout was ’50s inspired

    you’d think someone who claimed to be a real fan or whatever would know that the two primary influences on the original fallouts’ artistic direction were art deco and futurism – neither of which survived into the ’40s

    if you’re going to try and come off as some sort of font of fallout-related wisdom, you might want to try harder, pal

  • TheCommunistCow

    Wow… that was just dumb.
    The developers for the original Fallouts stated multiple times that much of Fallout was based on the fears and stories about nukes and radiation from the 50′s, especially pulp fiction.
    That’s why there are giant scorpions, that’s why there are mutants and ghouls, that’s why the car from Fallout 2 was designed to look like a car from the 50′s, and so on and so forth.

  • Zantetsu

    I agree with CommunistCow and rl2000 (dident have time to read everything)
    Comparing the making of Fallout by Bethesda is like creating a poem by a known football player… The game will be just for making money. After realising Oblivion there where many complaints about the gameplay, the size of the terain on which you can play, the “one way” quests… Thats not an RPG when you are the character of an alredy written book and you are just playing to get to the next page, and the next one, and next one untill THE END… What i mean is that you have no influance of what will happen – it will just happen and only this will happen because the gamemakers wanted it this way – you cant kill everybody in a city. Why ? Because the character is linked with a quest or it is just plain important (thats genius!)… Another one – You have to speak with somebody to give you a book that a character asked you for. (ok easy one, go talk to him, he says no, you go back and say your questgiver he dident want to give you the book,the questgiver says you what u must say, then go back to the other guy and say this “bla bla bla”… ok you have the book)… Why not just steal it from the guy, why not threat him that if he dont give us the book then we “will put a nice sharpened blade to his throat, and force him to eat every page of the book untill it is gone, and if not… well, your choise”, how about putting him asleep with a poison (in Oblivion are many poisons that just have no use – u cant use them, u can put them on a table, but so what ? The bottle is the same as a bottle of wine and you replaced it whit the poison… its just an object and will not be used, it is all just there for the eye (just like the whole Oblivion, i have 2GB ram, Core2duo 1.8 and a nvidia GF8800GTS… so what, the game is jumpy on maximum details and even so it doesent look good – it is so beautifull, so… candy’ish…)
    That is very important in RPG’s that you can do every quest, every action (at least – a lot) in what way you want – the easiest example of this is – do it the right way or the wrong way… And in fallout it was always – do it the way u want :)
    This can be made again or even better, even Bethesda can make it… But it looks like they want to make just a “golden egg” and sell it… But why not making a “Chicken laying golden eggs”. When you where buying Fallout 1 or 2 or both, you wasnt buying a graphical masterpiece (but on the 199* years it was great, and it still is great), if you can call Oblivion a graphicall masterpiece, rather a CPU, RAM, extra expensive graphic card sucking monster to show you what u CAN do… But what for ?… What is a game that is made only for watching ?
    You realy dont have to use your mind to play this…
    Every next game is just made for cash, and that is not a bad thing, but dont screw up fallout because all the games are very very similar. Everything you have to do is to have a console and a pad, it is like operating a shovel…

    And with that what are you playing now is mind-junking… Imagine what your kids will play.
    Shame on you Bethesda, or make a great best game ever made (or at least not less good then fallout 1/2 ) :)
    Cheers

  • AsukaN

    Hahahahaha Zantetsu. The term RPG means role playing game. Which means you play in a role of a character in a story. Albeit most games can fit that definition when stated that way, generally however an RPG also includes classic elements derived from table top games such as D&D. There are plenty of amazing RPGs where you go page by page through a story. No multiple endings or anything. So all this rubbish about user influencing actions being the core of RPG gameplay is simply that. Rubbish.

    And anyone who whines about Fallout 3 ruining the series history FORGETS Tactics AND BOS.
    Tactics – a squad based action game that had little storyline and (as I remember) no multiple endings.
    Brotherhood of Steel – I really do not feel I have to explain this one.

    Fallout 3 CANNOT be worse then BS, err, BoS. I am so sick of stupid fanboys saying “its going to be terrible”. And yes, while I too am angry about it, I am still going to play the game, and most likely enjoy it. Maybe not as a Fallout, but on its own merits.

    As for the true fallout 3, looks like its back to the modsquad…

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