Here’s a short description, based one on one on the Game Informer article, with a few quotes:
The combat is real-time. V.A.T.S. allows players to pause (if they wish to). When you pause, you can target an enemy, in which case you’ll zoom in on him and can aim for body parts, with percentages for to-hit chances showing up like in the originals.
You have a set number of action points based on agility. “Every combat move you make will deplete this supply”, while your AP count will regenerate in realtime at a rate set by your agility.
If your action points are depleted, you can continue in real time, but this will significantly slow down the recovery of action points.
Summarized: V.A.T.S. is RTwP, with aiming abilities when you pause and with a limited number of pauses depending on PC stats.
Todd Howard notes the following:
“We don’t want to be rewarding twitch play. It’s not an action game, it’s a role-playing game.”
Bethsoft wanted a new system, they made a new system, and they should explain the new system and deal with it. No suggestions can be made now that could count to anything, so what’s done is done, maybe people will like it, maybe not.
What they should do is stop spreading misinformation. Please Bethsoft this is your game, you say whatever you want with it and make whatever you want with it, just don’t spread misinformation like calling this “turn based”, people will notice it isn’t sooner or later and you’ll have a backlash. I’ve seen tens of places on the net with people relieved because the game can be played “on a turn based mode”, when that’s not true.
Even if there isn’t a backlash spreading wrongful ideas is always wrong per se, some of you reminded me of that a few times, now it’s time for you also to play fair and square on this . Please don’t promise things you didn’t implement and don’t plan on implement, that’s not nice. Please?
Edit: LeDriver from RPGBlog just pointed out that there’s not one reference to turn based on the article, so Bethsoft is doing the right thing. Thanks LeDriver, and I hope BethSoft puts the record straight and stops the fanboys of continuing to spread the wrongful idea that the game is turn based.