Following the story of the first two Fallout entries, while gleefully glossing over both Tactics and Brotherhood of Steel completely, Fallout 3 occurs long after humanity has retreated to underground vaults, escaping the irradiated landscape for 200 years.
Lead designer Emil Pagliarulo wanted you to feel what it was like growing up in Vault 101, and so you start the game as a newborn, while other “vaultaneers” run various DNA analysis tests on you. Here, Bethesda sneakily slips in their evolved Oblivion-esque character editor, where you define your sex, race, facial and bodily traits. You want to be a diesel, attractive person? Here’s your first chance.
As you grow into an infant, your father gives you your first book outlining where you can spread points among seven different RPG-style attributes, including agility, intelligence and charisma. As a toddler you’re taken through the basics of movement and at ten years old, you get your first firearm (aww!) as well as the robust Pip-Boy, which serves as the streamlined and intuitive menu system used throughout the game. Just like everyone else living in the vault, you take the Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test (G.O.A.T.) as a teenager, which determines your starting skills, such as hacking and engineering.
Hacking and engineering?
The gorgeous wasteland is populated with grotesquely mutated creatures of all kinds, from giant ants intelligently attacking in waves to cannon-wielding Behemoths who charge with abandon. The frequency of combat is tuned down far below a typical First Person Shooter’s fragfest to let the game’s pacing introduce a unique sense of desolation set right into the pit of your psyche as you roam through the rubble. Just like your room!
My room isn’t like that.
But unlike previous Bethesda games, the world’s creatures do not scale to your current level; so if you wander far enough, a Super Mutant is likely to blast you into chum. Inversely, if you’ve accumulated the weapons and the skills, you’ll be able to exercise that power on the weak. Because, as executive producer Todd Howard put it, “It’s fun to be able to kick a little ass”. Indeed it is, and with the genre-bridging, innovative V.A.T.S. battle system Bethesda has evolved, Fallout 3 will let you have a kickass time along the journey.
No level scaling would kick ass, no doubt, we’ll see if things will be exactly like that.
During any encounter you can toggle to this Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System with the push of a button, which will freeze time and let you switch between multiple enemies and their body parts, helping you plan out your attack. Any piece of anatomy, such as a mutant’s arms, legs, torso, head, or weapon can be targeted, each displaying a hit percentage dependent upon the enemy’s distance, position, and stats. If you target his leg and get a critical hit, it’ll blow off in gory Fallout glory, and the mutant will fall to the ground, painfully crawling in pursuit if it’s still alive. If you didn’t blow his weapon out of his hand, you can pick it up and use it yourself. Or if you already have a weapon of the same type, you can bust out some engineering skills, break it down into parts, and use them to beef up the strength, precision, and firing rate of your own weapon. As weapons get worn with use, this is smart option if you’re skilled at it.
Engineering skill? Anyway the combat still seems confusing, Max Payne with called shots?
You’ll also be struggling with moral dilemmas through voiced NPC dialogue choices. The number of NPCs in Fallout 3 is about 300 (as opposed to Oblivion’s 1000), so Bethesda has put alot more alcohol and devtime into making their individual A.I. more realistic and natural. Instead of NPCs walking around doing very simple tasks talking basic gibberish, they will roam with more personalized agendas and socialize with other people about topics that interest them. Who needs those flesh-based friends anyway?
I really hope they get this right this time.
Although it is running off a shiny Oblivion engine with a few more notches on its armor, Fallout 3 is definitely its own game, so don’t be confused by some of the screenshots. The camera defaults as first person view so you can be swallowed by all the little details of the blasted world, but it can be toggled with a flick of a switch to a Resident Evil 4 over-the-shoulder cam. Then you can zoom out even further to get to the franchise-beloved 3rd person perspective.
Is this for real? I doubt it, we’ll see.
It has all the makings of being the first solid bridge between the rapidly growing RPG genre and the immensely pop FPS category, with play options, paths, and ironic wit galore.
There is a lot more coming up on Monday, stay tuned.
*they were online earlier today, but the embargo on info is still on until Monday, so they had to remove it. Take this blog post as a Back to the Future thing.