Fallout 3 Preview (Xbox360)

To say that Fallout 3 came with some baggage would be an understatement. A cult classic, the original Fallout games enjoyed a solid community fan base. But after original developers Interplay went bankrupt and had to shut down the studio responsible for the franchise, it looked as if the highly anticipated third instalment would be lost.

Fast forward to 2004, and it turned out that a Fallout 3 was in production after all… but not by Interplay. Bethesda, the guys who brought you the Elder Scrolls franchise, had taken up the developments rights and were making their own Fallout 3. Some were excited, some were out-raged, and even more were “huh? What’s Fallout?” Sitting in the depths of a rather plush hotel in London, I and a group of other journalists were granted some exclusive hands-on time to see just how things were shaping up.

One thing I think it is important to remember about Fallout 3 is that this isn’t a game for the fans. Bethesda have taken the franchise, and looked at it with a new pair of eyes, and have done their own thing with it. They’ve tried to stay true to the ‘atmosphere’ of Fallout but at the end of the day, the game is their own.

Like Oblivion, Bethesda have tried to make a free-roaming environment where you have the choice to go where ever you please, yet they make sure you know where to go in order to complete the story. From what we can see, they’ve defiantly got the ‘free-roaming’ bit nailed down pretty well, however you sometimes wonder whether they’ve gone too far.

At an initial glance, it may be daunting to a new player to have pretty much the whole map available to you, but with no real incentive or direction to explore such places. However, Bethesda have taken care of that with a compass system that will not only point you to where the main quest lies, but also other ‘interesting’ or ‘significant’ locations around the map. With such a big map though, there may be a lot of walking involved – at least initially. Like most games of this nature, you need to have at least visited a place once before you can use any kind of “jump-to” feature, however it is not confirmed whether such an element is in Fallout 3 yet.

According to project manager Pete Hines, a lot of the ‘direction’ for the game is given in the first half an hour anyway, before you even leave the vault. (Our hands-on started just as you leave the vault, and continues on from there.)

A lot of the game play will be story driven as well. Whilst we weren’t allowed to explore the main story, it is publicly known that it revolves around your father, who mysteriously leaves the vault. The question as to why he left serves as the beginning of the main storyline, and it will take you to various parts of the map, opening up hours of secondary content as you go along. If they get the balance right, this will almost remove the need to just go wandering about to find ‘something else’ to do, and let you chop and change between side quests and story.

Unlike the previous Fallout games where the view was isometric, Fallout 3 favours a more first-person/close third person view of the world. The third person view differs even from that of Oblivion, as Bethesda are really trying to immerse the player in this post-apocalyptic world. This has lead to a misconception by some that this is a first person shooter, which is not the case. Switching between the different modes is as easy as tapping a button, which incidentally is what you do. Which mode you spend more of your time in is a matter of personal preference.

Personally, I felt that the first person mode, whilst being more familiar from the days of Call of Duty 4 and Halo, can often lead to some illusions of grandeur. Fighting in first person can seem a bit sluggish compared to the pure-bread shooters, and can take some getting used to. However, the developers have added in another element to combat which almost negates this, and gives a fresh perspective to traditional gun-fighting action – VATS.

At the click of (another) button, a player can enter the VATS combat mode. Basically, the game is paused, and a separate HUD appears. The Player can then choose a specific body part to target with their weapon, and can queue a number of actions based on their ‘Action Points’. Once complete, the character then carries out these actions from a cinematic perspective.

This alternate method of combat brings the game more in line with its RPG ancestry, but confronting the player with ‘chance to hit’ percentages, and a finite number of moves. It also provides the potential to do away with an enemy without suffering any damage, as your target doesn’t make their ‘move’ until all of your actions have been completed.

However, is does seem odd that you are only allowed to perform a certain number of moves in VATS, whereas if you came out of it, you would be able to shoot away to your hearts content. Perhaps the system will be tweaked in future builds, but so far it looks promising.

Like its predecessors, Fallout 3 comes with a host of other RPG-style features: Item creation, item maintenance, levelling up attributes and skills. (The Level cap for Fallout 3 is 20, and from there you simply augment your character by choosing from a host of different character skills, such as ‘Lady Killer’ or ‘Gun Nut’.) All of this is handled though a wrist-bound ‘PDA’ called the PipBoy, where you can micro-manage all of the different aspects of the game from plotting a route, to healing, to item customisation. The game also presents you with ‘alternate’ means of dealing with enemies, especially mechanical ones in the form of computers and terminals. In order to access a computer, you must pass a small ‘guess the password’ mini-game, which is actually quite fun, and is of course based on any relevant skills you may have.

These are just some of the key features we were able to see during our hands on, and this isn’t even the final build yet. Some have raised concerns as to whether Bethesda has just taken the Elder Scrolls and pushed forward a few thousand years – not the case. Whilst on closer inspection you may see some things that are similar to Oblivion and other titles, this is to be expected. I mean think about, the developers have been doing Elder Scrolls for the past seven years.

Final verdict? So far so good, from what there is to see. Whilst the graphics aren’t ground breaking, they are smooth and solid and they do show off some realistic vistas and the environment sure looks like its post apocalyptic. The odd glitch or sub-par render, but if Bethesda stays on track, then this could easily be a game-of-the-year candidate. Add to that some varied and unique weapons (You’ll just love the Fatman) and this is shaping up to be one solid title. Will the hardcore fans like it? Who knows… But that has never been Bethesda’s main concern anyway. They would maintain that there is something for everyone in this game, and you know what? They may be right. Keep an eye on this one for sure.

(This preview was based on a segment of preview code that was played on an Xbox360. It was not the final build, and some information may not apply to all consoles. Check out the interview for more information about the other versions, as well as more in-depth discussion about the game and its history.)

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By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Oct 09, 2008
OK, yesterday I got the Swedish PC Gamer in my hand, a huge review of Fallout 3 from someone who had played it 15+ hours. First sentance...
Fallout 3 IS oblivion with guns.

However sad that sounds, I'm not suprised and well, the only thing it changed for me is that I won't go for the Special edition any longer. VATS is partly true to be a the turnbased version, you run out of time with it and have to fight in realtime anyway. It also sounded like the game has been damaged of the console market. Everything is conveniently lying close around the cities so you don't have any waste - only small areas to wal to and if you explore you will soon go from rad scorpions to death claws in no time...

Even so, the game looks interesting even though the Beth-curse is still there: blank uninspiring NPC's, a lifeless word, clunky close combat. But, for one that enjoyed a mod-out Oblivion, I believe that this game will be fun to play once you realise that it is only Fallout 3 to the name - nothing more and that the modders out there will soon be the PC-worlds heroes. :)

Now, a word to Beth... how come you stuck your chin out and said that Blizzard were uninventive with Diablo 3 when you haven't changed your game engine at all? No new, no costume, but still the same king. Good move to skip DRM guys - best survival choice ever ;)
By RurikGreenwulf (SI Veteran Newbie) on Dec 11, 2008
Survivalism, desesperation terror all that i ilike in post-apocaliptic-alternativa-history-scifiction game
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 03, 2009
I have this bug, or something. Since I first had the Tesla Armor on me, the screen got a blue tint. I thought that it will go away eventually, just like in Vault 106, but it hasn't gone since. I just can't play the game anymore, my eyes burn! And I'm to far away to start over... Pleas send me a message here on SI if you have a solution. :(
By Benadeto (SI Veteran Member) on Mar 04, 2009
srry man, i have no help to that.
But the game nontheless, AWESOME!!
i headshot Butch when he begged me to save his mum, i said yes, but i couldn't find the way in so she died, he was crying so i put him outa his misery.
8.0 Mobile Infantry Medals
Nick ( Benadeto )
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 04, 2009
I helped his mom get rid of the Cockroaches... But he gave a cool jacket that I sold for like 20 bottle caps. :)
By crawlroman (SI Core) on Mar 12, 2009
This game was the biggest disaster of the year
Fallout used to be different
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 12, 2009
LOL, you seem to be the only one thinking so. :|
By dragonscars (SI Newbie) on Jun 18, 2009
i loved this game, all the times ive played i just now helped his mom with the roaches, usually i just kill him and take the jacket, one of the option i like best that i wish more games would take up is the moding options, everything is so customizable by the end of the day you could be playing something completly different than the original game and i like having that option, just wish i had done more exploring the first time instead of racing to the end.