E3 2008 – FALLOUT 3 Hands-on

     July 18, 2008

Written by Brandon Bales

Oof. I’m having phantom pains from the future. I think I’m feeling soreness on the back of my skull where my girlfriend is going to hit me with the Xbox controller. That’s after she rips it out my hands, of course, from playing my fourteenth straight day of Fallout 3. That’s right friends: forget your jobs, take extra showers now, and put all of your best pals on the shelf. Fallout 3 has a great chance of becoming your only reason to get up in the morning come this October.

Ok, maybe we’re hyperbolizing over here, but there is no denying that our half hour with Fallout turned to dust right before our eyes. One moment we were picking up the controller, and one minute it was down again. We felt as if we hadn’t even put out our claws to begin to scratch the surface.

For you cavemen out there, Fallout 3 is the sequel to the popular post-apocalyptic PC series of years gone by. This time, however, developer Bethesda is giving it the Elder Scrolls treatment, and has taken the series away from its isometric roots into the realm of true 3D, which you can play from a first-person or third-person perspective.

Armed with only a cryptic voice message from our absent father, a few small weapons, and our trusty Pip-Boy 3000 (a Cold War-era PDA device ), the demo had us emerging from “The Vault” ( an actual fallout shelter ) where we had apparently spent our entire lives into a vast, eerie, and inhospitable wasteland. Kudos go out to Bethesda for the strong emotions that this moment evokes. The graphics serve it well, as your character can see for miles, with little pop-up as he traverses the alien landscape.

The quest to discover your father’s whereabouts begins slowly, with only some vague idea of where he went, but is sure to span many, many hours, if this game compares even slightly to the amount of content found in the Elder Scrolls series. We climbed out of the hole that was our home, and began to search for the nearby town where we might find some clues. The world of Fallout 3 is considerable in scope, and is quite bleak due to the complete and utter destruction of most civilization for miles. Most man-made architecture has been decimated, and the flora and fauna around you have withered and are struggling to survive.

Of course, the land is inhabited by many sorts of creatures to stand in your way. The first few enemies we encountered were rabid dogs, massive, radioactive flies, human scavengers gone berserk, and, of course, MUTANTS! The gun combat works well-enough for a 3D adventure game, with the left trigger serving as your aiming button.

We were blasting away at flies and mutants with no trouble. We even managed to pick up a hunting rifle to really land some damage. This isn’t just an adventure title, of course, as we soon learned when surrounded by an entire pack of rabid dogs. The helpful Bethesda employee suggested that it was a good time to use the V.A.T.S. system. The V.A.T.S. system is where the RPG elements of the action really kick in. When outnumbered or outgunned, all you have to do is press the V.A.T.S. button, and BAM – you’re character is swallowed up by RPG turn-based convention. It’s actually really cool. Time stops, your enemies around you freeze, and you are free to specifically target all of your enemies’ weak spots until your Action Points run out. It’s pretty intuitive and fantastic, when it comes down to it. You’ve a certain number of Action Points at any given time, and you can choose which areas of your enemies’ bodies to concentrate on, giving you the advantage in battle. Pretty rad. Right as the time was up on the demo period, V.A.T.S. helped me score a strategic shot that took a wild dog’s head clean off. At this moment, I felt that E3 had given me everything I really needed to see!

The rest of Fallout’s RPG elements exist inside of your Pip-Boy, as there are plenty of stats, weapons, and armor to consider, as well as Skill Points to distribute when you level-up.

We’ve gotta say that Fallout 3 is shaping-up to be the complete escapist package to beat this holiday season. The depth simply hinted at during our thirty minutes was staggering. It’s also worth mentioning that the mysterious main quest is rather intriguing.

Consider this a warning: if you have friends, you might want to warn them about the month of October right now.

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