x360a Hands On: Fallout 3
Written Sunday, August 03, 2008 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Friday 1st August was a fine day for myself. The weather was beautiful. London was bright and vibrant as usual. Hell, the weekend was just round the corner as well. Marvellous! It surely can't get any better right? Wrong! Throw in a hands on with Bethesda's Fallout 3 and the day is complete. This wasn't just any hands on though. We were thrown in to the Fallout world with the instructions to do whatever we liked and boy, did we tear it up.
Fallout 3, now being developed by Bethesda after original developers Interplay went bust, is set in the post apocalyptic Washington DC, and when we say Washington DC, we mean the whole damn city! The preview started in a small isolated bunker minutes before we embarked on our first journey across the apocalyptic wastelands. Just like Oblivion had the iconic moment of crossing the divide from the castle to the realm, Fallout follows suit as you leave the bunker for the first time as your blurry eyesight tries to adjust to the new surroundings.
The first thing that hits you when you enter the barren wastelands of Washington DC is the visuals. You seriously have to stop and take stock of the world around you ... a land that was once majestic, is now just an eerie shell of its former self. The Fallout world works on the same sort of world clock that Oblivion had and even has the same sort of wait system. Washington DC seems to look fantastic whatever time of day it is and Bethesda have done a fine job of capturing getting the mood of the city with fantastically drab colours and some superb lighting effects.
Fallout 3 features the same non linear sandbox that Oblivion boasted. The "go anywhere, do anything" mentality makes a welcome return as you can literally do what you like from the outset. Want to do the story missions? Great, use the easy to follow way markers on the on-screen compass. Want to do whatever you want? Super, carry on... So we did.
Being the rebel I am, when my compass told me to go east towards the missions, I naturally went west and I kept going. The landscapes are detailed but sometimes a little too sparse. I suppose our apocalyptic playground wasn't going to be full of kids playing at any point of the day but sometimes it was a good 5 minutes before we encountered any other life forms. Eventually, we bumped in to some and it was then when we got our first taste of combat and more importantly, we got to use VATS.
For those that are blissfully unaware of what VAT S really is, it stands for Vault-tech Assisted Targeting System and is your alternative to the straightforward manual aiming mode in both FPS and TPS modes. With a simple tap of the right bumper button you are thrust in to VATS which allows you target and fire at nearby enemies using your available action points. The system allows you to easily scroll between all nearby enemies and select any of their body parts to fire at. Each body part has a hit-success percentage, the higher the better (obviously) but it allows you to do some great combos that can be really effective. Take for instance, you have 3 enemies approaching you fast, instead of trying to shoot all three of their foreheads and missing because their percentage is low, you can shoot the gun of the one saving you a few seconds, the leg of another causing him to drop to one leg and lose some of his pace and accuracy and finally, a head shot on the third taking him down town. You have to be careful though as you only have a limited amount of action points, so use them wisely. The good thing is that the action points replenish over time but rather more slowly when in the thick of combat. VATS is a simple system and one that makes the game feel a lot more like an RPG than a run and gun FPS which is how the game should be seen. As you progress through the game and upgrade your character and pick up better weapons, the system will become more beneficial. It’s a good job VATS is so accessible as well, because the free aim seems very twitchy and non responsive and can take a while to master but that may have been partly down to me having relatively low gun skills. Only time will tell with that one.
Fallout 3 may seem like a FPS action game when in the height of combat at times but don’t let that deceive you. There are many RPG elements in the game that appeal to veteran RPG fans and to newbies alike. The great thing is that it’s not overtly complicated and you don’t really need to pay much attention to it if you don’t want to, but if you do, it can be hugely satisfying and rewarding. Like other RPG titles, Fallout 3 rewards gamers for killing enemies and completing tasks and such (it even has a cool XP notification meter that pops up every time you acquire some XP) but also has a perks system that adds to the fun; allowing you to unlock new and crazy ass unlockables that benefit you and make your experience that bit more fun. Fallout 3 also boasts a pretty innovative weapon creation system which allows gamers to purchase or pick up blueprints for weapons that once combined with a few other items around the map, can create some pretty destructive and quirky weapons. But seriously, it doesn’t matter what you create, you will never beat (we don’t think) the pure destructiveness of the “fat man”, Fallout 3’s very own mini nuclear catapult. You may have seen it make an appearance at the end of Bethesda’s E3 demonstrations but nothing could prepare me for the joy I had when I used it. I luckily stumbled across one when fighting through a bunch of severely pissed off super mutants at Washington’s Galaxy News Radio station and when their king pin, a Super Mutant Behemoth, came out of nowhere, I had no other choice than to use it. A carefully aimed shot (I actually missed the first shot *shock horror*) at this badboy’s chest and I was in awe of a destructive explosion that ensued followed by the trademark nuclear mushroom cloud. I would go out on a limb and say that this is one of the greatest gaming weapons ever created!
The game’s navigational system, the Pip Boy 3000 is incredibly easy to use and in a lot of respects reminds me of the menu system in Oblivion. When pressing B you can enter the device and you can use it to heal yourself, repair weapons and use items amongst other things with great ease. Speaking of using items, the classic Fallout drug, Jet makes a welcome return and when used adds 30 additional action points to your character. However, with drugs becomes a dependency, so beware, taking too many of them may not be such a good idea in the long run. The Pip Boy 3000 also features a map system reminiscent of that in the Oblivion title and the game also features a quick travel system which will be a relief to those of you that just want to skip the sometimes long and arduous trips.
During the hands on time, we got to experience some great and varied areas of the city ranging from the old Elementary school, the Bethesda offices, the Galaxy News Radio station, the abandoned subway system and a creepy as hell supermarket! The only thing that truly annoyed us were the loading times that cropped up as you went through doors to new areas. So much for a seamless experience but apart from that one gripe, the city truly is magnificent.
Due to my disruptive and “stuff the storyline, I’m going exploring” attitude in the preview my experience of the dialogue system was short but ever so sweet. The dialogue system works and looks very similar to that present in Oblivion. The way characters turn their head slightly towards you as the camera zooms in is a carbon copy of what happens in Oblivion, but hey, it was a fantastic system, so why not use it in Fallout 3. If it wasn’t for the post apocalyptic environment and slightly more modern clothing, we could have easily mistaken it for Oblivion and the system even works the same which is to be expected. Combine that with the amusing smart ass responses and you have the best of both franchises. The dialogue system is simple and accessible and your attitude can have a huge impact on how people react to you. If you’re arrogant and disruptive, don’t expect the locals to rely on you for help, so don’t say you haven’t been warned. Speaking to Pete Hines, product manager at Bethesda, if you want to get the majority of quests to do, it pays to be nice.
To call Fallout 3 “Oblivion with guns” is a statement that sells the game short. Sure it has its similarities, but why not install some great features that have proved successful in the past in to a new venture? Bethesda doing this really only really makes sense. Will it appease the hardcore Fallout fans? Who the hell knows, I do know one thing however and that is that Fallout 3 looks to be shaping up to be a serious “Game Of The Year” contender and if I can tell this from a hands on, I can only imagine what the finished product will be like. The fantastic environment and freedom to go wherever you like sentiment is what sucks you in to the game but it’s the little things that will make you love it and keep you coming back. The hilarious dialogue and well oiled dialogue system, the levelling up system, the fantastic array of weapons, VATS, the weapon creation system, the in-game drugs, the immersive environment and the “fat man” are all amazing elements in their own right. Slap them all together and you now have a game that will possibly consume more than 100 hours of your life before you even know it. We certainly can’t wait for Fallout 3 to ship and Fall 2008 can’t come any quicker. Expect to see another hands-on after Leipzig where we shall meet Fallout 3 once again.