Publisher: Bethesda Game Studios
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: Fall 2008
Ten years ago, Fallout: A Post-Nuclear Role Playing Game was released for the PC, and just a year later, Fallout 2 hit store shelves. The series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world after "The Great War," a nuclear conflict that occurred on October 23, 2077, and lasted a couple of hours but caused immense worldwide destruction and devastation. Across the world were vaults, underground facilities in which people were quarantined from the outside world and the radiation and mutants that now inhabited it. The Fallout series amassed many fans due to the original concept and amount of violence and gore, so for years, fans waited for the creators, Interplay, to release Fallout 3, but the time never came. In 2004, Bethesda Softworks acquired the rights to future Fallout games, and they began production on Fallout 3.
Unlike its predecessors, which took place in California, Fallout 3 is set in Washington, D.C. This is probably due to the fact that Bethesda Softworks' headquarters are located on the East Coast, so bringing that region into the Fallout series would be both new and easier for the team. Fallout 3 takes place 30 years after Fallout 2, which in turn occurred 80 years after the original. Previous experience with the franchise isn't necessary due to new characters and new storyline, but knowledge of Fallout's history and concept would be beneficial.
The first two Fallout titles featured isometric-style graphics, similar to Diablo and the original Age of Empires. Perhaps the biggest question that faced Fallout 3 was how to give the game the same "feel" as its predecessors, yet still incorporate the technological advancements that have since been introduced. Fallout 3 is set in a 3D world, and you have the ability to see through the eyes of your character in first-person or third-person view.
The player starts in Vault 101, a nuclear bomb shelter that's been in use since the nuclear war. No one ever leaves or enters the vault; people who are born in Vault 101, die in Vault 101. You start off at birth, which is when you create your character's physical appearance; the game then advances to your 10th birthday, when you are given your first gun, and it walks you through the controls of the game. At the age of 16, you must take a mandatory oral exam, which basically selects your starting skills and "class." The game actually starts when your character reaches the age of 19.
Remember when I said that no one ever leaves or enters the vault? Well your father, one of the most important people in Vault 101 because of his scientific knowledge, has disappeared, and the residents believe you know why. You too must make a daring escape from the vault and enter the world in its post-apocalyptic state. After so many nuclear bombs have hit the planet, radiation continues to linger. Certain areas will still be contaminated, and you must navigate through the world and avoid an overdose of radiation. Who likes skin cancer, anyway?
The main objective will be for you to locate your father and find out why he left, but there are many sub-quests and side-jobs for you to complete along the way. As with many RPGs, Fallout 3 utilizes a leveling system in which you gain experience for killing enemies. Each time you level up, you gain skill points, which can then be spent on various attributes. The maximum level is currently 20, but that could change as development progresses.
Bethesda is trying to bring the "Bethesda feel" to the Fallout series and is working to create a game world that is expansive and open-ended. At the time of this writing, Fallout 3 has just ended pre-production, and it already looks amazing. They had a pretty extensive demo to show us that used the real-time engine, and despite the inevitable minor glitches here and there, the game looked nearly complete.
Fallout 3 will include many choices and paths for the player which will not only affect your character, but the entire world as well. For example, a city called Megaton was built around a crater where a nuclear bomb fell but never detonated. Some of the people there worship this bomb because it is a sign of hope, but a shady guy from another development wants to wipe Megaton off the map. You have the option of triggering a detonator on the bomb and evaporating Megaton and the people living there, or reporting the shady guy to the sheriff and letting the law take care of the matter.
Unlike Bethesda's famous Elder Scrolls series, where the monsters and their levels scale according to your level, the monsters and mutants of Fallout 3 will always remain the same. A level-five mutant will continue to be level five, regardless of whether you're level one, five, or 20. The game map is almost the size of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., comprises 25% of that map. Fallout 3 will also feature a fast-travel feature to get around important parts of the world, but the developers weren't ready to disclose exactly how that would occur.
As for the combat system, Fallout 3 will utilize the SPECIAL stat system employed by its predecessors: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. You initially travel through the game in a real-time first-person mode, aiming your weapons like a first-person shooter and blasting away your opponents, but the cool thing about any title in the Fallout series is VATS (Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System).
VATS lets you use action points to pause the real-time fighting and zoom in on your opponents' bodies. From there, you can look at each specific body part, and based on your skills and stats, a percentage will appear next to the mutant, indicating your effectiveness in shooting that part of the body. You can then queue up multiple shots using VATS and let 'er rip! It is an innovative and exciting system to use in such a beautifully rendered 3D world.
Fallout 3 features both new and old robots, including the handyman. It will also boast many new weapons, like the "Rock-It-Launcher," which is basically a toaster which can fire numerous items at your enemies. Fallout 3 also includes the ability to create your own items using a crafting system, as well as combine two weapons to make one stronger or more durable. Another cool new weapon is the "Lunch Box Explosive," which consists of a simple lunchbox from the pre-war days that is loaded up with explosives and can send your enemies soaring. Oh, and no, there are no drivable vehicles here — just explodable ones.
Two things for which the Fallout franchise is famous are its humor and amount of gore, and Bethesda was sure to point out that neither of those will be lost. While trying to add a more serious side to the Fallout world, they've also pointed out there will indeed be amounts of humor, just not so much that the game seems "silly." As for the blood and gore, expect detail. When using VATS, if you are lucky and get a nice shot into a mutant's head, you may get lucky and see it explode in slow motion as an eye rolls down the street. When asked if the gore levels could be toned up or down, they replied, "Well the game had already been rated M, so why bother?"
Fallout 3 will be released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. When asked if the game would be "Vista only," the devs replied, "We sure hope not." The possibility is still there to make Fallout 3 DirectX 10-compatible, but there were no firm answers on that yet. Because of the much smaller amount of NPCs in Fallout 3 in comparison to other games Bethesda has worked on, they were able to focus more on individual dialogue and AI, truly making each and every person unique. The devs also revealed that 20 songs from the 1940s have already been licensed to appear in the game.
Bethesda is pretty confident in their plans to release Fallout 3 in the fall of 2008. Based on what we've seen, the game has successfully managed to mix some of the old with some of the new, and it simply looks beautiful and amazing. Fans of RPGs and the Fallout series should not miss this title because "War ... war never changes."
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