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A decade on from the original Fallout games and Bethesda are due to breath life back into the series late next year...
The original Fallout games consumed many a gamer with their isometric view and RPG style gameplay. Of course, much has changed in the world of videogames since the 90s and Bethesda has obviously had to ditch the isometric camera for their trademark first person RPG view. Bethesda certainly haven't forgotten where the series came from though as Pete Hines, Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing at Bethesda, told TVG:
"The original Fallout games are primarily what we're trying to replicate as much as we can, and we're trying to bring as much of that as possible into Fallout 3 to make it a true Fallout game. The kinds of things we've focused on are the tone, theme, settings, characters, story, dialogue and the kind of humour they had; things like that.
"There're lots of little things like homages to the sort of furniture they had, or the vents on the walls. We did everything we could to try and make the game as realistic and as true to Fallout as possible."
The game certainly starts out on familiar territory. You play a character that was born in one of the survival vaults after the nuclear war of 2077. Vault 101 is where Fallout 3 starts out. It's a vault that nobody ever enters and nobody ever leaves (can you see where this is going?). You start off by choosing your genetic make-up (which has an effect on your character traits etc.), then you're treated to a montage of your early life and, at the age of 16, you have to take the G.O.A.T aptitude test. The results of this tell you which skills you should focus on as a player.
You're also introduced to your trusty Pip-boy, which is used throughout the game to hold information such as your objectives, inventory and skills. The Pip-boy is a nice little reference back to the original Fallout games, but also shows how Bethesda are working-in their trademark style to Fallout's legacy. The Pip-boy basically operates in a similar manner to the journal in Oblivion. Indeed, the first few sections of the game bear a similar tutorial style to the beginning of Oblivion, and it's a tutorial style that we like here at TVG. It's not patronising and there's enough early progression in it to ensure that you don't feel like you're treading water for the first hour of play. Oblivion fans can also expect a similar experience points system for Fallout 3, with points coming from completed quests and doing away with ravenous enemies.
Anyway, sooner or later the plot has to take an inevitable twist and it comes in the form of your father (voiced by Liam Neesen) escaping from Vault 101 to the outside world. Your character then has to follow him and that's where the game moves into action.
We were shown one quest that revolves around the settlement of Megaton, which is a thoroughly atmospheric post-apocalypse community with an unexploded nuke at its centre. It would seem Megaton's loopy inhabitants think the bomb has some sort of religious significance; hence it lies at the heart of the settlement. I, personally, would make like a tree and leave (leaf, leave - see?) but whatever. Either way, the demonstration of this particular quest showed some of the branching storylines of Fallout 3 in action.
The quest basically climaxes with the decision as to whether or not you should blow up megaton. You have to collect some intel. from certain sources such as a particular radio frequency (that can then be stored on your Pip-boy). Anyway, you're given the option of either blowing up the city from a safe distance (via a detonator) or a variety of more "peaceful" and "constructive" options. Naturally, our demo guy was more interested in starting a thermonuclear reaction. The quest culminates with you going to the top of the Galaxy News Radio building (another nice reference to the original games), meeting the mysterious guy who wants you to blow up the city (Mr. Burke) and watching the mushroom cloud fill the sky - nice.
This is one of a number of critical choices you will be forced to make throughout the game, and it doesn't come without its fair share of comeuppance. As Pete pointed out to us, "It's really a game where if you want to see and do everything then you have to play through multiple times to see it all. If you blow up Megaton, for example, all of those quests are gone forever. You can't go back there and do any of the quests; it's just a big gaping hole in the ground. So, there's a lot more emphasis on player choice and how we deal with the choices that you make."
We've also been promised a wide variety of possible endings to Fallout 3 and a quest system that focuses more on player choice, rather than sheer volume. "The quest system is actually very different. Rather than having lots and lots of quests where you can do any of them that you want without being locked out, Fallout has a much smaller number of quests and how you do one may lock you out of doing other stuff," Pete told us.
"There are between nine and twelve different endings - we still haven't nailed down a number yet," Pete continued, "so there are lots of different endings depending on the choices that you make through the game. There are lots of different variations and it probably takes about 20 hours or so to finish the main quests. Then there's another 20 hours of side quests that you can or can't do, as well as lots of freeform exploration stuff and miscellaneous quest stuff that you can do as well."
We also had a chance to see the unique VATS combat system Bethesda are employing for Fallout 3, which is sure to add oodles of depth to the combat systems we've seen from Bethesda in the past. Initiating the VATS system moves you into a snapshot of the enemy where each one of its body segments is ascribed two statistics: how damaged it is and your chances of hitting that body part from that angle and with the selected weapon. If you get a successful shot then you're treated to a satisfying bullet-time death, which is pretty cool.
The weapons throughout Fallout 3 are rated with certain attributes: how much damage per second (that's a new one on us to!) they can inflict and what condition they're in. You can then salvage weapon parts throughout the game world to fix an ailing sidearm. Health, on the other hand, can be replenished by consuming clean water which, as you might expect in a post-nuclear war environment, isn't as straightforward as it might seem. All water sources have a RAD (radiation) level and the cleaner the water is, the more likely it is to replenish your health.
In the demo we saw, we also caught a glimpse of the Brotherhood of Steel who, for those who haven't played the originals, are the AT-AT pilot looking soldier guys. They'll help kill off those pesky mutants and are generally your mates, plus they look really cool. On what I promise will be our last nostalgic point, Bethesda also told us that they have secured the voice of Ron 'Hellboy' Perlman as the narrator, which is particularly cool as he did the narration for the original Fallout games.
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