|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Bethesda Softworks||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Bethesda Softworks||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Q4 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Until last year, it seemed our chances of soon seeing a proper follow-up to the first two entries in the immensely popular Fallout series were fading. Then it happened: Bethesda dropped an eye-popping teaser trailer for Fallout 3 just prior to E3, and additional details have been surfacing sporadically ever since. Now several years along in its development cycle, Fallout 3 is expected to be a highly coveted title when it hits retail shelves in late 2008. Much of what makes Fallout such a great series appears to be intact, but Bethesda Softworks is also taking some chances by throwing a few interesting new twists into the gameplay.
The juxtaposition between the series' 1950's era Americana and a futuristic post-apocalyptic wasteland first won over the hearts of RPG enthusiasts a decade ago. Set far into the future, Fallout takes place in a world ravaged by nuclear war. With major cities and precious resources destroyed, the last remnants of humanity primarily survived the devastation by seeking refuge in underground vaults constructed across America. As survivors emerged, pocket civilizations, brigands of mutants, and various tribes cropped up to stake their claim to the scorched landscape.
In Fallout 3, players will start-out in Vault 101 which remained sealed beneath the remains of Washington D.C. since the war began almost 200 years prior. The first short section of the game revolves around the player's life growing up in the Vault, but before long you'll set off into the dangerous realm beyond your relatively safe, enclosed society in search of your father who mysteriously disappears. Escaping the Vault launches you into a vast open-world game environment which promises ample opportunities for scavenging, branching story paths, battle against the radiated denizens on the surface, and interaction with the many groups of human survivors who crawled out from their vaults before you.
Like the first two titles, players will be given free reign of how they plan to approach different situations in the game. The choices they make will affect their alignment, how others react to them, and what paths are opened in the game, among other things. While good and evil actions will have some obvious and not-so-obvious effects, the developers plan to equally flesh out unique opportunities and situations for players whose style lies in-between the two extremes. Treading the neutral path will presumably have its own benefits and drawbacks. This should offer incentive for replay since certain occurrences and areas of the game will open or close depending on the way situations are handled.
The biggest change in the formula, and one that's likely to either elicit strong reactions one way or another from the hardcore fan base, is Fallout 3 will be played primarily in a first-person perspective. There will be an option to pull back into an over-the-shoulder third-person perspective, and it's possible to arrange the camera so it comes close to mimicking the original perspective in Fallout. Despite the first-person perspective and real-time combat, battle will still rely heavily on your stats in true RPG fashion. The Vault-Tech Assisted Targeting System will also let players pause the battle at any time and use actions points to target specific areas of your adversaries right down to individual their limbs. As players level-up, they'll be able to use experience points to boost their stats and skills and select new perks at regular intervals.
Your weapons will slowly begin to degrade after continued use, and it becomes necessary to cannibalize parts of other weapons to keep your favorites in good shape. The amount of damage weapons do and other factors will be adjusted as their condition declines. The style and variety of armament will be in-line with the original Fallout titles with a mixture of basic, primitive weaponry used alongside more advanced high-tech ordinance.
Between the scarcity of ammo and constantly changing weapon conditions, salvaging equipment from dead foes and the destroyed landscape will play an important part in Fallout 3. Non-radiated food and water and stim-packs are expected to be equally scarce to add to the challenge of survival. Among other pre-war technology, the beloved Pip Boy device will also make an interesting return. This time it's worn on your wrist and serves a variety of important functions including an interface for character stat development, an in-game radio (which reportedly has other uses besides playing "oldies" era tunes), and a radiation meter, among other possible uses being developed.
It appears Bethesda is putting a huge amount of effort into packing-in tons of visual detail, which will be showcased even more with the new first-person perspective. From massive rubble and debris strewn locales to the visible finger smears on the green-lit Pip Boy screen, the game's visuals should be far from disappointing. The field of view is expected to afford an excellent long-distance perspective of the environments. The coming months will continue to be an agonizing wait for Fallout fans, but patience will eventually pay off assuming the developers are able to stick to a late 2008 release schedule. With plenty of time left in the game's development cycle, it should be interesting to see what else Bethesda has up its sleeve for Fallout 3.
CCC Freelance Writer