Fallout 3 Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
Fallout 3 box art
System: PC, X360, PS3 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Softworks 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Softworks 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 7, 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

August 4, 2008 - The current generation of home consoles got off to a flying start with Bethesda Softworks’ release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for Xbox 360. That game brought a graphically-intensive open world that allowed players to experience a more in-depth, Western RPG. In Bethesda’s latest title, Fallout 3, many of the lessons learned during the making of Oblivion have been brought to bear. As such, players can expect an absolutely massive world within which to play, explore, make decisions, and, of course, kick some ass!

Fallout 3 screenshot

For those of you unfamiliar with previous Fallout titles, the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth that is still reeling from nuclear holocaust and its subsequent aftermath. In the case of Fallout 3, players will find themselves in a decimated Washington D.C. some 200 years after the meltdown of humanity. Within this world, players will find small enclaves of pioneers strewn throughout a landscape rife with iron robots, punk bandits, political factions, and high levels of radiation. I was fortunate enough to get a half hour of game time with this title in Los Angeles last month. At E3 2008, the playable demo featured the game in its entirety, but we had to start from the beginning vault. With just 30 minutes to tool around, I only got to see one outpost of villainy. Nevertheless, it was sufficient to see that this game is going to be loads of fun.

Emerging from the safety of the initial vault, I switched between first and third-person view a few times (third-person is most similar to that of Resident Evil 4’s over-the-shoulder cam), leveled up my character, and added a few perks. By pulling up the Vault-tec Pip-Boy (the menu HUD), I was able to quickly access my ability scores, peruse the available skills and perks, and check out my inventory. The Pip-Boy, a bulky PDA-like tool, can even be accessed to check on status effects such as radiation levels or whether you’re crippled or not (more on that later).

Fallout 3 screenshot

Then, I made a bee line for an abandoned school that the devs told me was a fun place to look for combat. Along the way, I noticed how tight the game already looks. There have been a lot of rumblings in various forums that the game doesn’t look visually appealing, but that’s simply not true. In fact, the level of detail in the environments is astounding. Washington D.C. in Fallout 3, despite being a nuclear wasteland, looks like a living world. Every can, wrapper, scrap of twisted metal, and pebble on the paths between the wreckage looks amazingly realistic. Plus, any point (or monument) on the horizon can be explored. Despite a bit of pop-up and the occasional hiccup (all of which will be addressed by release), the game is quite purdy indeed! Add to that amazing environmental sound, hilarious enemy emotes, and a tongue-in-cheek series of patriotic anthems and this is easily going to be one of the most engaging cinematic presentations around. If the devil truly is in the details, then the crew developing Fallout 3 are the high priests of darkness. In addition to the presentation, little things like drug and alcohol addictions and persistent radiation serve to remind players that they live in a dangerous world and need to keep moving.

Arriving at the school, I found the main door to be unlocked and proceeded to barge my way in with my gun at the ready. There was no one in sight, so my initial intensity lowered along with my guard. Out of nowhere, several bullets tore into my shoulder. Spinning around, I found the culprit; a punked-out, female bandit screaming gleefully for my blood. I leveled my weapon at her head, but found this more difficult to control than it was originally. You see, in Fallout 3, players will take overall damage, but your body ceases to function properly if specific parts are targeted. That means crippling effects can thwart your advance if not dealt with. Thankfully, administering healing Stimpaks can be done not only to your entire body, but can also be localized to ameliorate a particularly bloodied zone.

Fallout 3 screenshot

After missing my first attempt at a headshot in real time, she (the A.I. ruffian) charged me and I began to get nervous. That’s when I activated the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.) and picked out choice parts to slow her advance. The V.A.T.S. feature in Fallout 3 switches the game from a real-time shooter to a frozen frame that allows you to select both body parts and enemies in a strategic fashion. Utilizing this function does make the game a bit easier and serves as respite from intense action sequences. Plus, the ensuing cutscene of exploding flesh and ragdoll physics is just plain fun.

As fun as V.A.T.S. is, don’t expect to be using it willy-nilly. The system will cost you action points, which replenish themselves frequently, but players will still have to use them judiciously by selecting shots with higher percentages of accuracy. In other words, a headshot may not always be your best option. It may be far easier to first slow the NPC down by taking out their knees and then finishing them in real time at close range. And that is exactly what I did with “Nancy” - that’s what I call her (Sid Vicious would be proud).

After Nancy came the demise of a few other punks and a scary, irradiated dog. Then, I made my way to a computer terminal where I was given a bit of storyline, which I’m not allowed to reveal. However, it looks as though these computers will serve as useful signposts to enrich the story and give clues as well as allow players to sabotage various obstacles through hacking abilities.

Speaking of abilities, Fallout 3 is an RPG. Consequently, leveling will be a crucial part of the experience. Fortunately, leveling feels natural and allows you to customize your character with a wide variety of skill sets for near-limitless role playing possibilities and replayability. For example, players can decide to improve skills such as science in order to better take advantage of the myriad hacking stations throughout. Or, they can take a more battle oriented approach by specializing in various powerful combat perks.

All in all, Fallout 3 is shaping up to be awesome. The high-paced shooter aspect, level of graphical and story detail, and amount of content will have a variety of core gamers gushing over this title. Interestingly, this game is basically finished. In fact, it could probably be released right now and still be a great title. However, Bethesda has another three months or so to make this title the polished experience fickle gamers crave. Look for its release sometime this holiday season.

By Jonathan Marx
CCC Editor / News Director

Game Features:

  • Take in the sights and sounds of the vast Capital Wasteland! See the great monuments of the United States lying in post-apocalyptic ruin! You make the choices that define you and change the world. Just keep an eye on your Rad Meter!
  • Vault-Tec engineers bring you the latest in human ability simulation – the SPECIAL Character System! Utilizing new breakthroughs in points-based ability representation, SPECIAL affords unlimited customization of your character. Also included are dozens of unique skills and perks to choose from, each with a dazzling variety of effects.
  • The wizards at Vault-Tec have done it again! No longer constrained to just one view, experience the world from 1st or 3rd person perspective. Customize your view with the touch of a button.
  • Feeling like a dastardly villain today, or a good samaritan? Pick a side or walk the line, as every situation can be dealt with in many different ways. Talk out your problems in a civilized fashion, or just flash your Plasma Rifle.
  • At Vault-Tec, we realize that the key to reviving civilization after a global nuclear war is people. Our best minds pooled their efforts to produce an advanced version of Radiant A.I., America’s First Choice in Human Interaction Simulation. Facial expressions, gestures, unique dialogue, and lifelike behavior are brought together with stunning results by the latest in Vault-Tec technology.
  • Witness the harsh realities of nuclear fallout rendered like never before in modern, super-deluxe HD graphics; from the barren Wasteland, to the danger-filled offices and metro tunnels of DC, to the hideous rotten flesh of a mutant’s face.
  • Even the odds in combat with the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System for your Pip-Boy Model 3000! V.A.T.S. allows you to pause time in combat, target specific body parts on your target, queue up attacks, and let Vault-Tec take out your aggression for you. Rain death and destruction in an all-new cinematic presentation, featuring gory dismemberments and spectacular explosions.

  • Screenshots / Images
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