The end is near! We’ve seen the end and while we don’t want to come across as being slightly insane, it’s looking marvellous. We’re not talking about the real apocalypse being heralded by sandwich board-wearing urchins, though. No, the topic here is Fallout 3, Bethesda’s upcoming post-apocalyptic RPG. It would appear that we’re not doomed after all!Before we talk about the awesomeness that is Fallout 3, we’ve got a quick rundown of the game’s past. To console gamers, the name Fallout won’t actually mean much, let alone with the number three tagged onto it, but the series has an illustrious history as a game that, at one time, almost disappeared off the face of the Earth when publisher Interplay faced troubled times. This is where Bethesda swooped in at just the right moment to make itself a very reasonable deal. We’re not going to lie either, we’re excited, and rightly so. It’s hard not to be when the developer behind The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion picks up a franchise of Fallout 3’s ilk. Right, let’s roll!Fallout 3 begins in 2077 (approximately 30 years after the events of Fallout 2) but it’s a very different future to the one we are led to believe it will be. Instead of the outbreak of WWIII, we’re treated to the form of 2077 as it was envisioned back in the ‘50s, destroyed in a nuclear war with China, in a time where the main character’s ancestors decided to run and hide in Vault 101, a bomb shelter from the Vault-Tec Corporation. Fast forward 200 years and it’s the present time (2277), where the main character is born into the underground city. This is where character creation takes place, and it’s not just standard fare – important steps in your character’s childhood are displayed through the medium of cut-scenes, with birth, 10th and 16th birthdays. When we were told that your father (voiced by Liam Neeson, no less) had an appearance depending on the options you chose when creating your character, though, our jaws dropped.
Anyway, back to the story. One morning the main character wakes up to find out that their father has mysteriously left Vault 101, and as you might have surmised, it’s down to you to track him down and get answers. By leaving behind what you know as home, you emerge in Capital Wasteland, a place formerly known as Washington DC. The outside is not a safe place, however, with the impending dangers of radiation, Raiders, Slavers, rival factions (such as the Brotherhood of Steel from previous Fallout titles) and Super Mutants. It’s worth noting that ‘outside’ is a reference to the entire game world, not limited to Capital Wasteland. While there’s a huge map to explore that few games can rival, it’s not on the same scale as Oblivion.Of all the things Fallout 3 executes well, one of the most striking factors is the level of choice it presents you with and how making important decisions has a knock-on effect to your ventures. If you’re reading this you’re bound to have heard about choices in the RPG genre before, with the promise of great changes happening all because of you. Oblivion is one such game, and while there is a certain level of consequence on show, it wasn’t long before we found out that the things you did wouldn’t necessarily have a huge impact on later progress. At the game’s E3 ’07 demonstration, Executive Producer Todd Howard proved that Fallout 3 is going to take this level of gameplay into new and unparalleled areas. Megaton is one of the game’s towns to house an unexploded nuclear bomb, and there are two ways this can continue: you can rearm the bomb by the request of a stranger who wants Megaton to be destroyed to make room for a suburb, or you can tell a sheriff about this plot. What are the consequences? Well, if you decide it’s time to wipe the town off the map, let it be so, and disappearing with it will be the quests available in Megaton. In their place, though, will come Tenpenny Towers, a new place with quests that are unavailable if you save the town. Assuming you’re still with us, doesn’t the word ‘longevity’ spring to mind? We at PlayStationBeyond are fascinated by the amount of different quest combinations you’ll be able to create in Fallout 3, and it just goes to show you those nice people at Bethesda know what makes a first-rate RPG.
Speaking of which, everyone loves statistics! If you don’t, you’re just going to have to wait! In contrast to the 1,500 quests Oblivion served up, Fallout 3 has only a few hundred, but don’t fret. What it may lack in the amount of missions on offer it more than makes up for in the number of times you’ll want to play it again… that’s no false promise either. Considering there is such a great level of choice on offer as to how you take on quests, we’ve already chalked up one of the reasons for wanting to go back for more once you’ve reached the ending. Well, we say ending but in Fallout 3 there are going to be up to 12. That’s right, 12 different endings that aren’t going to be random or scripted. You see, throughout the game your progress and decisions are constantly monitored to determine what ending will appear before the credits roll. It’s worth pointing out that unlike Oblivion, Fallout 3 does indeed have an ending when you’ll be forced to start a new game to go back to it, as opposed to kicking back and continuing to kill anything that moves.Rewinding to the enemies, combat is very similar to that of previous Fallout games in that you can fight in real-time or pause the combat and target a section of a foe’s body using what has been dubbed VATS, the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System. Behind the curtains lies deeper combat than most games can claim to have conjured up – rather than unloading bullets into an enemy or battering them until they fall, you weaken them in several stages. Using VATS you can, for example, remove an enemy’s leg to cripple them, or just go in with the headshot – it’s up to you. Of course, along with combat comes the gore associated with it, something Fallout has never failed to make transparent with its over-the-top cartoon-esque animations. Check out the screenshots for the game to see what we mean, such as heads exploding in a mixture of blood, bullets and eyeballs, just like real life!
This draws our preview of Fallout 3 to an end, so let’s reflect on our final thoughts. We’re damn excited about one of the games everyone should have on their wish list, with amazing graphics and gameplay to match it. The cynic inside us can’t help but scream out though, because Fallout 3 introduces a lot of change in what some consider will take the series away from its roots. Whether it will be too ‘Obliviony’ or not is something we’ll have to find out when it’s released. Unfamiliarity, here we come!