Still trying to get adjusted to the hallway light after being treated to a rather lengthy, 40 minute demo of Bethesda's Fallout 3.
My brain is at 35%... Duh!
Dude, you ain't Sam Fisher. Get a shave!
One thing that needs to be noted right away about Fallout 3 is that Bethesda is obviously taking a very similar approach to what they did in Elder Scrolls IV, in terms of how the game is being played. While the third person view is functional and often useful (over the shoulder look mostly), the main way to play the game would definitely be in the first person. Beth's executive producer, Todd Howard, calls this the most immersive way to experience an RPG title.
Now, personally, I may object somewhat to this statement, but the fact of the matter is this is how the game's gameplay is executed and this is what Fallout fans should expect. Is this a good thing? A matter of personal preference really.
The game starts off inside Vault 101, the safe haven or the bane of the survivors of the nuclear holocaust. The demo kicks off with our main character being a young 19 year old guy (who looks at least 30 by the way) getting ready to undergo his test of mental abilities - a rather neat way to determine your characters traits, similar to what Beth did in Elder Scrolls games. The trailer that was released on the net is the actual start to the game, so the story picks up as the "young" man gets familiar with his surroundings. Also, the whole game conveys a retro sci-fi look, which should be familiar to all Fallout aficionados. As the plot unravels, you learn that your father has somehow escaped Vault 101. The trick here is that, under the government of the Overseer, the vault was thought to be impossible to either exit or enter.
After a sequence of events that was speeded up in the demo, Todd took us out of the vault and into the barren wastelands of the Fallout world.
While the engine still looks very much Oblivion-ish, if you catch my drift, with nice detail in the game world and on the models, but with animation that's a bit stiff, a marked improvement was immediately noticeable in the sheer number of objects in each scene as well as their intricacy. Bethesda is definitely going for the portrayal of an aftermath of total death and destruction, and they are pulling it off quite decently in the game.
As you exit the Vault, you are faced with a world of moral ambiguity and a rather uncompromising style of humor; again trademarks of the Fallout series. In that sense, the designers are staying true to the core concept of characterization and storytelling, something that a lot of fans will regard as music to their ears. Expect a lot of "fucks" as well as crass humor, but wrapped in an intelligent and ironic take on life.
The RPG elements in Fallout 3, naturally, play a big role. Through your little retro PDA, you will be able to choose your character's stat alignment, something that will be very hard to change later on in the game. In addition, our hero will be presented with a number of moral choices. For instance, he will enter a city which has survived and sort of grown around a nuclear bomb, which has miraculously never detonated. As chance would have it, a shady and overly-eloquent character in the town's sleazy bar will give you the option to actually rearm the bomb and blow the town to bits. Lo and behold, that is exactly what our game demonstrators did. Bearing in mind the AI routines of the NPCs, which did seem more life-like and engaged in more meaningful actions than in Elder Scrolls IV, the choice to blow the town to hell was an interesting one. As most of the guys in the room would agree, a more entertaining one at that.
Another important thing to note about the game is the combat system. While looking rather like your classic shooter combat, with a crosshair and all, Fallout 3 is actually very different in that sense. As you know, the old Fallout series was turn-based, and Fallout 3 sort of continues that spirit. Though you can execute combat in real-time, there is an option to stop time and use action points to perform powerful shots in the head, torso, or extremities. This will, in turn, allow you to deal with multiple enemies more effectively. The gore of the game seemed quite excessive, but this all fits into the unapologetic nature of this surely M-rated title. At any rate, this is what people expect from Fallout.
Near the end of the presentation, Beth treated us to a level of post-apocalyptic Washington DC, which was very impressive in the amount of damage done to the city.
Final scenes included combat with multiple soldiers and mutants with you right smack in the middle of it all. Granted, this is something that has been the big wow factor of Oblivion, but the gameplay was sort of diluted as you progressed through the campaign.
I am very much hoping Fallout 3 won't have that detached feeling to it. It didn't in the presentation, but then neither did Oblivion under similar circumstances.
Fallout 3 is scheduled to appear in stores in the fall of 2008. As always, expect this date to change once we get closer to something resembling a beta build. What I've seen of the game at the show here, it looked pretty complete and functional - certainly a sign that Bethesda knows what they're doing.