E3 08: Fallout 3 Hands On Impressions

Jul 16, 2008

Bethesda set the bar pretty high for themselves when Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion made its way onto consoles and PC. It reinforced what many a gamer already knew, they knew clear cut how to make an awesome and immersive RPG. After 30 minutes of hands on time with Fallout 3 today, it’s clear fans of prior Bethesda RPG games will not be disappointed.

I started my play session in a vault that led outside and instantly when I opened the door I was met with a load screen much like I was in Oblivion. This is sort of a recurring theme I could not shake while playing Fallout 3. The similarities between it and Oblivion are a bit startling such as the map being the same. Not to say it’s a bad thing, but it just a lot of deja vu. When you first walk outside you are greeted with the expansive destruction of post apocalyptic Washington D.C.. The visual environments in the game are absolutely stunning and does a very good job of conveying the amount of destruction that took place there. There’s is nothing standing, every building is crumbled. Every piece of earth is broken or dirt.

The controls are pretty easy to get into. Left and right stick move and look as many games before have done it. Right trigger shoots, left trigger aims. X reloads, Y jumps, and you can toggle between first and 3rd person view much like a former Bethsoft RPG using left bumper. B brings up the PIP boy which serves as the game’s inventory and upgrade module. I can’t really go into the upgrading and leveling up because I was asked not to but what I saw looked mighty expansive.

Walking through the world I was greeted by a two headed cow in the first two minutes of play which seemed like a randomly spawned creature much like in Oblivion. I was also attacked randomly by savaged rats and wild dogs when exploring the world. The draw distance in the game is once again incredible however in this build there was some texture pop in. However, much like Oblivion there’s only so much one console can handle.

What I really like about Fallout 3 is the VATS combat system. Being able to toggle between real time and que up moves like KOTOR is a real nice bonus. If you get into a fight you can press right bumper to pause the action. From here, you can cue up moves until your fatigue meter can’t take anymore using right trigger which is usually around the 2 or 3 mark. While queuing you can choose which part of the body you want to aim for. Each body part you can aim for is assigned a percentage of chance that you’ll make it. Once ready you can hit right bumper again for the action to return to real time. Early on in the game my player wasn’t all that versed in well, anything so I missed most of the time. But down the line in high enemy situations I can see VATS really paying off.

One of the interesting balances you must strike in the game is between your health and radiation. Since its a post nuke world you are exposed to radiation. If you are exposed to too much you begin to lose stats. Say you want to recover some health? It’s going to cost you some radiation. This provides an interesting give and take between the player and the game. Do I want to eat this food to restore some health at the potential of lowering my combat stat? There are certain items such as Rad away and Rad X which will lower your radiation and make you more resistant but it’s a nice little toss in to worry about.

I can’t end this impressions without shedding light on some of the cool little things added in the game. If you look at the water in the game it’s green and hazardous. I of course jumped into it. Immediately my Geiger counter started to go crazy because of radiation exposure. Hearing the ticking noise was a very cool little addition to the game I wasn’t really expecting. The only real negative I encountered was the lack of vehicles or a faster way to travel across the land for such an expansive area. However, Pete Hines explained that it was made intentionally that way because there aren’t really any vehicles left in the Fallout 3 world. Fallout 3 is hitting store shelves later this year and I am sure many of you are going to be picking it up. It’s going to definitely be up there among the top RPGs of the year.