TGR Preview: Fallout 3: We Were Blown Away

Our Fallout 3 week may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean the best has already been; far from it, the best has yet to come. We were lucky enough to have Pete Hines of Bethesda Software with us to give us some extra juicy information as he played through the Fallout 3 demo.

We must point out now that the demo that we saw was in fact the Xbox 360 version, but both versions should look and play the same. The demo started off at the beginning of the game, before the player chooses what their character will look like and what skills they want. The amount of freedom you have while customizing is reminiscent of Oblivion. In Fallout, players can choose what race they wish to play as and customize facial features such as, eyes, mouth, ears, and chin. From there, players can choose from the vast amount of hair styles and facial hair. What is really impressive is the attention to detail Bethesda has achieved. For example, when players see their father for the first time, he is covered up by way of a mask and glasses, but after they have finished creating their character, the game will model the father, who is voiced by actor Liam Neeson, based on what their character looks like. In other words, your father will have a familiar resemblance to the chosen character model. The attention to detail is quite remarkable.

We picked a preset character to go through the demo. Once our character was sorted, we were given a little baby board book called ‘You Are Special.’ Players flip through the pages of this book to assign points to skills they want to be good at. It’s wise to pick skills based on how one plans on playing Fallout. For example, if one put more points towards medical skills, they will gain more health from the likes of the stim packs. If one put more points towards strength, then they will be able to carry more items in their inventory. Like Oblivion, Bethesda has been kind by allowing changes to be made to the skills and special skills before completing this section, so before closing this baby board book, one can make some final adjustments to their skills and specials set.

Along with Liam Neeson, Ron Perlman will also be lending his voice talents to the game; you may remember Ron Perlman’s voice from other videogames, including the Halo series, Turok, and Conan. Ron Perlman will be narrating as the events occur within the Fallout world. Bethesda did tell us to expect more Hollywood talent to be lending their voices to the game, but were unwilling to reveal exactly who at this time.

Next we moved onto a tutorial of how to move and run, all this done while we were still a child. At this point, one is just learning the basic controls of the game, quite fitting that it would be at an early age in the game. As time went, we were able to explore more of the vault and interact with objects.

When we went up to a female scientist, dialog options appeared on screen as to what we could say. We were told as you progress through the game and gain more skills to put towards charisma and speech, more dialog options will open; there are in fact up to 500,000 lines of dialog in the game. An example of speech skills mixing with other skill sets is the ability to talk with scientists. If you have more skill points in science and speech, one is able to speak to the scientist more, as more dialog options appear because one knows more about science. When speaking to characters, the game does show the difference in the effects of the dialog options. This will all go towards how the character is seen later on in life.

Something we noticed early on was the simplicity of the HUD. The on-screen interface is really pretty minimalistic and simplistic. The only things you will see on your screen are health points, action points, your compass, and some info on the weapon equipped. This is something Bethesda learned from Oblivion: they wanted everything else that comes up on the screen to be designed to come in and out. When you get experience points, it will show up on the screen and then go away. When you get quest objectives such as "Follow Dad," it shows up on the screen and then it goes away. They don’t want to overload the player and make the player press buttons that will interfere with playing the game.

Carrying on with the game, your father’s assistant will call for you after you have done some meddling with other characters. We must point out at this stage how incredibly well the AI is build. The NPCs respond to your actions and interact with each other while you walk around the Vault. When the assistant called us, we went down in the basement where they gave us our first BB gun. We then learned how to shoot a gun and how to target people with the VAT system.

Pete started up a new game save, and though he wouldn’t say where or when this next encounter occurs, he did say it was close to the beginning. This next encounter is where Dog Meat is introduced: Dog Meat’s owner is killed by a group of monsters, which you have to fight off. Pete explains that you can “have him join you as your own little canine companion.” He demonstrated that by the press of a button, the dog can search the surrounding area for weapons. As the attackers did drop weapons, Dog Meat will pick it up and bring it back to you. The dog actually brings back a pipe that the attackers used to kill its owner. Pete explained that he can ask him to go find him food, tell him to stay put, or send him to the Vault 101 entrance and say, “Go wait for me there until I come and get you.” Basically, Bethesda has designed the dog to be your faithful companion, no matter how good or evil your character becomes.

One thing we were told by Pete about the Fallout world is that they don’t warn you when you’re going into an area where you will get your ass handed to you. You need to be careful and choose your options and areas carefully. Of course, you can always go back when you’re beefed up, but if you don’t want to get humiliated, you need to choose wisely. Another thing we were told was that there will be no vehicles in the game. The only means of transport is walking. Of course there will be a fast travel system similar to Oblivion, but in order to use that, you must have been to the location first. We did ask whether or not this was a good idea and Pete responded, “We can press the space so that you are not talking about walking for 30 minutes to get from one interesting place to another. We can press it so that there is always cool stuff to find and things to do.” That eased our thoughts.

As the game was playing, Pete showed us the junkyard so he could show us some explosions using the Fat Man. He demonstrated a chain reaction of explosions where the fire spread from car to car, each explosion different depending on the size of the car. He also told us that once the cars are blown up, they stay blown up. They don’t reset once you leave the area, and this principle goes for everything. We asked about destructible environments he responded, “We do decal damage on the environment in the way of bullet marks on concrete and asphalt and stuff like that, but we do not do any kind of terrain defamation. So vehicles are really the only thing that you can explode. Objects will blow around the world, so barrels and stuff will get knocked around and what not. But you cannot crumble buildings.”

Pete loaded up another save, this time taking us just outside of a very large building. He equipped his 10mm submachine gun, which is one of the popular guns from the original game, and turned the light on. Before we saw any combat, we asked what the games position on stealth is. As he walked into this very dark building with his light on, Pete responded, “It effects the environment and the ability of folks to see you. If you have that on versus off, you are easier to detect for enemies.” Problem is you won’t be able to the see where you are going if you don’t have your light on. His perception allows him to see that little red dot on the map, which shows him where enemies are. How well you can see this is based on the character’s perception skill.

As he entered the room, we had our first encounter with one of the games enemies, Feral ghouls. There are three types of ghouls in the game: regular ghouls, who are basically people who were exposed to radiation (they are kind of grotesque looking, but you can walk up to them and talk to them), Feral ghouls, who are ghouls that had their brains melted because of too much of radiation and are now just mindless zombies, and glowing ghouls, which are Feral ghouls that were exposed to so much radiation that they actually absorbed it and began to emanate it, which gives them attacks that set off radiation within a certain area.

This is where Pete showed us more of the VAT system. Using VAT will allow you to target multiple creatures, even specific body parts, at the same time. Once the Vat system is up, we saw the percentage chance to hit each of the different body parts. In this case, there was 23% chance to hit his head, so he took a couple of shots at his head and then moved across the room and took a couple shots at another enemy’s torso. He indicated to us that he had now run out of points. Every time he cues up an action, it flashes how many action points that shot is going to use.

“Each gun has a different rate of fire," he explained, "so for a laser rifle, which is a single shot, you can get off more shots, where these are little controlled bursts on your submachine gun. You know the Fat Man, one shot would take out pretty much all of your action points. The idea is if you go in a VATS mode, and then you come back out and you just run around like shooting, then your action points will not come back as quickly, so you cannot jump right into VATS. We keep you from like running around and pulling the trigger constantly, and always being able to go right into VATS running around. You sort of have to balance it. How much do you want to do in real time, how much do you want to do in VATS?”

You can assign weapons just like Oblivion. At any time, a gun can be equipped or used by assigning it to the D pad so that you can change your weapons on the fly without having to go to inventory. The same goes for using a stim pack, when you are looking for a boost. A nice little feature we learned was the fact that you can assign stim packs to designated limbs. You are able to cripple enemies by shooting their legs and arms, but the same can in turn be done to you. You will know when a limb is in danger by way of a flashing red icon at the top right hand of the screen.

What’s great about Fallout 3 is that you don’t always have to fight. Pete loaded up yet another save and this time, we saw a group of humans that are part of Talon Company, which is a group of mercenaries fighting against the super mutants. We were told we would see this a lot in the game, where you will come across groups of characters or creatures that are fighting amongst themselves. You have the choice to join in, just watch and see what the outcome is, or completely ignore it altogether. The choice is entirely up to the player.

We would like to say a big thanks to Pete Hines, who demonstrated the game to us, and to all the guys at Bethesda Software. Fallout 3, when released, will be in a league of its own. So much depth, so much attention to detail, so much customization, and from the demo we have seen, it looks absolutely stunning. Fallout fans, you won’t be disappointed; RPG fans you won’t be disappointed. If everything keeps going as it is then this will be marked as an all-time great.

Now it may be the end of our Fallout 3 coverage this week, but that doesn’t mean it’s the last you will have heard of this game before launch. TheGameReviews.com is giving our members the chance to ask a question regarding Fallout 3 directly to Bethesda Softworks. All you have to do is leave your questions in the TGR Forums, and we will take them to Bethesda and get your questions answered!

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