“War, war never changes”
And indeed it doesn't. This is the phrase that kept gamers awake for nearly 10 years as Black Isle gave them the bread and water they needed under the form of Fallout. It is probably the single greatest game ever made. Not because of high poly count, latest shaders, use of directX 10 or any other tricky little tech term but because of the fantastic gameplay, one that could easily kidnap you from real life for hours.
It was maybe the only RPG that dared not to use sorcerers, damsels in distress, dragons or any other fantasy related object or being. It dared to be different and the bet Black Isle made with the gaming industry was by far the craziest one. But in the end they won. They won the hearts of countless gamers and some of them probably started worshiping the game studio right after that. I know I did.
But if war never changes, developers and the owner of an IP has to, sometime. After 10 years the Fallout IP landed in Bethesda's own backyard and for a second the gaming world went nuts. Not because Fallout would come to life again but because of another cataclysmic event known as “Oblivion with guns”. This is the term gamers invented for Fallout 3 as soon as Bethesda went ahead and gave news of the recent purchase.
...and the past is here again
As a great man once said you cant have future without past so, without further adieu, lets see why Fallout was so special.
You are a fortunate survivor of the nuclear war that just ravaged Earth.
The Vault, Fallout term for underground bunkers, saved your life. But, as always, something has to go wrong and this is when you come into play. The chip that controls the whole system of water purification breaks down and, by popular vote, you have to go outside and get a working one. Wandering around the desert, doing different things, you come across a settlement. Its not a big city but its one of the most important places in the game. This is where you find out what happened during the time you were stuck in that sardine can.
The game was pretty straight forward. You could do whatever you pleased in given situations and of course, the game would react to your choices. You could kill the mutants that were threatening you or you could as well join them and start killing people. And talking about killing, Fallout had a lot of things to offer. Weapons of any kind, from boxing gloves to laser guns, all of which could be upgraded, were placed there just for our fun. And talking about fun, there is no party if you don't have skills, and skills it had. Not a lot but few and very well done. Unarmed, small guns, medic, stealing, lockpicking and negotiation are just some of the 18 skills that were available in the first incarnation of Fallout. Along these the gamer had another useful thing called SPECIAL, its not just fancy term but the abbreviation for strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck. It doesn't look like something out of the ordinary at first but bare in mind that this SPECIAL was one of the most important things in the game because it changed the whole experience.
Just like in recent games like Knights of the Old Republic or even Fable, the gamer would be free to choose any path, dark, light or somewhere between, being as evil, or as good as he wanted to.
Not to mention one of the most greatest things ever to be put in a RPG, Fallout 2 style, where you could just throw a grenade into a toilet and... well.. you can imagine what happens next.
But enough about the glorious past. To make a long story short if you haven't played any of the Fallout games please turn off your pc and find another hobby because you cannot call yourself a gamer.
After 2 great games, 1 Fallout that was more RTT than RPG and a failure with a console Fallout Black Isle started working on a new game for the series, which was entitled, as you'd expect, Fallout 3, codename Van Buren. For years the future of this game was pretty uncertain, and not because of some other cataclysmic event like a space comet hitting the Earth but because of financial problems. The evil master behind all this was Interplay which almost went bankrupt and, in a very odd moment, decided to let Fallout 3 go. But things went on and on June 5 the IP was bought by Bethesda and this is were our story begins.
Lot of things have been said until now. On one side we have the old-school gamers that crave for real Fallout and not a remake of Oblivion and, on the other side, we have the “other” gamers, not familiar to the Fallout universe, that have nothing against Bethesda's new project. Writing a review you always have to be impartial and, that said, I will pick the middle path, somewhere between the angry mob waiting to slay Bethesda at the first sight of an Oblivion with guns and those that wait for a shinny new Post-Apocalyptic RPG.
When they started work on F3, Bethesda wanted to make sure they wouldn't make the tabloids in a mass murder case so, in an old fashion tradition, they got their hands on all the things that were labeled as Fallout. These included original plans, documentation, art-works and probably even made a synapse scan of those involved in the first Fallout.
The action will take place 30 years later from the first games and, kinda sad for us, it wont link to the first story lines. There will be no direct connection to The Vault Dwellers and we wont see the famous Vault 13 either. Not all is lost considering the fact that we will still have the Brotherhood of Steel and some minor references to other parties involved in the first two games. But one thing still remains here like a wooden stick driven through our Fallout hearts: you will be able to enjoy Fallout 3 without having to backtrack through the other games.
Story telling time
The main character will be a resident of Vault 101 and, as the game starts, the player will be able to fully customize his avatar picking what stats he wants and what skills and appearance the main character will bear. The story is rather weak, looking from a fallout-fan's point and it goes simply like this: your father, one of the greatest scientists left, disappears one night, disobeying the Overseer's rule by which nobody is allowed to leave or enter the Vault. And, as you would expect, the first quest will be to find the whereabouts of your old man after which the story will go on another path. Most likely, along with the main and side quests, some type of organization will try, for sure, to take control of what’s left of humanity.
The standard blue vault suit will be your main dressing code at the beginning, alongside the new PipBoy which recently got an upgrade to version 3000. With the new functions the PipBoy will be available throughout the game, rather than just in key moments like in early Fallouts. This is where you will get all your information, from game menus to inventory and so on. And if we're talking about inventory its worth to say that Bethesda learned from mistakes and this time we'll have a full RPG-like inventory and none of that “too-advanced-for-today's-graphics” we've seen in other games.
What about the blood?
The combat part has suffered a great deal of changes but, as Bethesda promised, we won't see any Oblivion fighting style around here. The most important thing is the VATS system, which is basically a replacement for the old Fallout aiming system, that promises to give depth to the game and a more user-friendly combat system. Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, by its full name, will allow the player to stop the time and, depending on the number of points available, he will have the ability to target known body points, now, including the weapon of the enemy. After all the points are spent a cinematic scene comes into play and the avatar executes all the desired action, of course, taking note of the players stats. As always, even though the AI has been greatly improved, the main purpose of the opposing bunch of pixels will be to die in various modes, some funny, some gruesome, some just plain. And as a side note I really wish Bethesda will not forget the delicate yet so nasty and lovable ways in which you could've disembowel the enemies in the previous games.
Changes have been made to the setting of the game also, now, Washington D.C., or whats left of it, housing the future conflicts between the man and beast, or, nuclear survivor and mutants by case. We have no word on the scale of the map but we have been reassured that the city has lots of places to visit in or even out of the city, in the nuclear desert and the new buildings raised there.
Fallout 3 just seems to be bound to Oblivion and as so, we already know that the game engine behind the third Fallout will be the same as the last reincarnation of The Elder Scrolls. We wont be able to travel Oblivion-style, using some kind of force-powered device to travel between location but, instead, we'll have to discover two locations first before using a modified version of quick travel.
Talking about the looks, Fallout 3 will, indefinitely, benefit from the new technologies and promises to bring a rich visual content, brought by the same Netlmmerse 2 engine. The camera will be placed just above the avatar's shoulder and if things go right we'll have no problems with navigation, especially like those moments when the head of the character blocks the entire screen rendering the game null.
The old sound
Sound will be an integral part of the experience with promises that the original music will be somehow present here as well and of course in a new surround setting benefiting from the latest sound cards. Not just this but Bethesda even went ahead and got its hands on some Hollywood actors to lend their voice to the game, actors like Liam Neeson that will give life to the player's father.
And the grand finale
All these being said I think it's time to close the Vault door and wait, in silence, for the next game. I have always been an optimistic person and although the gaming industry seems to be somewhat angry on Bethesda I am going to give them their time and wish them good luck with the game. Not that I'm always the good guy but in the end it will be their head on a plate and not mine.