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Posted by Brother None

French magazine CanardPC allowed its users to ask the questions they found pertinent, and by that structure provide a preview in Q&A format. With their permission, NMA presents a translation of the article, provided by Vaultaire and MrBumble.
View the original French article

CanardPC Q&A - English translation

As an intro to this Q&A session, one should know that we were only allowed half an hour with the game. Half an hour is not much. And if we had to judge its depth, richness and of all the things that made the two first Fallouts so original in such a little time, no wonder that our judgement would have been deceived.

The version we have played is identical to the one that was shown to European journalists during the last few weeks. The savegame we were asked to load was just before getting out of the Vault, just as the player reached adulthood. Therefore, we cannot give you more details concerning the player's childhood, which we have seen as a demo a few weeks ago. It's the first time the character gets confronted with the exterior world, guided by the player. Peter Hines, who supervised the hands-on, explained to us that the first town we should come across would be Megaton.


Does a sense of freedom emanate from the environment? Or is the feeling more narrow?
A sense of freedom, yes. Extremely vast distances; not really. Once we left the vault, the view distance covers an area of several kilometers and we can see in the distance the ruined buildings of Washington. On instinct, we follow the road that descends into the city but we are totally free to wander where we choose. I chose to head straight ahead until I had a sense of the size of the zone to explore, all the while consulting the map to give me a sense of scale. During the half hour that I was allowed, I traversed nearly all of the two zones in the map, walking leisurely and occasionally stopping for combat or exploring buildings. It is definitely smaller than Oblivion, as Bethesda has already mentioned.

Environment types, purely urban?

No, there are vast fields of dead trees, devastated villages and even a lake. Although, I did not notice a great diversity in the architecture, the color palette and the ambience is pretty much the same everywhere. The lighting in Washington is indeed a little more bluish, more orange in the wasteland but nothing radically different.

Does one not get the impression of a limited environment? (A false impression of player freedom --)
In Fallout, the world is open, no “corridor effect”. Players’ freedom to move around appears to be absolute. Only the roads of Washington suffer a sense of imposed linearity as the buildings on either side often form impenetrable obstacles

Can we explore lots of buildings and ruins?
In Megaton, the first city in the game, it is possible to visit each building, house or shack which number around 20 in the area. There is also a clinic, armory, bar, water purifying station and others. During my session with the game I only wandered into one building with hostiles, a sort of underground bunker in Washington DC. Strangely, I immediately saw the similarities between it and an Oblivion dungeon: A single entrance and corridors filled with monsters. Further along, I didn’t notice any buildings I could enter, but I did not look too hard for other “dungeons”. It’s a little frustrating to come across a building with broken windows but be unable to jump through them to see if it can be explored or not.

How does radiation play a part in the game? What does it do visually?
In Fallout 3, all sources of natural water are radioactive (puddles, rivers, etc) If you walk through it your Pipboy Geiger counter starts emitting sounds and an red icon appears at the top of the screen which tells you the number of rads taken. It appears that finding pure water is a necessity if you want to drink it. I don’t know if being thirsty has any effect on the gameplay, I did not even see a complete day/night cycle during my time with the game. Radiation is also apparent in the beasts of the wasteland and the meat that can be found on their corpses may be radioactive and detrimental to your health if consumed. Again, I don’t know how hunger is implemented, I simply noticed a slight regain in health whenever I ate any food.

Does the post-apocalyptic atmosphere well implemented?
With the wasteland filled with destroyed, rusted, moulding artifacts, yes. If we refer to previous Fallouts, it is clear that the game designers opted for a less original setting, despite it being so bound to the series. We find certain visual things: Vault Boy, ads for Nuka Cola etc,. Even more, the world of Fallout 3 feels empty. Too empty. The explanation of a nuclear holocaust is plausible, but wandering the wasteland we only came across one mutant dog and a sort of giant mole aroused a boring sense of loneliness. We can ransack various places (trash cans, -- buildings, etc) but the things that we find spoilt a bit the atmosphere of the game. For example, we found three frag grenades in a letter box along with a dose of Psycho.

Are there as many popular culture references in this instance as there was in Fallout 1 and Fallout 2? (Monty Python, Holy Grail, Wizard of Oz, Blues Brothers any others?)
It’s difficult to tell given how short the session was, but I think not. The only wink I noticed (and I’m not sure it was intentional) was during a visit to “Forbidden Planet” were I found a strangely familiar robot in front of the entrance to Megaton. As to the rest of the game, I did not see anything else. I don’t think we will find the same off-kilter humor as was Black Isles hallmark, unfortunately. This version of the fallout universe is sadly a more serious one. Let us hope that exploring the rest of the zone will prove me wrong.

Does this game have real depth? The zillions of details, winding paths, loads of stuff to do outside of the set towns and areas of interest? Oblivion had a pile of little villages, hermit NPCs, all of whom had a personality of a wet bag.
I did not encounter any NPCS in the wasteland other than an itinerant vendor named WolfGang in front of Megaton who was doing something on the back of his Brahmin. There are some details here and there but the impression of emptiness dominates the exploration to the point where one asks the question: is adding NPCs to the wasteland still on Bethesda’s TODO list? I could wander through a ruined village without finding any indication that there was something to do.

2) Gameplay

Is the gore associated with violent death logical or over-the-top?
That is the problem with E3. During the Fallout 3 Demo, Bethesda wanted to emphasize the games “adult” content and pushed the gore through the roof. During the initial demo, Peter Hines did the same: using the “Bloody Mess” trait, which makes every death really bloody, really pushed the gore over the top. Shoot someone in the foot and the entire body explodes in a fountain of blood. When actually playing it is a lot less impressive, the enemies die without too much fuss. On the other hand, the inconsistencies are apparent, like when a mini-nuke just cuts off an enemies foot.

Is playing Fallout 3 with a controller a good experience? How will the interface be adapted to mouse/keyboard combination?
We are not big FPS aficionados, I had a lot of trouble controlling my character and aiming was really hard. VATS helped with this a lot, something I was not expecting. When confronted by a group of enemies, it seems like the most sensible solution. On the other hand, I was much better on the PC. The mouse/keyboard interface allowed for more accurate aiming. One can imagine that the RT aspect will resemble Quake 3 where the player strafes around his enemies; avoiding their shots while simultaneously emptying clips into them – totally negating the need for VATS. Like Oblivion, character skill along with line of sight plays a factor in determining to-hit success but the translation to FPS must be tempered with the next question:

If the PC version is exactly the same as the one tested for the Xbox 360) ; it is very likely that this is the case, will the interface be marred by this (interface, save/load, …)
Oh yes, I think that on the PC the interface will prove unwieldy. Bethesda has chosen to put all the menus inside the Pipboy affixed to your arm. If it is a question of immersion, the intention is commendable, ergonomically it’s an absolute disgrace: A stick to switch between 3 large menus (stats-item-data) the other to navigate within the window and all the sub menus. On top of that, the inventory is reduced to simple lists of names, a miniature picture of the item appears to the right for each item. Also, forget about the two quick items found at the bottom of your inventory (in the originals) as Turn-based is completely dispensed with. In this system, one is faced with equipping a single thing or weapon at a time.

With real time combat, Is the concept or use of Action Points ala “Turn Based” useful or even captivating?
Like I said on the 360, the VATS system is indispensable for survival. Often, melee enemies get within range very quickly and VATS allows the player to get out of tight situations. I did not feel it was over-powerful and I was often forced to close the gap to improve my chances of hitting the target. In addition, aiming for specific body parts will appeal to the jokers amongst us: Fire at a super-mutants weapon and it will fall from his grasp. Such accurate shots are difficult to reproduce in real-time mode. In practice, we find ourselves using all our APs to fire at an enemies chest not even trying for the head. APs recharge in real-time mode but don’t affect ones ability to access the inventory. It seems to me that AP could be used for so much more than aimed shots. It is a terrible blow for the tactics of combat that existed in the franchise previously.

Adaptive difficulty Yes or No (Level Scaling)
Big question. The Bethesda lot have assured us for months that level scaling; railed against by Elder Scrolls Fan; was out. Permit me to cast strong doubt on this. See: towards the end of my half hour, whilst wandering through Washington DC, I fell upon a group of three super mutants. One was equipped with a Gatling. I was level 3 and I was only equipped with light Raider armor. For weapons, I had a baseball bat and a basic 10mm pistol and an ammo-less laser piston. I switch to VATS and aim for the Gatling mutant in the hopes of making him drop his weapon. I miss and the other two mutants head straight for me. I grab my baseball bat and alternate between VATS and real-time whilst waiting for my AP to recharge. The first mutant is downed, I loot a bat with a nail in it and kill the second mutant in much the same fashion. During this some sort of mutant spider joins the fray and attacks me. I kill it with my bat. The third super mutant fell to a combination of grenade and 10mm pistol. I’m a half hour into the game, level 3 and I manage to take down three super mutants and some unidentified thing without much trouble and find myself in possession of a Gatling fun. All is good.

Are the dialogues well written and ambiguous or do we see immediately the following response styles:
Evil, Good, neutral

The only dialog that could serve as an example of the richness of conversations that I could do was with Lucas Simms, the sheriff of Megaton. He is a character carved from the principal and it appears that the the logic of the responses reflect the complexity of the conversations in the entirety of the game. With certain responses, insult him, leave him be, the dialog choices approached the “Evil-Good-neutral”. I did not come away with any sense of subtlety in the responses, but again, I did not have enough time to really make up my mind. For certain responses, it was necessary to have good stats in conversation. For those responses, the percentage chance of it succeeding is displayed.

Is the game difficult (scarcity of ammo and stimpacks.. etc)
No, at least one never sweats as much as in the first part of Fallout 2. The enemies are weak and the aforementioned example of the super mutants should be clear enough.. I inadvertently died twice, once I had legs ripped off by my own poorly thrown grenade. The game gave us an easy time of it during the session, it appears to be a sort of mixed combat between checkpoints with auto-save.

Do you have to kill rats?
Yes. Lots. The only dungeon that I went into was infested and the security turrets seemed not to notice them, while it was very aggressive towards me every time I looked at the corner of the corridor. .

Does the AI suck as much as it appears in the gameplay videos?
Yes, unfortunately, it’s one of the main faults of the full version of Fallout 3. The mobs are totally stupid, with NPCs that flee in the direction of their aggressors, enemies that find themselves running on the spot, blocked by a too-low platform ( enabling me to re-arrange their faces during combat), rats that charge you so close as to bump into you then jumping up and down in a vain attempt to cause you harm. It is the one point that Bethesda should be taken to task over.

Did you experience the stealing system? Is it similar to Oblivions? Can one steal objects from NPCs? Do NPCs attack at the merest infraction or can one get caught without releasing total carnage?
The stealing system in identical to the one found in Oblivion. Just enter sneak mode. There is an indicator at the top of the screen that shows you whether you are visible or not. If you are caught, your Karma takes a hit but no-one attacked in my attempts to steal the pants of some chick in Megaton. Burglary on the other hand, might piss people off. Doors with names in red signify that to enter would be considered breaking and entering. Looting items from inside affects your Karma negatively. Where it really hurts is that your Karma is lowered regardless of whether anyone saw you. Omniscient NPCs that know all my crimes reminds me gloomily of Boiling Point.

Can we avoid combat?
The problem is I never got to try: no doubt we can get around enemies by sneaking, but being spotted by them before you get a chance to see them really limits alternative options. This is another issue with AI that should be patched before release.

Are the weapons customizable, are there different ammo types (I’m dreaming I know)
From what I saw, no. The weapons are limited to a list, it does not seem possible to combine them with other inventory items. I did not find any different ammo types during my playthrough.

How many different types of weapons are there?
The total number of weapons available has not been released. It appears that there is enough variety in gun types, melee weapons, fire weapons, new ones like the Rock-It Launcher or old favourites like the Power Fist.

Is there still a sucky fast travel system like in Oblivion?
Yes, after a certain amount of exploration, a message appears telling the player that fast travel is now unlocked. Personally, I did not use it.

Are quests solvable in multiple ways?
For the quests, the developers affirm that they wanted to allow the player to complete them however they wish. The example of Megaton should be a relevant one: the bomb in the centre of town remains armed and undetonated years after the apocalyptic events that gave rise to the wasteland. The locals worship this as a religious artifact. The Sheriff asks you to disarm it permanently. If you have the necessary skill in explosives you have the opportunity to disarm it or disable it. If you spend a bit of time in town you might run across an unsavory character that asks for your help in his plan to detonate the bomb. You are free to help him, send him to hell or denounce him to the sheriff. Concerning progression in the world I was aware at all times of a certain repetitiveness. Peter Hines confided in us that near each turret in the game there could be found a terminal for hacking said turret. It is interesting to let the player choose how to find his way but systematically offering the same alternative solutions every time risks getting old.

Technical Aspect

With regards to implementation, first impressions are confirmed: It’s ugly. The textures are faded, un-detailed for sure, the game is really aliased and the colors are really, really poorly chosen. Badly chosen in terms of coherence and not just because “it fit in with the spirit of the original”. Take this with a grain of salt, this was the 360 unfinished build, but it does not bode well for Fallout 3 shining on its technical merit. A example to illustrate my point. I approached a broken window of a building: the texture was so pixelated as to make me wonder whether the texture was stolen from doom.

Can we zoom out further than the over-the-shoulder view?

There are two viewing choices: FPS and Third-Person (like RE4). There was a bug in the game that at one point place the camera further away from the character; centered on him much like Oblivion. But this zoom is not allowed normally, one must be contented with over-the-shoulder.

Did they keep the soundtrack that, you thought, sucked? [CanardPC was pretty explicit in criticism of the game's soundtrack in an earlier preview - NMA]
Yes. The orchestral pieces by Inon Zur were not replaced. How could they not consider CanardPC's word as dogma ? The music was nicely muted, but on further investigation in the options it appeared the volume was lowered. Military march music, the type heard during gameplay videos found on the web, come from robots; bastard offspring of the Sputnik. Your Pipboy also frequently picks up local radio stations which you can listen to.

Are the animations Bethesda-like?
Yes. The mark of Bethesda is ever present: the people act like retards, extremely bad animations, not natural for one second. The over-the-shoulder view suffers greatly from this and renders it disagreeable to use. FPS Jumping is sloooow, reminiscent of astronauts on the moon. Third person is no better and also suffers from ridiculous animation. Oblivion suffered exactly the same problems and its upsetting that nothing has been done to improve fluidity.

In the videos, during slow-motion, it seemed that camera was being fucked by a herd of angry wild bulls (or, put in other words, was behaving erratically). Is this still the case?
Yes, a thousand times yes. For now, I hope that this is not the system that ends up in the game. While in slow motion or during VATS usage, the camera often seems to be controlled by a blind director, pans to show us a big portion of wall, a foot or sometimes nothing. Furthermore, I could find no menu option that allowed me to turn off slow-mo for shots. The camera during my adventure in the underground dungeon was seriously exhausting especially with lots of action on the screen, with rats that I couldn’t aim at heading straight towards me like kamikaze kangaroos on acid.

Must one work for NASA (or at the office of CanardPC) to succeed in running this game?
I’ve no idea what the requirements are for the PC, but I can tell you this: the Xbox 360 version was not that good in terms of framerate. There was a lot of stuttering during my journey in the infamous “dungeon”, even though it was nothing more than a series of corridors. So yes, ok, there were smoke effects, but nothing to tax a machine like the 360. It is undeniably an optimization issue that should be fixed by Bethesda before release.

Once again, it is not easy to get a fair idea of what Fallout 3 will be like on release. All in all, the development team has a pile a bugs of all types to fix. It is in all cases certain that this will not shine on technical merits, with empty interiors, outdated and badly used character models, “Rigor Mortis” animations..
Disassociated from the gameplay of the preceding Fallouts, Bethesda try to impose their view of an action RPG, in the same vein as Oblivion. It is impossible for me to guarantee that this will be a good fallout game, or even a good game at all...

View the original French article