rss rss Like this on facebook Twitter this +1 this Steam group

Posted by Brother None

This is a user-generated impressions piece on Fallout 3, based on a bit of hands-on time at the Penny Arcade Expo. Opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the opinion of NMA or its staff.

Fallout 3 PAX Impressions

Cow and Plissken


Built like a 1950s nuclear weapon test site, complete with dressed up mannequins and an old fashioned aluminum camper, it’s clear Bethesda spent good money advertising their new franchise. It’s important to note that the Xbox 360 version the public played was a hacked demo; Pete Hines and Todd Howard pointed out a few of the differences during a public showing (namely item placement, difficulty, and missing characters). Stepping from the vault you’re treated to a panoramic view of the wasteland; and it looks great (I heard a rep mumble about native resolution 720p but I was too enthralled to pay attention). Stepping around a bend you complete your first quest of escaping the vault and leveling up which leads to a major component of the game…

Character creation isn’t pedantic as in previous Elder Scrolls games. You assign skill points to skills which all affect a particular aspect of the game. Seldom used skills like doctor have been removed while others are incorporated directly into gameplay like science which is used to invent; a feature comparable to Morrowind’s item enchantment. There’s a surprising list of perks (the demo purposefully didn’t show them all but the full version does list the entire tree) and I can safely admit that the ones I saw are equally important to character customization. Bethesda games have suffered from a convoluted system where useless but easily trained skills level you up faster than skills that actually help you in combat. Fallout 3 has none of this; you assign points, you choose a perk, your character is instantly and noticeably improved.

With my newly raised speech skill and the Lady Killer perk, I decided to visit Silver, a Jethead hiding out in a derelict building. She accused me for breaking in and some options popped up ranging from calming her to pressing the question to pissing her off. I decided to talk her down. When the option to blackmail her appeared, I instantly noticed that my chance to do so was LOWER than characters with a lower speech skill. I thought to myself that by acting nice, I lowered the likelihood of intimidating her. Noticing my confusion, the booth rep smiled and said something which was drowned out by a crowd yelling “BOOM HEADSHOT” and he quickly scurried over to congratulate the practically foaming hipster at the booth next to me. Later, during a public demo, a narrating Howard briefly mentioned that dialog options (I assume the differences between options like “Thank you [end conversation]” and “Yeah, whatever [end conversation]”) directly influence success of the speech skills based on that character’s personality. If this is true, fantastic.

Attention to detail is greater than any Bethesda game and the sheer size and scope is underplayed in the videos which often time lapse. However, animation is still standard Bethesda fare; stiff movement, cartoony blood, and a general lack of weight. Particle effects like smoke and lighting are great but why is it that a character walking down a ramp looks like he’s gliding an inch above the ground?

The sound is also a mixed bag with voice acting ranged from decent to downright laughable (the entire crowd chuckled when Burke went “Excellent… EXCELLENT!”). Some guns sound nice and powerful while others are barely noticeable. The laundry list of licensed music is fantastic and fits the setting but hearing a mole rat or radscorpion charge at you is underwhelming.

This game isn’t Fallout (and that goes without saying). However, it’s NOT Oblivion with guns. Fallout 3 is best described as “An Action RPG Set in a Re-imagined Fallout Universe.” The game is entertaining and I say that proudly. Don’t let the ignorance of executives and press officials who’ve probably never touched Fallout negatively influence your enjoyment of an honestly decent game.


There was a long, 1.5-hour wait to play Fallout 3, and at the end everyone would get to play 5-10 minutes. The released preview videos are pretty much the demo that was shown at PAX and what I played through, except for Tenpenny Towers.

At the start I'm in the vault, the doors open up. I walk out of the small cavern entrance into the wasteland. A flash of white and then the wastes. I figured I've seen combat many times before, so I wanted to check out the town and catch some more of the dialogue instead. I headed straight for Megaton. A protectron robot greets me and I walk into town. Lucas Simms walks straight up to me and says, "so much as breath wrong and I'll fucking end ya". I, being a guardian of the wastes, behave politely and tell him I'll follow the rules. I go through the other dialogue choices. From my impressions of talking with Simms and other people in Megaton, I think (from what I saw of the demo) the dialogue is well done, if not decent. I thought dialogue choices and responses were similar to those you'd find in quality RPG games from the Infinity Engine games (BG, IceDale,) or even, dare I say, Troika's. It definitely wasn't the yes, no, bye and other terse responses like in Oblivion.

In Megaton I picked a lock. From what I understood (Pete guided me through lockpicking/how it worked), lockpicking doesn't seem to be purely a mini-game. As I heard and understood from what Pete was telling me, the difficulty of being able to pick a lock does actually depend on your lockpick skill. I also talked to some crazy guy who worshipped a nuclear bomb. After browsing Megaton for a while I headed out to check out some combat.

First thing I fought was a bee. I picked VATS because I loathe and am not very good at shooting in real-time games with a console controller (all stations of Fallout were running on the XBOX). Shot at the torso, racking up several pistol shots. Boom, Boom, Boom dead. Long story short, next I walked down to a small destroyed city and went inside the Super Duper Mart, shot at raiders, they shot back and I was killed by a raider w/machine gun. That was the end of my play trial.

As a fan of F1,F2:
Well, did it feel like Fallout?, see when you play the game you see things that are familiar. Vaultboy, the cave, the light, the vault door, mole rat, dean's electronics and a few other things that remind you of the first two games. Those kinds of things remind you that you're playing Fallout. However, the countryside, cities, people and even metagame aspects like the 3D graphics are just so foreign to the first two games that without those specific identifying factors from the first two games the game does not feel like Fallout in my opinion.

I really, really loved turn-based combat in Fallout 1/2. It was one my favorite aspects of the game.
Of course, in Fallout 3, combat is nothing like it was in the first two games. The FPS is pretty much that. You aim and shoot. But I'm pretty sure that statistics were involved despite it being real-time. I would shoot in real-time but it didn't seem like all bullets did damage despite shots being placed perfectly on the body.
VATS is real-time with pause. There was one thing that I wasn't clear about that worried me. It seemed like in FPS mode, you could shoot and shoot without stopping. In VATS, my AP would run out, I would have to go back to FPS mode to recharge AP and go back to VATS and do that over and over. Action Points have become an irrelevant stat for the real time portion of combat.

Looked great. The wasteland looks devastatingly beautiful from what I saw in the demo. Even though it's the same engine, graphics seem more polished than in Oblivion. I think it's more correct to say that the colours are richer. The wasteland had a palette of brown, yellow, and grayish tones. Bloom is horrible. Turn if off when you play the game. The models WILL remind you of Oblivion.

I talk about dialogue a bit above. My only real gripe with dialogue is that it seems like there is a lot of cursing. I personally don't prefer a whole lot of it and it just seems like it has been inserted just for the sake of making it seem cool and gritty. No purpose to it, doesn't define characters. It's feels like it is used just because it exists.

Dungeons. From what I overheard Pete and Istvan talking w/others it seems like "dungeons" will be much better than they were in Oblivion. Unlike Oblivion's same looking random dungeons, it seems so called "dungeons" in Fallout 3 are specifically unique places such as Super Duper Mart and Springvale elementary. It seems each location has its unique design apart from the common waste/apocalyptic setting.

Bottom Line:
If you can't live without turn-based combat, isometric graphics, Mark Morgan and the soothing, barren flatness of the west coast wasteland you best steer clear of this game. You're not going to like it.

Is it the Fallout we know? Nope. Is it Oblivion w/guns? No, I don't think so. They changed things in this game in a way that it doesn't totally feel like a post-apoc Oblivion mod. If you don't mind and embrace changes, check it out. My personal feeling that I got from what I played is that it is going to be a fun game in its own right.