E3 '07: Extensive Fallout 3 write-up


Warning: the following contains spoilers for the first portion of Fallout 3. Read at your own risk. Also, I apologize for any incorrectly spelled names, but this is all based on hearing, not reading.

"I don’t know if you guys saw the teaser trailer we released about a month ago," began Bethesda producer Todd Howard. "That was actually shot in the game in real time, it’s the beginning of the game’s intro, as you’ll see here."

There we were, sitting in a well-furnished miniature theater watching a giant screen display the opening visuals of Fallout 3, one of the hottest games at this year’s E3. As Todd elaborated on how the teaser was pulled from the game, the footage everyone has already seen played in the background (complete with the music-"I don’t want to set the worrldddd onnnnn fireeee"; classic).

"War…" began Ron Perlman. "War never changes. Since the dawn of humankind, when our ancestors first discovered the killing power of rock and bone, blood has been spilled in the name of everything…" The intro speech goes on for quite a bit longer, but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, because it kicks ass. Suffice to say, Ron Perlman does a great job at making the beginning of the game draw you in.

As many know, Fallout takes place in the future, after the world has been decimated by nuclear war. Humanity has lived on, however, both on the surface and underground. Ron describes Vault 101, and reminds us that no one ever enters, and no one ever leaves…

"The game does start in the underground vault," Todd tells us. He also made it known that what we’re seeing isn’t the official beginning portion of the game; just the right area. When the screen loads up in first person, Todd continues. "People always ask us: ‘Why are you doing this, why are you ruining Fallout by making it first person!’" He went on to explain that for them, first-person is the only way to truly make the game come alive.


Fallout 3


"This chair is in Fallout 1, for example, 4 pixels high," he tells us. "But here it is. Same with this vent you can click on to make it go rattle-rattle-rattle-rattle." The crowd chuckled slightly when he mentioned that first-person also helps them as developers, because they get very anal about making their world right.

Unlike Oblivion, Todd demonstrates and explains how the third-person mode in Fallout 3 is fully playable, and easily done so, and more than a way to look at your blue jumpsuit. At the start of the demo, the main character is 19 years old, but he begins at a very early age (one!) before this point, and ages through a few events (I’m guessing).

The main character’s father is the main vault scientist, and is also voiced by Liam Neeson. He’s trying to get the main character to take the G.O.A.T. to find out what he has to do for the betterment of the Vault. "I had to take it, you’ll have to take it, and so will everyone else," his father tells him.

According to Todd, the G.O.A.T. is basically an oral exam, and will determine your future character in Fallout 3.

The father does more than just sound cool and get lost (setting up the story), too. As your main character ages from baby to adult, your father ages as well; his looks are also based upon how your character is designed.

It was about that time that we got our first mention of Oblivion. "Think of Oblivion as our freshman effort on next-gen," he tells us, "and Fallout is our revision and upgrade."

We were then treated to a demonstration of how the Pipboy works in Fallout 3. According to Todd, one of their main goals in upgrading it for Fallout 3 was to make it entertaining for gamers, since they’ll spend a lot of time in its menus. Part of how they did that is the humorous animations; skills and stats have their own picture and description, and most of them are pretty damn funny. One of them, science, features a bespeckled toon sitting in front of a giant retro computer. "This is our actually our lead developer, this is what he looks like," Todd jokes. "And this is a very early PS3 devkit."

The Pipboy also allows you to view your special stats, which will determine a lot of what you can do. According to Todd, these are assigned at a very young age. When you’re one, your father will give you a book titled "You’re Special!" and you learn to walk, for example. It’s also "very hard" to change the stats later in the game, so you’ll likely be stuck with what you pick.

The vault portion of the game will take about an hour to complete, and will allow you to learn how the game plays, and complete some quests. One instance of a quest-like encounter occurs when Todd runs into a group known as the Tunnel Snakes (a greaser gang, as he described them) tormenting your female friend. "You can help her," Todd says, "or you can join in, call her fat, make her all sad…"

Rather than take the G.O.A.T. (by the way, before you leave the vault you can change your skills and stuff, which is familiar to Oblivion), they skip that portion and go straight on through the story. We learn that the main character’s father has escaped the hatch, and to avoid suspicion we’ll need to attempt to find him in the outside world.

It was at that point we ran into Mr. Handy. "Good day new sir!" the cheerful robot chimes. "If I may be so bold the blue in the bolt suit contrasts BEAUTIFULLY with your eyes!" As Mr. Handy moves away, he mutters, "you stupid git." Oh, Mr. Handy!

The exit of the vault is a fairly epic area, and as Todd explains, given its seriousness it really has to be. You need to hack into a computer (or use a password) to open the vault, which involves a lot of whirling gears and shifting metal. After a few moments, Todd is out into the beautiful post apocalyptic sunlight!

"Here’s some people we wouldn’t let in," he jokes while walking over skeletons.

After exiting the vault, the game shifts to a wide shot of the Wasteland. Sand blows through the ruins of a city, while cars remain deserted. "This is the wasteland, everything you see is open to explore," Todd tells us. Unlike many developers, Bethesda loves to make everything you can see the actual game, which is great.

Demonstrating how drinking worked (and how radiation poisoning effected the main character), Todd treated us to a small nuclear detonation by blowing up a car with an active charge in it still. The explosion had some awesome lighting effects, and the sand and objects near it kicked up and flew around. Standing in an area where a car blows up also causes continuous radiation damage; sort of like a DoT spell. It’s a good tactic to use against trapped or tightly packed enemies, but blow up too much, and you’ll eventually kill yourself.

After taking a rifle and some drugs from an abandoned mailbox, Todd was attacked by a giant ant. In Fallout 3, all of the enemies (at least what we’ve seen) have location based damage modifiers. While fighting the ant, Todd could shoot its leg to hopefully cripple it, and he could shoot its antenna which would cause it to enter a frenzy due to the lack of senses.

Some point here, we were given an explanation of how Fallout 3’s parallax inclusion mapping worked. Suffice it to say that I’m horrible at technical details like that, so I’ll explain it in words I understand: it lets you break and damage things better by changing the environment on a pixel level.

Not only is this present in the gameplay, but Bethesda also used it in their world building to help spread damage and decay (which is everywhere – as Todd joked, "Our motto is ‘Decay: it’s the new tree!’")

More giant ants quickly appeared, and after dispersing of them we arrived at the city of Megaton, which is built around an atomic bomb which didn’t go off. Before entering, a robot deputy scans the main character’s threat level, and deems him okay to enter. Entering the city brings up a loading screen, which is still being worked on in order to lessen load times. Even now, though, it’s much faster than Oblivion.




Once inside, the sheriff greets us, and we’re shown how you can choose two radically different paths. In this instance, Todd can either be peaceful and friendly with the sheriff, or enter the town mocking his hat ("Nice hat, Calamity Jane"); guess which he picked?

After mocking the hat, the sheriff is peeved, and Todd has the choice to try and make things okay again, or keep pushing the sheriff which will end in a fight. Todd ended up switching his mind, so we entered the city proper.

Not only are the load times improved from Oblivion, but almost everything else limiting the game has been, too. For starters, the visual density in Megaton is much greater than anything seen in Oblivion. Each building is built of many separate scavenged parts, and it looks more like a movie than real-time gameplay footage.

The Radiant AI has also been vastly improved. This time, each NPC is given a full 24-hour schedule, and they’ll interact with each other much more than the NPCs in Oblivion, making the world truly seem alive (at least as alive as it can be…).

As we’re shown the city, a few bits of the typical Fallout humor rise up. Near the bomb the town was built around, a man is preaching a gospel about the bomb to the bomb; just past him is a sign leading to "local cult." Nothing drop-dead funny (yet), but the tongue-in-cheek and dark humor is obviously present.

The animation is also improved, as is the motion. Rather than have scripted moves for things such as going up steps, the game registers how the feet need to move to go up the stairs, and the character’s body corresponds. Bethesda used a lot of mocap in this game, and it showed.

At the top of the stairs, Todd entered Moriarty’s bar in order to search for his missing father. Here he displays the ability of the Pipboy to play songs from the radio. According to Todd, if you meet the DJ of the radio station in the game, he’ll also mention you at points. You can listen to the stations while you normally play the game, offering a slew of authentic period songs (including one by Bob Crosby, Bing Crosby’s less successful brother).

In the bar, we run into a character named Mr. Burke. Mr. Burke has an interesting proposal for us; it turns out the bomb isn’t a dud after all, and he wants us to go and place a charge to explode it. Naturally, Todd accepts the task. He mentions here that had he befriended the sheriff upon entering town, this quest would have never happened.

In the center of the town, Todd faced the bomb and was still given the choice to change his mind, but nah, he went for it. Whoops, his skills aren’t high enough. "Luckily I have these drugs I found in the mailbox, and as we all know, drugs make you smarter," Todd joked. They did the trick, and allowed him to place the charge. With the bomb armed, Todd took off through the metro to arrive at the meet-up spot Mr. Burke decided upon, which happened to be on top of the Galaxy News radio station building (ironically, he was listening to a song at this moment which was talking about a "Happy, happy life!").

In the underground, Todd was quickly attacked by a super mutant. These guys were big, greenish looking, and very mean. Here he once again displayed VAT attack mode, shooting it in the head, causing it to explode, showering brain bits, jaw bone, and eyes everywhere. "E FOR EVERYBODY!" he jokingly shouted as he shot the corpse to display the effects.


After showing how you can use similar weapons to repair damaged ones, Todd displayed some of the sneaking action in the game, sneaking past two mutants into a security room, where he found a password and used it to turn on a Protectron. Once activated, it attempted to contact security headquarters, and after getting no response, entered a mode with permission to terminate. It spied two mutants outside the door, and when they couldn’t produce tickets…well, let’s just say mutants have a lot of internal organs.

The robots are scattered throughout, and most of them will be a benefit to you (notice that Todd said MOST will be good).

Exiting the metro, Todd was met by a group of human soldiers who helped him fight off a squad of mutants, and escorted him to his meet-up. There he was attacked by a giant mutant, but before it could kill him, he stole a nuclear catapult and laid waste to it (and a few friendly troops, most likely). He then went to the roof of the building (how Mr. Burke made it no one will ever know, and even Todd couldn’t offer an explanation), and blew up Megaton. The city erupted in light as a giant mushroom cloud rose, and several seconds after the initial blast the shockwave hit, knocking Mr. Burke backwards and sending debris flying past the main character as the demo ended.

All and all, I was very impressed with what we saw of Fallout 3. The game is very similar to Oblivion in ways, but also vastly different. The Fallout theme is very strong throughout, and the ability to play in a top-down zoomed out mode should please fans of the franchise (whether or not it will work in fights we didn’t see). Will fans of the game like it? I can’t say, because everyone will like and hate some of the things Bethesda has done. What is obvious, though, is that Bethesda is treating this game very seriously, and is trying their hardest to please old fans, as well as bring in the new.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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