The More Things Change...

Fallout 3 is coming. We've seen it. It's going to be awesome.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: July 1, 2007
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When you look at some of the Bethesda Game Studios frontmen -- particularly executive producer Todd Howard -- you can already see them steeling themselves for the fan reaction to their decision to take on the Fallout world. Fallout fans approach Trekkie- or Star Wars fan-level devotion, and in some corners of the community, the smallest changes to the formula that was created a decade ago are seen as blasphemy. It probably doesn't help that Fallout 3 bears more than a passing resemblance to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion -- they use the same engine, after all -- but Fallout 3 is not "Oblivion in the Wasteland" as some may fear.

For starters, the engine is an internal generational leap ahead of what Oblivion was. The time spent on the last Elder Scrolls game gave the team the core knowledge of working on a triple-platform release (Fallout 3 is hitting the PS3, PC and Xbox 360 simultaneously), but they've also made a number of improvements to the core feature set. Pixel-level deformation is in place, meaning if you fire at a stone column (or in the example we were shown, the ground), you'll create a proper divot rather than a pre-determined chunk getting chipped away. More advanced rendering techniques like depth of field focus, better general lighting and a far more refined way of handling subsurface scattering, giving skin -- particularly on faces -- a more natural way of letting light pass through things like, say, ears, all add up to a game that not only looks expansive, but features natural looking characters.

Speaking of characters, it's technically speaking the first stop on the roller coaster ride that is the first hour of the game. A retooled character creation system now features humans that actually look, y'know, human, and in classic Fallout fashion, you can pick some base stats and a few perks that will unlock or cash in as your character grows and encounters specific situations where, say, you might be more adept at handling certain weapons (which, by the way, can now be created by the player from parts; take a lunchbox, fill it with bottle caps and some explosive and you now have a makeshift frag grenade, for example). The game actually flash-forwards through your childhood, allowing you to make decisions that will subtly determine what kind of character you have and establishing some relationships with characters in the Vault. After all, you'll be living here for the rest of your life.

Oh, get a little ahead of ourselves, did we? Let's back up a bit. See, one of the big advantages to releasing Fallout 3 on consoles as well as its more natural home on the PC means that an entirely new audience will experience the universe, a world that is rife with dark humor and plenty of excessive gore (and no, Fallout 3 is not skimping on the gore factor as you'll find in a bit). Picture the idealized vision of the future that was cooked up in the 1950s; tons of shiny steel, rounded corners on everything, appliances that did a busy housewife's work for her -- maybe even something approaching a hovercar. Now picture all those far-fetched ideas (and yes, some of them were adorably hokey) actually happened. This is the world of Fallout.

Or at least it was until shafts of nuclear rain fell upon much of the world, turning the fast majority of the United States -- and indeed the planet -- into irradiated fields of near-lifelessness. People survived, sure, but with all that radiation, they were mutated, changed, into ghouls and mutants. Animals too were twisted and warped, grew bigger, stronger, more hideous and infinitely more deadly. This was life for every survivor of the nuclear holocaust.

All except for those that escaped into the Vaults, that is.
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