When I heard about Fallout 3 a few years ago, I, like many of the hardcore Fallout fans before me was somewhat sceptical that the game could make the leap from isometric 3d rpg to a full blown first/3rd person shooter-style game and still keep much of what made Fallout as a series of games, great. I was somewhat mollified when Bethesda took up the gauntlet and being a fan of Oblivion in general I decided to adopt a wait and see attitude whilst many of my fellow Fallout fans spat hot iron nails.
Now finally Iíve been able to sink in some serious quality time with the game and I can report that Fallout 3, for me, was a huge success and is a massive open-ended beautifully crafted first/3rd person rpg with atomic levels of atmosphere and an almost insane level of detail. Iím not going to waffle on about the story since as you probably might guess I donít like spoiling things like that. Suffice it to say that the story is a good one, well created and brings you into the world from a baby, allowing you to play in Vault 101 before you leave for the outside world and the true meat/bones of the game.
Fallout 3 as mentioned previously runs on a modified version of the Oblivion engine. It has numerous tweaks and design changes. Gameplay is simple enough; it can be enjoyed as a single-player (it has no multiplayer at all) first person or 3rd person shooter (the camera is triggered by a button) with a minimum of fuss. Itís possible to play the whole game like this and thanks to the changeable difficulty level (which scales the toughness of challenges to the xp awarded) itís instantly accessible to even novice players. It is a roleplaying game so you do have a character, either male or female, with a bunch of customization options and so on. Fallout has always operated on the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system, Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. These 7 statistics are the core of your character and you can assign a certain number of points to them during the game.
There are skills, like big guns, small guns, repair (very important), science, barter (another important one) and so forth. And each time you gain enough experience to level up (from killing enemies or doing missions) you can distribute a generous number of points to these skills. Lastly you can gain perks; these are small additional abilities that can have a global effect on some aspects of your character. You could add a point to one of the S.P.E.C.I.A.L attributes of your choosing, gain 10% extra xp or increase your small guns and repair skills by 5 points with Gun Nut.
Perks can also be awarded as a result of missions (side quests) for various characters depending on how you do. There are a lot of side quests and a lot of world for you to explore, so donít rush through the main story thinking that you have to do it all in one day (since the main story is relatively short)
The biggest core mechanic change from Oblivion is the introduction of the Vault Assisted Targeting System aka V.A.T.S for short. This is activated by tapping the right bumper and puts the game into a pause mode, allowing you to target specific areas and watch a cut-scene result of your attacks. You have a certain number of Action Points that you can utilize during V.A.T.S and these can be split to various locations on the target or used to target numerous hostiles depending on a few factors.
Once youíve assigned your attacks, press another button and youíll be able to see how things pan out. Not every shot is equal, some areas are harder to hit than others and your skill with the weapon in question will also affect your % chance to hit. It is this mode that makes Fallout 3 even more fun to play
The world is peppered with side-quests, itís a massive open-ended environment packed with hidden places to explore and treasures for those brave enough to find them. There are weapon schematics so that you can build your own custom tools of death, from the Rock-IT-Launcher (a gun that fires detritus and trash) to the amusingly titled: Shish-kebab, a sword that sets fire to enemies. All of these weapons require a blueprint to make and can be assembled by combining the correct items at a workbench. .