Fallout 3: Heaven or Hell?

Image from the Fallout 3 teaser

If you who haven’t already seen the teaser (I recommend it, if only to kill a couple of minutes), I’ll give you the condensed version:

Vacuum tubes, Inkspots music, radio panning out to an abandoned bus, panning out further to a ruined bus, panning out further to a ruined cityscape (arguably Washington D.C.), pulling back over craggy destroyed cement, Fall 2008 release date. The End.

… Oh, yeah, and a guy in Brotherhood-of-Steel-style power armor.

But nobody cares about that, right?

Well, if you were to be peering through the official Fallout 3 forums on Bethesda’s website, you might get that impression. Or rather, you might get the impression that the teaser was actually a blow to the credibility of the upcoming game – despite the fact that almost everybody agrees they managed to adequately capture the feel of the original Fallout games through their two-and-a-half-minute–long movie.

I’m getting ahead of myself, however, so I’ll recap.

Fallout, for the uninitiated, is a gaming franchise created by Black Isle Studios, and set in a post-apocalyptic future that dates back to 1997. It’s an extremely open-ended RPG with an overhead view of pre-rendered, isometric environments. It’s heavily influenced by imagery from the early ’50s, has a unique character design system made to emulate pencil and paper RPGs, and has turn-based combat (I’ll be writing a more-detailed examination of the games at another date, so keep an eye out for it, if you’re interested).

In 1998, Fallout 2 was released, and while there have been two other games in the Fallout universe since then, there has been no “true” sequel in the last decade. However, the Fallout fan community has been alive and well – particularly centering around two well-traveled and popular fansites – who, among other things, clamored loudly for the creation of just that.

Apparently, it worked.


The teaser was composed entirely of engine-rendered visuals, meaning that the game itself will be graphically similar to what you see there. To get technical, it’s the same “Gamebryo” engine that gained fame (notoriety?) in another of Bethesda’s recent games from The Elder Scrolls series: Oblivion.


Oblivion received its own share of flak, however – particularly from “true” fans of The Elder Scrolls franchise. While it had vastly improved visuals over Morrowind (the game prior to Oblivion in the franchise), it had a “streamlined” leveling system, which led to fewer possibilities for players to tweak their characters. Although they were visually appealing, it disappointed some gamers because of the much smaller areas, which were allegedly necessary due to data storage limitations.

What has many fans on edge, aside from the fact that a company with a less-than-sterling reputation of late is developing their beloved sequel, is that Oblivion is a first-person action/RPG. There are, in fact, a large number of fans who believe that anything other than a game that’s designed in a similar manner to the previous Fallouts is simply not worthy of the name.

If you ever see someone include the phrase “Oblivion with guns” outside of quotes, it’s almost certainly coming from someone in that camp. In fact, these fans argue – not entirely unjustly, if you look at the travesty that was Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel – that in order for it to live up to the expectations and memories created by the previous games, it must have a turn-based combat system. They’re also not big fans of the idea of making it first-person perspective, for various reasons. Anything less, they feel, would turn their beloved game into a first-person shooter, which isn’t something they think would be bad, necessarily, for a “spin-off,” but certainly not a sequel.

On the other side of things, there’s another (usually younger) group that wants nothing but a first-person, real-time combat system. Whether because they like FPS games, they loved Oblivion, or they simply would like to see Fallout be designed that way for their own reasons, they think that a first-person perspective, real-time combat-based game would be wonderful.

There are other groups as well, but for the purposes of anything outside of Bethesda bulletin boards, or other gaming forums, they’re negligible in both size and importance (incidentally, I fall into this category, so good luck calling me out on personal bias).

In the June issue of Game Informer, Bethesda announced that Fallout 3 would be released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 as well as PC, leading some to shout with glee, but far more to level disparaging remarks about how “dumbed-down” console RPGs are.

Of course, absolutely no information has yet been released on how the game will actually play. Everything at this point remains pure speculation based on the teaser and the small crumbs that Bethesda has carefully scattered.

So, to get back to the original question, where should you stand?

Well, as long as you’re all mindlessly following my commands, I’ll say that you should remain cautiously optimistic. There are plenty of ways that Bethesda could turn even a first-person perspective, real-time game into something that effectively reflects the original Fallout system – albeit difficult-to-implement ones. I’ll leave the speculation to the forums, however, and try not to count the chickens before they’re hatched.

But let’s all remember that we dohave a clutch of eggs here, and they can hatch.