Publisher:Bethesda Softworks Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Release Date: Autumn 2008
I'm typing this introduction in the brief interlude I have for lunch, having spent most of the day up 'til now being ferried from one room to another. Demonstrations and introductions. Hands-on time. Embargo briefings. I have an interview scheduled in about fifteen minutes and then it's back to the hands-on.
Hotels should be relaxing – especially this one, which is so swanky that the staff probably call it Hilary for short. I can't relax though, not today. I've been playing Fallout 3 and chatting with Pete Hines.
I have an odd relationship with Fallout 3 and considering the stark divide between Fallout 3 fans and all other gamers in the world it's probably worth me stating my allegiance now. I'm in the former category – an ardent and vociferous supporter of the franchise, fuelled by a love of post-apocalypse stories.
And yet, like most Fallout fans, I'm actually a little bit nervous for the release of Fallout 3. There's a nagging suspicion that this really could just be Oblivion but with guns and more brown.
But it isn't. I know it isn't because I've just played it and that's the root of my rocky relationship for the game – my love waxing and waning into trepidation as the months between sightings stretch ever longer. I'm saying all this to help put my thoughts in a context that other hardcore gamers can understand. You may think, just as I did only yesterday, that this is Oblivion with guns and that's it – but you'd be wrong.
I've previewed this game before and the original Fallout games are pretty well known plot-wise thanks to the mixture of a phenomenal reputation and Bethesda's marketing efforts, so you'll have to forgive me if I refuse to go over the backstory all over again.
If you want to get caught up on all that then you can either play the original games, which can be picked up pretty cheaply now, or you can read my first preview. Both are recommended. Instead, let's focus on the new game. Fallout 3.
Fallout 3 may look like just another post-apoc brownfest, but there's actually a rich history here drawing on a 1950s view of the future. Of course 'future' is a loose term when the world has been obliterated back to the stone age by a mushroom shaped hammer made of smoke.
Mercifully you, the player character, manage to avoid this irradiated retribution and your family take cover in a nearby underground vault like the feeble, cowardly little people you may well design your character to emulate. These vaults were dug to provide safety to the diverse cross-sections of society that managed to get to them – though we hope the chavs at least were turned out at the door. You are born into this sanctuary.
All isn't well though and, unknown to the inhabitants, the Vaults aren't actually as safe as they may seem to be. Instead, each is a behavioural testing ground and each vault is given a different scenario to play too. What is yours? It doesn't matter, because when your father goes missing all of a sudden you make a hasty exit and go looking for him.
Sure, you may be designing an evil character in your mind, but it doesn't really matter. Your dad is voiced by Qui-Gon Jin himself and I know of no man who could possibly let that Irish, silken-voiced agent of wisdom disappear without at least getting curious.
Thus, the stage is set and the quest can begin – and we've not even mentioned the FEV virus and the resulting super mutants once yet!