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Posted by Brother None

[ Page 1 ] - [ Page 2 ] - [ Page 3 ] - [ Q&A ]

This preview is also available Polish, French and Russian.
This preview is based on the demo shown at the Game Conference in Leipzig, Germany, by Pete Hines. It is the same demo shown at the earlier press showing and E3. Pete Hines noted that the demo build is 2 months old by now.
NMA's main previews provides a walkthrough of the entire demo, then some opinions on several topics, then a final judgement. A dozen-question Q&A conducted by NMA's staff on the spot is also available.
NMA's staff covering this consists of Brother None (referred to as "I" in the preview) and SuAside, both of whom applied for the demo showing in name of another media company: Brother None thanks to GamerNode, SuAside thanks to MadShrimps.be. Silencer, who applied in the name of NMA, was turned down with no reason given (though it is worth noting he applied last, a day after Brother None's appointment was finalized). SuAside saw the demo Friday at 12:00, Brother None at 14:00, so details vary and it will be noted in the walkthrough when they do significantly. At no point in the demo or Q&A did NMA's staff identify themselves as from NMA.



Fallout 3 preview

Written by Brother None and SuAside

The demo was shown in a small room with about 20 reporters in it. Two Xboxes were used. The game was started up and immediately stopped, Pete Hines going "well, that was our demo, then." After that joke, Pete Hines warns they have a bit of a bad set-up there, with a VGA connector which makes the graphics look worse than normal and he reminded us no recording would be allowed. After that, we got to the real demo...

Walkthrough - The Vault and Springvale

Fallout 3
Setting:
retro-50s post-apocalyptic
Genre:
RPG/Action RPG
Release:
Fall 2008
Platforms:
PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The Fallout 3 demo opens with the same teaser we've all seen released by Bethesda. Rather than ending with Ron Perlman going "War, war never changes," it continues, into a speech (which has several long pauses):

War. War never changes. Since the dawn of human kind, when our ancestors first discovered the killing power of rock and bone, blood has been spilled in the name of everything, from God to justice to simple psychotic rage.

In the year 2077, after millennia of armed conflict, the destructive nature of man could sustain itself no longer. The world was plunged into an abyss of nuclear fire and radiation.

But it was not, as some had predicted, the end of the world. Instead, the apocalypse was simply the prologue to another bloody chapter of human history. For man had succeeded in destroying the world...but war, war never changes.

In the early days, thousands were spared the horrors of the holocaust by taking refuge in enormous underground shelters, known as vaults. But when they emerged they had only the hell of the wasted to greet them. All, except those in Vault 101. For on the fateful day, when fire rained from the sky, the giant steel door of Vault 101 slid closed... and never reopened. It was here you were born. It is here you will die because, in Vault 101, no one ever enters and no one ever leaves.


During this intro, brown-tinted black and white still shots are shown. Initially of corpses and tombstones, but as Ron Perlman continues to describe the war, you see what looks like a typical 50s suburbia area, with a mushroom cloud expanding in the background. SuAside notes heavy imagery implying the death of children is seen here. The intro ends with a slightly unfamiliar looking closing Vault door, apparently of Vault 101.


The poxyclips
From there, the demo jumps into a first person view of a room inside a Vault. Pete Hines notes this isn't the actual beginning of the game, the PC already being full-grown (19) where he'd normally start with his birth. The fact that the vault is an accurate replica of everything we've seen in the original games jumps out at you here, and more of it is seen and pointed out by Pete Hines later: examples include the chair (formerly "4 pixels high"), the vent which goes rattle rattle, tape computers (with moving tapes), the wall-screen with a red-light interface, the shape of the walls and windows. According to SuAside, the vault does look noticeably darker than Fallout's Vault 13.

Pete Hines explains that you can go into 3rd person mode (he only demonstrated 3rd person over the shoulder, noting it plays better than it did in Oblivion). Bethesda preferred 1st person as it immerses the player more into the world, but recognised that a lot of people, "especially Europeans," played Oblivion in 3rd person mode. He demonstrates the PipBoy model 3000, which jumps up into view much like you just moved it up to view it (rather than just appearing instantly like in the originals). The PipBoy is shown to contain the player's stats (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, Luck) and skills (big guns, small guns, science, barter, speech and others, didn't see any new ones), inventory, radiation meters, radio receiver and probably more I did not notice. Pete Hines notes "we spent a stupid amount of time working on this," noting they used more shaders on it than on the whole of Oblivion. Other vault dwellers are also seen wearing PipBoys.

As seen on a loading screen: agility influences the small guns and sneak skills, and the number of action points
In the main screen, the lower-left-hand corner shows the PC's hit points and a compass which appears to show the location of friendly nearby NPCs in green and of hostile nearby NPCs in red. The lower-right-hand corner shows the player's AP and ammo, more on that later, during combat.

The PC walks into the next room, his father's office, where dad is just conversing with another vault dweller. Pete Hines explains the character generation process here: birth, assisted by dad as the resident doctor, in which you pick your basic look based on a computer simulation model of "what will this baby look like when he's older" which also influences your dad's appearance. At 4, you get a "You're special!" book and you can modify your main stats. At 10, during your birthday party, your dad gives you a B.B. gun for practising shooting. So "your dad's always there as you clash through these different periods of your childhood," as Bethesda wanted to have the player play through the idea from the originals of growing up in the vault.


Hey everyone, it's dad!
Once the vault dweller notes "no problem, I'll have my report ready soon" and leaves, the PC can initiate dialogue with his dad, who notes it is time for him to take his G.O.A.T. (Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test). Several dialogue options are shown here, Pete Hines notes he'll opt to lie and try to get out of it. However, his "I feel sick" excuse is quickly seen through, as dad notes one of the first thing he learned at medical training was to see through kids trying to get out of taking tests by pretending to be sick. The lie didn't show a chance of success percentage as later dialogue options would (see conversation with Mr Burke on page 2), so it's possible this lie always fails.

Dad launches into a talk explaining the need of the G.O.A.T. and that everyone has to take it at 16, "I had to, you have to, and so does everyone." When the PC asks more about the G.O.A.T. dad answers "The G.O.A.T.? Well, I can't tell you much more than you already know," but explains it's meant to figure out what sort of a job you're best suited for in the vault, noting "you know what the Overseer says: we are born in the vault, we die in the vault" to back up the necessity of the test. A message of "new quest: complete G.O.A.T. test" was seen fading in and out of the upper left corner, as the Oblivion pop up-style quest messages are apparently gone.

It is worth noting here that the amount of on-screen NPC text never exceeded about 2.5 to 3 lines. The PC's 2-5 lines were fully written, unvoiced and never really long, but they did seem to exceed Oblivion's 38 character limit. Visually, the dialogue plays out a lot like Oblivion, the NPC saying his 3 lines before his face kind of jumps into the next position/expression and he says 3 more lines, which makes dad's long speech look a bit odd. Pete Hines assured the dialogue follows the branching model mechanically.


A look inside the vault
"Obviously, that is the voice of Liam Neeson," Hines notes, which kind of caught me off guard, because while I knew that was Liam Neeson, I wouldn't have been able to tell it was from the somewhat bland and indistinct voice of dad. He also notes Ron Perlman being back as the narrator.

"We're using full havok physics again" as is demonstrated by the PC picking up the Vault Boy bobblehead from his dad's office, swinging it about a bit and then dropping it, tipping it over. All the while dad is just looking with a blank expression at his son tossing about his bobblehead. Hines explains that the bobbleheads are easter eggs that boost your characteristics and that there's a Vault Boy bobblehead for every stat and every skill in the game.

The first part (which should take one hour) of the game is "part character creation, part role-playing" as you can do a number of quests. "You can be a good guy, you can be a bad guy, or you can be a neutral party in the grey area in between." The PC walks up to a bunch of recognisable greasers, who wear Grease-style brown leather jackets over their vault suits and have recognisable 50s haircuts. This gang, The Tunnel Snakes, are picking on a girl. Hines explains you can choose to help her or take their side, but he chooses neither, just walking away. This did not seem to have any effect on his XP or quest log. One interesting point here is that a large number of vault guards patrol the hallways, and during SuAside's demo one passed by the girl being harassed and completely ignored the situation. Good guards. And while mentioning leather jackets, it is worth mentioning that the style of vault suits has been changed from skin-tight to baggy, while the vault guards wear something that looks like riot uniforms.

As seen on a loading screen: energy weapons include the alien blaster, cryolator and mesmetron.
Hines explains G.O.A.T. is a combination written and oral exam, the game asks you questions about how you might act in certain situations and based on the responses it determines the job you're best suited for and advises you which 3 skills to tag based on that.

Hines skips the G.O.A.T. test and moves into the maintenance area, noting you would normally need to solve a quest to have this area unlocked. He passes Mr Handy, who looks roughly like the original, though the main body is a sphere with less casing than the one from Fallout 1/2. Mr Handy compliments you: "If I may be so bold, the blue in the vault suit contrasts brilliantly with your eyes!" before calling you a stupid git the moment your back is turned, all in a thick posh British accent.

Hines announces the PC's father, who was always there for him, has suddenly disappeared. This "is pretty jarring to me, because it's my dad." It's also jarring to the residents of the vault, because in 200 years nobody has entered or left the vault. So you must leave the vault on the dual motive of figuring out why your father left and because the Overseer heavily suspects your involvement, sending "his goons after me."


PipBoy 3000
The PC uses a terminal. Normally it would require finishing a quest to get the non-random password. I assume that you can't type in the password even if you know it, as console controls have no typing, meaning you'll always have to figure it out even if the player knows it (because the PC doesn't).

Entering the password starts a door animation which is very different from the originals. A large, steampunkish robot arm with a pole/key extension is inserted into the upper-left corner of the door, and rolls it out to the right. As the PC leaves, the guards cry out "he's opening the door!" and call for someone to warn the overseer, draw their batons, but don't really do anything otherwise (not even moving). It is to be noted that it is possible to review and change some things about your character when you leave the vault, a kind of "finalization" procedure.

Outside, the PC turns on his PipBoy flashlight, which has a kind of greenish light. Near the vault door are a few skeletal remains holding up signs saying "Let us in motherfuckers!" and the like, Hines joking that these are people they wouldn't let in. The vault door can be seen closing as Hines turns around near the end of the tunnel, before opening the shed door which closes the tunnel off from the outside world.

Initially the light "blinds" the PC, making the entire world look blurry until your eyes adjust in about 5-10 seconds. The PC walks unto a ridge marked "scenic overlook" by a sign (perhaps for the demo), where he stands to look at the desolate, rocky, desert surroundings, with some ruins of buildings and of a bridge. Hines notes this is the wasteland surrounding DC, and that you can walk to whatever you see. The wasteland itself looks fairly empty, but ruined remains form clear landmarks in the distance. The sky was grey and dreary, which is how it remained all throughout the demo.

Hines walks up to a pool of water and explains they're working hard at upgrading the Oblivion engine, including real water refraction and reflection. The PC continues down the road and passes a car that is called the single-seater "Fusion Flea Supreme," which Pete Hines passes after noting its existence.

At this point, I could see a notice of gained experience points fading in and out on the left side of the screen. Hines explains this is XP gained by the PC as "this is an experience point-based game," experience leading up to levels and levels-ups providing points to invest in skills. He also talks about choices and making sacrifices to survive, both for the PC and the people in Fallout's world.


Vault Secure
Passing a "Vault Secure" billboard, the PC continues down the dirt road, entering a collection of empty ruined wooden shacks which is identified as "now entering: Springvale." The PC picks up some drugs and a hunting rifle from a nearby post box, which Hines notes are just there for demo purposes.

Still in Springvale, a giant ant with kind of horned-looking skin (about halfway between the size of Fallout 2's ants and Fallout's radscorpions) runs up from a distance, attacking the PC, who shoots at him from close range with the hunting rifle. Pete Hines notes that the amount of skill the PC has with the gun determines whether or not you hit, how accurate you are.

After the fight, the PC walks past a ruined playground, Hines noting "this is a playground where the children used to play." He walks up to a fire hydrants, explaining that drinking water heals HPs, but also radiates the PC (drinking water to survive does not seem to be obligatory). Taking a drink from the fire hydrant radiates heavily at +150 rads per second, shown in red letters in the upper-left corner. Hines pops up the PipBoy, showing the little radiation counter in the corner has gone up, and that there's a more detailed counter inside the PipBoy too, which reveals that the max rad count appears to be roughly 6 times the rad count the PC has then.


Springvale. You can see the Red Rocket fuelling station on the left side.
Around the corner of the fire hydrant, the PC spots what Pete Hines describes as a "red rocket fuelling station" and a 50s looking car, with an ant crawling about nearby. Taking aim, Hines explains you can start a chain reaction by shooting at the no-longer-working-but-still-fuelled engine. Doing so, the engine can be seen visibly catching fire after two shots, before the chain reaction happens in about 5-8 seconds, which shows an intense nuclear explosion with a small blast radius (about a meter or two), which results in a beautifully crafted mushroom cloud. These car explosions are noted by Hines to be "an effective tool in combat." Walking up to it, a warning is shown of +1 radiation per second, and Hines explains the radiation will disperse after a while.

Hines points out a new addition to their engine called "parallax occlusion mapping," a realistic per-pixel texture destruction model, which he shows by shooting into the concrete road, creating realistic bullet holes. He also notes it helps the artists create the look of ruined buildings and environment.

The next ant gets the V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tech Assisted Targeting System) treatment. As he approaches, Pete Hines pauses the game and it automatically zooms in on the ant, showing a VR grid of what you can hit. While choosing a target, in my demo, the PC accidentally switched the target to another object in his perception range, namely a nuclear car to his right side. Switching back (which happens really fast), he targeted the antenna and unpaused the game. The ant kept storming at him as the PC automatically shot at the antenna in real time, finally killing it in a bloody mess. In SuAside's demo, Hines demonstrated that shooting the ant in the leg slows him down.

Note: no children could be seen in the demo. Bethesda has promised children will be in, but the chances of them being killable is nihil (ref)
Unfortunately for the demo's pace, in my version (though not in SuAside's) one ant had a bit of a collision detection problem and got stuck to a tree. Hines tracked him down using V.A.T.S.' auto-targeting to locate him and put him out of his tree-hugging mercy.

Then "one of the first places you'll come to as you leave the Vault looking for your father" is Megaton. According to SuAside indicated by a blinker on the compass as the quest notice to find out about your father in Megaton fades in and out. On to the town...

[ Page 1 ] - [ Page 2 ] - [ Page 3 ] - [ Q&A ]

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