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Fallout 3

Bethesda appears to have nailed it

Bethesda appears to have nailed it. Even the part of this game before you come to the surface, with its wrecked Eastern seaboard, sounds like a slice of RPG genius. Said seaboard includes a wrecked Washington DC, a place called Rivet City built inside the rotting hulk of an aircraft carrier and smaller places primed for non-existence, such as the town of Megaton with its worshipped, unexploded nuclear bomb.

To intensify the claustrophobic feeling within Vault 101, where your people have lived in confinement since the bombs began, the game begins at your birth, then fades in and out of your childhood. What's more, every time you'll be subtly nudged into making vital decisions usually played out on a character-creation screen, and learning the way the game works.

Zoom

At birth, your father (played by Liam Neeson) will analyse your DNA and you'll choose stuff like gender and ethnicity; on your 16th birthday, you'll take your G.O.A.T. tests to determine personal skills and traits. It all leads up to the age of 19, when dad mysteriously disappears, the fabled rolling door is opened and you emerge clad in a familiar blue boiler suit under the glare of an unfamiliar sun.

The game is causing the expected grumbling in the Fallout community, but for my part, I certainly didn't expect so many of the hallmarks of Fallout's gameplay to be returning. The SPECIAL system remains with its perks and traits.

The gore remains. A robust 'karma' morality system remains. The PipBoy remains, now in its 3000 model, with familiar quest and record-management duties.

Most interestingly, though, the action points formerly found in Fallout's turn-based combat remain - now twisted and used in combat that's halfway between stop-start shootage and real-time. You can blast away from your FPS or over-the-shoulder viewpoint, but also freeze the skirmish and spend your action points by choosing different body parts to fire at - each with a certain percentage chance of success. It's still Fallout, but a Fallout adapted to better suit our tastes and times.

We're meeting up with Bethesda next issue to ask whether adult themes of sex and drugs, dogs called Dogmeat and a parade of glorious brown will also be making a return. In the meantime, the bomb has dropped, and I'm sat atop it hollering with joy.

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