Now, it isn't everyday that I get to slip an unpinned grenade into the pocket of a defenceless old woman while she's asleep. Let alone an old woman who spends her daylight hours worshipping an unexploded nuclear bomb in the town of Megaton in the year 2247.
Then again, Fallout 3 isn't your average game - something I easily remarked upon while watching said geriatric cult member frantically patting down her frilly looking undergarments in the seconds before her inevitable explosion.
Going beyond her makeshift church, past the taverns and hovels of Megaton and out of the robot-guarded gates and I'm back into the wastes. An endless brown vista that stretches miles in every direction. To the South lies Vault 101, the stark metal confines my character grew up in before tumbling out into the daylight in pursuit of his errant father.
To the North lies what remains of Washington DC; the towering and decrepit Washington monument serving as a waypoint wherever I choose to roam, the Pentagon taken over by a chapter of warriors known as the Brotherhood Of Steel, the White House nothing but a pile of ash and rubble. And everywhere else? Well, that's for me (and YOU come September) to explore.
It's a lonesome business, walking the wastes of DC. The wind whistles past
me, and cheery music from the Fifties leaks from radio stations I tune my wrist-mounted PipBoy PDA into - but aside from the occasional wandering mole-rat or wild dog, it's a pretty lonesome business. Following the indicators that appear on my compass, I know the rough direction of somewhere that'll turn out to be interesting and, in all probability, extremely violent.
Springvale School, for example, was once a seat of learning, but it's now occupied by a bunch of Mad Max-style Raiders. Bodies are strung up on chains from the ceilings, and there are some sinister goings-on in the basement. It's a perfect spot for a some ultra-violence.
While making my way around the piles of charred books in the school I took
pot-shots at the spiky-haired Raiders in the traditional FPS way - pointing and shooting as I would in Resistance or any other blaster. The more enjoyable way, however, is to enter VATS (the Vault- Assisted Targeting System.
This freezes the action and allows me a certain number of shots (depending on the skills and stats that I chose at the start of the game and have developed every time I levelled up Oblivion-style) to the various bodyparts of my post-apocalyptic enemies. After this, shots are let fly in slow-motion - one to the arm might mean someone drops their weapon, a crippling shot to the leg will slow an approaching enemy down to a crawl and a point-blank shotgun blast to the head will end up with a brutal decapitation and eyeballs and brain gathering muck as they roll around on the floor.
This is a gritty, tactical and smart way of handling action in a quasi turn-based style - and more than makes up for the fact that the traditional RPG stats and probabilities mean that non-VATS combat in Fallout doesn't feel quite as precise as it does in other shooters, although this is only a small downside.
It isn't all about randomly moseying on up to an abandoned Vault or Slaver hideout either, as there are plenty of people that need the help of a stranger with a gun for hire.
One trader is writing a book about the best ways to survive the wasteland - and as such had me foraging for food in a nearby bombed-out Super Duper Market and learning how to defuse mines - or simply lying to her that you have been
out beavering away at her behest, and making it all up in exchange for money and a less accurate book.