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Fallout 3: The First 10 Hours — A Live Blog

We began our Fallout 3 coverage describing Fallout 3 character creation, an insanely deep process for which Bethesda Softworks is very well known (The Elder Scrolls series, anyone?). But now, we’re getting to the meat of Fallout 3, the actual gameplay of this ambitious open-world RPG set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland near Washington D.C.

We’ve been playing Fallout 3 for a good portion of the day today, and we’ve had a chance to “live blog” our initial impressions. Now that the embargo has lifted for coverage, we’re continuing to live-blog our first Fallout 3 gameplay session, this time in a truly live way. So, for the next few hours, stay tuned (and hit refresh every few minutes) as we share with you our thoughts, feelings and impressions of the first 10 hours of Fallout 3. Needless to say: YES, there are some spoilers here.

Fallout 3 screenshot

OK, well, we shot our first content wod describing the character creation process, so check that out if you want to know what the first 20 minutes or so of Fallout 3 are like. This is where the “real” action kicks in and we start doing some actual role playing. In the non-sexual sense, of course.

After setting up our characteristics, the game advances to a period “Nine Years Later.” You get your PipBoy 3000 at this point, which acts as your inventory and overall menu system (it’s a device mounted onto your arm–apparently all 10-year-olds in the Vault get one). You get the PipBoy 3000 while mingling with guests at your birthday party, giving you the first taste of the conversation system. It seems much deeper than Oblivion’s in terms of the response options available to you, making it much harder to determine what’s a “good” versus “bad” reply. You also get a BB gun.

OK…headed into another era, apparently, this one “Six Years Later,” when it’s time to take your G.O.A.T. test to determine your job capabilities. The test is comprised of 10 multiple-choice questions that help determine your aptitude for certain skills. However, if you don’t like how the test assigns your skill points (I was a chaplain?? WTF), you can clear the test’s results and assign the upgrades to your own desires.

Hmm, now “Three Years Later.” The game’s jumping a bit. Your dad has escaped from Vault 101. Your friend, Jonas (Bethesda, what did I, the DailyGame editor, ever due to piss you off so bad that you killed off one of the few game characters named after me??), has been killed by the Overseer’s henchmen because he was believed to have helped my dad escape. Now Amata, the Overseer’s daughter (and a prospective love interest), has come to help you escape from the vault. You make your way through Vault 101 battling a few guards but mostly RadRoaches (radiated cockroaches). It’s somewhat reminiscent of Oblivion, where you spent the first 45 minutes of the game battling rats.

Fallout 3 screenshot

After playing for just over two hours now (yes, I’m a serious explorer and crate-opener … sue me), I enter the Wastelands. Upon leaving Vault 101, I am upgraded to Level 2. In addition to assigning 16 skill points, I can select one Perk. These are very clever, actually, and they all have to do with what type of player I want to be. For instance, there’s Daddy’s Boy, which lets me gain an additional 5 points to both the Science and Medicine skills; or Gun Nut, which lets me gain an additional 5 points to my small guns and repair skills with each rank; Lady Killer, which lets me do +10% damage to female opponents and have access to unique dialogue options with women; Swift Learner, which lets me gain an additional 10% to total XP whenever XP is earned; Little Leaguer, which gives me an additional 5 points of melee weapons skill and 5 points of explosive skill per rank; and a few others.

I decided to skip going for the objective, and wander instead. I’m headed over to the left, where there appears to be a crumbling overpass. What should I find but some wasteland raiders, just waiting to kill me? Or not. I dispatched three of them, headed up to the overpass/bridge. There, I saw another Raider running at me, so I activated the VATS system. Sure enough, by using the thumbstick to select areas of his body, I noticed that he was holding a frag grenade. And, more important, that I had a 70 percent chance of hitting said grenade. Guess what I targeted? Guess what blew the Raider to smithereens? Very satisfying, to say the least.

Fallout 3 screenshot

VATS system works great, and unless your enemies are close, you really do need it to play the game with any bit of success. You can target specific areas of the body, even individual weapons, and you can “remove” your selections before hitting the button to watch the combat play out. Activating the VATS system can be done at any time, but the number of moves you can assign at any one time is dependent upon a meter that regenerates with time. So, while you wander the wasteland, you will come into your first bit of combat with the ability to queue up around four to six attacks, but after using those “points” to designate attacks, you end up needing to wait for VATS points to accumulate again. You don’t have to wait for the meter to fill entirely, which gives you a bit of freedom if you’re in a bind (just assign one move or two in a panic, and hope for the best).

LOVE the headshot animatics when in VATS. And, when you remove a Raider of his or her head or other limbs, there’s nothing quite as sadistically satisfying as walking up to an arm, ear or piece of skull and seeing the dialogue box some up that says “Search Raider.” It just reinforces how much damage you just did to that poor, helpless wasteland soul.

I encountered my first prostitute in a Small Farm. She had a sob story about being accused of being a junkie and getting run out of town. I bought into it, told her that I’d tell her accuser that she was gone and that he should forget about her. Thing is, I think he’s right; after exploring her house, I found all sorts of drug paraphernalia littered about. I went back to talk to her, and there was a new option in the dialogue tree asking about her services. In real-life I’m a married man; I didn’t have the cajones to proposition the in-game whore.

Fallout 3 screenshot

Just now getting to the town of Megaton. My first civilization. Walk to the store, unload some of the crap from my inventory (I keep getting weighed down with loot). After making some cash doing that, I head for the Saloon to talk with Colin Moriarty. Supposedly he has information about my dad. Sure enough, he had info…more than I was ready to learn! Turns out, I wasn’t born in Vault 101, as my dad told me I was, but I was born in the Wasteland and moved to the Vault by my dad. Not only that, but he was a member of the Brotherhood of Steel, as was Jonas, his buddy in the Vault. Now my dad’s gone off toward Washington DC to confront some radio station — or perhaps participate in its propaganda? Either way, it’s a good thing I made that money from selling crap, because without the 100 caps, I wouldn’t have had the money to get that juicy info from Moriarty.

I encountered in the Saloon a Mister Burke, who is asking me to detonate the bomb around which Megaton is built, because his “clients” feel it’s a blight upon the world. Funny thing, because the local sheriff wanted me to disarm it. My first moral dilemma.

Walking through Megaton, I encountered a worker. All non-vital NPCs are just called “settlers,” and you can’t have meaningful conversations with them, just trigger one-line responses. Well, this dude was whistling a song when I walked up to him and tried to chat. He replied “Damn it! You made me mess up the song.” Classic!

Fallout 3 screenshot

I decided to leave Megaton to do some exploring. I can’t adjust the bomb until I’m explosives level 25 anyway, so I may as well wander. Just outside the main gate, I encountered Doc Hoff, a wandering medicine and weapons-repair guy. Man, I need some caps so I can buy these schematics (to build weapons in Moira’s place) and to purchase some more good items.

The purchasing system is much different than Oblivion, and it actually seems a bit more realistic because of the changes. No longer can you engage in mood-related mini-games to get people to like you more and thus sell to you for less. It’s pretty much a straight-up supply and demand thing now.

Oh, for what it’s worth, lock picking is also very different, and I can’t say that I quite understand what the heck I’m supposed to do. Not all that intuitive, to say the least, and right now, it’s not something I like at all.

Fallout 3 screenshot

I discovered Springvale Elementary school. After killing three Raiders, I wandered into a bathroom. Lo and behold, there’s an option to “activate” the toilet. “Interesting,” I wonder, “maybe this will let my guy gain HP by relieving himself. Uh, no. The dude drinks from the toilet. WTF. That’s not only disgusting, but it increases my radiation level (18 rads per second). Once I clean the vomit from my mouth, I decide to drink some more from the stained porcelain so I can boost my rads high enough to go finish this experimentation quest for Moira. Ugh, the things I’ll do for science. There doesn’t appear to be any bad effects of radiation, which is odd. When I return to Moira, she says I’m glowing, but I didn’t notice that even when switching the camera to third-person view out in the wasteland. When she fixes me up, she says there’s been a minor mutation. Lovely. What sort of messed-up appendage is going to be protruding from my gut? Oh, sweet! The mutation is this: “when you suffer from Advanced Radiation Poisoning, crippled limbs automatically regenerate.” Hmm, maybe I’ll play the whole game with radiation poisoning now…. My next choice is either navigating a minefield or scavenging food. I opt for the food.

Woah, just over the bend behind Megaton, I see a HUGE destroyed skyline of DC. The Washington Monument is in the distance, all ragged. As I walk down the hill, it looks like I see the White House, too. Not sure, though; the day/night cycle is kicking into midnight, so my long-distance visibility is reduced.

Fallout 3 screenshot

I just discovered the Super-Duper Mart as part of my next quest for Moira’s research book. Upon walking in, I feel like I’m in some mangled-up, post-hurricane Walgreen’s. Sure enough, I encounter more Raiders. Never saw that coming. After defeating the first Raider, I made it to Level 3, which means I assign 16 more skill points to my skill tree. FYI, the skills are: barter, big guns, energy weapons, explosives, lockpick, medicine, melee weapons, repair, science, small guns, sneak, speech and unarmed. I also get to choose another Perk. Having encountered just about nothing but female Raiders, I’m tempted to choose the Lady Killer perk. But, I end up torn between the Gun Nut perk and the level-two Swift Learner. I choose Swift Learner, because the more XP I can earn, the faster I’ll be able to upgrade future skills.

Crap, there are Raiders all over this place. Who knew irradiated Twinkies would be so popular?

OK, now THAT was sweet. After a massive firefight against a Raider with a combat shotgun and one with a pistol, I switched from my .32mm pistol to a laser pistol. Decided to give it a whirl for the next encounter. Well, sure enough, another Raider came around the corner, I activated the VATS system to target the head (ironically, the highest-percentage shot I had at the time), and with a single shot, I vaporized the head right off the Raider’s neck. Sweet effect, especially as the glowing head fell in slow-motion onto the floor.

Fallout 3 screenshot

I’ve left the Super-Duper Mart, headed back to Megaton. What should appear, but a big-ass scorpion. After three failed attempts, I defeated him with a mix of combat shotgun rounds to the stinger and laser pistol to the body. Dang, that was a nasty fight; I can only imagine what difficult atrocities lay ahead.

It appears that, like in Oblivion, the day/night cycles of people who live in this world are “real,” too, because when I show up at Megaton again to deliver the foraged food to Moira, it’s 7:04am, and my only option is to pick the lock. Looks like I’ll be hanging out here for a couple of hours (achieved by hitting the Select button [or ‘Back’ on the Xbox 360]).

I’ve decided to go back to Springvale Elementary school, inside this time. This is not only a three-level place, but it’s got an underground tunnel system as well that’s infested with giant ants. This is an absolutely huge “dungeon,” if you want to call it that, and it looks leaps and bounds better than most of the non-ghostly dungeons in Oblivion. Oh, snap! I just stumbled upon a clutch of ant eggs, and the whole damn ant ARMY is now after me. Crap! Oh, and I blasted like a fool (VATS is necessary, people!), so now I’m out of ammo. Damn good thing I grabbed the baseball bat on my way out of Vault 101. Hmm, after beating all the ants’ heads in, it appears I’ve hit a bit of a dead end. The Raiders’ notes say they were trying to poison them to then clear the way to blast the tunnels. Well, I’ve killed them, so maybe now I just need to hold off on this treasure quest until I’ve found, bought or created some explosives.

Fallout 3 screenshot

[I’m taking a quick break for a much-needed snack. In real life, not an irradiated wasteland. Be right back.]

While I was eating, I realized that leveling-up seems to take a bit longer in Fallout 3 than it did in Oblivion, and that you can’t just jump a lot to build agility or sneak a lot to see your sneak abilities boosted. It’s surely happening in the background, but you don’t have that same sense of reward when seeing your skills go up in smaller subcategories like that. Also, there doesn’t appear to be DualShock 3 support. I also realized I need to play more of the story; I’m getting side-tracked with all these sidequests and exploring. Sure, that’s what this game is all about, but for the terms of this walk-through, I’m sure the sidequest tales are getting kinda boring. So, off to the main quest some more!

OK, first I need to unload some of the crap in my inventory. I’m a damn packrat, and my strength isn’t high enough yet to carry too much. I wonder if they have houses in Fallout 3? I remember loading my cupboards and drawers with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of crap in Oblivion…I hope I’ll be able to do the same in Fallout, considering how expensive some of these items are to buy (schematics for the Rock-It Launcher and others, for instance).

I just read in the little accompanying fake-propaganda booklet that tinted glasses are good to protect your eyes. But when I go to equip some tinted reading glasses, it removes my helmet? That’s dumb. I guess that was just for the propaganda piece, not “real” gameplay advice. I can’t possibly see how having no-protection glasses is actually better for me than wearing a security guard’s Kevlar-like helmet.

Hmm, I just tried to sell some more items to Moira in Megaton. She has hardly any caps, so I can’t sell her much. I wonder if I can unload a bunch of stuff in a mailbox or something and have it be there upon my return, like I’m stashing it?? I saw a mailbox just outside and to the left of Megton; I’ll test it out. Nix that; I couldn’t find the mailbox. Instead, I stashed my stuff in a nearby trash can. Hope it’s still there later!

Fallout 3 screenshot

You know, some would say that the barren landscape of the Wastelands isn’t the most graphically diverse, and I’d be hard-pressed to argue with them. Yet somehow, the graphics don’t look bad or bland, which is a miracle in a landscape that could’ve shown seriously reduced contrast. And, in a sort of Old West movie sense, the whole scene is appropriate. Plus, when you go inside buildings and other “dungeons,” it all feels much more diverse, and I have a feeling that once I get closer to Washington D.C., I’ll really be in for a new landscape treatment.

Talk about timing…I just made it closer to what appear to be one-time DC suburbs. The levels feel decidedly different, and now that there are more bombed-out buildings around, the world actually seems even more desolate, both because there are structures with nobody in them, and because the surround-sound audio seems to pick up more dust flittering about the world and between buildings.

Oh sweet Jesus. I find myself in the town of Grayditch, which is overrun with Fire Ants. Want to know why they’re called ‘fire ants”? Because they breathe frickin’ flames. Yeah, nothing says “screwed hero” like a flamethrower with six legs and a bad attitude. Crap. For all you soon-to-be-toasted Fallout 3 gamers out there, take note: stay at least 15 feet away from the flamethrower noses of these damn bugs. The creepy sound of ants walking all around you just waiting to pounce is brilliant, and it definitely helps crank the intensity.

Fallout 3 screenshot

Man, I still can’t get over how disgusting it is that you can regain HP by drinking from an unflushed and irradiated toilet. Although, I suppose the argument could be made that it’s even more disgusting that I’m letting my character drink from an unflushed and irradiated toilet.

I made it out of Grayditch. I’ve decided that as tempting as it may be to accept the quest to snuff the source of the Fire Ants, I really do want to make some more progress in the campaign. If Fallout 3 is anything like Oblivion, I’ll have plenty of time to do some of these quests a bit later. So, now I’m off to find Galaxy News Radio. Hope I can find some decent sources of income and barter, too; I’m starting to tire of the busted-up pea-shooters I have now, not to mention the lack of ammo.

Just outside of Grayditch is apparently how I get to the radio station: an old Metro/subway station. This place is crawling with ugly mole rats. These things leap like nobody’s business; you have to exercise some disbelief on these guys. And man, when their heads pop open after a critical VATS attack…let’s just say that anyone who thought Brothers in Arms was too graphic with its head-popping zoomed-up imagery will be downright queasy with Fallout 3.

Woah, OK. I just saw my first zombie/ghoul creatures. That was a bit on the scary side. They didn’t do anything other than yell/groan at me, and I still jumped. Good thing they’re locked behind a gate. Oh crap! No they’re not! They were, until I unlocked a security feature. Oh, and there were four of them. Good thing I had my wits about me and tossed a mine in their direction as they were hurling their rotten corpses at me. Saved my bacon in a big way, let me tell you. For future reference, they were Feral Ghouls.

After descending past the initial Metro station and walking through another, I find myself going through a subway tunnel and toward the surface. I’d say “daylight,” but I happen to be playing this sequence during a night cycle, which only makes the zombies passing in the foggy distance all the more creepy. The music’s doing a good job of setting the mood too, sort of like a survival horror film’s ambient music.

Woah, just as I surface from the subway, I see three Feral Ghouls about 30 yards away. Fortunately, they don’t see me – nor does the Super Mutant chasing and attacking them with a pipe! I’d better hug the shadows on this one, or things could get really ugly, really fast.

Good Lord, those two Feral Ghoul Roamers took down a Super Mutant while I watched on all chicken-like in the distance. Note to self: don’t screw with Feral Ghoul Roamers.

Fallout 3 screenshot

I’ve finally emerged from the subway, and I find myself in Chevy Chase. “Be the ball. Beeeee the ball.” Sorry, Caddyshack flashback. I’ll tell ya, it’s nice to be out of that dank place; those Ghouls were everywhere, and they’re MUCH more intelligent than anything I’ve seen in the past 10 hours, complete with Splinter Cell-ish roaming patterns. I have a feeling Fallout 3 is about to ramp up in a big way.

I’m definitely closer to the Washington Monument now. Hard to believe I first saw it in-game from such a distance around 7.5 hours ago. This environment feels almost Half-Life 2-ish, in a way, but much more destroyed, if you can imagine that. The sound of dust rushing through the streets breaks the quiet din of metal creaking in the distance, as if building girders are about to crumble, or roofs are on the verge of collapsing.

YES! OK, now this is the “ramp up” I was talking about. Just as I was wandering through the Chevy Chase area, two Super Mutants jumped out at me and opened fire. Just as I’d resigned myself to death, a squad of Brotherhood of Steel fighters ran around the corner and opened fire with their laser rifles. One of them dispatched a Super Mutant pretty quickly, then yelled “Fuck yeah! That’s how we do it in the Lyon’s Pride, you freaks!” Yes, the F-bomb and Cole Train-like aggression were definitely there — and yelled by a female soldier, no less.

I can almost smell the more-powerful weaponry on its way, not to mention some plot development.

Funny stuff: when I went to talk to Paladin Vargas, he goes “no offense, but I’m a bit busy saving your ass right now.”

The Lyon’s Pride squad has cleaned out a building of Super Mutants for me. How nice of them. Unfortunately, once the building was cleared out, something HUGE started banging on another door nearby. And by “huge,” I mean a 20-foot-tall Super Mutant Behemoth with cannons on both arms. Knocked two of the Brotherhood of Steel captains unconscious. Can we say “boss battle”?

Well, the Super Mutant Behemoth is now gone, thanks to three Bortherhood of Steel soldiers who gave their lives and one smart/wussy (you be the judge) Fallout 3 hero who chose to snipe from the bombed-out windows than throw down mano-a-mano in the plaza. I scavenged the corpses for some Power Armor and a Power Helmet, but they require power armor training to equip. Too bad. Maybe that’ll be coming soon. I also managed to swipe a Fat Boy (an rocket-launcher-like device that tosses tactical nukes) and three sets of Brotherhood holotags (presumably, dog tags). Now I’m headed into the building to finally learn more about this Galaxy News Radio station.

It turns out that Three Dog, the DJ of Galaxy News Radio, has seen my dad and knows where he is now. However, before he’ll spill the beans, I “need to contribute.” In other words, he needs an errand boy. First task: repair the satellite dish on top of the Washington Monument so Three Dog’s station can be heard by more people. Not that he’s an egomaniac or anything…. Only problem: I have to go into the Smithsonian (well, a generic museum) and get the satellite dish off the lunar lander, then transport it to the Washington Monument to replace the radio transmitter.

Once I accepted the quest, I leveled-up to Level Four. Sixteen more skill points to spend, one more perk (there are more available to me now), and one deep-seeded need to call it a night. I’ve been playing Fallout 3 for more than 12 hours now, and I’ve got to go to bed sometime.

— Jonas Allen

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