Fallout 3

Will Porter prepares to walk the wastes...

As the narration hits its stride and a skull and ribcage half-buried in sand appear in Fallout 3's introduction, I suppress the little voice that's asking, no, begging me to stand up, stride around Bethesda's viewing area Poirot-style with my index finger raised in the air before pointing directly at the game's executive producer and loudly saying: "I put it to you, Todd Howard, that this very scene is taken directly - directly! - from the image you saw when you died in Fallout!"

At this point everyone would have applauded, and Howard would have come down from his control platform and given me a medal for being the biggest, bestest Fallout fan that there ever was. I would then have rolled over to let him tickle my tummy and we'd live forever in a little house on a prairie, where I'd often fetch sticks for him.

It's a strange fantasy (my girlfriend is a patient soul), but one that hit me again, and again and again as I was guided through the newly first person-ised wastes of Fallout 3. And I'm not just talking about the reappearance of Vault Boy's friendly face, or even the PIPBoy PDA gloriously strapped to your wrist. I'm talking about the little things. Within the Vault 101 itself even ventilation shafts, previously a smattering of pixels high that said 'rattle rattle rattle' when you fiddled them, give an almost uncanny sensation of déjà vu.

The same is true top-side as you enter the town of Megaton and a wary local sheriff warns you not to misbehave (as they always would back in the day before you did misbehave); or stand outside the Washington DC HQ of Galaxy News and see the globe that previously spun in intro scenes of previous Fallouts rendered as a glorious 3D statue. Much time has passed, but the whole damn thing just reeks of Fallout. Whoever thought there could be quite so many shades of brown?

The Fallout treatise states that come the year 2077, everyone lives in a very Jetsons-esque future - Mr Handy robots trundle around being helpful and saying "Good day to you sir!", and cars are powered by nuclear fusion. Unfortunately though, mankind still hasn't quite kicked the habit of murdering people, and things, quite spectacularly, fall apart.

A quick cut to 200 years into the future and the world is an arid, irradiated wasteland - peppered with death, decay, rusted-out cars harbouring rather explosive engines and cheery robots who have learned to call you a 'stupid git' as soon as your back is turned.

The game proper, as most things do, begins with a birth: your birth, deep within the loving steel confines of Vault 101. It's at this point that your masked father runs a DNA test on you, letting you choose your basic character details such as race and sex, after which your father will magically remove his mask to show that he shares the same genetic material.

He'll always have the voice of Liam Neeson though, that's a given.
Later, as the action skips to your first birthday, old Qui-Gon will presumably blow a party streamer in your face (I didn't actually see this bit) before presenting you with a book called 'You're SPECIAL!' in which you can choose your attributes. Then when you're 16, having presumably warned you of the dangers of unprotected sex, Rob Roy rushes you into a G.O.A.T. test for you to choose some specific skills.

200 years of isolation have bred a sense of claustrophobia and paranoia, with an almost dictatorial leader who has an intense mistrust of the outside world. Indeed, the Orwellian overtones of both the Vault's number and the nearby presence of Washington DC suggests that Bethesda may well be about to get a mite more political than previous Elder Scrolls bouts with Emperor Curious Septic III, or whoever.

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