This month office discussions, rants and indeed bare-knuckle fights have centred around Fallout 3 (well, until Gears 2 and Fable 2 dropped through the letterbox). Why? Because despite how darn amazing it is, we just can't shake the feeling that... whisper it... spiritual prequel Oblivion may still be the better title of the two. Shocked? Well, maybe not. Because living up to 2006's Game of the Year was always going to be a near-impossible task.
Crucially, it's important to remember Fallout 3 is obviously not the sequel to Oblivion, but a faithful reimagining of a cult, if all-but forgotten, 90s PC RPG series. Bethesda stressed throughout the development process just how keen they were to retain the heritage of Black Isle's predecessors. So, in a sense they faced the near impossible task of appealing to both diehard Oblivion and Fallout fans - no mean feat. Don't believe us? Check out NME Fallout for some preposterous anti-Fallout 3 bile written by bitter fanboys of the highest order. It sure ain't easy to please the public nowadays, even if you're a dev of Bethesda's quality.
So are we saying Fallout 3 is bad? Not at all; it's one of the finest games of the year; maybe even generation. Go out and buy it by the bucketload, because Bethesda deserves both your praise and your hard-earned. Instead, look upon these two pages as a testament to just how far ahead of the curve Oblivion really was - and an encouragement to revisit Cyrodiil for one last adventure... Only after you've put 100 hours into Fallout 3, mind.
Head-to-head: Eye Candy
Tricky one, this. Technically, Fallout 3 shows how far the Gamebryo engine has evolved since the poor draw distances and low-res textures that occasionally marred Oblivion, while set piece events like the destruction of Megaton are more singularly jaw-dropping than anything that occurred in Cyrodiil. That said, trudging through identikit wastelands simply doesn't match up to the hauntingly beautiful, varied vistas of Oblivion. Sunshine for the win!
It's been well documented just how teeny the Capital Wastelands seem in comparison to the sprawling world of Tamriel, and - in terms of square kilometres - it's true enough. We're also a bit narked that, unlike your trusty horsie in the last Elder Scrolls outing, there's no form of transport apart from your knackered tootsies in the radioactive world of Fallout 3. Saying that, the wasteland does win out in terms of sheer denseness...
It's here where Fallout 3 finally gains some ground. Unlike the wretched mixture of thwacking a goblin with a spiked club while tossing the occasional fireball in their vague direction, Fallout 3's fighty bits come to life thanks to V.A.T.S. (the good ol' Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, as if you had to ask). It's slick, sick, thoroughly gory, adds a neat tactical element to proceedings and simply never gets boring. Result for Fallout boy this time.
Winner: Fallout 3
A much more compelling story than Oblivion's snore-inducing Daedra plotline initially gives Fallout 3 the edge, but despite twenty hours of wandering the Capital Wastelands we failed to find anything that ever quite matched the lofty standards set by the final few Thieves' Guild and Dark Brotherhood escapades. Worse still, without any real alternatives to Oblivion's guild quests it's hard to shake the feeling of an opportunity missed.