PAX 08: Fallout 3 Does More Than Guns

Like the Rat Pack, but with more weeping facial sores

The Penny Arcade Expo is, of course, a silly little fan-festival attended only by four people who like reading internet cartoon strips about swearing. It’s definitely not a major gaming event at which a ton of important games are on show, and potentially a serious rival to the likes of E3 and Leipzig. There’s no way stuff like Fallout 3 will reveal exciting new footage there. That would be ridiculous.

So, five lengthy videos straight outta PAX beneath the cut, showing Fallout being RPGy, and not simply FPSy, as was the case with the underwhelming E3 footage. I’ve posted my as-I-watched notes below each. Apologies for their brevity and wobbly grammar, but I figured my off-the-cuff reactions could work as well as ponderous analysis. We’ll have plenty of ponderous analysis once the game’s out, I don’t doubt.


Very brown and grey
The faces are so much better than Oblivion’s glowing pie-men
draw distance is great
Does look a lot like post-apoc Oblivion, perhaps inevitably
Level up HUD doesn’t feature stupidly giant text. Thank Christ – Oblivion’s interface outright sucked at times
Much more emphasis on perks? Or am I not remembering the first two Fallouts correctly?


Naughty swears! We’re not in Cyrodiil any more, Toto.
Voice acting seems less grating than Oblivion. I have a suspicion the second speaking character in this bit is the guy who did Brother bloody Jauffre, but I’m not sure. Doesn’t sound as moronic, anyway.
The Inkspots are awesome.
“I represent certain… interests” is not a subtle thing to say, Mr. Burke. Neither is “all it needs is a little… motivation.” STOP IT WITH THE STUPID CARTOON VILLAIN PAUSES/DOUBLE-ENTENDRES. This character’s acting is… rubbish, and some of the writing is a little… worrying. Too early to… judge, of course.
Some potentially fun moralising though – a certain Vampire Bloodlines vibe.


Radio sounds great – really sets the atmosphere, and seems like it’ll be there throughout rather than just appearing from occasional jukeboxes.
Slo-mo gore still seems excessive. I’m no prude, but it just seems a bit too outlandish and comic – I wouldn’t mind an option to turn it down a bit.
Looks like some really fun gear pick-ups – caps, sunglasses, crazy beards… Looking forward to the character customisation.
Ooh – you need to drink to survive, but water is radioactive. Out-Stalkering Stalker?
Too many monsters/mutants?


Oh god, please have some colour. It’s a supermarket, there should be brightly-hued packing all over the place, not just brown and grey and grey and brown. Bethesda’s poor, hamstrung artists must cry themselves to sleep.
Power-fist! Thwack-splat, thwack-splat, thwack-splat…
Terminal hacking is based on Mastermind, it seems. At least it’s not cocking Simon Says for once.
A pet Robby the Robot. This is awesome. But he should be cherry-red, dammit.
Kinda like Bioshock, but not stupidly restrictive

Tenpenny Tower:

More emphasis on notable characters rather than just random mercs’n’mutants.
The stealth/pickpocketing is clearly employing Oblivion systems, and seems a bit of an awkward fit. A functioning invisibility generator seems a whole other level for tech from steam’n’piston guns and cola machines.
I intend to place a lot of live hand grenades in a lot of people’s pockets. I hope there’s other ideas along similar lines – for instance, planting meat in their pockets so they’re attacked by beasts?
That annoying chat-zoom thing remains. Wish they’d ditch it – there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to turn around or wander about as someone’s speaking to you.
Burke really is rubbish. I’d better be able to kill him. And his actor had better not be handling 30 other NPCs.

Thanks to sbs and Erlend M


  1. Paul Moloney says:

    “been refusing to watch any of the recent trailers of the game so as to not spoil any moments for myself. i have faith in bethsoft to deliver a great game. could care less whether its anything like the previous fallouts.”

    Without wanting to sound like a pathetic fAn bOi (and failing miserably), that’s my attitude too. I mean, I could easily write a page nitpicking many elements of “Oblivion”, but the whole for me was much greater then the sum of parts. I love that game and have played for 2 years on and off (I think 260 hours of play the last time I checked). So I’m quite happy to take a punt on Fallout 3.


  2. Mr Wonderstuff says:

    “What about the horrible movement.. where is the head bobbing ? It feels totally wrong… its more like your flying.. that’s going to me fixed right?”

    Finally, there is someone who noticed this. Actually it was in Oblivion as well. With games like Dark Messiah you actually felt you were in control of a person as opposed to a camera like Oblivion and seemingly Fallout 3.

  3. Alex says:

    Rather controversially it seems, this looks like it could be a nice bit of fun to me. ;)

    I do agree that Oblivion had lots of incongruencies and mistakes, but I did enjoy playing it a lot.

    I think I’ll go so far as to say I am looking forward to Fallout 3. Which is nice.

  4. Andrew says:

    Of all the complaints here, I think the one about the retro music on the radio being bad simply because it’s not only in the intro like it was in the original Fallout games is the one that most deserves to be excised and booted back to NMA where it belongs.

  5. hydra9 says:

    Visually, it’s very nice. I’m still confused about the VATS system, though – It looks like no effort or skill is required at all – Just pause time, select a body part with a 95% chance of hitting it, and KABOOM, your bullet rips a head or limb off as though the person had been pre-dunked in that toxic waste vat from RoboCop. But surely I’m missing something…

  6. Larington says:

    I chose to go into this with 0 expectations and whilst I still dislike that whole focus on character during dialogue thing, I can live with that. Overall the experience looks to be very positive.

    I found Fallout 1 and 2 to be a little bit dull to play to be honest and this looks different enough to be refreshing.

    That said I do agree with some of the nit picking, for instance lack of colour in the mega mart and all of that period music could get rather tiresome, but theres no garauntee of that and it’ll likely be down to personal tastes anyway, we’ll see. I think its going on my buy around release date list in any case, not many games are doing that at the moment.

  7. Willem says:

    @Salen: Bethesda are a bit thick, it seems. There were a lot of complaints about the limited voice actors in Oblivion and which voices do we hear in the Fallout 3 trailers? The same bloody ones. Unless this is a cunning and annoying bluff, they really are pants-on-head retarded.

    @hydra9: That’s how it works, normally. You pick a body part and shoot it. In the previous games, however, there was only a small chance of actually getting a critical hit, which does not seem to be the case here.

  8. Ian says:

    @hydra9: I’ve been working on the assumption with most Fallout 3 vids that they’ve made everything easy (high skills, armour, etc.) to show off the system.

  9. Jochen Scheisse says:

    All in all, a lot of good news on these trailers. Looks like people actually have their belongings in their inventory, most of the dialogue does in no way remind me of typical Bethesda, the radio’s a great idea, and I like the hud. Customisation of your character’s a nice gimmick. I really hope I’ll somehow be able to play this.

    Mr. Burke is, well, it’s a computer game. It’s okay. As long as he’s one of a few.

  10. Colinmarc says:

    the no-scope with the pistol:

    Is this glass bulletproof? No sir.

  11. Mark says:

    Bitch, bitch, bitch.

  12. Noc says:

    On. Mr. Burke . . .

    I don’t mind having an over the top, cartoon villain. But to pull that off you need to sell it; he needs to be gesticulating wildly, throwing his head back when he does one of those laughs . . .

    Not giving the job to you in the pub, but having you meet him at a cliff overlooking the town at midnight, where he can gesture and pace and overact properly. I mean . . . if you took a video of the guy voice acting, that’s probably the sort of stuff he’d be doing. It just looks really . . . weird when it’s delivered with a stiff back and a constant stare.

    That’s something I really wish they’d gotten down. Dynamic speech behavior, instead of the head wobbling and the occasional stiff, scripted action. That’d be easier if they took out the zoom, too.

  13. Chris says:

    Can I still set off the nuke if I knife Burke and nick the pulse inductificator from his twitching corpse?

  14. muscrat says:

    Somthing tells me that Bethseda lost the plot in trying to figure out WHY Fallout has such dedicated fans, who are so protective of the ip and franchise.
    If they could de-construct that, then maybe they would have been on right track in the first place, in creating a modern masterpiece, instead of somthing shoveled to the lowest common denominator – using the IP just for media coverage and attention.
    Fallout is well over a decade old and still widely appreciated, and STILL has a thriving dedicated community.
    Its testiment to HOW following sequals should be designed. To ignore such a great template is ****ing bizzare.

    Of course it kind of conflicts with the idea that everything had to be totally action orientated nowadays, to hold peoples attention for five minutes.
    No explosions and exessive bloom, no sales.
    In certain gaming markets….

    Oh well at least this is mostley speculation off previews and trailers. Maybe a miracle can happen.

  15. Willem says:

    I feel the need to explain the concern expressed rather vigorously here by the Fallout fans to the confused onlookers. You have to look at it like this. At the moment, Bethesda looks to be acting like Hollywood. Confused? I’ll explain.

    There’s a film. Nothing big budget about it, not made in America. Let’s say it’s a British film. It’s a little gem, everyone that watches it loves it. It’s a drama, that leaves no eyes drie. A few years pass and an American remake of the film is announced. Hollywood enters the picture. It gets a big fuck-off budget and is given to John Woo. They cut the emotional and dramatic bits and throw in slo-mo, explosions and guns. All the actors are now 20 years old, sexy and blonde. Also Keanu Reeves or some other poor actor. It’s shit.

    And everyone that saw the original film thinks it’s a disgrace. They feel like the original film was [disserviced].

    And that’s the road Bethesda look to be going down. Of course, I hope that I’m wrong here, it’s one of the few games I’m actually looking forward to. But so far, they haven’t done much to make me think otherwise. Maybe it’s just their marketing that’s amazingly shit (it is) and their game will be great, but I’m still concerned.

    We’re nitpicking and critising out of love of the original games, not out of hatred for Bethesda. (Well, maybe a bit. Do not want Oblivion with guns ;_; )

  16. Marianna says:

    Aaaaargh, pickpocketing! Aaaaargh! I hate it! It was bad in Morrowind, bad in Oblivion, and I was really hoping they wouldn’t include it in Fallout 3… waaaaah…

  17. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Looking pretty good to me, there are a number of niggles in there but on this evidence Bethesda are doing enough for me.

    Also, good to see a wide selection of beards on offer.

  18. Sum0 says:

    I’ve finally come to the conclusion that if you just ignore what came before and take Fallout 3 as a spin-off rather than a sequel, it’s a lot easier to accept it as what it is: an FPSRPG which is going to be a lot like Oblivion. But I liked Oblivion, you know? I truly and unashamedly think Oblivion is the best RPG of modern times, so I’m looking forward to this.
    Things I am concerned about, however: the run-and-gun combat, and while I love over-the-top gore, there’s no point if heads blow off with every gunshot – it should be a rare thing when you do shitloads of damage. Also, the way the interface feels like Oblivion with a new skin, right down to “You have discovered…” and suchlike. Also, that bloody voice acting, though I’m glad they’ve got some other people in. And the head locking convo thing. Essentially these things make me think I’m playing Oblivion, which is jarring when I’m playing a completely different game.
    But, past all that, these videos have rekindled my interest in the game. It’s just the atmosphere which I love, the locations and environments and that … meta-gameplay that only RPGs do.

    Oh, and yes, Man Raised By Puffins, I too was pleased at the beard selection. I cannot think of a single game with a wide selection of beards that wasn’t good.

    Also, regarding the easiness of VATS: I noticed some of the percentages were pretty low and they still hit, so I’m hoping they just cheated for the purposes of the video. I want VATS to stay as something extremely risky to be used in the right situation, not a all-purpose combat tool.

  19. monkeymonster says:

    Wow, considerable amount of hate here due to the oblivion links…. I wonder if the vitriol would be quite so frothy and spat at the screen if like myself you’d never played oblivion and therefore are looking forward to this as much as a mudcrab likes a fresh facepack. Washed out colours aplenty but it is a post apocalyptic world made of re-use. Nowt fresh – and unless you happen to come across an underground dulux factory that somehow survived I could quite believe a fair bit of colour washout had occurred everywhere unless hermetically sealed behind lead walls.
    You may nitpick against conversations seemingly held quite loudly in a public place but don’t then in the same breath ask for a fresh lick of paint and objectiveness from the few people who’ve survived in such a scenario when mensa is no longer around….
    I’m off to omnomnom the cake that is a lie :)

  20. Nick says:

    But.. pickpocketing and planting armed explosives on NPCs was a great part of Fallout!

    Nothing like slipping some armed dynamite down a persons trousers and running off, giggling.

  21. Walsh says:


    Apparently the only way a RPG is good is if you can kill the NPCs but you can’t talk to them randomly out of the blue either.

  22. groovychainsaw says:

    it’s not perfect, but then neither was oblivion, and both games are still trying to do more than 99% of other games were doing. Having put in a good 150 hours with oblivion, I actually think this looks better, so maybe 200 hours with this! ;-)

  23. Dude says:

    Obviously it will be crap, it is mainstream, it is action orientated, it is Bethesda….
    Frankly I get tired of people always complaining it is not the “right” sequel to fallout. Well, get over it, if you wish they never touched it then go to NMA and continue talking about how great are fallout 1&2 and that games are not what they used to be… When I read them I fell old, seems like my grand father is talking.

    Onto the subject, I am quite happy to see the footage, finally a good post-apo RPG… I like the washed out color, but like a lot of pple I was hoping for more color at some place. Some odd moment as well, as mentioned the bad guy asking you out loud to blow the town and no one seems to mind, same with you fixing the bomb… ah well, but it is a video game so I can of expect those moment anyway.
    Good things that made me laugh, the “tchou-tchou” gun, the powerfist (stealth+powerfist, huuummm), the grenade in the pant. I also liked the kind of way the last building look out of place, people taking their tea like victorians in the middle of a waste land, that scored some point in my book…
    So overall I think I will have fun with this one.

  24. Paul Moloney says:

    “When I read them I fell old, seems like my grand father is talking.”

    ‘Nostalgia is heroin for old people’ – Dara Ó Briain.

    I remember the original Slashdot thread about Bethesda doing Fallout as being the mostly hilariously over-the-top thing ever. The level of outrage was as if people had been asked to hand their children in for medical experimentation to a hospital owned by Gary Glitter.


  25. LionsPhil says:

    Oh dear. I really wanted to like this, despite the E3 trailer. But these don’t help one bit. They just make things worse.

    It starts off good—the moment they got outside, the same exploration itch triggered as with Oblivion, although there’s the risk of the same bitter taste of highly unvaried scenery. (The zoom-out third person view a bit later is nice, too.) The hover drone seems somewhat out of place and high-tech, but perhaps someone gutted a Mr Handy. But then a burnt-out car somehow manages to catch fire and explode, and it all goes a bit wrong.

    As has been said, “crippled” now seems to mean “slightly bruised, kiss it better”; the faces look better, but the voicework is shoddy and the ridiculously limited animation doesn’t match. And then we get the worst G-Man ever. Ye Gods.

    Tinkering with the bomb right in front of the guy praying to it has to be one of the most incongruous pieces of CRPG garbage I’ve ever seen, and I can only hope that they’re going to fix that to require stealth, speech, or bloody murder.

    Alchemical component collecting and mutant mudcrabs. Yeah, keep telling me it’s not “Oblivion with guns”. At least mutant mudcrabs have an excuse to be instantly hostile. Conversely, yay, radscorpion!

    Totally agreed that the supermarket is dreary garbage, as is the robot. Sigh. Where are Blizzard when you need them? I hope the railway gun is outclassed by some other rifle, because a comical “toot toot” after every shot is even more annoying than the bullet-time malarky after every VATS kill.

    Again, agreed on the stealth boy: horribly out of place. And it looks like they’re keeping up with a fine FPS tradition by giving grenades bugger-all splash damage. We get another demonstration of meaningless crippled limbs, too: not even slowed down by a broken leg.

    “You’ve lost karma!” Subtle. Looks like the nuke was from the school of underpowered grenade explosions, too, although that’s quite a pretty mushroom cloud.

    Sigh. Well, maybe it’ll piss on an excellent predecessor less than Deus Ex 2 did.

    (Parting shot: does anyone else find the smoothness of console FPS viewpoint movements unpleasant?)

  26. Willem says:

    @Dude: The only thing worse than people whining about this game is people whining about people whining about this game.

    People whining about those people are great though, but people whining about those people are annoying again.

    Also, why was the word “shit” changed to disserviced in my last post? Can’t I dislike imaginary films that I made up?

  27. Dude says:

    @Willem: Sure I am anoying, I don’t like people whining about things they wouldn’t whine otherwise, I hate even more people whining about me. What wrong with shooting at the whiner?
    But it all down to this: put another name on the game and most people will be like “blimey! A fallout like game that doesn’t look like sh***”.
    I agree it has some of oblivion’s problems, but if most of the game we get were half as good as oblivion, well I wouldn’t know what to buy….

  28. martin says:

    So Bethesda finally releases the new Oblivion Post-Apocalyptic Overhaul, but it seems it only added new textures, new models, new quests, a new, alternative combat system and a new leveling system (the original in oblivion is a piece of c**p). Why did they not learn their lesson with Oblivion and in cooperated many of the oblivion mods into the new overhaul. So the new Oblivion Overhaul, nicknamed Fallout3, does not other nothing new game play wise.

    Final Review, probably good, due to lack of polishh far removed from all time classic.

  29. LionsPhil says:

    Jesus, people, shut the fuck up with the meta-whining. This is a computer game critique website. It is full of opinions on the games. Ideally, these are accompanied by a presentation of the basis behind them. If the comments were restricted to “I am excited about {INSERT GAME HERE} and cannot wish to purchase it!”, it would be somewhat pointless, no?

  30. Andrew says:

    I honestly can’t work out if martin is being sarcastic or not.

  31. dhex says:

    I’m still confused about the VATS system, though

    as am i. is there a limit on how often you can use it, etc?

    i guess if you have to include some kind of turn-based element, but you’re going to keep it mostly action, you’re kind of stuck with a vats thing?

  32. hydra9 says:

    Well, during the fight with the crab-men things, I could see that as each shot was fired, the crab was moving forward slightly… As this was a tougher enemy with a hard-to-hit ‘weak spot,’ this was where the system seemed to be working. The crab actually got up to the player and managed to whack him with his claws, thus throwing the player out of the VATS mode (or the VATS turn had ended by then – whatever). But all the *human* enemies went down instantly and easily.

    I hope other commentators are right when they say that the game is just set to ‘super easy’ right now. If it’s *much* harder to hit people, I can see the system working. And of course, there’ll be tougher b’stards to fight later on.

  33. Turin Turambar says:

    VATS is not a turnbased system. It’s nothing like that. It’s a recharging power, like bullet time in Fear, but it doens’t slow time, it stops it and you can choose a body part to attack.

    There isn’t strategic considerations, and there isn’t action points to choose an action: move, shoot, use inventory, shoot carefully, fire in auto mode, etc.

  34. Willem says:

    @Dude: What’s wrong with shooting the whiner? One, it’s being a hypocrite. Two, what LionsPhil said.

    And they chose not to make another game. They chose to make a Fallout game. They get the backstory and reputation, so naturally they have to make a game that is worth it.
    And even if they didn’t make a Fallout game (so, they wouldn’t have the entire story and such. No vaults, no SPECIAL, no pipboy, etc), we would still notice what they did wrong. Which, as it happens, is quite a lot.

    And I thought Oblivion was mediocre at best. I’m not the only one who thinks that.

  35. martin says:

    @andrew: i take it as a compliment because english is not my native language.

    IMO, F3 will be like Oblivion, either you like it or you hate it. I will just wait a year or more for the mod community which will finish bethesdas job again before i buy the game.

    P.S.: Oblivion is a great game in 2008 when you use 254 mods. I have currently installed app. 20GB of Mods!

  36. Turin Turambar says:

    Also: Yeah, these videos sell the game much better than the E3 videos. I am still not totally hyped, though.

  37. THEorangePANDA says:

    I’ll say this Too much Oblivion, not enogh follout

  38. SwiftRanger says:

    “Of all the complaints here, I think the one about the retro music on the radio being bad simply because it’s not only in the intro like it was in the original Fallout games is the one that most deserves to be excised and booted back to NMA where it belongs”

    That kind of music felt classy in Fallout because it was used restrictively there, using it as an actual radio station feels overdone to me. It’s retro fifties alright but not how I’d like to have seen it, it felt ridiculous in the E3 demo and it feels ridiculous now. So please forgive me I don’t want to play the game like that, oh please!

    And no, I am not NMA and I am planning to buy the game anyway (or is that hard to notice the hopes for a good game in my first reply?) but all those things shouldn’t even matter whether you think a complaint is valid or not, different opinions keep the world turning, accept it.

  39. Nallen says:

    “This character’s acting is… rubbish,”

    I’m certain that is the guy from Oblivion, doing his Dark Brotherhood voice. Urgh.

  40. Eschatos says:

    I don’t mind Mr. Burke. He’s just Lucien Lachance all over again. A bit more subtlety would be appreciated though. I hope those cyclops creatures don’t end up being the mudcrabs of Fallout 3.

    Also, I wouldn’t worry too much about every VATS shot blowing body parts on. That’s just the god mode making every shot a crit.

  41. K says:

    If my cursor is over somebody’s head and I shoot in real time, does it have the same chance to hit as in VATS?

  42. Cooper says:

    I still remain convinced that Bethesda have missed the point of Fallout’s gore. All I’ve seen so far is dismembered limbs going whee with fancy physicyness.

    As before: Fallout’s gore was pre-animated, and thus always already funny. It takes talent to make a mutant melting from a laser or a rad scorpion explode from a rocket funny, often laugh-out loud hilarious. Algorithmic physicyness is not funny. Impressive, maybe, but it’s not to long before it’s; “oh. look. another decapitation. Heh.”

  43. PJ says:

    and jesus turned water into whine….

    games have changed during last 10 yrs. expecting Fallout 3 to be 2nd with revamped graphics is straight silly. considering Oblivion’s sales you really cant expect bethesda not to use verified template.

    if they manage to capture the feeling of desolated, ravaged world (and so far it seems that they did just that) it will be a great game, nondependent of the fact it will be much more action oriented.

    sorry guys, and welcome to the present of gaming.

    ps. we’ve seen selected 50 or so minutes of the game – ofc they showed us some over the top action – dont expect each shot that you fire to decapitate the enemy

  44. Nick says:

    Yeah guys, it’s the future. Only dayglo sheep and orange faces are acceptable.

  45. VFIG says:

    For those of you complaining about the Stealth Boy, I don’t know what you’re on about. I started playing the original Fallout a few weeks ago, and I found a Stealth Boy very early on, that makes me invisible. It’s been very handy, but has quite a limited power supply, so I’ve been using it for more practical causes than anti-pickpocketing explosives.

    Also: head-bob sucks. I guess those of you complaining about it have never actually walked or run in real life — you don’t see your whole view swinging about randomly as your head moves, instead your head and eyes stay directed at whatever you’re looking at while the outer parts of your field of view move. Since we don’t have ubiquitous eye-tracking in todays consoles and PCs, we can’t implement this in games yet; and no headwave makes for a more realistic simulation than a bobblehead player camera.

  46. Alex says:

    “I represent certain… interests”
    Stop right there, criminal scum! Otherwise, looks fantastic though – I really can’t wait for this. NMA-mewling aside, Bethesda’s talent + Fallout’s environment sounds like a winning formula.

  47. Himself says:

    THIS IS.
    A FIRST.

    oh boy, we’re fucked.

  48. Bas says:

    I will hold of for a year, and come back when the modding community has fixed this. That includes:

    – Turning off the stupid chat zooming in thing
    – The ridiculous decapitation and limbs shooting off.

    Also, I barely notice things that break the immersion (like in Mass Effect, random strangers asking you what they should do with their baby, I didn’t flinch), but even I noticed when he WALKED RIGHT UP TO THE NUKE AND ARMED IT AND NOBODY SAID ANYTHING. Dear God.

  49. Alex says:

    Oh, also (stupid me for missing the comment-editing deadline), I’m loving the hats in this game. You might laugh, but in-game millinery counts for a lot.

  50. Himself says:

    Aside from that, i’ve yet to give Oblivion a shot, so the lack of new voice actors is not much of a problem. For me. Lucky i am!