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. D says:

    So´ the whole Megaton quest they’ve been hyping for six months consisted of all: 1. Talk to guy. 2. Talk to bomb. 3. Talk to guy. + Push button.

    Also, I’m getting tired of hearing about people’s vain hope that “the stupid levels of gore is only because he’s cheating.” If that’s what they choose to show off, then that’s what I’ll believe the game is. Believing differently will just set you up for dissapointment.

  2. Bhlaab says:

    A lot of these things people are bitching about like the guy just openly propositioning you in the bar and being able to waltz right up to the nuke and arm it… I dunno, I just see it as a natural extension of Fallout’s old school stylings where you wouldn’t bat an eye at this sort of thing.

    What does bother me is that arming the nuke uses explosive skills instead of Science, which has seemingly just become “hacking” (and is, of course, tied to some dumb minigame. sigh.)
    Not to mention the god awful voice actors. Do these guys have some sort of tenure program going on??

  3. Nate says:

    Stiff animations are lame. As for the gore seen in the trailers, this guy took the “Bloody Mess” perk, which causes every enemy to die in an exaggerated way. This is completely optional. In the original FO series you could disable gore altogether. I expect to see something similar here.

    Guns have sights for a reason. Please no more crosshairs unless I’m looking through a scope. Please also ensure the bullet path matches the way the gun is pointing at the time. The gun should move a bit as I move, breathe, etc. See Insurgency and COD4 for ex…

    I would like the FPS part not to suck whale, but it is reminding me a bit of Bioshock’s. That game was great but the combat was unimpressive. People should have a fun combat experience whether they use VATS or not, but let’s not bollocks-it-up with the crosshair crap just because that makes sense with those crappy-aiming xbox 360 controllers. At least make all this easy to mod, so someone can fix your game if you drop the ball again like with Oblivion…

    In the original Fallout series, Mr. Rourke would have told you to meet him in a private room, underground bunker, back at his house, etc to discuss this most catastrophic of proposals. The apparent lack of attention to detail is stunning if not altogether unpredictable. And the whole megaton backstory makes me think the writers were huffing paint or something. you’ve got to be freakin shitting me! Again, in the original, a nuke would be in a vault guarded by 100 Super Mutants!

    I really want this to be good.

  4. Crane says:

    “So´ the whole Megaton quest they’ve been hyping for six months consisted of all: 1. Talk to guy. 2. Talk to bomb. 3. Talk to guy. Push button.”

    No-oo, that was one way to complete it. That said, being able to arm it right in front of everyone was stupid as hell.

    Frankly, I’m not sure what to think yet. I quite like the look of it, the voice acting seems potentially awful… I don’t mind the same actors from Oblivion showing up again, but if they voice as many characters as they did in Oblivion, that willsuck. Oh, and if they have the same stupid scaling level system as Oblivion, I think I’ll scream.

    You thought the combat in Bioshock was unimpressive? Presumably you didn’t like Half-Life 2 or Halo either?

  5. D says:

    @Nate: Afaik, the bloody mess makes every limb come off a guy when you shoot him (E3 trailers). I don’t believe he had bloody mess picked for these recent ones, because it had somewhat less gibbing. DONT GET YOUR HOPES UP PEOPLE.

    And I don’t want to use the option of disabling gore – it’s awesome if rarity is preserved. *Sigh*

  6. Erlend M says:

    I saw a radscorpion the other day.

    Actually, I feel cautiously optimistic about this game. What bothered me most with Oblivion was that with Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul installed (which I did to avoid the game being completely leveled with me), there was just too much grinding required in the game. I hate grinding, but I’d also hate the alternative with vanilla Oblivion, being able to finish the game before even leveling.

    For instance, having to create a 1 magicka restoration spell which I cast continuously when walking around to be able to increase my restoration skill to anywhere – that’s a total immersion breaker. I’ve always been more fond of the Fallout type of RPG system, where you amass XP doing quests or killing monsters. Enough XP means that you level, letting you assign skill points as you see fit, even to skills that you haven’t been using at all. Sure, it might be less “realistic” than training skills through use, but it’s far better than having to grind skills that you’re bad at.

    Even if Fallout 3 is “Oblivion with guns” to a certain degree, it’ll also be Oblivion with a superior leveling system. Yay!

  7. wyrmsine says:

    These trailers have changed my opinion for the better, except… well, I’d be cautiously optimistic if it weren’t for the colour scheme. “Nuked wasteland = brown/grey ftw” seems the very height of mediocre art direction.

    There’s a lot to like in those trailers, though – even where the elements are wholly derivative of previous works (the Robbie-robot and railgun come to mind), they seem to succeed in creating a convincing world.

    Still, current feeling is cautiously pessimistic – it seems to have too much of Oblivions faults in it, and the overall art direction is pretty much maimed by that colour scheme.

  8. Ashbery76 says:

    After playing the game 100+ hours you should be able to have the honour to slot your Dad NPC..

  9. Alexander says:

    I really don’t understand how they even failed to successfully exploit their primary Fallout IP pre-teen demography marketable gore and violence. The person shooting the radscorpion, uncanny black hole them Bethesda people discovered!

    I guess we are doomed to accept substandard voice, acting, character design, stupidly bad narrative decisions in general, simply to have a glimpse of the superb but horribly ressurrected Fallout IP.

    So I am praying now, not for OG, but for the Rage game ID is making and I damn hope they understand. link to


    It’s late, Fallout IP has deep ties to my aura, I am pissed off. Why on earth does Bethesda force me to choose ‘you don’t scare me’ for every damn time I will encounter the Megaton sherrif… why?!

  10. Alex says:

    For instance, having to create a 1 magicka restoration spell which I cast continuously when walking around to be able to increase my restoration skill to anywhere – that’s a total immersion breaker.

    This is the kind of gaming I just don’t get. Surely that’s only an ‘immersion breaker’ because you choose to do it. Sure, the game makes it possible to do it, but that doesn’t mean you have to play it that way.

    It’s like people who instead of walking somewhere in Morrowind or Oblivion, get there through constantly jumping. The only reason they do it is because that way they can level up quicker. How about just, you know, playing the game instead of focusing on leveling up? It’s baffling to me.

  11. blindpsychic says:

    Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s no SDK being released with the game, nor do they have plans on releasing one promptly in the future. So any modding that will be done will be fiddling around through the backdoor.

    You thought the combat in Bioshock was unimpressive? Presumably you didn’t like Half-Life 2 or Halo either?”

    I have to agree, I really disliked the combat in all of those games. STALKER does it pretty much perfectly for me, able to use iron sights, and people fucking die when you shoot them in the head. I really hate when games get stuck half way between being realistic and being like DOOM. You either go one way or the other. Those videos just feel like you’re strafing around like in DOOM but with completely impotent weapons unless you use VATS. I’d rather you’d either be able to rocket jump around and blast people like you’re a soldier/scout in TF2, or get nitty gritty with the weapon physics, how they handle, and giving us more combat options besides crouch and strafe. (ie, prone, iron sights, melee with weapon, lean, wall hug, etc.)

  12. Esha says:

    I want to be excited about this, but for everything they do right they do two things wrong. Here are a few examples…


    – Clever and amusing 60’s-inspired robots.
    – Graphically interesting.
    – The BATS system.
    – Hacking looks inventive.


    – It still seems to be nothing but quests leading to an excuse to kill someone, or hurt someone in some way.
    – Is it me or does it look like the torso and pelvis are actually one, whole targetable area? Are the US so afraiid of genitals that I can no longer target them? There go my dreams of pneumatic groping.
    – The voice actors from Oblivion, this has been covered already.
    – The amount of people who want to talk to the player, this is disturbing because in the original Fallout games there were plenty of people who were quite happy to tell the player to bugger off, and only those desperate for help would ask.
    – Man threatens to blow up town of scum whilst town of scum are standing mere inches away from him and should gut him for this but don’t. He should hand the player an envelope with a quest or a meeting place.
    – Man trusts person he’s never met (player) with explosives, believing that the player is goinig to do the wrong thing. “I like the cut of your jib kid, here’s some explosives, don’t expose me… please?”
    – Looks like a post-apocalyptic Oblivion because despite the lack of boomy faces, people still look far too clean and well-kept (with hair that looks like it’s styled and restyled on an hourly basis) for the environment they’re in.
    – Background chatter feels too rehearsed, sounds like a crass sitcom rather than a post-apocalyptic future filled with low-lifes and desperate people. All that nonsense about the radio simply felt awkward, almost as awkward as “Mudcrabs? Dirty creatures.”, but not quite. I’d expect people to keep to themselves, grunting accompanied by the occasional swear, an argument ended by a gunshot… like Westerns! But no.

    I can’t say I care though, Fallout has been dead for a long time so I’m ambivalent to Bethesda’s new game. Because Fallout 3 exists doesn’t mean that the first two Fallout games don’t. Fallouts 1 & 2 are still bloody fantastic, and I could quite happily play them again instead (have done recently, actually). I’m not going to buy this, of course… it looks too much of an Oblivionish mess to me, but I’m not angry at them for what they did with the Fallout license either. They’re a company, have money, will get license, have license, will make money.

    If they really wanted to get my attention though, a remake of Fallout 1 (keeping every NPC in there and all the original voice samples, no re-recordings!) would be most welcome. And the most exciting part about Fallout 3 is that someone might just do a remake of Fallout 1… though it’ll probably take a few years, so in a few years I’ll be totally hyped about this game.

  13. Kyr says:

    As I foresaw, the whining and moaning. The game that isn’t done yet already made everyone unhappy. Imagine the world, where BethSoft made Fallout 3 without making Oblivion first. What will you do when you have nothing to compare to? Compare not lest you be compared.

  14. Erlend M says:

    This is the kind of gaming I just don’t get. Surely that’s only an ‘immersion breaker’ because you choose to do it. Sure, the game makes it possible to do it, but that doesn’t mean you have to play it that way.

    You know, I agree with you in principle. I want to be able to play the game naturally and never have to think about grinding. But the skill advancement rate for Restoration (one of the most important of my major skills) was ridiculously low compared to my other skills, so the skill became totally ineffective.

    I had to choose between two immersion breakers: Struggling through the game with a really subpar character because the mechanics of the game were unbalanced, or grinding a little. I hated that I had to choose between the two. I guess I could have hacked my savegame to increase my skills, but eew, no.

    This is one of the things I’ll like about Fallout 3. Since they’ll be using the same RPG system as the earlier Fallouts, I can just play the game naturally without having to think about how to advance individual skills. My main problem with Oblivion will be removed.

  15. Mr. President says:

    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.

    Speaking of good templates, didn’t Oblivion outsell both of the Fallout games, like, 10-to-1?

  16. aldo says:

    Here’s a question – will not having played Oblivion make Fallout 3 better for me?

    Hoping it’s good, though. Been needing a good post-apocalyptic wanderer….

  17. sinister agent says:

    … and again, the opening line starts the whole thing off on a mssive cringe. “where no-one ever enters! And no-one ever leaves!”

    as if that weren’t embarassing enough, his very next words are “your father has left, and now it’s your turn.”

    I mean, seriously. I know it has nothing to do with how good the game may be, but christ. At least TRY to present it well, mate.

    Poor acting, there – totally expressionless face on that bloke welcoming you to the town. Better than Obliv already, although a few of the voices sound eerily familiar. At least the girl at the table at least sounded a bit like she meant it. I hope they’re going to tweak the expressions at the last minute.

    I like the zoomed out view from above. Some decent third person views are always welcome.

    Why is a town built around an atomic bomb, exactly? I mean, I thought living on a fault line was as stupid as people got. But a live nuclear weapon?

    And not even being able to TRY something if your skill is too low is a bit dull. Why not let us try the long shots?

    Combat seems promising. No groin shots, disappointingly (there should be a cheap shot option, even if just for non-combat characters so they can get a shot or kick off and run), but it looked like you can shoot someone’s gun out of their hand, which could be fun. Gore is a bit over the top though – it’d get old fast.

    Liking the music.

    Not liking the idiot-proof stealth. “HIDDEN/DANGER” indicators slightly urinate all over the tension, surely.

    Punching heads off… doesn’t seem to fit the style of the game, to be honest. But we’ll see I guess. Hand to hand combat looks pretty much exactly like armed combat, just at point blank.

    Lockpicking looks promising. Depends how difficult it is and how highers kills would alter that though, I expect.

    Drinking water irradiates you, and yet detonating a nuclear device and casually watching it from a few miles away is harmless? I … see.

    It could still go either way… I think first and foremost, they need to get rid of all the Oblivion voices entirely. Seriously, they’re bloody horrible. Making the characters a little more expressive would help, too. Then tone down the gore – use it sparingly and it’ll be more fun. And add some colours, ffs. Beyond that… still hard to say. It has promise, but it still worries me.

  18. Willem says:

    @Kyr: We’re not allowed to compare Fallout 3 to Oblivion? I’m fairly sure we actually can, because Oblivion shows us what Bethesda can do. It’s even built with the same engine.

    @Mr.President: Well, high sales figures aren’t a sign of quality per se. There are enough great games that barely sold any copies.
    And further, you can’t compare the sales figures of games published in 1997 and 1998 to the sales figures of a game published in 2006.

  19. Colthor says:

    Esha says:
    – The BATS system.

    After 30 days..?

  20. Vincent V says:

    The article mentions too much of grey and brown, but you have to consider, it’s been about 200 years since the bombs fell. All of the packaging in the supermarket, for instance, will have faded and/or disintegrated, and the same goes for painted buildings, etc. The only source of color you would get in this world, at this point in time would be plants. Still, it’s a valid point, and FO1 and 2 had color in them…

  21. Alec Meer says:

    I’ve already said this to someone else, but in a world where you can build a railgun out of scrap metal and fight mutant crab-men, you can’t really employ logic as solid justification for why everything has to be brown.

  22. The Sombrero Kid says:

    yeah but te colour palettte is important for setting the scene and theme of the world, you couldn’t do a game set in this world with a bright colour palette convincingly

  23. Alec Meer says:

    Just because the world needs to be murky doesn’t mean all the objects and people within it should be. To bring today’s arguments full-circle, Stalker’s not a bad comparison – it adds eye-engaging touches of colour to a bleak place without making it not-bleak. And I don’t mean just “there are trees”.

  24. The Sombrero Kid says:

    yeah but as i said in the other thread stalker isn’t a game it’s an experiment in pain lol, seriously i see what you mean but i still think they’re sapping all the colour out to make it seem a bit pre wizard of oz if you know what i mean

  25. cyrenic says:

    Swearing should not be aloud in video games unless they can do it as well as Company of Heroes.

  26. AndrewC says:

    Different colours have different effects on our emotions. Red is ‘hot’, blue is often ‘cold’. People smarter than me can probably dig up lots of articles about this and other related topics, liek syneasthesia. The point being that the careful use of colour can improve and deepen immersion and one’s emotional attachment to the world. Just bleeding out all the colour mostly just makes it boring.

  27. The Sombrero Kid says:

    it’s not like they’re using that palette cause they havn’t heard of the other colours, it was a design descision made for a good reason the cultural mash up of the 50’s and the post apocalyptical future calls for a low contrast palette and you’d be loosing some of that character if you made it TF2 or WOW bright imo

    edit changed 30’s to 50’s it’s post war i think

  28. AndrewC says:

    Colour doesn’t mean bright.

  29. The Sombrero Kid says:

    they defiantly use colour i seeeeee it

  30. Willem says:

    Something I’ve been thinking of: How will they get away with the ULTRA-GORE in countries like Germany, where they aren’t that keen on that sort of stuff. (IIRC, Germany doesn’t allow blood in games, or something?)

  31. KruddMan says:

    Anyone else think the Megaton theme sounds like the map music to Jagged Alliance 2?

    Not a bad thing

  32. Plant42 says:

    Nope. This isn’t going to cut it. We were hosed when then went full FPS.

    How NOT to do a sequel…

  33. Zyrusticae says:

    Y’know, part of me wonders if they should’ve just gone black-and-white…

  34. Mr. President says:

    Megaton is a pretty badass name for a town. I remember Fallout: BOS having a town called “Carbon”, which was also frikkin awesome and probably the only thing that game had going for it.

  35. rob says:

    I’ve just started Mass Effect and the one thing that has consistently impressed me so far is how natural conversations are. Not so much in terms of the dialogue (which pauses uncomfortably as characters wait for one another to finish their lines) but more how they’ve used body language during conversations. Going from a system where characters gesture, pace and change expressions based on what is being said to looking at these trailers makes me think maybe Bethesda could learn a lot from what other people are doing. I don’t know if this is a huge issue since I’m not sure that the focus of the game is going to be on character interaction beyond shooting one another but it really is quite jarring to watch people stand perfectly still and deliver their poorly-acted lines.

  36. Yhancik says:

    I like it.
    It’s surely not a masterpiece, and will be plagued by incoherences, exaggerations, bad acting and several flaws of Oblivion. But I want to explore that post-apocalyptic universe, I want to shoot people on *that* music with that puerile crude violence. It’s like one of those post-apocalyptic B-movies from the 80s that you watch because it’s both awesome and pretty stupid. It’s Cyborg, Escape from New-York or The New Barbarians, and I’m perfectly fine with that :D

  37. Kaininable says:

    You should all just shut the fuck up and wait to play the game.Its gonna be good,you all sound like lil whiney bitches.wah wah wah

  38. Petethegoat says:

    People need to learn that all games have flaws, albeit some more than others. I would love to see someone try name a flawless (or near flawless) game.

    Pong doesn’t count. :D

  39. Joe says:

    Okay, everyone: yes the game has some flaws like the acting, and how overly gory it is, but the in only a few hours, I will be playing this game and I know it will kick ass. Seriously, this is SCIENCE!, not science. Plus, dull colors make sense when food is more important than living in a well furnished house. And this is still not the final version of the game. I’m sure they’re reading forums like this and changing things. I have high expectations after Oblivion (I’d never played anything like it b4), but Bethesda will deliver. Also, everything they have created works well in this fictional world!