Attention role-playing gamers: Fallout 3 is gold.
Well, almost gold.
"At this stage we are really right down to the very end of the process," Pete Hines told GameSpot this week. "I'm just trying to get discs done and sent off and certified and released to manufacturers...So there's a mad scramble to get all those copies made and into stores."
If all goes according to plan, Fallout 3 will finally arrive in stores on October 28 for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Its arrival will end a six-year saga, which began in 2003, when Interplay Entertainment halted development of Fallout 3 and disbanded its developer, the famed Black Isle Studios. That project, code named Van Buren, died as its once-mighty publisher itself nearly ceased to exist due to evaporating revenue.
Then, in July 2004, the Fallout series was dramatically revived when Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion developer Bethesda Softworks struck an agreement to publish the postapocalyptic role-playing game. (Two years later, it bought the IP outright.) Despite criticism from some diehard fans of the first two Fallouts, who lament to this day that Fallout 3 will be "Oblivion with mutants," Bethesda restarted development from scratch.
The resulting 3D action does offer real-time action like Elder Scrolls IV, but it also offers the VATS system, which freezes combat and allows for the limb-specific targeting used in Fallout and Fallout 2's turn-based system. Though it ditches the first two games' North California setting for the burned-out ruins of Washington DC, Fallout 3 also includes a modified version of SPECIAL character creation and Perk systems of the first two games. It also sports the sunny-but-cynical 1950s-era stylings of the original--not the widely hated spin-off Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel--as well as their lore, such as the PIP-Boy 3000 wrist computer.
Of course, Fallout 3 bears the Bethesda stamp, having the massive open-world gameplay which the studio is famous for--and which Fallout 1 & 2 pioneered. "The current scale of the game is not what we had really envisioned to start," Hines explained. "We actually envisioned the game would be smaller when we first drew it up. But we're never careful about being slaves to anything we write down...So we made the game bigger than it was because we felt we needed to flesh it out with more stuff, with more locations in between, to make it more dense."
Will this be enough to win over the most skeptical of Fallout fanatics? Hines hopes so. "I think we're going to get people who've played the Elder Scrolls and liked what we've done," he said. "I also think we'll get folks who maybe played Fallout and loved Fallout whether they played the Elder Scrolls or not...Hopefully, we've made a game that they can get excited about."
In two weeks, the game industry will see.