Hype. Hype never changes. After years of rumors and hearsay, Fallout 4 was finally revealed on June 3rd. It was met with the exact level of excitement you’d expect from a brand new game developed by a much praised company. People are still going absolutely nuts over the trailer, running through it with a fine toothed comb to find all the secrets hiding under the surface. I, for one, have watched it over ten times and still get chills. It is an incredibly good example of successfully matching the eagerness of fans who have been waiting years for this moment. Hell, those same fans would have gone nuts with just an image. A masterfully crafted trailer featuring sweeping music and already boasting new features, like a fully voiced main character? Holy shit. Choo-choo folks, the hype train catching a ton of steam.
Obviously there are several reasons why people are going absolutely nuts. One of the biggest is that this is the first time since 2008 that a Fallout game is being developed directly by Bethesda Game Studios. Their product back then was none other than Fallout 3, a game of exceptional quality that swept the award circuit. Even though the Obsidian developed Fallout: New Vegas came in 2010, Fallout 3 is regularly viewed as the far superior choice. It now has a permanent place in gaming history. In order to ensure that Fallout 4 will be a success (honestly, there is no doubt that it will be), Bethesda will definitely look to their past work for guidance. There are a lot of features that are bound to come back in full form whenever this new installment comes out, along with plenty of fixes for whatever issues players had before. If Fallout 4 comes even remotely close to its predecessor, we’re looking at another smash hit.
Right off the bat though, there is one element that Fallout 4 will not be able to copy: the excitement of a series revival. The first two Fallout games were developed by Black Isle Studios and were owned by Interplay Entertainment. They were top notch games, but after Interplay was threatened with bankruptcy, they sold Fallout’s rights to Bethesda. The company’s success with Elder Scrolls proved that these games were in good hands, but the original Fallout titles and Elder Scrolls are clearly very different. People actively wondered what Bethesda would create after the series had already developed quite a big following. One thing was absolutely certain however. Whatever Bethesda was going to make would permanently dictate the direction of this entire series.
So perhaps it’s for the best that Fallout 3 ended up being this ultimate combination of new and old. Over ten years passed after the release of Fallout 2, which meant one of the big changes was a major overhaul in gameplay. Bethesda swiftly trashed the original game’s isometric environments and turn-based combat. They moved the setting from California to Washington DC. 3D graphics were an absolute necessity, which meant it was time to bring the series up to speed in that aspect as well. What this gave us was a game that could be played in both the first person or third person. Combat was done entirely in real time so there was absolutely no delay between you and your foe in a fight. Introducing the Capital Wasteland gave players an entirely new location to explore, a blank slate to welcome fresh faces but familiar enough in design to attract old diehards. The environment was impeccably created too, giving a very detailed representation of the entire Washington DC area, landmarks and all.
As for what was old, there were plenty of features that definitively made this a classic Fallout adventure. The most important aspect is how you can mold the story to your character. The original games gave you freedom of choice in many different scenarios that lead to widely diverse outcomes. Entire communities could crumble into nothing after your main character played an integral role in a few missions. Your character could either be viewed as a force of justice, a terrifying monster, or someone who chooses to maintain a neutrality while surrounded by chaos. Fallout 3 had this in spades, along with a radio announcer named Three Dog who would report on your actions. There really is no better example of this than Megaton, one of the very first communities you encounter. Megaton was built around a still active nuclear bomb and there is a mission where you decide what to do with it. For many, this was their first big morality check. You could play the hero and disarm the bomb, letting the innocent people live in peace, or rig it to explode and turn the entire area into a smoldering, radiation filled crater.
Fallout 3 also introduced a system called V.A.T.S., which was an excellent call-back to how the original games were played. A huge benefit of the turn-based combat of old was being able to select which body parts you wanted to attack. Since Fallout 3 was a real-time action game, V.A.T.S. was that extra addition that allowed you to pause battle and pick a body part to focus on. It was a very handy program that gave you a distinct edge in the heat of combat. The integration was so seamless, it was clear that Bethesda thoroughly researched the original designs and did everything they could to pay proper homage.
As far as I’m concerned, Fallout 3 is the way this series is meant to be played. I will admit that I’m a little biased as this was my first experience with these games. It completely blew me away and it still does to this day. Considering myself a fan, I actively dove into the original games to understand where Fallout came from. I do really enjoy both Fallout and Fallout 2, and I can see why they attracted so many people. However, after experiencing what Bethesda created to completely revamp the series, it was a little difficult getting into where it all began. The gameplay definitely required plenty of learning, and the combat wasn’t what I was used to. Even though it didn’t take me long to fully understand what I needed to do for survival, I found myself craving the dynamic elements of Fallout 3 and being able to run through an area guns blazing. There are a lot of purists out there who swear by the originals, but I’m firmly in the modern camp.
There is obviously plenty that Fallout 4 will borrow from Fallout 3. You can bet that V.A.T.S. will make a glorious return to gameplay. We already know the Boston setting will be filled with landmarks that define the city, including MIT. Though there’s no confirmation on this yet, it’s all but assured that the story will heavily hinge on your actions, giving you unique outcomes across the board. Of course, this is also a great opportunity to cut through Fallout 3’s problems. Games on this scale are difficult to maintain and are very frequently filled with bugs. Bethesda especially is known for having more than a few glitches with their games. If Fallout 4 can be a more structured creation that doesn’t break down as often, we could be looking at something that might actually surpass Fallout 3 in quality. Anything is possible honestly with Bethesda Game Studios at the helm.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor. Every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.