Fallout 3 is more than just a sequel to one of the most beloved PC RPG series ever - it's also a spiritual successor to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, probably the single most ginormous game of the current console generation. Created by Bethesda, the same developer behind that sprawling fantasy epic, Fallout 3 has some pretty huge shoes to fill - but judging by what we've seen so far, it took one look, scoffed and is currently at work on an even bigger pair.
While it could be described as Oblivion with guns, Fallout 3 mutates that game's first-person RPG experience into something that - while its DNA is still recognizable as Oblivion's - is wholly distinct. In fact, the small chunk of Fallout 3 that we've played through so far essentially takes everything that was great about Oblivion and retools it into something better - here are 11 of the best examples we could find.
1. More voice actors
Oblivion had 13 credited actors on its voice cast, but you'd never know it from playing the thing. No matter which of the game's hundreds of inhabitants you talked to, they always sounded suspiciously like the same four or five people, with no effort whatsoever made to disguise their voices. That won't be a problem with Fallout 3, however, as the new game will have a much bigger pool of voice talent on which to draw. Bethesda's not saying exactly how much bigger, except that we can expect at least twice as many.
More interestingly, Fallout 3 also features the voice of Malcolm MacDowell, a man who's not only endlessly entertaining to listen to, but was almost talented enough to make Tank Girl watchable. He'll be providing the voice of President John Henry Eden, and unlike, say, Patrick Stewart's here-then-gone turn in Oblivion, you'll hear quite a bit of MacDowell's voice throughout the game. As president of the Enclave, the tattered remnants of America's government, Eden frequently broadcasts fireside chats, which you'll be able to hear by tuning in to Enclave radio, or through the floating mechanical eyes that float aimlessly across the landscape.
Oh, and while we're on the topic of characters and how they're presented, it's worth pointing out that faces in Fallout 3 don't look like they were molded by pounding a lump of soft clay with a hammer. Well, maybe some of them do, but this time it's because they're horrible radioactive mutants.
From left: Your character's father in Fallout 3, and a pudgy muppet from Oblivion
2. Better gore
Despite (initially) being a T-rated game, Oblivion had some pretty decent gore effects, from blood splashes during combat to the dismembered corpses that decorated the walls of the game's creepier places. Fallout 3 blows that all out of the water, and while we've already seen its messy, exploding heads, our recent hands-on with the game revealed that the gore is actually much more elaborate.
Above: The words you're searching for are "Oh," "hell" and "yes"
The most horrific chunksplosions only come with more powerful weaponry and the "Bloody Mess" perk, but even at the game's outset, you can leave some incredibly messed-up corpses in your wake. This is all thanks to the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (VATS), a key gameplay feature that slows down time to a near-stop and lets you easily draw a bead on specific body parts, complete with a percentage readout showing how likely you are to nail your chosen target.
Above: VATS in action. We promise it's less complicated than it looks
By using VATS to carefully aim our pistols at the faces of a few marauding raiders in Mad Max-style fetish armor, we cleanly separated their heads from their bodies in a gruesomely cinematic slow-motion display. Our bullets actually sheared one woman's head off at mouth level instead of at her neck, which in slow motion is way, way nastier than any stupid green zombie with its fetid guts hanging out.
If quick decapitation kills aren't your thing, however, you're free to target other individual body parts, which again is made much easier through VATS. Line up your shot right, and you can blow off arms, cripple legs (which is especially useful if you're being chased and want your enemies to hobble instead of run) and rip your mutant attackers in half.
Oh, and if you're determined to be some kind of lame-ass good guy, you can directly target weapons instead of the blood-filled meatbags holding them. Just don't get too upset when these low-probability shots go wild, wing your targets and piss them the hell off.