They are three of the most hyped games of E3 – Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5 and the new AAA pretender Left 4 Dead. They are two of the most powerful, influential and deeply hungover games journos on the planet Stephen Pierce, the Global Editorial Director of GamesRadar and George Walter the Editor of GamesRadar UK. We put them all together to see if these highly anticipated games deserve their hype. But with only around 20 minutes with each game and some astonishingly average gaming prowess on display the results might surprise you.
How do you do justice to an Oblivion-sized sci-fi RPG in a mere 20 minutes? Simple answer? You don't; you just wander around a vast post-apocalyptic wasteland in a race to find something to do during your rapidly decreasing time-slot.
However, it's just enough time to see the potential of the Mad Max-inspired atmosphere and in my view it's far more appealing than the fairytale swords and sorcery of Bethesda's other RPG franchise.
I say hints because in the time-frame I had to play Fallout 3 I only have brief encounters with the beasts that inhabit it. First time up, Stephen breaks out of the vault and decides to follow the compass over to a group of NPCs accompanied by a kind of two headed Yak. Rather than chat to them and encourage them to be his friends (you can have up to three compatriots) he ineffectually attempts to pickpocket them right in front of their eyes, with very little skill. The result is that within 10 minutes of the demo he's managed to get two very persistent enemies following him around the map, twatting him in the head whenever they get close enough. There doesn't seem to be any way of killing them either. Time to reset.
On the second attempt I get a bit more luck and confront a few of Fallout 3's savage wild dogs. Time to test out the much-vaunted V.A.T.S. Hitting the B button brings up one of your character's tools – the Vault Assisted Targeting System. Essentially it allows for strategic shooting by freezing time and highlighting individual target points on whatever you want to kill. Moving between the target areas you can choose to attack the head, legs and torso etc and then hit A to unleash the bullets.
Our main problem with this is it didn't guarantee the death of your enemy (in most cases a kind of zombie dog) – despite having been shot in the head, legs and stomach. If you have to keep using the V.A.T.S to kill things there's a danger it could lead to very stop-start gameplay. Plus – the hand gun you start off with requires significant trigger pumping before you fatally wound anything, the best option is to go for the spectacularly gory headshot. It's worth noting that weapons do in fact deteriorate over a period of use, but mine seemed to be pretty much useless off the bat.
Elsewhere, much of my time is spent walking. And occasionally running. And then walking again. I've noted that the detail on the arid environment and decaying cityscape is diverting, but in this demo, eerily unpopulated. The sole hint at the dark humor of the game, promised through the cod-public information film trailers, comes when I manage to kill a clown and steal his pointed party hat.
Surprisingly, given the amount of slogging about that needs to be done there are no vehicles. Which seems a bit of an oversight given the scale of the world. See that interesting-looking structure over in the distance? You've got to walk there.
It's through my impatience with this traipsing about that I initiate my downfall – attempting to jump into a dinghy moored at a river I fall into a small triangle of water between the edge of the jetty and the hull of the boat. Cue lots of jumping and no possibility of getting out. Not really the game's fault but insanely irritating.
Does it justify the hype it's been getting? This demo doesn't really answer that. Fallout 3 has been trading on two things – the heritage of the series it is part of and the fact that Oblivion was in many people's eyes the best RPG of recent years. Granted, it looks great and the VATS works, but it's very difficult to say anything other than that until we've had chance to play more in the comfort of our own gaming pit. Ed note: Our PC Gamer brother has done exactly that and spent five hours with it. See his impressions here.
Hype justified?: Semi.