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Above: Fallout 3's Pip-Boy in action
The rest of character creation takes you through your tenth birthday, when you meet friends and get presents, including a comic book, a bb gun and a Pip-Boy, which will be your lifelong portable computer. You assign skills and perks that each uniquely effect your character, and life continues sheltered behind the protective steel door of Vault 101 until around the time you turn 19, when your father mysteriously disappears. Defying everything you've been taught growing up through the first hour or so of the game, you head out into the post nuclear wasteland to go find your daddy.
After seeing the beginning of the game we were delighted by how the mechanics felt so natural in the game world. Impressively, the tutorial wasn't boring to watch, but we were itchin' to see some ghouls explode or melt - either way. Instead of ghouls the first fight was to help out a recruitable companion. We don't know exactly when you find Dogmeat, because the quest happens at a random time, but we do know it happens in a junkyard. His owner is killed by several men, and if you save him, Dogmeat becomes your companion. You can give him stimpacks to heal him, order him to find things, tell him to help you in combat or just talk to him. However, once he dies, Dogmeat can't be brought back from doggy heaven. Most of the game will be solo, but you occasionally do pick up some companions to help fight the good fight.
The combat is in real time, but it can be paused as long as you have AP (action points) to spend on something called Vault-tech assisted targeting system or V.A.T.S. mode. Activating this mode pauses the game, lets you target individual body parts and act much more quickly than you could in real-time. If you shoot off a leg your opponent will move slowly (and hurt a lot) or if you shoot them in the head it causes blurred vision. It can also cause heads to explode like fireworks while the camera slowly pans around the delightfully messy decapitation.
Your AP gauge is always recharging, but goes faster when you aren't running or performing actions. The amount of AP you use depends on the weapon you're using. You might be able to shoot an SMG three or four times but only shoot a laser rifle twice for the same cost. Hopefully, this will create some strategic choices for combat. Do you want to shoot less and rely on V.A.T.S.? or try to take more of the game on like a standard Shooter?