On the last day of E3 last week before coming home and getting violently ill I had a chance to sit down with 30 minutes of Bethesda's Fallout 3. Technically it was supposed to be more like 20 minutes, as they were running behind and I had an appointment coming up, but Fallout 3 is one of those games where 30 minutes passes in the blink of an eye and then Bethesda's Pete Hines has to pry the controller out of your hands. I think I spotted a crowbar behind their booth, just in case.
I got to wander around the shattered landscape, poking at rubble, shooting at people, and trying on clothes. I got my first hands-on taste of the VaultTech Assisted Targeting system, which allows you to pause the action, choose where your bullets are heading on your target's body, and then plays through in slow motion - and there is nothing sweeter than a slow-motion exploding head. It was all very exciting, but as I took a moment to gaze about the room I realized that the most exciting thing about Fallout 3 is what everyone else was doing.
While we all started at the point in the story where we were exiting the Vault we grew up in for the first time, within 15 minutes each of the groups at the six kiosks they had put up in their booth were in completely different places doing completely different things. Some had made a beeline for a nearby settlement, some had found a ruined school building nearby and were involved in combat with some seedy B&D enthusiasts, while others spent a good 10 minutes trying to see if the ruined playground equipment was working from a physics point of view (it wasn't, and yeah...that was me).
Like Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series - especially Oblivion - Fallout 3 is a game that melds itself to the gameplay style of the player, offering something for people who want to explore, kill, or try on different clothing. By the time my 30 minutes was up I was wearing Mad Max-style bondage armor and a baseball cap, while others didn't even bother going into their inventory at all, the barbarians.
The variety is really something to keep in mind when the game comes out and the reviews start pouring in, as the Fallout 3 the reviewers play could potentially be a totally different game than the one you play. The foundation that Bethesda has laid down for you is excellent, but as with any open-world game the experience is ultimately what you make of it.