literally starts the player by being born. You come into a world engulfed in turmoil and on the verge of a global meltdown. The panic has spread and your family, as a last resort, decides to live out the impending nuclear holocaust inside a hardened steel bunker called a Vault. Everything to make life enjoyable can be found in your Vault and you will experience your first birthday party, your first PipBoy, and even your first significant other (if you want) within the first hour of gameplay. Around the time that you turn 19, your Dad has somehow escaped the Vault and traveled out into the barren wasteland. All you have to do is find him. That is the only true goal of Fallout 3
Of course, I say one goal because there are literally hundreds of other quests to go on at any given time. Quests range from anything between gathering scrap metal for a local plumber to becoming a contract killer and retrieving a body part as proof of the dirty deed. The quest structure and quest trees are as close to an MMO as anyone can get without actually being connected online. Anytime a quest is accepted, it is automatically added into your PipBoy, which acts like a P.D.A. of sorts that keeps tabs on the minutia like stats and maps.
The Fallout franchise has been known for two things: perks and skills. Every game was about how you played the character you wanted. If you rolled a high speech character, you could fast talk your way past entire chunks of gameplay without having to kill a single person. Fallout 3 brings all of that back around, but adds in elements of The Elder Scrolls series to create an extremely intimate player-creation experience. The only other time that I have felt such commitment to the character on-screen was in an MMORPG. I truly care about my character, Sir Diddymus, and his exploits in the wastes of Washington D.C.
There are a set of 6 base skills called S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skills that affect core mechanics like endurance and charisma. Then there are 13 regular skills that affect the more personality-driven aspects, like weapon affinity and specializations. On top of all of that, there are Perks. Perks are rewarded after every level earned (max 20) and give you a fundamental change in the way you progress your character. Perks include things like special dialogue options for members of the opposite sex or essentially turning yourself into a ninja. For those that are wondering, yes... Bloody Mess is still in there as well as the buckets of gore that come with it.
Then there is V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System). At any time during combat, you can slow down the pace in order to target specific body parts of enemies. Each part of the body is highlighted and a hit percentage is displayed. That hit percentage changes based a number of different factors, but V.A.T.S. is the safest way to deal damage in Fallout 3. The beautiful thing about it is that you never have to use it. V.A.T.S is completely optional and if someone was so inclined, they could play the entire game like a standard shooter. The camera can be in first person, or you can pull it out to an over-the-shoulder view. This is the most approachable game in a very long time.