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Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel Preview
game: Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel
posted by: Aaron Stanton
date posted: 09:10 AM Sat May 24th, 2003
last revision: 07:06 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

It\'s been nearly five years since I last played what I consider to be one of the greatest RPGs of all time, Fallout 2, and still, on the late nights when my blood courses warm with gin and I\'m reminiscing of the old times, I find myself retelling stories involving my trusty scope-modified rifle and ever-handy Gatling gun. Apparently lost upon the world at large, Fallout 2 mixed humor, guns, and a closed-road plot structure to provide an experience that was second-to-none. Not entirely satisfied with Fallout Tactics, I\'ve been on the lookout for another Fallout game almost since the day the last title laid waste to the tiny, Sims-like characters that populated the inside of my computer. In a desperate act of applied psychology, therefore, when my editor assigned me to cover PC titles only at this year\'s E3, I stared sullenly at the blacktop toes of his shoes and mumbled, \"Yes, sir,\" in such a whinny and pathetic voice that he quickly retreated a step, and, possibly concerned I might lash out, grumbled, \"Alright. And maybe an Xbox game or two.\"

Yes!, I thought to myself. Passive aggressiveness wins again! One positive side effect of keeping your editor dubious of your mental stability is that he doesn\'t stand between you and the games. Instead, as I heard him once remark to a fellow reviewer, eyes wearily directed at me, he just \"tries to keep everyone happy.\" When he says everyone, he really means the wild-eyed figure huddled in the corner of the hotel room, clutching his pre-E3 Nokia backpack, caressing it and muttering, \"Precious.\"

In other words, me.

So on the first day of E3 this year, I bee-lined for the functioning demo of Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel for the Xbox, wedged between two displays of Brute Force. I dropped everything I was carrying, even my prized Cat-in-the-Hat transparent mouse I\'d picked up at another booth, and dove in. A passing spectator hesitated to watch.

\"Mind if I play?\" he asked after a moment. I gave him a blank look.

\"Precious?\" I asked, and did an impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of Total Recall. The man wandered quickly away.

Built on the engine of another game I greatly enjoyed, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel resembles Baldur\'s Gate: Dark Alliance on more than just a passing glance. Much of Baldur\'s Gate\'s equipment screen and camera perspectives have made the transition from wizards and warlocks to post-apocalyptic chaos virtually intact.

Just as Baldur\'s Gate ditched its turn based combat in favor of a more action oriented fighting system in the transition to Dark Alliance, Fallout waves goodbye to the slow paced, turn-by-turn way of settling personal disputes. In its place is an easy to use locking system that allows you to target different enemies and keep them in sight using your trigger fingers (on the Xbox, at least), and waste them with the weapon of your choosing. If you\'re a fan of the franchise, don\'t expect the same pace of gameplay as in the past; Brotherhood of Steel has been streamlined for console play, which in some ways means it\'s been dumbed down. Yet many things are the same. Brotherhood of Steel promises over 50 different weapons, not counting armor and items, including everything from a rail gun to a portable Gatling gun that dispenses bullets like my old Super-soaker 2000 dispensed water (with a bit more range). It remains to be seen if this will satisfy fans used to the 80+ weapons I counted off-hand in Fallout 2. Still, the graphical effects are cool. At the time, I felt an overwhelming desire to show them off, to share the experience.

\"Look,\" I exclaimed, startling the nearest stranger, who happened to be a young woman in a Dead Alive T-shirt, as I pointed to the screen. \"Like a super-soaker 2000!\"

She brandished pepper spray.

Evidently, not everyone shares my enthusiasm for mowing down two-headed cow-like creatures locked in a stockyard. No matter. She was promptly arrested and charged with \"threatening a nerd with deodorant\", which apparently is a crime in California during E3. I hesitated a moment, experiencing guilt at having been responsible for the woman\'s expulsion from the show ? she was probably one of the three women not there fulfilling her obligation to a modeling agency, which meant I\'d just alienated one of the three girls who might have smiled at me even though not being paid to ? and then returned to my game. After all, there were still two other fish in the sea.

The Fallout series was originally defined by a number of elements; the three on the top of my list besides the weapons are humor, story, and closed-road pathways. Brotherhood\'s website promises that the game is \"darkly humorous\", but can they match the gutsy style of the originals? I can still remember encountering the bridge keeper from Monty Python and the Holy Grail during one of the random encounters of Fallout 2, and the ability to use the \"holy hand grenade\" as a rather effective weapon. How about discovering the crashed Star Trek shuttlecraft, or the caf? containing characters from Fallout 1 that didn\'t reappear in Fallout 2? Or the ability to become poisoned after . . . *cough* . . . assisting at the adult film studio? It remains to be seen whether or not Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel contains the same humor, but if they can pick up in the strand that Fallout 2 left off, Brotherhood will be worth playing not only for the action, but for the laughs as well.

Yet humor isn\'t all that Fallout had under its belt. The Fallout universe was a dark and richly imagined world, containing racial tensions (between the mutants ? some of them friendly ? and regular humans), and some rather complex ideas. Additionally, Fallout was one of the first games to offer what I call closed-road plotting, meaning that your actions or inactions directly affected how you could play the game. I can still remember accidentally killing a child during a raid early in the game, only to discover posters of myself scattered from town to town, hunted as a \"child-killer\". There was at least one village I was never able to enter due to that single act of violence. Had I played more considerately, other options, and more roads, would have become available. There is some question as to whether or not such an open-ended form of gameplay can fit into the Baldur\'s Gate: Dark Alliance engine; that game walked the players along a linear path. Yet the development team promises ample opportunity to develop your character on quests.

And another benefit of using the Baldur\'s Gate engine; you can now venture co-operatively into Fallout with a friend. Ah, I thought to myself, no more having to tolerate my friends staring over my shoulder, trying to distract me while they steal the mouse. No more having others touch my character. Mine. Mine, mine, mine. Having seen enough to whet my appetite, I left Fallout in all its glory, feeling dark and depressed. October, Fallout\'s expected release date, seemed so far away. I slouched, letting my shoulders droop, and sulked away. After leaving Microsoft\'s area, I passed a large cardboard castle showing the new Two Towers game.

\"May I have your autograph, Mr. Gollum?\" someone asked me, apparently mistaking me for one of the characters dressed up for the booth. I stepped away, curling protectively around the small press card that I\'d later use to gather more information about Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel.

\"Precious?\" I asked defensively, and sniffed at him to see if I could get a scent of danger.

That fellow, too, quickly wandered away.

October seems too far off.