E3's 2015 showcase pretty much gave Bethesda fans their hearts' desire when the Fallout 4 demo was presented in front of a fully anticipating audience. Need I say that Bethesda pretty much stole the entire showcase when they did? No? Well, I'll say it again: they clearly knocked the gaming releases out of the ballpark.
So I'm here to talk about Fallout 4's predecessor, which, in all fairness, came out in 2008, so yes, I will consider this an appropriate retrogaming topic.
Fallout 3 is part of the Fallout franchise, easily half of Bethesda's most popular franchise to date (the other half is their fantasy Elder Scrolls franchise). It is a speculative, post-apocalyptic open-world adventure game (whew, that's a long description) and takes place in the ruins of Washington, D.C. in 2277. Two hundred years after nuclear bombs were released due to a Chinese-US conflict, the United States is a barren wasteland, filled with ruined buildings, irradiated creatures, and survivors who have since tried to patch things back together as much as they can.
The game follows the adventures of the Lone Wanderer--male or female, depending on player choice (mine was undoubtedly female)--, who emerges from a Vault in the wake of her father's disappearance. Throughout the game, the Lone Wanderer travels across the D.C. Ruins--or what is now known as the Capital Wasteland--and finds that the world is teeming with radiated ghouls, belligerent Super Mutants, and other savory and unsavory characters.
There is a distinct post-apocalyptic '50s feel to the game, which is frankly one of the things I loved about Fallout 3. The clothes, the adverts, even the music are reminiscent of post-WWII American civilization, with the idea of white picket fences and suburban homes with super-cultivated lawns. Juxtapose that with the realities of the Capital Wasteland, and it almost seems surreal that the American dream boils down to ruined houses and irradiated water some 200 years later. But that's speculative fiction for you.
Fallout 3 is open-world. Like Skyrim, the game allows for a third-person or first-person view, and, instead of applying sword and sorcery into the battle system, the Lone Wanderer uses guns and grenades (and Pip-Boys). For the most part, the gameplay system remains similar, and, like Skyrim's Dragonborn, the Lone Wanderer can pretty much do whatever she wants. She can elect to save a town from a raid of Super Mutants, or to set a bomb off in an establishment. She can choose to welcome friendly ghouls into a secure building filled with rich humans, or to loot and pillage and burn their hideout to the ground. She can choose to find her father as soon as she can, or to meander to the opposite side of the Capital Wasteland in search of other Vaults like her own. Again, because of Fallout 3's open-world nature, the sky's the limit with the choices the Lone Wanderer makes.
Now as far as story goes, I admit that the ends are slightly underwhelming compared to the means to get there. There is an overall plot that connects Fallout 3 together, but unlike Bioware's plot and character-driven stories, Bethesda's focus is solely on what the player makes of the game itself. As the Lone Wanderer, you are truly immersed in a world where anything can happen. Heck, you are never obligated to complete the main storyline, and chances are, your first playthrough will find you spending hundreds of hours just doing side quests and exploring areas far from Galaxy News Radio or Rivet City.
And if the environment alone wasn't enough, there is a multitude of characters holding this game together. If you turn the Galaxy News Radio on, you're hearing the voice of Three Dog. If you're stopping by Megaton for some R&R and a stockpiling of ammo, you're talking to Moira Brown, a supplier by day and a burgeoning author by night. If you're moving further south and east, you're encountering the Brotherhood of Steel; north and west, you're meeting up with the Enclave. Depending on the Lone Wanderer's penchant for good or evil, you will encounter the Talon Combat forces--mercenaries more than willing to attack you on sight. There are slavers, ghouls, raiders, Super Mutants, Vault survivors, androids, robots, companions, and a plethora of other folk you can encounter in the Wasteland. One thing's for sure, there is never a lack of entertainment when the Lone Wanderer travels.
I can honestly say I'm on my third or fourth playthrough of Fallout 3, and I'm still discovering places I'd never gone to before and meeting people I'd never seen before. That in itself makes for an awesome game.