For the moment, at least.
Bethesda made a series of choices that led us to this pass. First, when developing Fallout 3, they decided to try to adapt Fallout into a first-person game. That makes Bob very, very sad, but it’s reasonable. First-person “roleplaying games” are apparently very popular in this day and age, even if I find the popularity of the Elder Scrolls titles frankly baffling.
I have never seen a “first-person roleplaying game” done well. I don’t believe it’s possible, actually. VATS or no VATS, I have the feeling that most of the time my ability to succeed in a combat situation is going to have less to do with my ability to devise tactics and my character’s ability to execute them than with my own ability to play an FPS game. This egregious break from character is a hallmark of every attempt at first-person roleplaying I have so far seen, and Fallout 3 promises to be no different.
3D was a good move. That’s just updating your graphics. I’m not going to miss turns or hexes either. I understand why they were used at the time, but they were always kind of a problem, and it’s good to see them go. RPGs over the last few years have shown us that you can do (pausing) realtime, granular coordinates, and 3D graphics, and retain much the same tactical character-based combat you’d expect from a Fallout. Just with less stupid.
First-person, however, is by no means necessitated by going 3D or realtime, and practically demands that where the player points his gun is more or less where the bullet goes, thus making the game more of a shooter than an RPG. Sure, it will have non-combat interactions. Likely plenty of them, but those gain nothing and (in my opinion) lose quite a bit from the first-person perspective. There’s really no benefit. Which is why, though first-person views are available in most third-person RPGs, people generally don’t use them. Similarly, though third-person views are often available in first-person “RPGs,” they don’t get much use, especially in combat. Why? Because it’s hard to aim in third-person. But that isn’t supposed to be my job anyway. That’s why my character has a “Small Guns” skill.
And make no mistake, from everything I’ve heard, Fallout 3 is trying and succeeding in being the successor to both title lines. It’s the next Fallout. It’s the next Oblivion. A lot of Oblivion’s more unfortunate features are supposed to have made an appearance, and I don’t know if I like that much Elder Scrolls (or Oblivion specifically) in my Fallout.
And the big problem is that there’s no immediate way to find out. Sources say there’s no demo planned. For a game of such dubious pedigree, this is a title-killer for me. If I can’t try before I buy, I’m not going to buy. I have better things to do with my time and money.
Of course, there are other ways to try something before you buy it. And I’m not talking about renting (being forced to rent a title just to see how it plays strikes me as egregious.)