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Natural Born Killer

Part 1: An experiment in genocide, using Fallout 3.

So where were we? Yes, Megaton. Well, as you now know even if you haven't played the game, it's entirely possible to detonate the unexploded warhead sitting at the centre of the Wasteland's most welcoming municipality. But that's boring: it's been written about too many times, and while it was a brave step on Bethesda's part in terms of player agency, it doesn't require that much initiative to pull it off. And what's more, to go through with the quest would be to revoke my status as an equal-opportunity sociopath: as Moriarty's pub explodes into claret-coloured pandemonium, the sinister Mr. Burke sits in the corner, having conspired with me about levelling the town. He's smug: he thinks that because we are both evil, I will let him live. Not so, Mr. Burke: I shoot him twice in the chest with the now-limbless Billy Creel's Scoped .44 Magnum, and then knock his head clean off with a lead pipe I happen to be carrying (I am an RPG collectophile). Hilariously, this act gives me a slight whiff of positive karma: one suspects Bethesda feels two wrongs do ultimately make a right.

As I step outside, the chaos continues. Some of Megaton's remaining citizens have positioned themselves at various vantage points throughout the area, and are now attempting to ferry me off to the Malebolge. I pick off the most dangerous, sniper rifle-wielding one long-distance, and take a moment to watch one of his eyeballs roll off a ledge onto the dirt below. After that, I sprint along Megaton's raised walkway, frantically disassembling anyone with the audacity to aim a fork at me.

It's gruelling work, actually, especially since health-giving Stimpaks are hard to come by early on in the game. Handily, the remaining denizens - all members of the Church of Atom, who were apparently oblivious to the horrors unfolding outside - are asleep, so it's just a matter of stabbing them to death before they have a chance to crawl out of beds and cry for sweet mercy. Finally, I notice a grazing Brahmin cow just outside what was Doc Church's surgery about 20 minutes ago. Following several unsuccessful attempts to penetrate its unyielding hide with a combat knife, I give up and obliterate its two heads with a Bottlecap Mine.

Standing in the mess of internal organs, severed forearms, and discarded firearms, several strange things occur to me: first and foremost, this play-style is so completely alien to everything I understand about open-ended gameplay that I will have to radically rework how I approach the game. Collecting, for instance, is out: it slows me down, and, well, who's going to buy all my junk? They're all dead. This, I must say, is oddly liberating: I can forget about collecting bottlecaps (Fallout's currency), because if I really want something from a shop, I can just set the vendor on fire and steal what I need.

The second thing I realise, perhaps a little too late, is that I can no longer rely on anyone. No doctors, no ammo-salesmen, no henchmen - no one. This usually isn't much of a problem, but now that I'm a ruthless killer, I've found I need help more than ever. The utterly insane firefights that result from walking into a well-populated town and beheading the nearest bystander are a serious drain on my health supplies, and I've found that, unlike in my first playthrough, I've been needing to chug down Fallout's wide selection of performance-enhancing substances just to survive. Which brings its own issues: I'm now addicted to three separate drugs (Med-X, Jet, and Buffout), and without a physician around to cure me of my dependency, I wonder whether it's actually going to be possible to achieve my objective. (I think this is how Bobby Gillespie feels every day.)

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