Spoilers follow! If you haven't played Fallout 3 yet, first of all what are you doing, and second you might want to give this a miss until you have. And even then, it's a bit icky. Check out part one of this series elsewhere on Eurogamer.
Crouching behind a cracked concrete slab, I wait. I'm in Old Olney, the formerly bustling Wasteland town now completely overrun by Deathclaws - gigantic, devastatingly powerful, grotesquely mutated chimeras. I've stumbled into this deathtrap on the way out of Oasis, and am now aiming my Silenced 10mm Pistol at a bottlecap mine I've planted on the patrol route of the Deathclaw who stands between me, moonlight, and freedom. It's all I have left: my shotguns, rifles and minigun are empty. My Tenpenny Combat Armor has so many bulletholes in it that it's about as useful as a latex girdle, and my latest dose of Buffout has worn off, leaving me with two points of health.
I am suffering from three different sets of withdrawal symptoms, making everything a threat. That wandering RoboBrain in the distance, for example: if it sees me, it will liquefy my heart with its long-range laser rifle. The Deathclaws. And then there is the chance I've planted the bottlecap mine too close to my hiding spot, leaving me as collateral damage. When I began this journey, I felt invincible - like Fallout 3 didn't care about the carnage I was inflicting upon its virtual post-apocalyptopolis. Now, the Capital Wasteland has the upper hand.
O Lord, I get down on my knees and start to pray. Wrapped in my mongrel wings, I nearly freeze in the howling wind and the driving rain.
How did it come to this?
My story begins with the Regulators. That ragtag bunch of vigilante dorks I warmly assisted in my saintly incarnation - out of pity, if nothing else - have caught wind of my recent transgressions, and are accosting me at the mouth of Northwest Seneca Station. There they are, three good-hearted, leather-jacketed no-hopers - some of the very few souls actually trying to make the Wasteland a better place - and here I am, my giant, platinum-blond handlebar moustache mercifully covered by a blood-spattered hockey mask. Their leader, a gentleman suffering from the severe ugliness endemic to so many Bethesda Softworks characters, asks me an interesting question before I set to work on disembowelling him and his cohorts: "Do you think you can do all this evil and get away with it?"
Well, actually, I was beginning to wonder. Had Megaton been levelled by the warhead, I could understand some initial confusion - after all, anyone could have set it off, and there were certainly a few Marmite-hearted contenders. Generally, though, it's hard to partake in the shenanigans I got up to there without someone - anyone - noticing. Apparently not: Silver, who lives just outside the now-empty shantytown, was more than happy to invite me inside after I assured her I didn't work for Moriarty (he's dead, I killed him). She was somewhat less chipper when I coated the walls with her viscera.
It was largely the same deal with Tenpenny Tower. As I arrived at the locked gate, the militant ghoul Roy Phillips was pleading with the intercom to let him and his disciples inside. When I finally put Phillips down after a dispiritingly intense firefight, Tenpenny's guards didn't see it as a sign of things to come, but rather an indication that I understood their policy of racial segregation. So in I went.
The tower guards were heavily armed, so I decided to ease myself into it. I took the elevator right up to the penthouse, where Alistair Tenpenny himself - the Howard Hughes-inspired masterfogey behind the conspiracy to blow up Megaton, and the owner of this ostentatious citadel - was taking potshots at molerats from the luxuriance of his balcony. I tried to get his attention - "Prostate time!" - but he told me he was busy. In my angelic Fallout 3 playthrough, I'd helped Tenpenny and Phillips come to a peaceful living arrangement within the tower, only to return and discover that Phillips had slaughtered every non-ghoul inside. I received negative karma when I killed Phillips this time, and was given a curious (and uncomfortable) injection of positive karmic energy when I beheaded Tenpenny and sent him windmilling over the balcony.
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