As I stockpile more and more weapons in "Fallout 3," I've discovered the first Xbox 360 game forcing me to curse the controller's d-pad.

Your weapons in "Fallout 3" are assigned to each area of the d-pad. The game allows you to pre-assign up to eight hot keys -- up, down, left, right and each in-between.

The primary arrows work just fine…it's the diagonals that prove painful.

There's nothing more frustrating than trying to swap to your combat shotgun -- in my case, assigned to the lower right -- and accidentally pulling out your grenades. Please, Mr. Super Mutant, do rip me to shreds. Thanks, d-pad!

Hidden away in Microsoft's press package for "Gears of War 2" that arrived on Wednesday, however, I discovered a red Xbox 360 controller. It doesn't have the tweaked d-pad we've heard about, but it is a new, unused d-pad.

A few minutes spent with the factory-new d-pad did made it feel easier to hit diagonals, but that could just be me hoping it's easier. An improved, more defined d-pad would be the better solution. Instead, I'll probably reduce my weapon load-out to four and ease my frustrations that way.

It's sad that I'm sacrificing a gameplay feature because of a faulty controller, though. Am I the only one finding the d-pad troublesome in "Fallout 3" on Xbox 360?

Open world fears be damned, I am officially addicted to "Fallout 3."

I managed to squeeze in about four hours with "Fallout 3" yesterday afternoon. Then, my girlfriend went to sleep early.

It was midnight, and I could pop in "LittleBigPLanet," which I've sadly ignored, or "Mirror's Edge," a title that's piqued my curiosity but remains wrapped.

They both remained on the shelf.

I put another three hours into "Fallout 3" and forced myself to turn off my Xbox 360 at a little after 3:00 a.m., after finishing the "Reilly's Rangers" quest. Who knew battling through a hotel could take nearly three hours? Well, only if you want to 100% your map...

I'm slightly overwhelmed by the open-ended nature of Bethesda Softworks' post-apocalyptic adventure. There's nothing ever telling me to return to the main quest. I almost have to force myself back on track after a few hours. There can't really be a whole new area to explore with no quest value, can there? It's just there to be there?

I've never played anything like this before. It's very exciting. I feel like I should give "Fallout" a break to try what else is on my desk -- but will I? Hard to say.

What is keeping you up late at night these days?

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There are many "dungeons" in "Fallout 3" that take place in Washington D.C.'s very real underground metrorail system.

For players who walk through the virtual metrorail, Bethesda Softworks has included maps that tell you a little bit about where the different routes travel to.

I snapped a picture of "Fallout 3"'s metrorail map that you're seeing above this, and wondered how it compared to the real-life version. Thankfully, there's a nicely comparable map on the metrorail's website!

For a side-by-side comparison, keep reading.


There's a deep sense of attachment for "Fallout" fans. When Bethesda Softworks revealed they were doing "Fallout 3" in a style different from the original games, many old-time fans cried bloody murder.

I always wondered why Bethesda chose to place a three in the title. If they had just named it "Fallout," wouldn't people's expectations have been altered? Fans would be happy with a new "Fallout" game and newcomers wouldn't have a barrier to entry.

Even though my interview with "Fallout 3" product manager Pete Hines is a few weeks old, as "Fallout 3" ships to gamers this week, the question is still relevant. So, Pete, why call it "Fallout 3?"


Microsoft and Bethesda Softworks made a big deal about the exclusive downloadable content coming to "Fallout 3" on Xbox 360 and PC at E3 this year.

So far, though, we've seen that publishers have strayed away from promoting exclusive downloadable content on the packaging or marketing for the games themselves.

That does not appear to have changed for "Fallout 3."

The back of the "Fallout 3" packaging lists "content download" in its feature set, and the instruction manual's section on the game's main menu describes an area set aside for "Downloads -- View any Downloadable Content you have obtained for Fallout 3." But if you pull up "downloads" in the game, it simply states there is "no new content available."

"Fallout 3" is a big, big game. I wonder how quickly Bethesda will roll out new content for gamers this time. How soon do you want it?

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Piracy remains one of the biggest issues facing PC gaming these days.

Last week, "Fallout 3"product manager Pete Hines told me that some development studios now calculate that up to half of their customer support calls involve dealing with people who have pirated copies of the game.

That's bad.

Hines discussed the problem of piracy with MTV Multiplayer just days before, ironically, the Xbox 360 version of "Fallout 3" leaked. Piracy is still far more prevalent on the PC side, which has serious implications for studios like Bethesda Softworks, whose development bread-and-butter has been PCs.

"It is probably the most...[long pause]...probably the most difficult issue specifically facing PC gaming right now," said somberly-toned "Fallout 3"product manager Pete Hines to me after playing four hours of his new game a few weeks ago. "How are we gonna walk that line?"

With this kind of concern at Bethesda, you'd never guess what kind of copy-protection they're putting on "Fallout 3"...

Since our talk, circumstances have changed. "Fallout 3" has leaked. But the problems remain the same. The biggest obstacle, explained Hines, is figuring out who actually is a pirate. Read More...

There are two morality-themed video games coming your way this month, "Fallout 3" and "Fable II," and each approaches the idea differently. There's good, evil and shades of gray. Perceiving those variations is where they differ.

In "Fallout 3," there is good karma and bad karma. It goes up and down, but you're never told that in any numerical sense. "Fable II" takes the opposite approach. Each good and bad action has a number attached to it -- +40 evil, +50 good, etc. While it's not that simple in either game, that is the basic idea.

While reading through Crispy Gamer's write-up of the same "Fallout 3" session I attended in San Francisco, "Fallout 3" product manager Pete Hines explained why Bethesda Softworks didn't give a numerical association to the karma system.

Coincidentally enough, I had asked "Fable II" creator Peter Molyneux about whether he'd considered ditching numbers for his game, too, just a few weeks ago. I just never ran the quote. But today, you can check out both views!


Open-world games scare the crap out of me. I have no problem admitting that.

I passed on "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" and never finished a "Grand Theft Auto" game until the most recent one. Maybe that's why I enjoy games like "Mega Man 9" so much; too much choice scares me away.

It's with this attitude I spent four hours with Bethesda Softworks' latest, "Fallout 3," last week at a morning preview event in San Francisco. We were told to avoid the main quest; that's a secret. The mandate made me panic -- the next four hours would be nothing but choice.


"You know, if we f--- this game up, nobody's gonna want to touch us with a ten foot pole. [Our attitude is] we're a game company, let's make the best game we can make and all that other stuff can sort its self out once we're doing our job. Our job is not to try and make a thing that would make a great movie, we have to make a great game. If somebody says 'we wanna do this, this is the guy who's gonna direct it,' then yeah! [laughs] If Quentin Tarantino wants to do 'Fallout 3,' yes, we will hear that proposal! [laughs harder] If Ridley Scott wants to do 'Fallout 3,' we will have that lunch!"

-- "Fallout 3" product manager Pete Hines on whether Bethesda Softworks would be open to the idea of a movie based on their new game

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Are you unsure about which version of "Fallout 3" to buy next month?

If you're interested in getting the most out of you post-apocalyptic experience, you'll probably want either the Xbox 360 or PC versions. Bethesda Softworks is delivering downloadable content for "Fallout 3" to those versions, not to the PS3.

Bethesda still isn't saying what the content will be. But they at least offered Multiplayer a size estimate. It will be bigger than Bethesda's infamous horse armor download for "Oblivion," the studio's product manager, Pete Hines, laughed. How much bigger? Hines pointed towards the "Knights of the Nine" content for "Oblivion" as a base of comparison for "Fallout 3" content. It just won't be as substantial as full-fledged expansion pack, as "Shivering Isles" was, he explained.

Following a four-hour session with a near-final build -- more on that later -- I asked Hines which version of "Fallout 3" that people will flock to. Read More...

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