by Dave Thier

Fallout 4 is on its way, and we’re all waiting for the big press conference next Sunday to tell us more about it. In the meantime, we get to guess. It’s been a long time since we last had a Fallout game, and this is Bethesda’s first chance to play around with the meaty new hardware of the Xbox One and Ps4. How will this new game evolve with the times? My personal wish list is extensive, as is only natural, but there’s one hallmark of the previous games that I hope Bethesda chooses to leave behind. Longtime Fallout fans already have an inkling of what I’m talking about, probably: V.A.T.S. Hear me out.

For those that don’t know, V.A.T.S., or Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, is essentially a compromise. Fallout 3 and New Vegas were built on the same engine as The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, and that engine was woefully unprepared to handle an actual first-person shooter. Since there was no way to juice it up so that it felt satisfying in an era of Call of Duty, Bethesda instead fell back on the series’ roots, allowing players to pause time and select which part of the enemy they wanted to shoot at, with different hit percentages for each part. It was brilliant at the time: it took what could have been a non-functional shooter and turned into a big, 3D, old school CRPG, with the cinematic flare that came from its myriad slow-mo headshots.

But here’s the thing: V.A.T.S. has served its purpose. It ushered this wonderful series into the modern day, and now it’s time for it to go.

This time around, I want Bethesda to build a shooter that actually works. We’ve seen that stat-based RPG’s and shooters can mix just fine with games like Borderlands and Destiny, and there’s no reason Bethesda can’t make something that feels uniquely Fallout while still giving us functional shooter mechanics. V.A.T.S. just has a way of breaking the gameflow and taking you out of the world, which is a shame when the world is as thoroughly realized as Bethesda games tend to be. I expect this version to be a whole lot more seamless this time around, and the combat is part of that. Getting rushed by a supermutant just doesn’t have the same impact when you can pause time and line up a headshot.

It’s possible that there’s still a place for V.A.T.S. in a new game, but it has to be as an add-on, some sort of special power that only gets rare use. The important thing is that V.A.T.S. can’t be a replacement for an actually functional combat system. It’s 2015: time to get things in order.

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