You can say a video game has really made it to the next level of commercial appeal when it gets treated to a midnight launch event. Only a handful of games rise to that level, including Halo 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, and (more for being a cult favorite) Super Smash Brothers.
Somewhat surprisingly, Bethesda's Fallout 3 is the next game to get the midnight launch treatment--the game industry equivalent of a red carpet premiere. The game is buzz-heavy, to be sure, but lacks the clear mass-market appeal of Halo or GTA, and is the kind of talky, drawn-out, plot-driven role-playing game that usually appeals mostly to serious gamers, not the adrenaline-fueled, trigger-happy masses.
Best Buy stores will be opening at midnight on October 27 in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Chicago. The New York event is being held at the same midtown Best Buy that hosted last year's Halo 3 launch, which featured, massive TV coverage and a visit from a full squadron of costumed characters from the game.
Having spent the last week playing Fallout 3, we can safely say it's one of the year's best gaming experiences. Built around the same game engine as Bethesda's 2006 hit Oblivion, Fallout 3 keeps the same wide-open world and morally gray decision-making, but trades the swords and sorcery for guns and high-tech gadgets in a post-nuke Washington, D.C.
Still, the new game isn't as accessible as Oblivion, which had miles of lush forests to explore and cities full of friendly (and not-so-friendly) people to talk to. The storyline in Fallout 3 takes a few hours to really kick in, there are fewer people around, and the terrain is much sparser and more dangerous (expect to be reloading your game a lot). The drab palette and post-apocalyptic environment make for an experience that isn't exactly uplifting.
But don't let that scare you off. Investing some time into the game eventually opens it up (we're about 20 hours in so far), and there are few moments in gaming as satisfying as firing a shoulder-mounted nuke at a 20-foot mutant giant, right after using your chemically enhanced charisma to charm a much-needed MacGuffin out of a wasteland trader.
Washington, D.C., area
Rockville, Md. - 1200 Rockville Pike
Tysons Corner, Va. - 8449 Leesburg Pike
New York area
New York, N.Y. - 44th And 5th
Westbury, N.Y. - 1100 Old Country Road
Los Angeles area
Glendale, Calif. - 2909 Los Feliz Blvd.
Pasadena, Calif. - 3415 E. Foothill Blvd.
Chicago, Ill. - 1000 W. North Ave.
Downers Grove, Ill. - 1432 Butterfield Road
Plano, Texas - 2800 N. Central Expy.
Fort Worth, Texas - 6750 West Fwy.
Roseville, Minn. - 1643 Country Road B2
Richfield, Minn. - 1000 W. 78th St.