For every title, there’s always a signature element that lends it its name. In the case of Bestheda’s Fallout series, that’d be the Vault-Tech Assisted Targeted System, VATS for short – although it only came into play from the third iteration onwards.
Naturally, the system has evolved from one game to another, but the basics remain the same. Here’s some context: In combat, time gets slowed down dramatically for players to land shots on individual body parts without needing to be actual sharpshooters. In essence, it’s like an aimbot of sorts, but with reduced time speed. Since then, VATS has become part of the franchise’s core mechanics, and director Todd Howard has confirmed its presence in Fallout 76, following fans’ concerns on whether it’ll be retained – though there’s a twist in store.
In an interview with Geoff Keighley, he expressed:
It’s real-time. It doesn’t slow time, but it lets you target and pick parts and all of that, but it’s real-time. It still works great. It’s different, obviously, because it’s real-time, but the basics of it, which are, ‘I can’t really – I’m not that good of a twitch shooter’…You can kind of picture how it works. Like, I’m not as good as lining up someone and getting a headshot, but I’ve made my character good at VATS, and now I can do that.
Wow, that’s a lot of ‘real-time’ usage right there.
While it’s absolutely delightful that the highly-anticipated title will come with a revamped VATS system, it does raise questions on its application to a multiplayer world. Unlike past Fallout games, Bethesda’s latest project features a player-versus-player environment, and that means the inevitable entry of ill-mannered, overcompetitive tryhards into the fray. Cue over-inflated egos, and negative reactions towards being defeated by someone perceived to be a less-skilled gamer.
Howard is aware of the issue regarding player toxicity, and assures that measures are in the works to ensure that the online-only world doesn’t become a gathering spot for such individuals. His words are backed up by Bethesda’s senior vice-president Pete Hines, who elaborated in an interview with GameSpot:
When you see a person in the world, they’re a real person, and now you have to figure out [what role they play]…maybe they’re being super helpful, maybe they’re wandering the world as a trader and just trading with people, maybe they’re being a bad guy and they’re part of a raider group. [We allow] for that sort of tension but with systems in place that keeps it from being abusive. So you can’t be harassed by somebody who just keeps chasing you around the world and keeps killing you over and over again; the game literally doesn’t allow that to happen to you.
Building upon the above statement, he also mentioned that death isn’t “a super negative thing” in the game, because players still get to retain their inventory when they start over – which in a way, kind of defeats the whole purpose of versus play.
But perhaps here’s another look at it. Hines emphasised that the world of Fallout 76 isn’t a dog-eat-dog one, and rather, serves as a challenge than the ‘no matter what I want to do to somebody, I can’ mindset. Driving home his point, he brought up the example of fighting a Deathclaw in Fallout 4, where players can either decide to move on or to try again after respawn, stating how that should “work for any human person” as well.
The reintroduction of the VATS system is certainly pleasant news for long-standing fans of the series, although there’s no denying the impact it may bring to the multiplayer base. Bethesda vows to continue supporting and tweaking the mechanics over time, however, which means players can expect a more enjoyable experience ahead.