Fallout 76 will have 'real-time' VATS

The Vault-Tech Assisted Targeting System—VATS—has been a staple of Bethesda-brand post-nuclear combat since Fallout 3. It's evolved from game to game, but the basics remain the same: It dramatically slows time in the midst of combat, enabling players to target individual body parts without having to be actual sharpshooting masters. One of the big questions about Fallout 76 is how that time-slowing will work in its multiplayer environment—if it's going to be there at all. 

It will be present, Todd Howard said in an interview with Geoff Keighley, but not quite as we've seen it previously. 

"It's real-time," Howard said. "It doesn't slow time. But it lets you target and pick parts and all of that, but it's in 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 head shot, but I've made my character good at VATS, and now I can do that." 

I can kind of picture how it might work, I suppose, and I give full credit to Bethesda for coming up with VATS in the first place, an elegant translation of OG Fallout-style combat to the first-person perspective of Fallout 3 and beyond. That gives me hope that it can work in a multiplayer setting, too. But I also have to wonder if it might not wash so well in a PvP environment, where players sometimes don't react particularly well to being taken down by someone they perceive to be a less-skilled player. 

Howard addressed that concern to an extent, saying that Bethesda is working to ensure that the online-only game world doesn't become a haven for jerks. "We don't want it to be griefy, but we want to have some drama there," he said.

"There is a way that you can decide to do PvP, and we're currently balancing the incentives for someone who wants to be very aggressive to people, and those who want to ignore it. That really comes down to the end-game incentives, and also the social incentives. But we don't want it to be griefy in any way, and we'll dial it in so that people can say, 'Look, I don't want to deal with that'."   

That doesn't mean you can choose to completely remove yourself from the dangers of the Wasteland, however, as Howard made clear in his hesitant response when asked if players can opt out of PvP entirely. "We want a little bit of drama there, without them ruining your game," he said. 

Samuel and Tom had a chat about their initial E3 impressions of Fallout 76 that you can dive into, and we're also keeping a running tally of everything we know about it. It's set to come out on November 14. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.