A lot of times you’ll hear about religious lunatics who can’t wait for the impending apocalypse. I never understood how they can look forward to something as utterly tragic as Doomsday.

Well, I have seen the blasted, radioactive future—and it is fun. Assuming our hands and eyeballs haven’t melted into goo, we can all anticipate an endlessly entertaining nuclear aftermath, as portrayed by Fallout 3.

The best way for me to describe Fallout 3, at a glance, is “Sci-Fi Oblivion”. The game controls just like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but with a prevalent futuristic style. Everything from your initial exit from the vault (akin to the eye-opening “sewer escape” moment from Oblivion), to the options menu you carry around on your character’s arm, screams high-tech.

Of course, it’s futuristic to a point. After the bombs fell, humanity was blasted back a couple of centuries in terms of civilization, so you’re essentially wandering around a post-nuclear version of the Wild West. Tons of irradiated animals, gangs of outlaws, and struggling denizens are scattered throughout the baked landscape. The survivors have cobbled together a few makeshift machines, like an automatic turret I encountered that was protecting a scavenger’s filthy RV, but for the most part these people seem to live off the land.

It’s soon apparent that your cushy life inside Vault 101 has only delayed your exposure to the char-broiled real world. When you first exit the Vault, you’re struck with a blinding light—after all, this is the first time your character has ever seen the sun. On the ground outside is a handwritten sign: “We’re Dying, Assholes.” A nearby road sign declares “Scenic Outlook”, but the only view is of a broken overpass and miles of blasted desert.

We only had thirty minutes to explore this world, so we’ll have to wait until later this year to enjoy the other 99 and a half hours of gameplay that I expect from the developers of Elder Scrolls IV. Fallout 3 lets you customize every little perk and stat, and one of the more intriguing abilities is “Lady Killer”, which gives you the option of seducing the women you talk to, and an attack bonus when fighting against female enemies.

Speaking of combat, much has been written about the VATS combat system in Fallout 3, a sleek combination of real-time first person shooting and turn-based strategy. Hitting the right bumper lets you individually target body parts, but this hardly assures a quick kill. You might pause the game, aim four shots right at a creature’s head, and afterwards find that you’ve only made it angry. Then you have to run away to replenish your action points and repeat the process, or suck it up and go toe-to-toe in real time like a regular shooter.

Needless to say, this system works beautifully, and it is completely unlike any FPS or RTS game I’ve played. The possibilities seem pretty cool—you can wait until a giant radioactive gopher is in mid-pounce before pausing the game to target its ugly face. Later enemies may require you to target particular body parts in the correct order to disarm them or inflict the most damage.

With time for the demo running short, I equipped my portable radio. This lets you pick up transmissions, which can only be heard if you’re within range. The one I settled on was a radio address from the President of the United States, who was explaining the necessity of keeping the details of his election a secret for matters of national security. “Rest assured,” he said, “I was fairly elected by the right people.”

He went on to explain that at the time when his term expires, he will leave America’s democracy in the hands of the people with a worthy successor. This sort of makes you wonder—can my Fallout 3 character pursue the highest political aspirations? Can you become the President of the United States?

It seems almost anything is possible in Fallout 3. From the character customization, to the extremely dense wasteland for you to explore, this is a game that will send players down hundreds of different paths, tied together with a story and humor that can’t be found anywhere else. Begin the countdown— Fallout 3 launches on October 7.