Fallout 76 is a multi-player Fallout game with a robust single-player option—or vice-versa, depending on your outlook. Its unusual classification has people asking, "How does VATS—The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System—work this time around?" It's a legit question, given how the system's been part and parcel of Fallout's combat since the series entered the third dimension with 2008's Fallout 3.
In the time I spent with Fallout 76's at last week's hands-on event in West Virginia, I came to think of its version of VATS as a glorified Z-targeting system. It's not as bad as I'm making it sound, but what you have access to as soon as you step out of Vault 76 isn't the familiar version of VATS that slows time down to a crawl while you read percentages over your foe's extremities and decide if you're going to shoot off a leg or an arm (or else just go for the head).
Since Fallout 76 is technically a multiplayer experience, you can't just make time dance to your whims. Instead, pressing the left bumper on your controller brings up a generalized percentage that reads your foe's potential as a target. If you see a very nice "69%," that's how likely your shots are to connect.
There are Perception Perk Cards that let you target your enemies' limbs, which brings Fallout 76's VATS closer to a traditional Fallout game's. There's also a Luck Perk Card, "Mysterious Stranger," that causes a mystery person to occasionally lend their firepower when you activate VATS. Targeting a monster or mutant without the aid Bullet Time is difficult—percentages change rapidly as enemies dart to and fro—so the Mysterious Stranger Perk Card might be Bethesda's way of giving single players a better chance at protecting themselves.
I've never been a huge fan of VATS; I feel like it breaks up the pace of Fallout games. Still, I'm happy to lean on it when a firefight gets sticky. The "real time" VATS in Fallout 76 works as a quick-and-dirty auto-targeting option but given how enemies' hit percentages zip up and down depending on how busy the on-screen action is, I just fell back on manual targeting when the action heated up. Manual aiming was fine for me in the early hours of the adventure, but I can't say whether I'll miss traditional VATS once I'm 10, 20 hours in.
PCGamer notes the "badass" feeling that comes with using VATS is essentially gone because there aren't any cinematic close-ups of your best headshots. And Polygon points out Fallout 76's VATS feels a little toothless, but there are indications it might become more useful in later levels.
Fallout 76's VATS still isn't bad if you're playing the game on consoles, but players who prefer a mouse-and-keyboard setup might have a hard time getting used to this new and imprecise VATS. We'll see what happens when Fallout 76 comes to market on November 14. Meantime, we already have a lot of Fallout 76 guides for you to dig into. You're also going to want to get a feel for how nukes work in the game.
(Thanks to Polygon for the VATS example images.)