Have You Played… Fallout 3?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Fallout 4 is just around the corner, but the series’ popularity is so huge that it almost servers to obscure the things which made Fallout 3 [official site] fun in the first place. It’s an easier game to pick holes in than it is to be enthusiastic about.

Partly my enjoyment of Fallout 3 came from not yet knowing the rules of the world. I never played Fallout 1 and 2, and so every new town and house offered the potential for surprise. There was the vampires; the superheroes; the cannibals; that one shop with the Rube Goldberg device in it. It felt like a rich place to explore.

Even if its conversations and people were as stilted and vending machine-like as other Bethesda games, it improved over Elder Scrolls (or at least Oblivion, the newest at the time) in significant ways. Its quest structure, for example, often allowed you to approach the storylines from multiple different angles depending on which town or person you stumbled across first. This meant that you’d always be sure to discover the slavers, for example, but how you did so would feel more natural or personal than Oblivion’s equivalent, which would be ‘Go To Slaver Town, Join The Slaver Guild, Do All The Slaver Quests In A Straight Line’.

I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to another wasteland, but I’m encouraged every time I pause to remember how much fun I had in the last one.


  1. Solidstate89 says:

    Mothership Zeta Crew is a must-have mod for anyone who either hasn’t heard of it and/or hasn’t installed it yet.

    • dontnormally says:

      Go on

      • Solidstate89 says:

        It basically takes the Mothership Zeta DLC and turns into a huge, story driven expansion where you utilize the tech aboard the Mothership Zeta and create your own faction out in the wastes.

    • Siimon says:

      Seems like more of an expansion, is that right? If I were to go play FO3 I’d need something that was a bit more of an update/overhaul, something to make the game a bit less… “stiff”.

  2. prof_yaffle says:

    I agree with the point about not being forced to go through the story in a particular order. The first time I played, after leaving the vault I totally missed all the signs pointing towards Megaton. While wandering lost in the wasteland I met up with the boy whose family had been killed by fire ants and decided that finding him somewhere to live was a priority. Which is how I ended up visiting Rivet city before I visited Megaton.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      It gets even crazier than that, if i recall correctly you can skip right ahead to the vault in which you get trapped in the simulation, just by stumbling upon it!

    • SomeDuder says:

      Yea, I also ran into that sidequest. I remember it mostly because of the inopportune time I encountered it, thinking, “oh, this is just a short thingamajig, no need to empty my inventory”.

      Little did I know that you find some sweet equipment while exploring a large sewer system and fighting creatures which were a challenge at the early levels…

  3. Chaoslord AJ says:

    The game’s much better than its critics. Granted, story and characters are forgetable but the things it does it does well. Satisfying butchering of enemies (in my “austrian” version), open world, lots of weapons. Ok, stealth is bad but it’s Bethesda.
    I also liked classic Fallout including the hated “tactics” but will settle for “Oblivion with guns” or “Skyrim with guns”.

    • theliel says:

      My main problem was not with technical execution, which as said was far superior to Oblivion, but rather the timeframe.

      Setting it just after Fallout 2 but still having the aesthetic of ‘just after the apocalypse’ was very jarring. All the houses were largely still standing and unlooted despite 200ish years of people living in the washington wastes and general ‘how did this go undiscovered for 200 years? Are people that much of idiots?

      Fallout 2 & New Vegas got around this chiefly by being set in the southwest – where you’ll still find abandoned airstrips built in the 40’s sitting intact and largely untouched because of the climate. The second was, at least in New Vegas, you could tell buildings you found had been inhabited multiple times.

      I think it was a major strategic error on top of all that – if they’d started it contemporary with Fallout 1 they could build up the East Coast timeline and then had a capstone game in the mid-west. Parallel the East/West coast development.

      They couldn’t have used Herald but they could have still had the Enclave et. al. Just East Coast versions.

      • Jericho says:

        I agree. One of my major bugbears with FO3 was that the location design included lots of unlooted pre-war buildings, some of which were rather easy to find and get into. But having played the previous Fallout games I knew that it had been around 200 years since the nuclear war, so it never made sense that such unlooted places would exist unless there was a very good reason why no one could do so. The Glow from Fallout 1 is a good example of that, since even in the first game there are very few “intact” pre-war areas. Accounting for and correcting this in New Vegas instantly bumped it up my “best games” list, and I agree that FO3 should have been moved a century or so back in the FO Universe timeline. That wouldn’t have fixed all of the world building problems (like Little Lamplight, uuuugh) but it would have helped a lot.

        • BatmanBaggins says:

          This is unfortunately one of those details that seems important to longtime fans, but most people (and Bethesda probably) couldn’t care less about. Bethesda’s main priority is always just providing a huge, pretty playground (which they do well), and everything else is secondary to that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the inconsistency of the fact that the world still looks like the bombs just dropped despite it actually being centuries later barely even crossed anyone’s mind during development…

          • drewski says:

            I mean, I’m a longtime Fallout fan – played 1 and bounced off it, loved 2, got about halfway through Tactics – but to me things like houses being unlooted just doesn’t matter *that* much. It’s the slightly-too-much salt in the fourth course of an all day degustation – noticeable, but not critical.

            Hopefully Bethesda have learned to have a bit better attention to detail from Obsidian since New Vegas, though.

      • blackmyron says:

        I’m in the middle of replaying New Vegas, and no – it doesn’t get a pass. A factory that has been looted by a town over the course of years… has plenty of loot. That’s the most egregious example, but the fact that the Mojave is ‘crowded’ makes it absurd to find any untouched loot anywhere… except that the game would be rather boring otherwise.

    • MisterFurious says:

      I like how you say that the game is much better than it’s critics and then proceed to list several flaws in the game that were criticized.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        …Then i guess it depends on the weight you personally give to each pro and con?

  4. silentdan says:

    That battle at the end of the game is epic. New Vegas was great, but its ending did not measure up. In fairness, I’m not sure how you top a 30m tall laser-toting warbot laying waste to hordes of your enemies, but quite a lot of 2m tall Yes Men threatening an NCR general didn’t do the trick.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I dunno, I think you could beat it by having the ability to convince the final boss that everything he’s fighting for is futile.

      • silentdan says:

        Opt-out of a fight involving building-sized battlebots? I’m not convinced that the very idea is in any way coherent, but even if it’s theoretically possible, who’s going to spend 40 hours murdering their way through the wasteland, only to look an obedient war golem square in the ankle, and say “Oh, no. Nonono, this is completely unethical. Too, far, man, waaaay too far. I’m out.”

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          But said robot is not the boss, it’s your pet!

          Wait, i think that makes your point even more valid now.

      • Supahewok says:

        My favorite way of finishing NV is convincing the NCR general that the Boomers are on their way to drop a nuke on NCR soil, unless he capitulates to my demands. The best part is that that Speech check isn’t tagged with [Lie], so it leaves it up to your own interpretation whether you’re bluffing, or if you really did send the Boomers off to nuke the NCR. I really love Obsidian’s dialogue choices.

    • suibhne says:

      Alternatively, the ending was an absurd denial of player agency. You’re basically railroaded into a Spock-ian suicide, even if you have a Super Mutant companion standing right next to you who’s basically immune to rads. That’s the basic problem with Bethesda’s overall approach: narrative awesomeness trumps consequential gameplay nearly every time.

      The game is great fun, but the mise en scene isn’t nearly as consistent or compelling as the other FO titles (Tactics excluded).

    • Sakkura says:

      That’s the ending to a DLC, not the main game. The original ending to the main game forced you to either commit heroic suicide or have another do it for you, even though you had the obvious means to avoid any human sacrifice. It was one of the worst plot flaws I’ve experienced in my gaming career.

  5. Jericho says:

    Fallout 3 is in a weird place in my personal ranking of favorite games. When it came out I was so excited to be playing another Fallout game that I fell in love and dumped several hundred hours into it. The modding definitely helped with that, and allowed me to edit or erase all of the mechanics that I came to realize as huge bugbears. Still, the modding could do little to change the ridiculous plot of FO3 and even though I loved the world and engine as a sandbox for my glorious mods, I came to greatly dislike the “vanilla” game and its story.

    And then New Vegas came along and reaffirmed everything that I had despised about FO3’s story and mechanics. For a while after NV’s release I kept telling myself that FO3 was bad and a black mark on the series’ legacy, but soon I remembered that I had still put several hundred entertaining hours into the game. So if I loved playing it so much, how could I possibly hate it at the same time?

    Today, I still think the story and combat mechanics of FO3 are bunk, but the game still had so much right going for it. The world, character, and sound design are all top notch, and it is still fun to play if you approach it as an arcade action game rather than an RPG or survival sim (which I essentially modded NV into).

    So here’s hoping that Bethesda learned from their mistakes in FO3 and can deliver BOTH a wonderful world to explore and a reasonable “plot” to explain our agency within it. No more Super Dads, water/radiation purifiers, immortal cave children, and pushover AI “villains”, m’kay? :)

    • BannerThief says:

      I agree wholeheartedly; F:NV is one of my top 10 games of all time, but F3 is still a fun rollercoaster while you’re on it. I’m cautiously optimistic that the (seeming) focus on the protagonist’s family in the intro is going to result in a slightly more personal story, and maybe that can lead to Bethesda curbing some of their most awful tendencies when it comes to writing. Fingers crossed, but either way, I’ll probably still put 100 hours into it.

      • Jericho says:

        Yeah, I’m almost certain the plot of FO4 will revolve around the player character being a clone or android of the pre-war character you build in the intro. But then again, this is the Fallout universe so it’s entirely possible that the PC was just put in suspended animation in the vault or that the pre-war intro is just a virtual reality program that all dwellers of that particular vault had to go through. Or perhaps something even more insainly sci-fi.

        I don’t really mind if they go nuts with the sci-fi and robots and androids and such as long as it remains somewhat in-universe plausible. What always bothered me about FO3’s story is that it had several huge plot holes that contradicted both itself and the previous Fallout games. Plus for as great as the world design in FO3 was, it made little spatial sense, especially when compared to the towns and general layout of the New Vegas map. For example, in FO3 there is no visible evidence of the massive agricultural space needed to grow enough food to feed the thousands of people and mutants living in the DC area. In fact it’s part of the plot that clean water is a limited resource and that’s why there are no farms, but then where the heck have the thousands of people living there been getting food and water from for the last 200+ years? In New Vegas we got to see the farms and wells that fed and watered the population and we understood why the resource conflict over the Hoover Dam and Vegas was so important.

        I just hope that whoever plotted out FO4’s story took the time and effort to think about those sort of things this time around. Those sort of errors really destroyed the immersion of FO3’s world for me, something that I find really important for a good RPG.

    • klops says:

      I always wonder what kind of person wrote the main story and lots of other things. Did s/he/they rewrite their kids’ action school story or what?

      “Where are you, daddy?”

    • Crafter says:

      >So here’s hoping that Bethesda learned from their mistakes in FO3.

      I hope that they do but I am not optimistic. Sales were very high, so they have little reason to doubt themselves.

  6. Cloudiest Nights says:

    I played more of New Vegas (the better one story-wise and I’d say setting-wise too) but found Fallout 3 to be extremely fun at times. My favourite memories are trying to fight that gang of bandits on the overpass near the start where you leave the Vault. That’s a very fun fight with only a pistol and rifle, collecting their armor and better weapons as you go. I believe one had a flamer, too…

  7. BannerThief says:

    It’s indeed very easy to poke holes in Fallout 3’s design quirks and its shoddy story (especially since New Vegas’ story is so much better and more interestingly structured) but I wouldn’t have put 120 hours into Fallout 3 if it was a bad game. Some of the DLC was very good, and the world was still interesting to explore, even if it wasn’t a very plausible one (what fucking morons would build a town around an undetonated atomic bomb?!? Especially since there’s a perfectly good mall complex 200 yard away.)

    I’m very excited for Fallout 4 all the same; these games scratch a particular itch that no other RPG does for me. The Witcher 3 is a fantastic game, but I think it’s unfair to compare them; they’re not trying to do the same thing.

    And even though I’m 99% sure I heard that Fallout 4 is still on the creaky Gamebryo, it still looks to be a significant improvement graphically. At least the faces emote at the level of late 2000s Bioware characters now, and the models look a lot less like animatronics trying to be human.

  8. Boult Upright says:

    A super innings. 97 hours and could have done more but very impressed with what this presented.

  9. Rizlar says:

    You can side with the slavers?!

    Playing New Vegas recently had me reminiscing about F3’s sprawling open world. The subways were fantastic – you could travel through the tunnels all over the map, never entirely sure where you would pop out. And with the downtown area a concrete maze full of supermutants, there was good reason to explore unpredictable subterranean routes. It really is a fantastic place to explore.

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      The subways were awful contrivances.

      • Rizlar says:

        Not really. They added another layer to the world (pun not intended).

        • anHorse says:

          Like adding a layer of shit to your barm

          • xalcupa says:

            Loved the subway-system. Great atmosphere and initially very creepy. Experienced fun strategic combat with various enemies. Was rather under powered so each fight was tough so I often relied on building traps with explosives. Ahh good times..

      • melancholicthug says:

        Agreed. To whoever thought those subways were a good idea to put into a game: you suck, dude.

      • frobishlumpkin says:

        As someone who’s spent a good amount of time in DC, can’t agree here. They nailed the feel of the Metro and it was one of the few things that made the game really feel believable as a result. I hope they give the T the same treatment for F4.

        • mrbright01 says:

          As a former Bostonite, amen. I am feeling hopeful, with the attention to local detail that has been showcased. I doubt it’ll be a full system like FO3, but I am hoping for at least a couple T stations.

    • Doubler says:

      Most people disliked them, but I’ve always enjoyed exploring the subway tunnels too. There’s a really good mod out there that adds interiors to train carriages, much recommended!

  10. Kefren says:

    On my first game I decided to do it rogue – if I died, start a new game. I was really captivated, and took no risks, running away from trouble. It felt great.

    Then about two hours in I found a creepy camp with lots of human meat – and suddenly a giant came storming towards me, some kind of huge ogre (far bigger than a super mutant), and it smashed me to pieces with a club as I ran away.

    I started a new game, new character, and eventually completed it (using saves this time). What is strange is that I never saw one of those giants again, even when I found that same camp – it was deserted. Days and days of exploration and missions. That giant had become a thing of legend to me. I’ve never heard of anyone else encountering it either.

    • Volcanu says:

      Are you talking about Super Mutant Behemoths? If so there are 5 of them in the game and a whole achievement dedicated to killing them all…

      • Kefren says:

        Maybe – I can’t remember seeing a name. It was just some experience that was over quickly but made a profound impact [sic]. That coudl explain why I didn’t ever see one again (though it is weird that I didn’t see it even when I revisited the place it lived.)

        • Darth Jimmi says:

          I think i know what camp it is you found the “giant” in..
          You have to activate something to trigger his spawn :P
          Hint: It’s a teddy bear caged in a shopping cart :P

    • GreatBigWhiteWorld says:

      If it was a Behemoth, I’m pretty sure that you’re railroaded into fighting at least one of them outside the radio station in order to reach Three Dog. (Surely you recall jamming a mini-nuke into a giant mutant wielding a fire hydrant?)

      • Zenicetus says:

        That’s what I remember too, related to that radio station quest. I think I remember another one I found in random exploring, somewhere around a bunch of train tracks and boxcars, maybe?

        It’s been a while, but I remember having to take them down by hiding in nearby structures and just whittling down the hit points.

    • Kefren says:

      Thanks everyone, I think you are all correct, that must have been what it was. I don’t remember meeting one again but maybe I did and it just didn’t affect me in the same way. :-)

  11. Doubler says:

    I like this game a lot when I just forget about its title decide I want to wander around the ruins of civilization. (At least up until the point I inevitably hit high level, there’s deathclaws and overpowered super mutants everywhere, and the game is screaming at me for not dumping my hunting rifle and rags in favour of gatling lasers and power armour)

    Beyond that imho it is a piss-poor Fallout game, and absolutely the worst Bethesda have ever gotten with their writing and storytelling. And that’s saying something.

    • Risingson says:

      I will never understood you people that call this game badly written or told. Seriously. Thank God I did not listen to you and played the game and found many of the better characters in recent rpgs.

      • Distec says:

        That’s… uhh… quite a claim. But good for you, I guess.

  12. Freud says:

    It felt empty because there weren’t a lot of quests or populated locations. At the same time, the exploring worked well because it was so desolate.

  13. Zenicetus says:

    I played one of the original Fallouts, but I guess it didn’t make such a huge impression on me that it warped by feelings one way or the other, about Fallout 3. I took it for what it was, and had fun with it.

    The only frustration I remember was the poor balancing of the power curve for completionist players. I’m not a 100% completionist, but I like to explore. If you play these games that way, it’s easy to become a walking death machine, long before the end of the main story line. New Vegas and Skyrim had the same problem.

    Mods eventually fix that, but it’s usually the way these games go on the first play-through before the mod community gets rolling. I expect it will be the same with Fallout 4. But I’m still looking forward to playing it.

  14. Zhiroc says:

    I guess it’s probably just me, given the popularity, but frankly I’ve never finished, or even come close to finishing, a Bethesda game (ES or Fallout). I’ve played Oblivion, Skyrim, FO3 and FO:NV, and I just lose interest in the middle. I can’t say at the moment that I remember any of the storylines, which is probably the reason. My style of RPG is more along the lines of what Bioware does.

  15. TheAngriestHobo says:

    FO3 stands out to me for its introductory sequence. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to directly manipulate my first few years of life (or at least key moments in them) and being able to roleplay as a vault dweller in a functioning vault for the first time in the series – even if it was only temporary. While we all inevitably installed alternate start mods eventually, the first few times through the vanilla intro were absolutely great, IMO.

  16. klops says:

    Didn’t like it. I know many people who think otherwise, but for me the exploring must give you something else than couple clips of ammo. Or the ammo must berare so it’s worth the effort.

    “You find this and this” aaand what’s there? Nothing.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I think I tried to play this when I was a bit burned out on RPGs. I stayed with it for a while, but everything felt a bit tedious and it just didn’t click with me. Maybe I’ll give it another try, one day.

  18. xalcupa says:

    What Beth does best, IMO, is two things:
    1) offering a good base game template. Put community mods on top of that and you go from a good game to a fantastic game that you can shape to your preference (in my case a survival RPG-like simulator).

    This of course required some patience as most mods are release a few months later than the game.

    2) Storytelling of micro stories. The main quests etc are often rather generic but the micro stories found in notes, diaries or just told by the layout of a room are often quite good and immersive.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Interesting points. Bethesda is just sloppy though. Sorta has the aura of ‘That’s good enough’ game design on it. I usually never buy their stuff at release, rather wait for the modders to fix the UI, content, graphics, crashing, etc.

      Got F3 as a present at its release. It crashed randomly for about 6 months, til some patch, update, or mod fixed it.

  19. Muzman says:

    It’s sat on my steam queue for years listed as played for five minutes, since it crashed as soon a I ran it.
    Haven’t got around to fixing it since.

  20. Risingson says:

    One of my favourite games ever, which I loved much more than the extremely buggy Fallout1 or the cynical New Vegas. And one of the games that better understood the tropes of the Western, much more than the dismayed checklist in Fallout New Vegas.

    The Tower mission is one of the moments in videogames where I felt than I really made something good and heroic.

    • Risingson says:

      I realize now that I surely loved the game not only for the themes (again: David Brin’s The Postman, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Wild Shore…) but because how many anti-class messages it threw.

    • Geebs says:

      Apart from the terrible main plot, I infinitely preferred FO3 to New Vegas. As in, I have about 100 hours in FO3, whereas in New Vegas I was forced to eat a word sandwich with word relish and a plate of words on the side, and then the first area in the game ended with a bugged out fight where the faction I’d pissed off levitated, frozen in the “T” pose where they spawned while I punched their ankles to death, doing damage to their invisible poltergeists which were trying to shoot up the town.

      Then another person tried to talk me to death and I quit, permanently.

    • SwiftRanger says:

      Fallout 3 contains a lot more serious bugs than Fallout 1, even now. The many, many freeze crashes in smaller interior rooms are woeful and should have been fixed like in New Vegas. Bethesda once had it stable but the last official patch borked it again apparently. It’s telling you need to rely on fan patches to sidestep Games for Windows Live as well. A disgrace.

      Great game despite all of that though. :)

  21. SwiftRanger says:

    Fallout 3 is pretty neat, dumb fun (despite the terrible game-breaking bugs which still persist), I’d rank it just behind New Vegas but before Fallout 2 even though F3 is very different from those games. Fallout: Tactics didn’t happen if you ask me, it never reached the true fun parts of Jagged Alliance 2/X-Com.

    Fallout 1 always remains the king of the franchise imo, it’s the most pure and desolate one. You really should play it, Graham.

  22. blackmyron says:

    Having played F3 and then started into F:NV immediately afterwards, I have to say I have an appreciation for both of them. They both have flaws – and F:NV improved on a number of gameplay features while removing some of my favorite ones.
    I’m still worried a little that F4 is suffering from a little ‘console-itis’ in some of its features. I guess we’ll all find out in 11 days…

    • defunct says:

      It shouldn’t be a worry. It’s guaranteed. It started with Oblivion, and hasn’t left since.

  23. DevilishEggs says:

    Best mod I’ve ever played.

    There’s another good one called Oblivion where you carry around a sword.

  24. neotribe says:

    NV was by far a better game, once the novelty of FO:3 wore thin. Also, FO:3 had a lot of serious bugs, and while NV introduced some news ones they weren’t as bad (like completely unusable VATS on some GPUs).

  25. TAIMAT says:

    to nuke megaton or not nuke megaton .. thats the first big question
    loved how many quests have good/bad or easy/hard ways to finish .. not to mention the awesome open-world .. hated the max weight small limits until i find my first sidekick & make him/her a cargo mule

  26. drewski says:

    Great game.

  27. aoanla says:

    I bought Fallout 3 when the GOTY edition came out. I think, to be fair to it, I was in a poor mood for playing open-world RPGs, as I didn’t play it long.
    Post-make-your-character-via-decisions process, I spent quite a long time wandering around being attacked by dogs, found an abandoned school and almost died to lots of nasty people in armour, and then found a town full of fire-breathing ants. Which killed me, but not before I used up basically all my ammo killing one of them.
    Rationally, I think I knew I could just restart from a different save and go in a different direction, but, as I said, I wasn’t in the right mood for this, so I didn’t.
    (I really should give it another go at some point… but there’s so many games that that’s true of.)

  28. tomimt says:

    Worst thing about Fallout 3 is the same thing that is the worst thing about all Bethesda games: plot. The writing is overall pretty subpar and the main plot itself feels like someones idea of a bad joke.

    Though despite being a fan of Fallout 1 + 2 I did enjoy the gameplay of it. It has a high fun factor.

    • rgbarton says:

      Everyone hates the writing, I honestly loved the games writing just simply for all the wierd situations it would through you in from megaton to the family of vampires

  29. Unsheep says:

    I’m sorry but to me ‘Bethesda’ is synonymous with ‘boring game’ and ‘lots of bugs’. If only they could make the characters and game-worlds more interesting and offer better production quality.

  30. defunct says:

    I loved Fallout 3. I played it through a few times, got all the DLC, and loads of mods to make it more interesting for me.

    This game is one of the reasons I’m reluctant to upgrade windows. There seem to be games that don’t play well with new OSs and you have to jump through some hoops just to get it play in Win7. Anyone play this on 10? Same hoops or completely new ones? Seems my entire library will be outdated with one upgrade.

  31. Sedghammer says:

    I would love to play Fallout 3, unfortunately I’ll never get the chance to because it only runs on outdated OS.

  32. rgbarton says:

    And here I thought everyone at RPS hated fallout 3 considering how much alec liked to dump on it

  33. Binky the Boojum says:

    Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas are flawed games, but I
    think the things that really bugs gamers is that each were
    bought in very large numbers meaning that an rpg experience
    was made available to people for who a video game is a
    day out and not a way of life.

  34. fateaxyom says:

    I just started playing this game and I’m going to get Fallout 4 for my b-day when it comes out for sure. So excited.