Going back to one of the most defining role-playing games of the Xbox 360 generation is kind of weird. In 2008, Bethesda Softworks and Bethesda Game Studios, publishers of the famed Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion that released in 2006, released Fallout 3 to the world. It was a massive hit for the time it released in, immersing us in a post-apocalyptic version of the famous capital, Washington D.C and its surrounding areas, which changed things up significantly. It was a brand new take on a classic franchise and it was fresh, while at the same time keeping things quite familiar, which introduced a new generation of fans to the cult classic franchise.
Fallout 3 presented a detailed, vast world in front of the players eyes alongside a shift to the more serious side of the franchise which presented a deep world that was ripped from the throes of alternate history and the throes of science fiction, something that couldn’t have been done with the 2D games. Complete immersion, it captured the eeriness of a post-apocalyptic scenario and Fallout 3 simply did everything right back then but what about now? Has Fallout 3 stood the test of time? Let’s get started.
Fallout 3 is a special game. As I return to the game that made my 2008 so memorable, I notice there’s a lot here that can’t be found in modern day Bethesda Studios games. It’s an open-world experience unlike any other, it delivers an experience that couldn’t be found in 2008 and it delivers an experience that cannot be found in 2020, especially within the more recent Fallout games. It’s a gripping game from start to finish, it’s an expansive showcase of excitement and how much depth can be found within one video game and the greatest thing is that Fallout 3 does the Fallout franchise justice unlike that other game.
If you don’t know the history of Fallout, let me break it down for you. The Fallout world exists in a separate timeline from our own, it exists in an alternate reality that is completely diverged from our own after the end of World War II. From this split until the Great War in 2077, a technological advanced retrofuture atomic age representation of 1950s America dominated the culture of American life. It’s a quaint retro sci-fi view of the future that is filled with weapons we couldn’t dream of in the present day, atomic cars, robot servants, basic computers, and music of the era that the franchise was inspired by. It’s a beautiful world that is fantastical and at the same time believable, it’s still a world that is very exciting to explore.
The entire introduction to Fallout 3 is probably hands down one of the best introductions in any game period. From that iconic opening to the birth of your character to quickly moving through your character’s childhood with snapshots of pivotal moments like taking the GOAT and receiving your pip-boy 2000, an outdated model by then, it’s a clever way to start a game. You’re the Lone Wanderer, a boy or girl, who lives in Vault 101 with their dad, Vault 101 was constructed sometime in the 2060s along with the other vaults surrounding metropolitan Washington D.C if an event of nuclear war was to happen between China and The United States but, however, Vault 101 never opened outside of a few select times and that’s where the main game begins.
You awake to blaring alarms and police looking for your father, your father has opened the vault door and taken flight into the unknown. Nothing will ever be the same, especially for you as you must now leave the comfort of the vault and head into the wasteland above ground and search for your father. The vault door rolls back and you step out into the sunlight for the first time, the sense of awe and wonder as you gaze across what was the former capital of the United States is palpable. In 2008, for the first time, that was amazing but now, that intro falls flat but nonetheless impressive. Few buildings remain standing, most reduced to rubble for the past 200 years. In the distance, what was downtown Washington D.C, a standing but obliterated Washington Monument dominates the skyline as the tallest structure in the land then you head on down from the bluffs and into the wastes.
The Great War did change more than just the life in America, the United States government, and its infrastructure. It left behind the reminder of man’s transgressions, the Capital Wasteland is a scorching barren desert where life is a constant struggle for survival. It has been warped by the apocalypse. Although, it was once a lush green place pre-war, the climate shift has led to desertification and the situation has changed in the more urban areas of the Capital Wasteland with much of it serving as a warzone between the Brotherhood of Steel and the Super Mutants alongside the Raider faction. The land surrounding Washington D.C, the former states of Virginia and Maryland, is home to what was once suburbia America and remnants of pre-war United States.
Such pressure and knowing survival can make a man do great things or evil things, for those already bad, they can use that excuse to further their agenda and you’ll have to make a choice between being good and evil. If you want to be good, there are plenty of options to do good and plenty of options to do bad as well. The Capital Wasteland is filled with twisted people who do nasty things and you yourself are presented with a lot of choices which makes Fallout 3 a great game, you can role-play however you want which was a far cry in the sequel and isn’t an option in Fallout 76. Karma is often rewarded to you based on the choices you make and they will have far reaching consequences which now seem outdated and old now that the RPG genre has advanced so much in the years since Fallout 3. The greatest thing about Fallout 3 is the amount of roleplaying you can do just via the conversation dialogue box that’s presented to you, a farcry from the Mass Effect– esque dialogue wheel seen within Fallout 4. You’ll want to hear what everyone has to say, based on your choices within the dialogue box, it brings so much depth that the simple listed responses become quite powerful. Much like the other Fallout games, Fallout 3 has perks and stats that add new conversation options alongside perks that actually matter unlike Fallout 4.
Fallout 3 is unlike any modern day Bethesda Studio game, like Fallout 4 and Skyrim, there is plenty of exploration here and hours upon hours of activities to complete. The game is filled with hidden gems that can still be uncovered years after its release, which says a lot about the game itself. The amount of freedom and choice found here is unparalleled and what left me amazed after playing games like Fallout 4 and Skyrim is that there are options here that can influence the way the story is told, you can lie your way to the ending or steal your way to the ending or jump to numerous points throughout the story. The system is so flexible that you can jump through hoops and start the story that way.
The same level of flexibility can also be found in its side-quests and unmarked quests that can be found throughout the Wasteland. The side quests may not seem like a lot, but it goes hand in hand with the main quest line and they can easily take up an hour or two and all of them are great, even the primary side-quests.
When it comes to combat, Fallout 3 is outdated as compared to the more tighter shooting mechanics seen in Fallout 4. Fallout 3 was a product of the time it released in and Bethesda’s combat mechanics back then was straight up an abomination, although it still kind of works in 2020. The combat and V.A.T.S system is still a pretty cool thing to witness in 2020, V.A.T.S is just icing on the cake when it comes to combat although it’s still very much a crutch mechanic as it was in 2008. You can easily abuse it during any time and V.A.T.S will come to your aid, for example, aim at the head of the enemy and it will come clean off or dismember a limb or shoot a grenade out of someone’s hand and watch them blow up in slow-motion. Each attack in V.A.T.S occurs in slow-motion while the camera switches to a more cinematic angle. Watch heads explode in a mist of red, watch arms fall off, it’s an incredibly gory game. The weapons in Fallout 3 are awesome and is a match in heaven when paired up with V.A.T.S.
While the combat is outdated and very 2000’s, the non-combat skills still hold up. Sneak, primarily used to sneak around, can be used as a stealth option where you can plant any sort of object in a person’s pocket and watch them explode in gory fashion. If you have a high science skill you can hack terminals to your advantage and or to open doors, repair allows you to repair your weapons and armor alongside anything in the world that needs repairing, the greatest thing is that its up to you on how you want to play the game and truly role-play the character you want to be.
Most of the game has held up nicely in 2020, although it hasn’t aged that great, the game is quite the looker. The browns and grays give way to a desperate look, fitting considering the heavy theme the game is about, Bethesda has used quite the attention to detail to bring the former capital to life in ways that not many games did in 2008, although now that attention to detail has faded as time passed on. Fallout 3 is very much a piece of entertainment that belongs to 2008, a product of the time that it released in, so much of the game looks ugly, especially when you play it on the Xbox One X where the faults can clearly be seen from two or three miles away due to the 4K resolution that the One X is sporting. Regardless, Fallout 3 remains just as timeless as it ever was.
In conclusion, while a lot of it is outdated by today’s standards, Fallout 3 remains one of the best roleplaying games ever created. It is rare that a game like this remains just as timeless as it first was way back during its original release. Fallout 3 is classic Bethesda at its height, pre-Skyrim and pre-modern day Fallout. It’s a fantastic game from top to bottom and you would be missing out if you haven’t already played this classic. One of the best games of all time.