Fallout 3 Review

I’ve read some other reviews about the PC version of Fallout 3, and most of the reviews are favorable, but I think that most of the reviews fail to explain exactly what is different about Fallout 3 that makes it so fun to play.

Fallout 3 is immersive.  From the very beginning, you are immersed into the Fallout 3 world, beginning with life inside the vault.  You eavesdrop on many conversations and can talk with most characters that you encounter.  People act and react believably, and you feel like you’re there.

Every survival decision includes a moral choice.  Will you try to be honest and fair?  Will you put your own needs above others no matter the consequences?  When there are tough decisions to be made, will you be able to make them?

There are so many different skills to choose from, how can a vault dweller understand which skills to improve?  What skills are useful in the wasteland?  It’s tough realizing that you have to live and die with your own decisions.  This is life outside the vault.

V.A.T.S. (the replacement for turn based combat)

I really like the game system.  Fallout 3 is basically a first person shooter, but you can pause combat at any time using the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.).  V.A.T.S. allows you to perform bullet time attacks by targeting individual enemies, including specific body parts, and even the enemy’s weapon.  However, you will most likely find yourself quickly running out of action points, so you must combat in first person shooter mode until your action points regenerate.  Your agility skill will determine the number of action points you get in V.A.T.S. mode.

It’s unfortunate that while in V.A.T.S. mode, the only thing you can do is target enemies.  In previous Fallout games, you could also move your character while in turned based combat.  Half of combat is maneuvering and effective use of cover, but since you can only shoot (or strike) in V.A.T.S. mode, you simply end up trading blows with the enemy.  Exchanging blows with the enemy is never a good strategy.

Some oddities

It’s amazing how trusting people are, leaving unsecured items out for you to steal.  The average person in the modern world has a tough time passing up such opportunities.  Placed in the post apocalyptic wastelands, it baffles me how people leave their items laying around for you to steal, unseen, with the only penalty being a loss of karma.

There seem to be a lot of bugs in the initial release of Fallout 3.  Make sure you save often.

It’s strange that if you hack a computer, then later find the password, the password wasn’t the same as the one you used to hack it.  In my opinion, that’s a bug.


Make sure you read the manual because the in-game training does not explain every abbreviation that you see in the HUD.

The in-game map is not very detailed, so try to learn the layout of the land as you walk through it and memorize landmarks.

Don’t try to steal a knife when you already own a pistol.  It’s not worth the trouble if you get caught.  Weigh the risk versus the reward.

Don’t believe the minimum requirements

Unfortunately, my computer only meets the minimum requirements for the game.   When fighting multiple enemies, even on the lowest video settings, the game is too slow and too unresponsive to be able to aim in first person shooter mode, so I am stuck with using V.A.T.S. for even close combat where I wouldn’t normally miss.  I run out of action points, and then I take damage from the enemies until I get enough action points to fight again.  The game is impossibly hard to play like that.

The game certainly lies about the minimum requirements.  Perhaps when they first started designing the game, they tested it with the minimum requirements and it was playable, but the final release is not playable with the minimum requirements.

If you can play Fallout 3 at medium video settings or above, please post a comment with your system specs so that I know what I need to upgrade.

Here are my specs:

  • Windows XP SP2
  • Pentium IV 2.4 GHz
  • 2 GB RAM
  • NVidia 7600 GS 256 MB

To play or not to play

If you are fanatic about Fallout 1 and Fallout 2, and you simply crave more quirky wasteland charm and drama, then you will get some of that, but in a much more bland and bleak way.  V.A.T.S. does not replace turn based combat, and the dialog trees are much smaller in Fallout 3.  The world just isn’t as complex, but it is prettier to look at.

If you are looking for an immersive, single-player, hybrid RPG/first person shooter game, set in a post apocalyptic world, with mildly adult themes, then this game is for you.

Is it worth $50 for the PC version?  In my opinion, it’s not.  It’s all a bit too short and simple.  Wait until the bugs are fixed, and the price comes down.  However, if price is no object, and you don’t demand a lot of value for your money, then buy it yesterday.  It is fun.

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