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Fallout 3 vs. Fallout: New Vegas

The Survivor 2299 teaser website turned out to be fake, fan-made website.

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Fallout 3

The Survivor 2299 teaser website turned out to be fake, fan-made website. 

The trademark filed in Germany for Fallout: Shadow of Boston, was also fake. Rumors of a Fallout TV series or a movie have gone nowhere. Purported leaks of scripts and voice actors Ron Perlman and Erik Todd Dellums declaring they were already working on the next game have already been denied or forgotten.

At every turn, Fallout fans have had their hopes and dreams crushed, only to be falsely raised yet again.

Anyone and everyone can see there might be a bit of interest in the next Fallout game. Anyone, except Bethesda it would seem. Would it kill them to at least confirm you’re working on Fallout 4?

Regardless, the time crying over spilled milk is over. Since we’re not going to get the next game in the series for another year or two, let’s take the time to appreciate what we already have. Sunshine, lollipops, terrorism, and the last two Fallout games: Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. It’s arbitrary to talk about those two games and not the whole franchise, but I haven’t played the other games, give me a break, I’m trying to make a point here.

Plot

A game cannot be called Fallout, by law, unless it has a good story. Fallout Brotherhood of Steel you say? Never heard of it. Both Fallout 3 and New Vegas have outstanding storylines, and whichever you prefer comes down entirely to taste. While I’m inclined to hide behind the shield of “I like both equally”, I know I will forever be labeled as that guy.

Fallout 3 tasks the player with leaving Vault 101, something nobody has ever done before. Unfortunately Fallout 3 hits its first roadblock here. Throughout development and marketing of the game, Vault 101 was hailed as this secure area that no one has entered or left in hundreds of years. Yet this is contradicted immediately as not only do you leave, but the player’s father has escaped too. On top of that, it turns out the vault had previously been opened several times, allowing people to enter and leave if the Vault Overseer thought they could be of some value.

Fallout Vault 101

Such an impregnable vault has never been so… pregnable.

After you escape you have to find your father, interact with a crazy radio DJ, potentially detonate a nuclear bomb in a peaceful city, interact with a underground cave full of children, fight in a war between the Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave, and convince a computer to kill itself before sacrificing yourself to provide clean drinking water to the population.

Long before the ending of Mass Effect 3 caused a firestorm, Fallout 3’s finale had everyone’s bottom’s chaffing like the fourth of July. If you think that doesn’t make sense, then you’d appreciate the equally nonsensical ending of Fallout’s third installment.

You had to install a device into a machine that would clean the Potomac River, ironically however the room the machine is in is full of deadly radiation. It set the player up for a heroic sacrifice that would have worked wonders, if you didn’t have the companion Fawkes with you. For you see, Fawkes is a super-mutant, and super-mutants are immune to radiation. Why not just send Fawkes in to put the device in the machine? That’s a good question, one Bethesda answered with “because we said so”.

Fallout-Fawkes

There is an option to ask Fawkes to do it, but he refuses, not because he was afraid of the radiation or that he didn’t know what to do. He said no because according to him, it’s your destiny to die in that room. How would you feel if someone came up to you and said it was your destiny to die for no reason? All that work you did, putting hundreds of hours into the world, all to be taken away from you for some artificial semblance of a heroic sacrifice.

Bethesda would eventually change the ending with the DLC Broken Steel, allowing the player to send in Fawkes to fix the machine, though still not without his speech about how it’s your destiny to die for no reason, or even your friend Sarah to do it. Either way, you and your companions would live to fight another day. Still, the damage had been done, and since the DLC isn’t free, there are doubtlessly people who didn’t buy it and are still dissatisfied with the original ending.

Fallout New Vegas, by contrast, doesn’t have any of these silly plot holes or contradictions. Nor does it have a “holier than thou” plot, in fact, quite the opposite. Here, your only objective in the main campaign is to hunt down the man who shot and buried you and enact your revenge, before eventually getting tangled up in a war involving huge factions fighting for control of the Hoover Dam. Okay, so two armies fighting for control over something isn’t expanding the formula, but Skyrim didn’t exactly push the boundaries of video game storytelling either.

Fallout New Vega Church

New Vegas was a much darker game in comparison. The characters were more depraved, the bad endings truly meant bad things for the people of the Mojave, even the good endings had some moral ambiguity, and of course the overall plot is much more mean spirited. This game also saw the return of gambling and, although somewhat of a disappointment, the Las Vegas Strip. What’s more depraved than that?

Another problem with Fallout 3 is that the whole plot about the clean drinking water is completely irrelevant in the world of New Vegas. Clean drinking water is everywhere, indeed there’s an entire lake of fresh, drinkable water. It’s not Fallout 3’s fault, but it’s hard to take such a dire plot seriously after tripping over clean bottles of water and clean lakes front, right, and center in New Vegas.

New Vegas also improved upon was the karma system. It wasn’t as present as it was in Fallout 3, and the morality decisions were a lot more black and white. Gone are the silly moral choices such as defusing a nuclear bomb at the heart of a city or detonating it because some rich old guy asks you to, and instead replaced with “should I risk my life, money, and supplies gaining the trust of this one faction, or blow them up and not worry about them?”

Sadly in both games, the eyes of god still watch you as you steal that empty milk bottle in the middle of nowhere from a group of murderous cannibals. This still results in the loss of karma, but since karma doesn’t really matter in New Vegas, it’s okay, even if it still takes you out of the atmosphere for a moment.

This one, for me at least, goes to Fallout New Vegas. I much prefer its darker tone, both in the overall plot and the side quests. I also prefer the more black and white moral system.

Characters

Unlike the previous category, this one is a runaway. New Vegas, hands down, has a better cast of characters. From a dominatrix ghoul, to a bar owner infatuated with “testing” a sex robot, an eccentric casino owner who wants to rule the Mojave, a two hundred plus year old playboy who downloaded himself into computer, a hotel owner who can’t stop saying “daddy-o”, a crazed dictator who modeled his empire after the Romans, and a radio DJ with a magical ability to put you to sleep within seconds. I could go on all day talking about the characters in New Vegas, which explains that run-on… not even sentence, just a mash-up of character descriptions.

Fallout Graham Edmond

Fallout 3, on the other hand, has a bald man who swears a lot, a computer that thinks it’s the president, and Liam Neeson.

Maybe it’s not such a runaway when it’s put like that.

But in terms of written dialogue, there’s no debate. New Vegas’s characters are simply better written, to the point where they actually feel like real people with depth. Fallout 3’s characters just feel like a collection of stereotypes. Moira Brown is funny, and that’s all she ever is. Doc Mitchell is a nice, wise old man with a tragic past he doesn’t like to talk about. New Vegas also knows better than to give us all of Doc Mitchell’s backstory, instead giving us little pieces to think about and form our own conclusions.

The only way Fallout 3 edges out ahead of New Vegas is in terms of voice acting. While Vegas has twice as many voice actors, meaning all the characters don’t sound exactly the same, Fallout 3 has a better cast. The gulf isn’t huge, but it’s just enough to give Fallout 3 something in the character department. Still, viewing the whole package, Fallout New Vegas easily wins this category.

World Exploration

Another runaway, though this time in the opposite direction. There isn’t much to say, other than a question: would you rather explore an empty desert (with the aforementioned disappointing Vegas Strip), or the crumbling capital of one of the most powerful countries on Earth? A confusing, yet fun maze of ruined buildings and pre-war culture, or some sand and mountains that look like they were sculpted out of poo?

Fallout 3

Companions

Just like plot, every Fallout game has a bevy of companion characters to befriend and to take into battle. Fallout 3 and New Vegas approach companions completely different. In Fallout 3, there was at least one character per karma “class”, ranging from Very Good to Very Evil. If you were a patron saint, you could forget about taking Jericho anywhere. On the flip side, if you were Sir Evil McHitler, Star Paladin Cross would have nothing to do with you.

Fallout New Vegas meanwhile eschewed this karmic system just like they did in the plot, instead allowing you to take whatever character you wanted no matter how good or bad you where, and no matter what faction you choose (with the exception of Boone).

New Vegas also offered much deeper companions. In Fallout 3, it seemed the companion characters were there simply to aid you in your quest. In New Vegas, they have their own problems to deal with and won’t join you simply because you asked nicely, you have to help them as much as they help you.

There are more interactions with companions in New Vegas. You can talk about their life, their goals and ambitions, how they got into trouble and why they need your help. They’ll even comment about the decisions you make throughout the story.

Fallout Veronica

Obsidian wasn’t afraid to push the limit either. All of the companions have lost something and are seeking either revenge or something to fill the hole. Depending on the decisions you make, they either get their revenge, or find a more peaceful solution. One character in particular, Veronica, will suffer a bad ending no matter what you do. It’s that kind of narrative bravery, to give such a great character a terrible ending all the way around, that makes you remember a story and a character.

Mods

Last time I checked, only New Vegas featured mods by yours truly. War Trash and War Trash 2 were published in 2014, quest mods following the exploits of Graham Edmond and Brooklyn. A third one is on the way, which I expect to be out by April. As a result, I like to consider myself somewhat of an expert in this area.

Whether it be Someguy2000, llamaRCA, Mishaxhi, or even some of the lesser known modders, Fallout New Vegas has a thriving community of quality mods. Everyone knows about the massive Project Brazil, a prequel to the main story being worked on by a small army of developers which is big enough to be a game itself. There are also big projects being announced nearly every day, some of which I’ve helped with.

Sure there are the handful of… questionable mods (I mean hentai), but for the most part New Vegas has some of the best mods in gaming. There are mods for better textures, better lighting, overhauled weather, more highly detailed companions and worlds to visit, a swarm of well written quest mods, there are even drivable cars and flyable helicopters.

So maybe I’m biased in this regard… okay, definitely biased here, but when I look at Fallout 3’s mods in comparison, I don’t quite feel that same spark I felt when I was first compelled to become a modder back in 2013.

Fallout cars

Conclusion

I have to say, before I wrote this article I thought the two games were pretty close. Only now is it clear that I hold New Vegas in a much higher regard than Fallout 3. I didn’t mention gameplay or graphics because they’re ultimately the same, and in terms of graphics the only winner is the brown paper bag market.

Obsidian made New Vegas, while Bethesda made Fallout 3. After this comparison, and playing Skyrim which I felt was a huge step back from Oblivion, I now can’t stop worrying about what the future holds for one of my favorite franchises.


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Josh was a once freelance writer who has gone on to write fiction, including mods for Fallout New Vegas. He never lost his love for writing about video games, and now finds himself doing it every day.