Fallout 3: The First Time

Fallout 3: The First Time
 
 

War. War never changes. I can barely remember a time before I knew the significance of those words. Before I played Fallout 3, and fell deeply in love with it.

Do you remember the first time you played your favourite game? The buzz of excitement at each new encounter, the feeling of wonder as you discovered the world? Do you get that sense of poignancy looking back, knowing that the moment has passed, and you'll never get to discover it again? Yeah, me too. And sure, there are many games that do that to us, but I don't think anything will ever hit me the same way that Fallout 3 did the first time.

Let me set the scene; Dublin, Ireland, 2008. It's the day after my university’s Science & Health Ball (which for some reason was a thing), and I'm on my way home through the city centre at about 2pm, because I was a responsible student and still went to my lectures while hungover as hell. By chance, I ran into a guy I barely knew who had become a lifelong friend the night before, as happens at these sort of events. We’ll call him Kev, mostly because that’s his name. We were both putting off going home, so we wandered in and out of shops, looking at CDs, books, video games, making mindless banter; anything to avoid the bus home.

After an hour or so of this, we were in GameStop, when Kev tapped me on the shoulder, pointing at a green and grey display in the corner.

"Oh yeah, that came out the other day. Looks alright."

I'm not ashamed to say that I'd never heard of Fallout before; well, OK, I’m a little ashamed, but if we’re honest the vast majority of us hadn't before Bethesda stepped in. But I picked up Fallout 3, glanced over it, and thought it looked pretty cool. Power armour, nuclear apocalypse, immersive RPG; I’m down for all that. What really intrigued me, though, was the price.

This was a couple of days after release, and it was only €40 on PS3, the same price as the Xbox 360 version. This was in the late 2000s, when some platform prices for games weren’t the same – for reasons I’m still not quite clear on. This was a goddamn steal. I was getting this game.

The cashier took the game, made a face, and here comes the only part of this story I regret. He told me that this was the Xbox price (which yeah, I knew that), and the PS3 version cost €10 more. I’m deeply ashamed – even now, nine years later – at how I acted here, because I went from zero to crazy instantly, quoting the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act with a vehemence that surprised even myself.

Clearly he got this kind of crap all the time. I was overcome with regret, but being young and foolish, didn’t realise that I should simply apologise and laugh it off. I just nodded and stared blankly as I got my cash out. That is why, to this day, I am overly nice to any and all store staff; and rest assured I got my comeuppance ten times over when I did my own stint in retail. Even so, it does nothing to assuage my decade-old shame.

But hey, better late than never: sorry, GameStop dude, wherever you are.

Personal failings aside, Kev and I went our separate ways shortly after I made a show of myself. Game in hand, I headed home, ready to lose a few hours to what would be my first Bethesda RPG. Now, I'll assume that if you're reading this you've played Fallout 3 and, if you haven’t, stop reading this immediately and go play the greatest game ever made. Point is, this is not a game you lose hours in. This is a game you lose days, weeks, months in.

I was not prepared.

That afternoon, I made a cup of tea and loaded up the game. The opening notes of the theme still give me shivers, but back then it was just pure anticipation. I'll skip past the character creation, though suffice to say it took a while. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Liam Neeson was my father, and mildly upset that my virtual mother died giving birth to me. Usually a bad sign when a woman dies fourteen seconds into a game.

The child sequences were cute the first time, although they’ve gotten less so with each subsequent playthrough. I always hate tutorials, no matter how desperately I might need them, but this one was innovative and I enjoyed setting up an appalling SPECIAL balance, almost entirely geared towards Perception and Luck. The next hour was a blur, as I learned how to RPG; I told Amata she was a hottie, insulted Butch's mother, was nice to the old lady, rude to the crazy lady, and cheated on the G.O.A.T. I then saved Butch's mother, killed the Overseer, mocked his daughter, robbed their flat, and escaped the Vault. This was all good clean fun, but I wasn’t blown away yet.

Then I left Vault 101.

As long as I live, I’ll never forget that moment. The grinding shriek of the Vault door closing behind me, the blinding glare of natural light as I stepped outside, the revelation of the ravaged Capital Wasteland as my eyes adjusted to the outside world. Most people I’ve talked to agree that this is one of the best moments in all of video gaming, not just because it’s when the realisation of the sheer scope of the game hits you, but because in that moment you are feeling what your character is feeling. You see a water tower crumbling nearby, the husk of Megaton just beyond that, and the hollow remnants of the Washington monument looming in the distance. The score lifts us up into wonder and we think “I’m gonna live in this game.”

I didn’t go back to uni for two days.

Continue reading on page 2.





 

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Comments Comments (13)

 
Posted by Inferis
On Friday 28 Jul 2017 2:41 PM
3
All time favourite series, and i think probably the first game i ever pre-ordered. The expansions were top notch too!
 
 
 
Posted by kniteowl
On Friday 28 Jul 2017 2:43 PM
3
An awesome read. Thanks for sharing your clearly loved memories of the game... I have fond memories of Fallout 2 and I have bought 3, new vegas and even 4 but life got in the way (as did my gaming backlog) and I'm embarrassed to say I haven't gone to either of them... one day... when I win lotto and don't have to work for a living...
 
 
 
Posted by Inferis
On Friday 28 Jul 2017 2:44 PM
2
Letting a horde of feral ghouls into tenpenny tower was always amusing.
 
 
 
Posted by drunk_monk
On Friday 28 Jul 2017 2:47 PM
3
Great piece Brian, nice read for the afternoon.

Personally I remember playing fallout 3, but not too much about it. I remember enjoying it, and hating when you had to go into the sewers, but that's about it. For some reason Fallout 4 resonated with me way more, and I'm confident I am in the significant minority.
 
 
 
Posted by M-to-the-T
On Friday 28 Jul 2017 4:39 PM
3
Spending 20 hours (real time) down in the sewers only to pop back out around 100 metres from where I first entered is a highlight. Great read!
 
 
 
Posted by trun39
On Friday 28 Jul 2017 7:29 PM
3
I haven't played any fallout but I really enjoyed your article. Ahhh games... and dem feels
 
 
 
Posted by Wozza
On Saturday 29 Jul 2017 8:59 PM
2
I was so into exploring and walking to anything and everything in the distance, that I found my Dad and skipped half of the games story by accident!!! Probably took me longer than if I did blast through the story though.

Also I avoided the town with the ant vs robot wars for so long after hearing about it on the radio. Sounded way too hardcore until I leveled up, a lot. When I finally went there, I was cracking up so much.

Vagas and 4 were good, but they are too similar. Fallout 3 was so unique and new that the other games haven't come close to recapturing the magic for me.
 
 
 
Posted by Xaphriel
On Monday 31 Jul 2017 8:47 AM
4
As a sidenote, if you agree with me that Fallout 3 is an excellent game but New Vegas had better mechanics, try A Tale of Two Wastelands. It basically combines both games in New Vegas' engine, and oh boy is that a thing. Only managed to break my laptop a little bit, and if you actually know how to use mods then your experience will be better.

So yeah I basically made myself nostalgic and lost my weekend. Worth it :D
 
 
 
Posted by sakuraba
On Monday 31 Jul 2017 9:39 AM
1
My greatest memory was it always freezing at the exact same point on ps3 haha
 
 
 
Posted by Telprydain
On Monday 31 Jul 2017 9:45 AM
2
31 July 2017, 08:47 AM Reply to Xaphriel
As a sidenote, if you agree with me that Fallout 3 is an excellent game but New Vegas had better mechanics, try A Tale of Two Wastelands. It basically combines both games in New Vegas' engine, and oh boy is that a thing. Only managed to break my laptop a little bit, and if you actually know how to use mods then your experience will be better.

So yeah I basically made myself nostalgic and lost my weekend. Worth it :D
I'm a fan of Fallout 1/2 and so in my mind 'New Vegas' is the true Fallout 3.

FO3 was a fine game, but for lots of small reasons it's not a great Fallout game. If it had been given almost any other name I'd have liked it a lot more.
 
 
 
Posted by cortez72
On Monday 31 Jul 2017 3:21 PM
2
I missed this article last week. Great read, thank you! I only played Fallout3 last year for the first time. I've had it for a long time, but like Kniteowl, life got in the way (and addiction to other titles). I didn't want to play Fallout 4 (which I also own) until I had finished 3, felt I should play it first given its rating amongst people before the upgraded 4 tarnished the visual experience.

Played right up to the end of the Story but didn't finish it at advice/spoilers of a friend. Played through the Pit, half of Anchorage, Mothership Zeta. I put in some solid work... but never finished it. And have yet to even play 4 as it sits on my shelf, just unable to get back on board with the game- I did love it though.

For me Oblivion and Skyrim struck a stronger cord, the lore and setting of these titles captivates me more. That said I'd jump at any new franchise in the mechanic of Fallout and Elder Scrolls in the future.
 
 
 
Posted by cutm
On Friday 4 Aug 2017 11:47 AM
1
Great read :) you perfectly captured my feelings of the first time I stepped out of Vault 101 and struggled to grasp the scope of the open world.
 
 
 
Posted by Inferis
On Saturday 5 Aug 2017 5:22 PM
1
31 July 2017, 08:47 AM Reply to Xaphriel
As a sidenote, if you agree with me that Fallout 3 is an excellent game but New Vegas had better mechanics, try A Tale of Two Wastelands. It basically combines both games in New Vegas' engine, and oh boy is that a thing. Only managed to break my laptop a little bit, and if you actually know how to use mods then your experience will be better.

So yeah I basically made myself nostalgic and lost my weekend. Worth it :D
Yeah New Vegas made a lot of little improvements that made things more fun. Better companion system. Crafting. Swapping ammo types. Iron sights and weapon mods.. etc. Project Nevada mod with HD Textures and The NV4GB mod totally supercharge the game graphics wise. Recommended.