Prime Video’s ‘Fallout’ series got me back into ‘Fallout 3’ on PS3, and it’s like I never left

Fallout 3 poster
(Image credit: Bethesda)

"Fallout" on Amazon Prime Video has no sooner stolen the hearts and minds of gamers writ large, wrangling a 93 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes and proving once more that video games can find fame on the silver screen. The nuclear-wasteland-set franchise, which first launched in 1997, has been bedridden following the release of 2018's Fallout 76

Reemerging in the form of a TV series (like a vault dweller opening the gates unto the wasteland for the first time), "Fallout's" exciting debut made me long for a trip back to its most enticing iteration yet — an experience now a decade removed from its last entry and nearly 15 years old at the time of writing.

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As my first foray with the franchise, "Fallout 3" opened my eyes to a world that clung to its own weird identity. The game marked its first-ever 3D structure, replacing the age-old 2D graphics and turn-based combat with real-time action that was punctuated with a so-called VAAT system, making everything from shooting an AK to throwing a grenade that much simpler.

But beyond its reinvented gameplay and looks, "Fallout 3" stuck out due in large part to an endearing story that saw players traversing the apocalyptic wasteland of Washington DC in search of their father, aptly voiced by Liam Neeson. Along the way, you're welcomed into this hell hole with a laundry list of characters and places that still hold up to this day, giving "Fallout" its original nature. 

Despite its age, there's no better time to relive the magic of this incredible "Fallout" entry, one that today is far too often forgotten in the face of modern experiences across the franchise. It's high time for a return trip back to the Capital Wasteland. 

A lonely road...

"Fallout 3" brings to life a world torn apart and ripped asunder that was the literal capital of America. A place that once stood for freedom and democracy over 200 years prior to the story told in "Fallout 3" now stands in refuse, with structures of political and historical importance sliding into mangled ruins. 

Though steeped in its grey and dark hue, "Fallout 3" still looks incredible 15 years strong following its release. Maybe that's just the nostalgia talking, but it's hard not to fall in love once more with its eerie backdrop, one that sees such an interesting blend of character in its myriad towns and landscapes. 

Case in point being the dilapidated aircraft carrier-turned post-apocalyptic settlement of Rivet City, which literally hums in its own rocking movement as the ship's metal screams with centuries of rust and decay. There's also the delightful first stop for all wary "Fallout 3" travelers in Megaton, a small shanty town that feels as if it's held together by glue (and precariously lives with a nuclear bomb at its center). 

Fallout 3 Rivet City

(Image credit: Future)

Bringing to life these unforgettable places is a score led by long-time Fallout composer Inon Zur, who gifted this world a pseudo-peaceful ambiance with mystic undertones mixed with light horrific notes. The music itself has character all its own, uplifting your time within this world with a tinge of hope as you barrel down the lonely road in search of your next adventure. 

"Fallout 3" is such a prized jewel in this regard. It's OST doesn't necessarily stick out as an immediate winner, but years later I've come to find a strange sensation in how it leaves me wanting more. The music makes me want to continue — not merely out of playing's sake but to see the world right again, despite its lost nature. 

It's these moments where it's just you and the music floating through the experience wherein "Fallout 3" really comes to life. You're left enraptured not just by its tantalizing and unforgettable places, but how the music evokes this incredible feeling within them that's almost a blend of loss and a bit of hope. 

...Fueled by the zany

But it wouldn't be a "Fallout" game without its wacky and violent nature. The aforementioned Megaton is of major note here, proving to be a stepping stone for the player in their moral quest through the game. The town stands there as a beacon, a question of right and wrong: do you prime the nuclear bomb at its center and kill hundreds (if not thousands) of people? Or, do you fix it so that it never goes off and keep the evil at bay?

For a 15-year-old kid, this premise was quite alarming, to say the least. Of course, everyone has to try blowing up Megaton at least once in a playthrough — if only to see the magnificence of a nuclear detonation set on the backdrop of an already desolate plane. But this very type of quest and moral ponderance is exactly what "Fallout" is all about, and it's one of the few missions across gaming that has stuck with me time immemorial. 

And it's not alone. Look no further than the Paradise Falls location, which houses a group of seedy slave traders. Wanna join up and enslave the Capital Wasteland? If that's your prerogative, "Fallout 3" lets you do that. The game isn't afraid to make you truly feel something, and more often than not you will be left in quite the emotional rut. 

Fallout 3 deathclaw

(Image credit: Future)

"Fallout 3" also isn't without its incredible combat encounters. I doubt few will ever forget their first nail-biting run-in with a Deathclaw, a towering draconic-looking creature that moves in swift fashion. An armory of guns at your disposal thanks to the Pip-Boy on your wrist more often than not proves of little help against these terrifying beasts. 

A mini nuke to the face, though, will do. 

A modernized wasteland experience 

"Fallout 3" is definitely in need of a return to form. You can always dive into "Fallout 4" and now "Fallout 76" is free via Amazon Prime, so I wouldn't miss out on that deal. But both experiences are just not the same. "Fallout 3" has such a rich and hilariously different world, one ripe for exploration. It's hard not to fall in love with the Capital Wasteland and all its forgotten, delipidated splendor. 

Fallout 3 wasteland

(Image credit: Future)

It's sad to me that "Fallout 3" never got a retouching in the same style as "Skyrim" over the past several years. Sure, the experience can now be played alongside the rest of the "Fallout" franchise on Game Pass, with Xbox Series X/S players capable of hitting 4K/60fps. But, it's just not the same — especially since my first experience of "Fallout 3" was on the PS3. 

Playing of late on Sony's 2006-based hardware has most definitely been a chore, but worth its highs and lows in returning to my youth, wherein I spent hours upon hours scouring this wasteland. And now, it merely feels like I'm back home again circa 2008 feeling the wonders of a land crushed by its own violent nature.

Well...war never changes after all.

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Ryan Epps
Staff Writer

Ryan Epps is a Staff Writer under the TV/AV section at Tom's Guide focusing on TVs and projectors. When not researching PHOLEDs and writing about the next major innovation in the projector space, he's consuming random anime from the 90's, playing Dark Souls 3 again, or reading yet another Haruki Murakami novel.