Fallout 3 vs. Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout 3 box
Fallout 3 box. Bethesda

We've had a long time to digest both Fallout 3 and New Vegas and come up with opinions on both of them. We've spent hundreds of hours and multiple playthroughs wich each, so now is the time for the ultimate wasteland deathmatch. We really liked Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, and even wrote a gushy love letter to Fallout 3 back before NV came out. Both games are good. But if we had to pick one right now, which one would it be?


From a purely mechanical standpoint, there is no question that the gameplay in New Vegas is better than Fallout 3. You can actually shoot stuff without VATS in New Vegas and it doesn't feel broken like it does in F3. Other touches like the different ammo types, damage threshold, and weapon customization make New Vegas really stand out as well and you'll miss these features when you try to go back to F3. Winner - Fallout: New Vegas

World Design

On the other hand, Fallout 3 has a definite advantage when it comes to world design. The Mojave in New Vegas is just plain boring to explore for the most part, and the "city" of New Vegas itself is really, really disappointing. Fallout 3's Capital Wasteland, however, is full of varied terrain with lots of landmarks to explore. We don't exactly love the D.C. Ruins full of invisible walls and the mazelike underground tunnels, but those are really only complaints the first time through the game and won't bother you on repeat visits.

Another thing we like about the Capital Wasteland is that just about every building can be entered and just about every location has something worth finding. The Mojave, on the other hand, is full of boarded up buildings you can't enter and locations that offer little or no reward for finding them.

Another issue we have with New Vegas' world is that if you don't take the correct path through the world, you are kind of screwed. If you take the wrong road out of Goodsprings, you are going to get utterly destroyed by either Giant Radscorpions or Deathclaws. Venture off any roads too far and you'll find Cazadores - perhaps the most annoying enemies ever. And even if you do take the right road, you are absolutely unprepared for what the rest of the wasteland has in store for you. Until you get decent armor and a decent weapon, New Vegas is kind of, well, not fun. It easily has the worst opening few hours of any open world game we've played yet.

Fallout 3, by comparison, has a great opening (well, once you finish the boring crap in the Vault and first step outside). You can go anywhere and do pretty much anything and decent weapons are easy to find (hunting rifles are your friends). And even if you run into a giant radscorpion or wandering deathclaw, Fallout 3's versions of these monsters are pretty wimpy compared to their New Vegas counterparts. You can take pretty much any path you want in Fallout 3 and explore anywhere you want in Fallout 3 right from the start. It is just a much more interesting and fun world to explore than NV.

Winner - Fallout 3

Mission Design

While the world is more interesting in F3, New Vegas clearly has the better mission designs. The people are also much more interesting to talk to in NV because pretty much every named character is connected to a mission of some sort. There are tons of unmarked missions in NV you can do just by talking to everyone you meet. The main missions are also generally much more interesting than anything you do in F3 as well. Gaining the trust of the Boomers, dealing with the White Glove Society, investigating an assassination attempt with NCR, or joining Caesar's Legion (they might be evil jerks, but the Legion quests are some of the most interesting in the whole game) are all miles better than what F3 offers in terms of quests.

We do feel it is kind of weird that you spend most of your time fighting other humans in NV rather than the hordes of actual monsters that are trying to kill everyone, but it does make sense since humans are greedy jerks and really would pose the biggest problem in a survival situation. We prefer fighting ghouls and super mutants, though, personally. In terms of mission design, though, it is clear. Winner - Fallout: New Vegas


While most of these comparisons have been pretty one sided, choosing a winner based on the DLC released for each game is tougher. Both games have some stinkers, but both also have some really awesome pieces of DLC. Broken Steel and Point Lookout are both really great in F3. Lonesome Road and Old World Blues are both fantastic in NV, with OWB probably being the best out of all of the DLC for either game. Back when you had to buy the DLC separately, we would probably say Fallout 3's DLC was a little better overall. Now that you can buy a Fallout 3 Game of the Year edition that comes with all of the DLC, and a Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition is coming out with all of the DLC in February 2012, they are pretty even.

One more note on DLC. New Vegas has two additional pieces of optional non-mission-based DLC that have a significant impact on the game, particularly the opening few hours which we expressed our dislike for above. The Courier's Stash is all of the pre-order bonuses from when the game came out in one package. It gives you better armor and better weapons right from the start, which makes the game quite a bit easier to get into.

The other DLC, The Gun Runner's Arsenal, gives you access (but you still have to spend caps to buy them in-game) to some crazy-awesome super weapons. These powerful weapons throw the balance of the game completely off, but they are sure fun to use. Winner - Push

Bottom Line

So which one wins? Fallout 3 has a better world that is more fun to explore and a much better first few hours. Fallout: New Vegas has better gameplay and better missions. The presentation in each game is fairly equal. New Vegas has more glitches. In the end, for us, these modern Fallout games (Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 are very different from these new ones) are more about the thrill of exploration than anything else, and Fallout 3 is a far more interesting game to explore. It is close, and both games are definitely worth playing, but we prefer Fallout 3 in the end.  Our real advice it to play both to prepare for Fallout 4, though.

Buy Fallout 3 at Amazon.com

By Fallout New Vegas at Amazon.com

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