'Fallout 3' vs. 'Fallout: New Vegas'

A head-to-head evaluation of two great games

The game Fallout 3 screenshot

Jamiecat / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

When deciding which is better — "Fallout 3" or "Fallout New Vegas" — take time to evaluate the two games on several fronts before you pick a winner, though both are exceptional Fallout games.


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

  • Winner - "Fallout: New Vegas"

World Design

"Fallout 3" has a definite advantage when it comes to world design. The Mojave in "Fallout: New Vegas" is just plain boring to explore for the most part, and the city of New Vegas itself is disappointing. F3's Capital Wasteland, however, is full of varied terrain with lots of landmarks to explore. You may not love the D.C. ruins full of invisible walls and the mazelike underground tunnels, but these are only complaints the first time through the game and won't bother you on repeat visits. Every building in Capital Wasteland 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 with the "Fallout: New Vegas" world is that if you don't take the correct path through the world, you are screwed. If you take the wrong road out of Goodsprings, you are going to be utterly destroyed by either giant radscorpions or deathclaws. Venture off the track, and you'll find cazadores — perhaps the most annoying enemies ever. Even if you do take the right road, you are 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 not fun. Its opening few hours are the worst of any video game.

"Fallout 3," by comparison, has a great opening. You can go anywhere and do pretty much anything. Decent weapons are easy to find (hunting rifles are your friends), and even if you run into a giant radscorpion or wandering deathclaw, The versions of these monsters in "Fallout 3" are wimpy compared with their New Vegas counterparts. You can take pretty much any path you want in "Fallout 3" and explore anywhere 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 has 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 much more interesting than anything you do in F3. Gaining the trust of the boomers, dealing with the White Glove Society, investigating an assassination attempt with NCR, or joining Caesar's Legion are all miles better than what F3 offers in terms of quests. 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 makes sense since humans are greedy jerks and would pose the biggest problem in a survival situation. Fighting ghouls and super mutants, though, is more fun. In terms of mission design, the winner is clear.

  • Winner - "Fallout: New Vegas"

Downloadable Content

While most of these comparisons have been pretty one-sided, choosing a winner based on the downloadable content (DLC) released for each game is tougher. Both games have some stinkers, but both also have some awesome pieces of DLC. Broken Steel and Point Lookout are both 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, F3'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" with all of the DLC, they are pretty even.

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. The Courier's Stash is all of the preorder 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 to some crazy-awesome superweapons, but you still have to spend caps to buy them in the game. These powerful weapons throw the balance of the game completely off, but they are sure fun to use.

  • Winner - Tie

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. These Fallout games 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 worth playing, but "Fallout 3" has an edge.