Fallout 3 was Best in the Horror Department

Image: Fallout 3’s game cover. Just the cover is intimidating.
Written By: Elijah Moon Blackwell

What a terrible reveal.

Bethesda recently invited a bunch of “influential” gaming figures to an event in West Virginia to play Fallout 76 for three hours.

YouTubers and “journalists” posted their impressions and game footage all over the internet for us potential buyers to pick apart. The community, judging by YouTube comments [a totally legit source], seems to feel the same as I do. We are all disappointed and worried about the upcoming release.

All it did was remind me why I love Fallout 3 and how it is constantly overshadowed by its younger brother Fallout: New Vegas.

It was a dim Christmas night when I first played Fallout 3. I had just got my PlayStation 3 and for some reason I saved Fallout for last. The day was spent playing Assassin’s Creed and Bioshock. Honestly, I didn’t know much about Fallout besides it being an RPG. My brother had me believing it was a game of intense difficulty. Probably a miscommunication….or he is just that bad.

My room had a small desk lamp on while the blinds were closed, blocking out the winter moon. I put the game in my Ps3 only to see if I’d enjoy it. I was going to try it for an hour and then go to bed.

The opening cut scene with the classic World War II era music shook me. Seeing Washington, D.C. in ruins blew my mind. At the time, I’d never seen America in ruin. Most of my video games growing up took place in foreign lands or fantasy worlds. Never before had I seen America be the theatre for battle.

Then a person wearing an armor suit I’ve never seen before looks at the screen, almost as if they were looking at me. Okay, what exactly am I playing?

Dang, I thought to myself, this is insane.

Next thing I know my parents are waking up to me still playing Fallout 3. It was because I was obsessed, yes, but it was also because I knew that if I went to sleep my dreams would have turned into nightmares. Visions of a wasteland inhabited by unspeakable creatures awaited my subconscious. Sleep was not an option.

So what made Fallout 3 so spooky? Why was teen me such a wuss? Well, for two simple reasons:

Element of Mystery

After being shown a blown-out D.C. with the introduction about war never changing, I was on the edge of my bargain bin gaming chair. I was ready to see what the city looked like from my perspective. However, the game took a turn I did not expect. I watched my own character’s birth.

After growing up as a baby, into a child and on to an anxty teenager I was so curious about what was beyond the vault door. I had no idea what was out there.

To keep some plot points a secret just in case you are someone who hasn’t played the game yet, just know it was time to leave.

Seeing the vault door open was an event I will always remember. It opened slowly, with loud, ominous noises. The light was bright, I couldn’t see the world beyond. I step out seeing bones of humans who were not allowed into the vault ages ago.

As soon as I leave the cave, my heart racing, I see the world Bethesda made and my mouth stayed open in awe.

It was a wasteland. An image no game truly captured in a way Bethesda did in that moment. With the sun blinding you and the scenic overlook nearby showing you just how much damage a nuke can do, I felt instant dread.

This was just the beginning. Already the game had me captivated in mystery. At every turn I was asking questions in a hesitant way.

“Vampires? Nearby?”
“All Caravans go to the Canterbury Common’s? I bet that place is huge!”
“Who is Three-Dog and where is he broadcasting from?”
“The president is still alive?”

The thoughts went on and on. The game was shrouded in mystery.

New Vegas did have some mysterious elements, but they are introduced early and fast. You hear about Caesar’s Legion and you run into them fairly quickly. Their dock is close to the beginning town where the player spawns.

I was extremely curious about Vegas itself. However, it just took a long jog to get there. I found an easy way in [paying the sentry bot in Freeside] and the mystery was solved rather quickly.

By comparison, there were many areas of Fallout 3 that couldn’t be seen without having a specific skill or being high level enough to fight your way through.

Little Lamplight is a location in 3 that always struck my curiosity. When I first played I failed the speech attempt and couldn’t find another way in. For a long time I never saw the interior.

Due to super mutants, it took me awhile to level up to fight the super mutants to get to Three Dog.

I can go on and on about locations that were hard to get to and required some leveling up.

Only a few memorable areas of New Vegas were hard to get to and I had to return at a later date.

Lastly, this mystery added to the horror. I didn’t know what to expect. Several locations threw me completely off guard. Most notably, the Dunwich building. I discovered this location and entered it not expecting a horror movie to play out before me.

The game also has randomly occurring events, some of which you won’t see coming, literally. I’ve been turned around while looting something to a guy asking me to hand over all my valuables. I must have jumped ten feet in the air. Who is this guy? How often does this happen? More questions and the uneasiness continued.

Sense of Dread

As previously mentioned, my first emotion outside the vault was dread. There never seemed to be a safe haven. Even in Rivet City and Megaton there were shady figures who sometimes turned combative. No place was safe. At least, it never felt safe.

Settlements also were dreadful in themselves. From Arefu to Big Town, the struggles of a post-apocalyptic society was thrown right in your face. Seeing slavers for the first time also made me shudder. The thought of surviving the bombs, only to be enslaved by people more powerful than I.

New Vegas did not come with this dread. With the exception of Caesar’s Camp where people were crucified and enslaved, the world felt sort of normal in a way. Due to taking place in the desert and in an area where not as many bombs landed, the environment didn’t feel as post-apocalyptic as 3 did.

76 looks even more normal with all the vegetation and intact buildings. Though I try not to judge it so much on its demo, on release day my opinion will be more in depth.

This dread created a horror in itself due to immersion I placed myself in the world. I was in the Capital Wasteland. I was afraid that the things I dreaded would consume me eventually.

Bethesda seems to have forgotten these two reasons. Even though I harped on New Vegas I will be the first to admit that the game was near perfect despite the lack of the Fallout 3 atmosphere and look.

However, with each titled released the horror element gets more and more rubbed out. I was never fearful in the base game of 4. The lack of human NPCs and a focus on MMO style gameplay makes 76 astonishingly less horrific.

Will Fallout ever return to its roots? Will we ever get a horror filled experience? Who knows, as only time will tell. Todd Howard, if you are reading this by some odd chance, please give us a good horrific single player experience sometime in the coming future! Thanks –Moon.

What’s your favorite horrific moments in any of the Fallouts? Let me know in the comments!

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