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Fallout 3 7-Years Later Review



Seven years is a long time for video games and Fallout 3 is definitely showing its age. The textures do not hold up in our current HD world and the models do not fare much better. Neither look bad, but they do look old. The environment is definitely the best example of this, as a lot of detail is in the textures, like small cracks, shadows, and the omnipresent debris, and even then the textures are not sharp enough to pull it off. That is at close range, too, because when you look far enough into the distance, a lot of detail will be removed. You will still have large objects, like trees and buildings being rendered, but they will be islands in a bland sea.

Characters are similar to the environment, in that the textures hold much of the detail, but they fare a bit better. This is quite possibly because the characters are small enough that the textures will still look sharp. This only goes so far, as you can still see that the models are flat in many places. One thing I do need to give this game is that circles actually look like circles instead of polygons. They may not be as good as the highly tessellated games released today, but it is still significantly better than some other titles I can think of.









Animations are what really hurt this games graphics, in my opinion. Obviously this whole review is in my opinion, but I may be a bit harsher here than some think is fair. Facial animations consistently stood out to me as poor, because I found them to be emotionless and not particularly accurate for the speech. The fact that only the mouths moved does not help either; there is no other movement like waving of hands, tilting of heads, etc. Other animations outside of conversations can also be very mechanical in appearance and execution.

In general the lighting is okay, but it does give a definite green and yellow tint to the world, and almost a haze as well. This does make some sense as an artistic choice for a nuclear wasteland. At night the world is still pretty well lit, which is somewhat useful. It can still be worth it to turn on the light on your wrist-mounted Pip-Boy to better see the details, but that is unnecessary for basic traversal of the environment. Inside buildings and caves, however, the light can definitely be a requirement.



One issue with that light from the Pip-Boy is that it will seem to wash out some surfaces. Actually a number of lights can do that, but I found it particularly noticeable with the one my character is wearing. In situations that you need the light, you keep it on.

Fire is aged, like the rest of the game, but actually does not look that bad. It has a nice structure to it and does block out the areas behind it appropriately, too, at least to an okay degree. The age comment is that the wisps to it are somewhat blurred. Improving the definition of the filaments is all it really needs.


Water is a little better than fire, at least in that it does not look old to me. The surface is always smooth, except when something swims through it. When this happens, you can see circular ripples emanate out from the body and form a nice wake behind them. It is not a very deep wake and is somewhat simplistic, but it does its job well.

Everything above concerns the base graphics and not the modded graphics. Naturally before covering that I need to list the mods, all of which are the latest versions from the Fallout 3 Nexus:

  • Enhanced Blood Textures
  • NMCs Texture Pack for Fallout 3
  • Hi-Res Weapons
  • Fellout
  • Fallout Street Lights

Obviously the first three will improve the textures and do make a difference, but truly the last two have the greatest impact. The Fallout Street Lights mod does what its name suggest by turning on some of the lights found throughout the world, if it would make sense for them to have power. The light from them does not always look that good, because of how it projects onto the air. Combined with Fellout, it makes a dramatic change at night.

Based on the description, Fellout was made to improve the lighting of Fallout 3 and it definitely does. The difference during the day is visible, with the green tint removed, making the wasteland look like it is full of ruins instead of a purely inhospitable world. It has the greatest impact on the night. The world loses its almost welcoming, ambient glow at night. Now the night is black, completely black, except for some of the lights you find in the world and those activated by the Fallout Street Lights mod. The light of your Pip-Boy is necessary now to safely explore the wasteland.

Base game





With the street lights on, the wasteland feels far more isolating and tense, as these lights puncture the darkness at a distance. When you run into a band of enemies, like raiders hiding amongst ruins, the fight is far more intense (and fortunately I got it on video!). You legitimately cannot see the raiders except when they fire their guns at you. You can still use VATS to target these unseen enemies, but even with that, I found the fights to be much more interesting because you cannot find the enemy just by looking around.


I have to say that I really enjoyed having Fellout on. I feel it improves the look of the game, but mainly its effect on the night is what I most liked.

Time to talk performance, so here are my specs:

  • Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
  • Cooling: Corsair H110
  • Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
  • GPU: NVIDIA GTX 980 4 GB
  • PhysX: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
  • PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
  • OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit

I was able to play Fallout 3, with and without mods, with setting maxed, except for Depth of Field, which I had turned off as a personal choice. This includes the antialiasing option, view distance, and distant LOD. Largely the game played at 60 FPS, but there were times it dropped lower. Only during the Point Lookout DLC did the framerate drop enough to be annoying. Point Lookout, the in-game location, has a fair amount of fog covering it, and apparently the game was trying to render as much of it as it could, which was taxing the system more than anything else in the game. I did play this DLC with the mods enabled (only this and the Broken Steel DLC had the mods enabled when I played them), but some quick searching revealed that the DLC is just known to hurt performance, regardless of mods. Looking in different directions helped the performance, and you can find instructions for graphics setting changes that may also help.


The overall stability of the game was okay, but I did have occasional crashes to desktop. I was not able to pin down any exact cause, although I did observe that the game really did not like Alt-Tabbing.

There was one instance of textures not loading correctly, where a low resolution texture was not replaced by the high resolution texture required at the close range of under my feet. This only happened once to my knowledge, so it is not a big deal.


Some other issues I ran into were actual bugs, like companions dying due to DLC issues, doors being impossible to open, and characters getting into odd, and sometimes inescapable, parts of the geometry. To fix these issues I would briefly use console commands, but only ever to correct the issue.

Altogether the graphics are, as I said in the beginning, dated. There really is no better description for them, because they do not look bad; they just look like what you expect of a seven-year-old game that was also released to console. The mods I installed helped, and heavier modding would no doubt help more, but I did not want to overdo it. I am happy with the mods I did install, especially the lighting mod Fellout. I enjoyed its impact on the game and recommend others looking to mod Fallout 3 to consider it.


  1. Fallout 3 Review - Introduction
  2. Fallout 3 Review - Graphics
  3. Fallout 3 Review - Story
  4. Fallout 3 Review - Gameplay
  5. Fallout 3 Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  6. Fallout 3 Review - Conclusion
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