After you escape the vault, you are placed on the edge of what was once Virginia, just outside of what is left of Washington D.C. Called the Capital Wasteland by the in-game inhabitants, the world is essentially yours to explore. Not far outside the vault you will come across your first post-apocalyptic settlement, Megaton. Megaton will form your base of operations for the first few levels as you are given some pretty basic missions that will help to introduce you to the world of Fallout 3. You will travel across the wastelands delivering messages, killing raiders, or raiding yourself, each mission netting a reward that is usually some XP, an item, or the in-game currency, bottle caps (sometimes all three).
Combat in Fallout 3 is played out in real-time, with the exception of when you invoke the V.A.T.S. system. Weapons can be bound to 1-9 for easier access and there is a good selection of weapons to choose from. From bare knuckles to mini-nukes, Fallout 3 features an impressive armory and you have the ultimate choice of which weapons you want to use based on your particular tastes. If you want to go futuristic, there are laser and plasma weapons for you. Or if Max Rocktansky is more your style, you can specialize in traditional projectile firearms like the sawed-off shotgun and assault rifle. Perhaps you are more into bare-knuckle boxing or going all “John Henry” on a super-mutants noggin’. If that’s the case, there are specializations for that too. Of course, you can also choose to ignore combat entirely thanks to the sneak skills which allow you to slink around like an atomic age ninja, complete with bonuses associated with backstabbing. It seems Bethesda took its time to ensure there are plenty of ways to customize combat for almost each person’s specific idea of fun.
In Fallout and Fallout 2, there were perks associated with leveling that helped to assist the player in his quest through the wasteland. Fallout 3 brings the perk system back, although Bethesda has re-tooled it to meet their needs. There are 67 perks in total, with 9 of them only being granted upon completing quests for specific people. Perks work as bonuses to your bases stats, skills, or are generic bonuses designed to help you throughout the game. For instance, the Bloody Mess perk grants you an additional 5% damage with all weapons, as well as the added bonus that every enemy you kill will explode in a smattering of blood and gore...so of course we picked that perk as early as possible. Some perks are only available after you’ve reached a certain level; in addition, others have pre-requisites that must be met before you can select them. Unlike previous games in the Fallout series, perks are granted at each level, as opposed to every 3 levels.