Fallout 3 is the long-awaited sequel to Fallout 2, continuing in the Fallout series of games. Fallout 3 diverges from the other two games in the series in that it was developed by Bethesda Game Studios, as opposed to Interplay, which made the first and second Fallout games. Fallout 3 was released in October of 2008, approximately a decade after the last Fallout game. The strides in technology that have been made between the two times gave rise to different styles of presentations from within the series, as Fallout 3 is fully three-dimensional, but Fallout and Fallout 2 both had a perspective-based pseudo three dimensional presentation. Another difference is that Fallout 3 has real-time combat instead of turn-based combat, excluding V.A.T.S., the automatic targeting system that allows the player to select a section of an enemy's body to target, and then proceeds to render the shots in an cinematic style sequence.
But despite these differences, Fallout 3 continues in many of the proud traditions of the Fallout series. The aesthetic design remains much the same, in that it represents a post-apocalyptic society littered with remnants of a 1950s-esque society, only with more modern technology. Fallout 3 also contains the classic S.P.E.C.I.A.L. characteristics system of its predecessors, as well as the classic wrist computer iconic of the series, the Pip Boy. Many classic enemies of the series also return to face the protagonist, such as the Super Mutants.
The protagonist of Fallout 3 comes from one of the cornerstones of the Fallout series, the Vaults that were supposedly constructed to keep the populace of America safe from a nuclear holocaust, but were, in reality, a series of experiments on human nature. The protagonist, more commonly known in game lore as "the lone wanderer," emerges from their own Vault 101 after events force them to do so. Thrust from the safe, metaphorical womb that is Vault 101, the player emerges into the Capital Wasteland, which is a rendition of the Washington D.C. area after an apocalyptic nuclear war. From there, the game earns its 'sandbox' classification in that the player is free to do whatever pleases them, whether it is exploring, doing side quests, or pursuing the main quest line. Whatever actions the player takes in the game are reflected in the 'karma' tracker, which classifies the protagonist as being evil, neutral, or good, with each of these categories offering new options. If the player pursues the main quest to its completion, the ending of the game will reflect upon the player's karma.
Fallout 3 draws upon many conventional elements of a first person shooter (FPS), but also allows the game to be viewed in third-person. While the presentation and use of guns may give the game an appearance of being an FPS, Fallout 3 draws heavily on elements of role-playing games (RPG), using statistics, skills, levels, and the aforementioned quests. Most of these are monitored and controlled through the Pip-Boy 3000, the wrist computer which is a constant companion to the protagonist's wrist. The Capital Wasteland is the area through which the player can travel, and exploration can lead to many hidden areas and rewards. Up to three non-player characters (NPCs) may accompany the player through the Capital Wasteland if the player finds one or more NPCs who are willing to do so.
Fallout 3 was released to generally positive critical acclaim. It has been praised in many areas, including its graphics, gameplay (particularly V.A.T.S.), and style. It received Game of the Year awards from several productions, including IGN and Gamasutra. Even Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw, producer of the demanding and critical Zero Punctuation review, gave it what is for his series a 'generally positive' review.