Amount Completed – Main story line in the main game and all DLC. (some side missions were likely missed)
Story – As made obvious from the title, Fallout 3 is about your character's role in a post-apocalyptic world. Many years have passed since the actual event. The main storyline centers around following your father's trail and possibly vision. Along the way there is a massive bevy of side missions to distract and improve your character and/or inventory. You will have the opportunity to make moral decisions through conversation and actions. Mostly this will result in access to more items and/or trigger certain groups of individuals to attack you. (Example: Kill someone who is marked as a “slaver” and all those consider “slavers” will likely attack you on-sight)
The story of the game is more for you to define and less about a clear start-to-finish narrative. This is actually one of my complaints. The story and events that unravel felt underwhelming. The game is not about ridiculous scripted explosions or major twists and turns. If you want that you mostly have to create it yourself. The one exception to my underwhelming complaint is any mission involving a huge ultra-patriotic robot stomping through enemies. This was really the only time I felt like I was part of something bigger than a character randomly rampaging around rummaging through garbage. (unfortunately I think there are only two such missions) -- other squad based sections are often a bit messy as the AI likes to stand in front of your bullets.
Much of the game centers around your moral decisions affecting your overall karma. Karma indicates how kind you are to (and in) the game world. The moral decisions are sometimes difficult with often odd routes around them. I found that the one that stuck in my mind the most was a request from a virtual character (yes a virtual character within a virtual world inside the game itself) requesting I don a creepy clown mask and murder a town full of people. I found my way out via other means completely avoiding the act. The route I chose also may have limited my exposure to some of the more darker elements. I played the game as an ultra good character.
Fallout 3 avoids many things that would have lead to way too much complexity. You will not find vehicles or other technologies that clearly would not just disappear in a post-apocalyptic world.
Art – The art of Fallout 3 fits the theme and works reasonably well. I found it unfortunate that it seemed like absolutely no part of the game actually appeared to be in any kind of restored state. Humans are decorators. Even after the apocalypse people would not tolerate everything looking like crap to the extent that things do in Fallout 3. Even the supposed uppity Tenpenny Tower lacked the flair I would expect from upper-class stereotypes.
Gameplay – I fought a lot of the same 10 creatures and their 1-3 variations. They strangely scaled (or not) as I leveled my character up. At some point some the semi-common creatures became super weak while others became more powerful than any boss character. For example the Ghoul Roamer (I believe) became so powerful that Fawkes and my character, both with high-powered Gatling lasers, had to fire at one for 30+ seconds to destroy it. This happened to be at the end of the Broken Steel DLC where you fight 10+ on your way through the subway tunnels.
I definitely became a bit bored with roaming through the many many subway tunnels. Expanding my inventory was a slow and mostly monotonous activity. While I was working towards what I believed would be massive challenges requiring tons of ammunition and stimpacks... resulting in awesome cut scenes or activities... I was rewarded with mostly bland mission conclusions. I feel the game may prey on people who are hoarders. You will become lost in collecting junk. I definitely did at times. (ie. Scrap metal gathering)
Weapon wise I stuck with the Rock-It Launcher (garbage launcher) and a very well maintained Chinese Assault Rifle. There are a variety of weapons I mostly ignored as they became ineffective at higher levels.
Gut – Fallout 3 is simply alright. The world to explore and number of missions are overwhelming, but the payoff is just outright underwhelming. It is much more about how you feel about making a decision then necessarily the outcome of the decision. The PC version is riddled with bugs. Enjoy the crashes and other oddities! I may play it again as an evil character.
DLC Gut – As many of the DLC packs are a bit of a departure from the main game I feel it is necessary to comment on them separately.
Operation: Anchorage – Fallout 3 as a military squad combat game. The inventory payoff is definitely worth playing through but that's about it. The power armor I received was able to be worn without training and apparently never needed repair. I never ran into any better armor. (not that I sought it out).
The Pitt – Fish out of water. I lost my inventory for a while, scavenged a bunch of steel ingots from a dangerous steel yard... and fought among some ruined buildings. Nothing spectacular other than a glitchy saw weapon that graphically may or may not appear depending on the phase of the moon.
Broken Steel – Squad Combat leads you to fight an aircraft carrier on tank treads. The level 30 cap increase was the best part. The conclusion of the main plot was again about as bland as possible.
Point Lookout – Swamp People. Very strange and intriguing region with lots to explore and uncover. Many of the threads did not lead to interesting conclusions (par for the course). The enemies were incredibly strong and annoying.
Mothership Zeta – Fish out of water. I lost my inventory for a while. I found some alien laser rifle, a pile of ammunition, and blasted aliens in the head for 4 hours slogging through this. The conclusion was unique but mostly just confusing. Fallout 3 does not handle ship to ship space battles very well if you must know...