Fallout 3: the 64 best tips!

The 64 biggest secrets and strategies in Fallout 3, from dominating combat to becoming a bottlecap millionaire. Read this guide before you play!
  • Sid Shuman (GamePro (online))
  • 05 November, 2008 15:54
Fallout 3.

Fallout 3.

Fallout 3 is a truly enormous game. This action RPG plants you in the post-apocalyptic world of Washington, D.C., where vile Super Mutants and Ghouls prowl the rad-blasted wastelands. In order to survive, you'll need a quick trigger finger...and a quick brain.

Here are 64 of the most useful gameplay hints for surviving Fallout 3.

Combat Basics

Always use VATS to attack. Fallout 3 is not a run-and-gun shooter, so don't play it like one! In combat, tap the right trigger (PS3 and Xbox 360 versions) to enable the VATS targeting system. VATS will allow you to inflict the maximum amount of damage — far more than simply firing from the hip — and take down enemies quickly and easily. If you're not using VATS regularly, you are asking for trouble.

Concentrate your fire on one body part. Use the VATS targeting system to concentrate all of your attacks on one body part (such as the head or torso). Once that body part becomes crippled, it's easy to blow it off with one or two more shots. Easy peasy!

Conserve ammo. This one's a no-brainer, but still bears mentioning. In the grey, dismal world of Fallout 3, resources are in scarce supply and it's wise not to waste what little ammo you'll find.

Small Guns are big on power. There's no dishonor in investing in Small Guns. Contrary to its diminutive name, the Small Guns class encapsulates high-end killing machines such as the Sniper Rifle, Scoped .44 Magnum, and the Assault Rifle. And because bullets are more common than laser batteries and explosives, you'll generally have more ammo.

Repair is important. Consider boosting your Repair skill to 40 or 50 if you're a combat-centric character, as making repairs in town can be a pricey process.

Always carry a spare for your favorite weapon. To fix one weapon, you'll need another of the same variety. If your combat shotgun breaks in the middle of a fight, you'll want access to a spare so you can perform a quick field strip and get right back in the fight.

Strength and Agility are critical for fighters. These two S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats are most important for fighters, and will let you carry more gear and inflict more damage in combat. A high Agility will give you more accuracy in VATS aiming as well.

Scavenging for Loot

Be sure to carry bobby pins. Many players forget to bring bobby pins to the battlefield, which will prevent you from accessing the best loot. These little miracles are the chief way to open locked containers. Without bobby pins, you'll only be able to force locks using your screwdriver.

Bump up your Barter skill. The Barter stat directly impacts how much — or how little — items cost in the shops. If you want to amass a mountain of bottlecaps, bump Barter up to 50 or 75. Having high Charisma will also help here.

Crafting items fetch a hefty price. Even if you don't want to construct your own weapons, crafting items are often worth collecting for their high resale value. The heavier components — vacuums, leaf blowers, motorcycle gas tanks — aren't usually worth the wasted inventory space. But smaller items such as conductors and sensors are worth a pretty penny, so grab 'em and sell 'em.

Save your Scrap Metal. In Fallout 3, scrap metal is a valuable resource. So much so that two characters — one in Megaton, the other in Underworld — will happily buy your scrap metal at high rates.

Ammo is gold. In Fallout 3, ammunition fetches a tidy resale sum. That means you should grab every single round you find, from the lowly BB all the way up to the mini-nuke, even if you never intend to fire them. You're never broke if you have access to thousands of rounds of seldom-used ammo.

Save those mini-nukes! You'll earn a free Fatboy launcher and almost 10 of the mini-nukes when you first fight the Behemoth outside of the Galaxy News Radio Station. Because the mini-nuke ammunition is worth a small fortune in resale value — 300+ caps per round — it's better to blow away the Behemoth with a standard missile launcher and save the pricey ammo.

Practice picking locks. Picking locks requires a little persistence Think of it as a cold-warm-hot test: the idea is to spend your first try testing to see where the lock's "cold spots" are, then spending your second attempt on locating the hot spot and opening the lock. Once you've narrowed down the "cold" parts of the lock, you'll have a much better idea where to stick the next bobby pin. Common "hot spots" on locks are the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions.

Put at least 25 points into Explosives. If you invest 25 skill points in Explosives, you'll be able to disarm frag mines and collect them for resale. Once you hit 25 in Explosives, head over to Minetown to scoop up over a dozen of the little buggers and cash them in for some serious dough.

Wearing certain outfits will boost your skills. Some special outfits in the game will boost your abilities by 5 points in a particular discipline. The most useful are the ones that boost your Repair skill — swapping to this outfit when repairing items is an easy way to get more

Keep your armor in tip-top shape. The lower your armor's condition, the more damage you'll take in battle. Keep it patched up or you'll be at a big disadvantage against tougher opponents. The same goes for weapons: the lower the condition, the lower the damage.

Levelling Up

Reading is comprehending! While picking through the rubble, you'll occasionally find books with snappy titles (Puglism Quarterly, Grognak the Barbarian). If you pick up and use the book, you'll gain one skill point. Also consider investing the Comprehension perk early the game — you'll gain an extra skill point for every book you read.

Choose the right perks. There are plenty of fun perks in Fallout 3 (Bloody Mess, anyone?). But you're better off choosing perks that give you more tangible, lasting benefits. Useful early perks include Gun Nut (boosts both Small Guns and Repair skills by 5), Strong Back (grants 50 extra pounds of inventory space), and Lead Belly (a 50% reduction to any radiation you gain by drinking water).

Don't spread out your skill points. It's a mistake to try and be a "jack of all trades" in Fallout 3 by diversifying your skill points. You'll have far better luck by choosing two or three areas of mastery.

There are several "must-have" skills. Some skills are too useful to completely ignore. Medicine, Repair, and Barter are all extremely helpful and worth sinking at least 25 (preferably 40-50) skill points into.

Endurance and Strength are the most useful stats. Endurance enables you to take more damage in combat, and Strength gives you more carrying capacity. Both are well worth investing in.

Choose the Fast Learner perk to earn more experience. Every time you sink a point into the Fast Learner perk, you'll earn 10% larger experience rewards. If you want to reach level 20, invest in this perk as early as possible.

High Intelligence grants you more skill points. Boosting your Intelligence rank will grant you extra skill points every time you level up, enabling you to master more disciplines. As with the Fast Learner perk, you'll want to make this decision early in the game in order to get the maximum benefit.

Level 20 is the highest level. You can't proceed past level 20. In order to reach that, you'll have to embark on most of the game's numerous side quests. You'll also want to kill as many enemies and disarm as many traps as possible to get maximum experience points.

Collect the Bobbleheads. If you search hard, you'll find Bobblehead collectible items that you can stash on the trophy case in your house in Megaton. Each Bobblehead you find will slightly boost your stats, so it's worth tracking down as many as you can. You can find one in Sherriff Lucas's house in Megaton.

Find the secret perks. In Fallout 3, you can earn undocumented "secret" perks as quest rewards. The first one, Rad Regeneration, is earned if you complete Moira's Survival Guide chapter on radiation poisoning. To earn Rad Regeneration, which heals your limbs when exposed to radiation, you want to accumulate at least 600 rad points before visiting Moira for the cure. Complete other quests in the game to earn other secret perks.

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Enemy Weaknesses

Punch Radroaches. Low-level Radroaches pose little threat, but they can nip you to shreds early in the game. The easiest way to kill them is to ready your fists, or any melee weapon, and give 'em a quick whack. Don't even bother wasting your Action Points by entering the VATS targeting, just squash 'em.

Shoot dogs, moles, and basic critters anywhere. These low-level animals aren't much of a threat and should go down quickly with a few shots to the head or torso. If you get swarmed by a pack of dogs, consider lobbing a grenade or two.

Shoot humans and Super Mutants in the head. The most obvious weak point is also one of the most common. If you're fighting a humanoid enemy, it's a safe bet that the head is the highest-damage target.

Consider investing in the Animal Lover perk. The mutated creatures that roam the Capital Wastelands make up some of the more difficult enemies in the game. To save yourself some trouble, you might want to invest in the Animal Lover perk — it will prevent animals from attacking you on sight. Subsequent levels will make animals fight for you.

Shoot Ants in their antennae. The oversized Fire Ants that infest Greywater make up one of the most frustrating battles in Fallout 3. The secret is to target and cripple the ant's antennae, and then let them burn each other to a crisp in the confusion.

Shoot Centaurs in the legs. These abominations serve as watchdogs for the Super Mutants. Aside from their radioactive projectiles, Centaurs don't represent a big threat but can absorb some impressive damage. To take 'em out quickly, target their legs.

Shoot Radscorpions in the stinger. Radscorpions are one of the toughest creatures in Fallout 3, and can absorb an impressive amount of damage. Keep your distance and use your VATS targeting to shred their stinger gland. Still, be prepared for a fight.

Shoot Mirelurks in the face. These territorial crab-men can overwhelm and destroy you with their brutal pinchers. The trick is to use a powerful weapon — the combat shotgun works well — to repeatedly target their tiny, exposed faces. You'll need to get up-close-and-personal to hit your mark, but nobody said it would be easy.

Use Pulse grenades and Pulse mines against robots. Some of the toughest enemies in Fallout 3 are robotic in nature. In these cases, Pulse grenades and Pulse mines are the weapon of choice — robots can't survive the electromagnetic blast.

Shoot Protectrons in the chest. These low-level robots are easy to defeat, if you can get past their laser fire. Simply pump a few high-powered slugs, or a few close-range shotgun blasts, into the Protectron's torso to drop it for good.

Shoot Robobrains in the brain (duh). These slow-moving robots can inflict big damage, but they also have an obvious weak point: a glass-encased brain that rests on top of their armored chassis. Give 'em a few hard hits to the brainpan and they'll go down in a jiffy.

Shoot Mr. Gutsy in the sensor array. These high-level robots are very tough. Your best bet is a Pulse grenade or mine, but those are hard to come by. In a pinch, you can use the VATS targeting to take out Mr. Gutsy's sensor array, effectively blinding it. Then you'll have more leeway to finish it off with your weapon of choice.

Staying Healthy

Save cash by drinking water. Stimpacks are awfully pricey, starting at 35 bottlecaps. The budget solution is to use water sources to heal yourself whenever you're traveling the wastelands. Though you'll gain radiation from drinking, it's cheaper to use a Rad Away or two over time than several dozen Stimpacks. Fire hydrants, sinks, and drinking fountains harbor the lowest rad levels, so drink up!

Beef up your Medicine skill. For all their expense, Stimpacks don't heal very much unless you increase your Medicine skill. Shoot to hit at least 50 in your Medicine skill, or you'll be guzzling those pricey Stimpacks every few seconds.

Heal crippled limbs first. It's easy to overlook the condition of your limbs when you're struggling to stay alive in a battle. But if one of your limbs becomes crippled, you'll take double damage from any subsequent shots to that limb. Crippled arms will also severely impact your weapon accuracy, so it pays to keep your limbs patched up as much as possible — one button press (Square on the PS3, X on the Xbox 360) will allow you to focus a Stimpack on any limb you choose.

Sleeping will heal your limbs. If your limbs are in tatters, a quick hour-long nap will be enough to fully regenerate them. Ignore the health of your limbs at your own peril.

Certain foods heal more than others. Much of the food you'll scavenge is of low nutritional value and won't heal more than a measly 5 or 10 hit points. But several foods — most notably Mirelurk meat and Mirelurk softshell meat — will heal far more. Pick your food choices carefully.

Corpses are part of a balanced breakfast. By selecting the Cannibal perk, you can restore lost life by eating dead bodies — handy, as you'll be seeing plenty of them. Indulging in your zombie tendencies will deplete your Karma and turn any nearby humans against you, so be warned.

Buffout boosts your Strength and Endurance temporarily. Buffout is especially handy if you want to carry extra equipment for a short period of time. If you want to carry an oversized load of gear back to town for re-sale, pop a Buffout, load up, and quick travel back to town.

Mentats increase your Charisma and Intelligence temporarily. Mentats are the least useful of the chems in Fallout 3, but they're useful if you need a quick boost to your people skills or your hacking abilities.

Psycho will boost your damage by 25% temporarily. Psycho is best saved for difficult battles, when you need an edge in combat. They're rare, so make the most of them.

Jet will replenish some of your Action Points. When your Action Points deplete, you'll be unable to use the VATS targeting system. If you can't afford to wait for the Action Points to regenerate, popping some Jet will keep you in the fight.

Alcohol will give you beer muscles. Like a low-rent version of Buffout, alcoholic beverages will temporarily boost your strength. This is handy if you have a big load of salvaged gear you need to take back to town for re-sale.

Don't get addicted! With repeated use, you can become addicted to any of the chems in Fallout 3. Some of the addictive side effects are worse than others, but if you need to detox you can always pay your town clinic to kill your addiction.

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Your Home

Blowing up Megaton isn't advised. Though many players opt to blow up the first town of Megaton, this isn't a great idea: you'll miss out on some major quests, handsome rewards, and your very own house. If you must blow up Megaton, do so after you've cleared the most rewarding missions.

Earning your first house. You can earn a free house in the town of Megaton, but you have to help out Sheriff Lucas first by deactivating the dormant nuclear bomb.

Skip the Work Bench add-on. You can outfit your house with items that grant new abilities. The Work Bench is a tempting option, as it allows you to construct new weapons and items from spare parts. But you can always use the free Work Bench located in the Craterside Supply Store in Megaton. Why pay for the cows when you can get the milk for free?

Get a good night's sleep to boost XP. By sleeping in a bed, you'll earn a temporary state called "Well Rested." In this state, you'll earn an experience point bonus every time you kill an enemy, complete a quest, or perform other XP-related tasks. There's a bed in your Megaton house, so no excuses!

Your robo-butler will give you purified water. The robotic butler comes standard with your house in Megaton and can dispense bottles of purified water for you. The supply is limited, but it's a nice bonus.

You can stash excess equipment at your house. Why lug around mountains of useless gear? Stash it all in the lockers or desk of your Megaton abode and return to claim it at any time.

Exploring and Questing

The Pip-Boy is your friend. Your arm-mounted computer has an awkward interface, but it's your biggest asset in the game. It tracks quests, stat points and skills, and contains a host of other useful functions. Once you get past the convoluted interface, the Pip-boy is an indispensable tool.

Master the Pip-Boy's map. The map interface in Fallout 3 is one of the game's more frustrating elements — setting (and reading) waypoints takes practice and patience. Once you learn the ins and outs of the map, though, you'll have a far easier time following your active quests and staying on-task. Take time to experiment with it early in the game.

Change the Pip-Boy's display color. Ugh — the tiny pea-green display on the Pip-Boy can give you a headache. Luckily, you can assign a more eye-friendly color by accessing the Start menu, selecting Settings, and Display Settings. We find that Amber produces the easiest-to-read Pip-Boy display, but experiment with the others to find the perfect fit for you.

Activate the Pip-Boy's light in dark areas. By holding a button (Circle on the PS3, B on the Xbox 360) for several seconds, you can activate the Pip-boy's integrated light source. This is hugely handy in the darker areas of the game, but the light will alert observant enemies.

Use quick travel to save time. Some players don't know that you can hop instantly from one location to another in Fallout 3, which saves lots of walking time. You can only 'quick travel' between previously discovered areas, so you'll still have to brave the wilderness when searching for new areas. You can access quick travel function on the Pip-Boy map — just highlight your desired destination and press X or A on your controller. You need to be outside and out of enemy range to quick travel.

Save smart, save often. Another common sense rule, but an important one. Fallout 3 is a game about consequences, and you may find that a decision you made comes back to haunt you in a big way (case in point: enraging town residents and turning them against you permanently). In these cases, it's best not to rely on the game's frequent auto-saving — make some manual saves as critical junctions so you can rewind history if need be.

Venture off the beaten path. Some of the biggest secrets in Fallout 3 have nothing to do with the main quest line. It's worth visiting every area in the game in order to meet new characters, earn new quests, and find rare new items.