Maybe now we can forget Brotherhood of Steel...
Fallout 3 on PC is a game for hardcore PC gamers who enjoy at least the odd RPG. The game requires a significant investment of time and effort but the reward is well worth it.
The SPECIAL (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck) system allows you to define any sort of archetype you'd like for your character. With a little forethought you can produce a huge variety of play styles from the system. For the Fallout veterans perks take the place of the old perks and traits system. Now you choose a new perk every level advancing your skills (like your lock picking) or giving you special bonuses or abilities (like improved aim or cannibalism).
The environment is intentionally oppressing doing a great job of immersing you in this post apocalyptic world. Unlike Oblivion the vast space available is put to great use; you won't spend 45 minutes clearing out some nondescript hole in the ground only to find it was basically a waste of time. So far every ruined building or collapsed metro I've sifted through imparted great rewards; whether it be recordings of doomed wanderers or the unique twisted humor of the Fallout universe.
Spoken dialogue is generally good. You won't be annoyed by the lack of unique voices in the game (another complaint Bethesda took to heart) and the writing is mostly up to the level of the originals (Fallout 1/2). The facial emotions displayed are occasionally weak (too bad because the voice acting was excellent) but they get the point across and the lip syncing is convincing enough (I found turning off the captions made dialogue a lot more interesting). There are a few awkward lines and a large group of NPCs can get start to sound confusing but Bethesda did a great job bringing some interesting characters to life and got a few good laughs out of me every time I sat down to play.
The game's combat mechanics are great but only if you evaluate them as they were intended: a turn based strategy game with the choice to blast away in real time while you wait for your AP(action points: the currency of the VATS system) to recharge or against insignificant enemies (I'm looking at you rad roaches). This game is not based on the source engine: the physics are mostly there to aid the atmosphere and fighting is decided by who has the best guns, bigger brains, and better stats. Enemies frequently get stuck on tiny lips or fail to strafe around small obstacles allowing melee creatures to be picked off with ease far too often (even when your trying not to abuse the pathing flaws). At first I found combat boring and monotonous; usually blowing off my opponents head before they could get more than a shot off. However, after I turned the difficulty up (all the way up) I found I couldn't survive by simply running into close range and aiming for the head. I was forced to take advantage of the limb crippling mechanics which can leave enemies limping, dazed, attacking each other, or even completely unarmed. Entering the VATS system stops time allowing you to choose your next shots precisely or just take stock of the situation.
Fallout has always been a series that stood up to a second third or even forth play-through while still offering new things to experience and Fallout 3 is no exception. The choices you make and things you do have a satisfying impact on the world without feeling forced or ambiguous. It remains to be seen what will become of he massive modding community behind Oblivion. The free mods for Oblivion expanded immensely on the value of it but there is no guarantee that success will rub off on Fallout 3.
Fallout 3 is a great game worth buying and worth replaying. Although twitch gamers may be bored by it and young gamers will probably miss most of what it offers(it is an M game after all); anyone wanting to bunker down this winter with a substantial experience designed for the hardcore will not be disappointed by Fallout 3.
This is my first review so feel free to give advice/criticism. It's basically a reaction to some reviews I felt were written by people who simply went in expecting something other than what they got. Many people apparently bought the game under the "oblivion with guns" impression alone without even finding out what Fallout 1/2 were like, so hopefully this clears things up a little.