@mikemcn: I find the story in Fallout 3 to be more like the depressing vibes in Mad Max compared to the humorous referential depravity of Fallout NV (stemming from Fallout 2). I understood Austin's opinion on post apocalypse storytelling to be that the rebuilding of society through factions is a more interesting scenario than the short-sighted dread of Fallout 3. Choosing which faction should progress based on their values and actions was a key part of the Fallout role-playing universe but I guess that is history now.
All that said, I think vanilla Fallout 3 is a decent game although I remember spending most of my time picking up tin cans in the metro. I'm replaying Fallout 3 with the wanderer's edition mod and it improves the gameplay IMO from a traditional focus of hoarding loot and managing encumbrance to survival mechanics where most of the loot and weapons serve a purpose. You can even disable most of the gameplay tweaks from ingame if you don't like them.
I highly recommend getting the unofficial patch and a UI mod for bartering. Anything else and you would probably require Fallout Mod Manager (FOMM) and Fallout Script Extender (FOSE).