For a lot of us Fallout fans, Fallout 4 was a bit of a let-down. While itself a great game with a lot of good ideas to stream-line the engine and expand the gameplay, it still lacked a lot of what makes Fallout, well... Fallout.
Without ranting too much, the best way to describe Fallout's atmosphere, feel & theme is where the technology that birthed the "world of tomorrow" could have saved it, had the men behind that technology been better.
Gameplay-wise, the better Fallout titles are a true RPG experience: your stats affect your gameplay style, your actions affect the story, the story drives the flow and the gameplay. The real reward for playing an RPG like Fallout is creating your own story as you handle each quest and seeing how each step along the way of that story changed the world around you.
Of the modern offerings, Fallout New Vegas adhered to these two most important factors of theme & gameplay the most, with Fallout 3 just behind, only lacking in terms of missing mechanics and a presentation that deviated a bit from the original feel.
Both games were met with critical acclaim and have a modding community that's still active even today. That's great, 'cause with just the right selection of mods and tweaks, we can take all the best parts of Fallout 3 & Fallout New Vegas, and even take the better ideas from Fallout 4 to create the Ultimate Fallout experience: both games, all their DLC on the Fallout New Vegas engine with updated visuals & gameplay.
It's as close as we're going to get to a Fallout 3 & Fallout New Vegas remaster, and honestly it holds up better than what we could expect form that anyway!
NOTICE: you must own Fallout 3 GOTY Edition & Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition for all of this to work, else you can pick & choose to workaround any missing content.
We're not just conjuring content out of the aether here, as cool as that would be. Make sure you've specifically got the GOTY edition of Fallout 3 and all the DLC for Fallout New Vegas installed before moving on. If you don't yet have either of these, they're both available on Steam and often on sale:
You'll want to confirm each game runs on its own before you invest your time in this project, so make sure to fire each of them for a few minutes to ensure all is well. This also guarantees the settings files and registry files needed for the Tale of Two Wastelands package to properly function.
A quick side-note worth mentioning: system requirements are going to creep up. This will be less evident with just the simple mods, however when we get to enhancing the post-processing and textures, you're going to want something just a little more powerful than what you used to originally play Fallout 3.
I've performed all my testing on "River," a workstation built from spare parts with just a little money thrown at a slightly nicer videocard. Specifically, River rocks an older AMD Phenom II and an nVidia GTX 1050 2GB (not the nicer the TI model, but this card rocks all the same). Even with a setup that's this "weak sauce," our Ultimate Fallout holds up well and even records well with Fraps slammin' down the framerate. Nice!
One final caveat, CPU/GPU requirements aside, you're really going to want an SSD for this. The amount of content that needs to load up-front before you can even start the game is substantial, a platter-based drive is going to feel the burn, but your wallet doesn't have to! SSDs these days are cheap; Inland is yo' boy.
Mods & Hacks
A very dramatic change to the look of the game can be accomplished using an ENB. This is a little binary file that jacks the post-processing from the game's engine and redirects it to a newer model with enhanced capabilities. The way it works is a little hoaky, and you may need to troubleshoot at times, but it's worth the effort: it just looks amazing.
Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas has a dedicated ENB binary package available from ENBDev.com. Installation is pretty easy: extract d3d9.dll & enbhost.exe from the "wrapper" directory and drop them into your Fallout New Vegas installation directory. If you need any help with this step, it is well covered here.
That's it! We'll be adding some more files to the ENB system later on when we get to the Ruby ENB mod, though of course you're welcome to select your own ENB mod & settings. There's a lot of options out there to change the look and feel of the game's lighting through use of the ENB system: take a quick look thorugh your options over on NexusMods.com and you'll be spoiled for choice.
A few quick notes before moving on: ENBs rely on basically hacking the game's graphics to function, taking over HDR, AA and texture filtering. You'll need to configure Fallout New Vegas specifically around the use these technologies for your ENB to work (see the video link above).
Also, if you're using an SLI setup, you'll need to make a profile for Fallout New Vegas that disables SLI for the duration of play. Lastly, there's been talk about the Steam overlay causing problems with the ENB; this isn't something I've experienced. I use a Steam controller, so the overplay is needed, and I have yet to have any issues because of this.
Tale of Two Wastelands
This is the big one. The team behind Tale of Two Wastelands spent a lot of time and talent to import all of Fallout 3's content into the Fallout New Vegas engine and make it all work even to a sense of a cannon within the story. You can choose to be born into the world of Fallout 3, then taking a train to the Mojave, or you can behind there, out in the desert, and trek your way East to the Capital Wasteland. In either case, you're going to have a lot to do once you've got Tale of Two Wastelands installed, since this will make all of Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas' DLC work as well!
The official website for Tale of Two Wastelands features the download along with an awesome instruction guide for how to get mod installed. It's not a simple process, so this video is a life-saver. Following along with this guide will be your first step: get this up and working first before moving on.
There's a very long process of converting audio files with installing Tale of Two Wastelands: expect to leave your computer on overnight. The good news is once this process is complete, you can make a backup of the game files and re-use them if you ever re-install or change systems. Just copy the entirety of both the Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas game folders from the steamapps directory and place them somewhere safe. You can then drop these directories onto a fresh Steam installation, install the two games (using local content), then copy the directories *again* (just in case Steam molested anything when installing/verifying) and off you go, back to both wastelands!
Before you get to moddin', get FOMM. We're going to be installing a large number of mods and it really starts to get a bit messy without a software assistant. FOMM happens to be light, easy to use and free, thus it's perfect for this project.
FOMM's installation is guided and not really different from any other bit of software; the most "challenging" bit will be locating your Fallout New Vegas installation directory. If you've got the Steam editions, you can find this in your usual \steamapps\common\ directory. If you're not positive, right click the shortcut for Fallout New Vegas and click "Open File Location"
We'll be specifying Fallout New Vegas to FOMM since it's the better engine and the one chosen for the Tale of Two Wastelands project.
Using FOMM is rather straight forward: open the Package Manager & load in your mods. Sometimes the mods you load in will have extra options that you'll be presented with during the installation process: pick whatever your heart desires of these options.
The order of the mods is going to be important (this is also covered in the official Tale of Two Wastelands installation guide), so we'll cover these additional mods in the order they should be installed.
Patches & Stability
- FNV 4GB Patch Optimizes the Fallout New Vegas engine to better handle all the mods; installed by Tale of Two Wastelands by default.
- YUP TTW Also optimizes the Fallout New Vegas engine; installed by Tale of Two Wastelands by default.
- YUP - Base Game + All DLC An extra touch of patching from the YUP series we'll install atop the YUP TTW edition.
- NVAC An anti-crash applicator.
- NVSR Helps with performance.
- UIO An extension to the Fallout New Vegas Engine to allow some more complicated mods to work.
- JIP & NVSE Another extension to the Fallout New Vegas Engine, again to allow some more complicated mods to work.
Gameplay & Mechanics Tweaks
- Loot Menu Really, the most redeemable part of Fallout 4 was the quick loot menu. This brings it into our Ultimate Fallout project.
- The Weapon Mod Menu More Fallout 4 touches added to our project.
- Weapon Mods Expanded MORE weapon mods to get more use of our new Weapon Mod Menu.
- Enhanced Camera Adds full body view to first person for better immersion, along with some other visual elements; it's a nice touch!
- Project Nevada More great gameplay fixes that updates the feel of the game. Sprint, grenade hotkey, better status indicators and inventory sorters.
- Infinite Companion Ammo Optional: I hate managing my companion's ammo.
- Unlimited Companions Also optional: why not have a gang?
- Populated Casinos Fixes the sparse casinos and makes for a far more immersive experience.
- Mojave Wildlife Add more life to the Mojave! More critters and events to explore; seems to help with Fallout 3 as well.
- Real Time Settler Another better part of Fallout 4 is the town building. This mod does a great job of bringing that into our Ultimate Fallout project.
- Run The Lucky 38 Somewhat like the Real Time Settler mod, this makes the Lucky 38 way more useful and fun.
- The Living Desert Somewhat like the Mojave Wildlife mod, this ramps up the events but also restores a lot of cut content from the Mojave; seems to help with Fallout 3 as well.
- The Living Desert Underpass Restore An addition to The Living Desert; adds a town that was cut from the final game.
Visual & Presentation Upgrades
- Ruby ENB Make the most of the ENB with this configuration. Also comes with a nice weather mod!
- Diagonal Movement As simple as it sounds, now third-person movement doesn't look cringy!
- Fallout Character Overhaul This is critical: you'll spend a lot of time looking at talking heads, may as well make sure they look their best! Huge improvement over the base models with a lot of additional options.
- NMCs Textures Probably the most important mod, visually speaking. The medium pack alone is stunning and applies to most of the game.
- Wasteland Flora Overhaul Kind of like NMCs but for plants. Also helps plants in Fallout 3.
- Pip-Boy 2000 MK VI This one's fun: update your Pip-Boy when you get to the Mojave!
- Radios of Two Wastelands Helps tie the two games together in a different way.
- Main Menu Logo A finishing touch; there's lots of main menu mods out there, this one is subtle.
- Asurah Reanimation Pack This one is huge: new animations and additional tweaks that greatly enhances the combat of the game, making it play like a newer title. We have this at the bottom because other mods may undo some of this mod's changes if installed later; you may want to re-install this one after any future mod changes!
First stop in this process is to get the Fallout New Vegas Configator. This is a little program that can read your Fallout New Vegas configuration files and display a range of options for each one.
Installation and use is pretty simple, check the mod documentation to be sure. I just dropped the entire extracted archive in my Fallout New Vegas installation directory and worked it from there.
Once you've got the Configator fired up and looking at your Fallout New Vegas files, we can begin making changes.
On the Graphics tab, go ahead and crank everything as far as it'll go (or as far as your system can take). When that's done, switch over to Performance.
on the Performance tab, crank the view distance & fade levels, then change the value to "ON" for each option starting with "Thread Morpher" on down to "Load lip files in background". For "Havok Threads", set this to match your logical processor core count.
That's it! Hit Apply and gather your snacks, it's time to finally play.
Well! As mentioned previously, testing for this project was performed on "River," a system sporting more than just a few older components. If your specs are comparable or better than River, expect smooth gameplay. Here's a list of the (relevant) specs as of writing:
- AMD Phenom II Zosma (hex-core unlocked to "X6 1600T")
- 8GB of G.Skill PC3-12800 DDR3 (FC-1866C9-4GAB if that matters)
- Gigabyte AMD 970 / AM3+ (GA-970A-UD3 just rolls off the tongue)
- Inland 240GB SSD
- nVidia GeForce GTX 1050 2GB (the best $100 you can spend)
On this system, even with FRAPS recording (I've since discovered Shadowplay) I didn't experience any slowdown or stutters in framerate, with one single caveat: loading the game on a slower SSD (or, if you're a sadist, a mechanical drive) takes a LONG time.
I've since migrated this over to a much more powerful system with SLI, which is when I figured out that SLI and ENBs don't mix. After a quick tweak to my GPU's profiles, this was solved and I was able to enjoy Ultimate Fallout in full 5.1 surround sound. No drops in performance here, either.
Look & Feel
It's been a while since I've picked up the OG 3d Fallout installments, but I must admit I've sunk a tremendous amount of time on Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas specifically. Parts of those games are just burned into my mind, so I knew what to expect from the default look and feel of the games.
The Ultimate Fallout project really did produce something that feels like a remaster. All the structure & ground textures look great, the character overhaul is impressive & the gameplay is SO much better with the updated combat animations (which changes combat), faster fire rates, sprint key, grenade key, bullet time... Despite the game's age, these updated mechanics do make the game a chore to play through adherence to older ideas. The loot menu makes this especially true: no more endlessly opening, rifling through & closing every damn cabinet in the office. Now you can just walk along and scavenge at a glance.
The ability to play all of the content from both of these games cannot be understated. Each time I fire this one up I have to take a moment to think of the possibilities: do I want to do battle with aliens on their saucer ships, or would I rather get lobotomized in the bayou? I take datura in the Grand Canyon and punch a bear. I could hunt troglodytes in the ruins of Pittsburgh, or I could piss it all away at the Gomorrah hotel and casino. It really is a lot to take in.
The mods like the Mojave Wasteland & The Living Wasteland really do a lot populate previously sparse parts of the game(s). I haven't directly verified this, but I swear these two mods also assist with Fallout 3 as well; the Capital Wasteland seems a lot more lively these days.
One could take this a step further and update the weapon models or add in more weapons in general, but frankly the two games do add up to a healthy assortment of weaponry already, and the models still don't look *that* bad by today's standards; the animation updates make a huge difference with this.
One could also add in more things to do with the multitude of quest mods out there - I leave this up to each individual. Frankly, as I've stated before, I'm already impressed with the amount of stuff here.
As for faults, sure - Fallout 3 & Fallout New Vegas are already pretty buggy at times, and the mods introduce a few blemishes here or there. Sometimes animations look a little funky or maybe the ENB gets hung up on water reflections; a multitude of occasional oddities can occur, but honestly they'll mostly go unnoticed.
So, the goal of the Ultimate Fallout project was to create a Fallout 3 & Fallout New Vegas remaster and to bring all the better parts of Fallout 4 into the experience. Did we succeed? Well I would say "YES!" It's incredible what modders have done for these games, I honestly feel with the correct selection of mods we've created a remaster better than what we could've expected from the official developers themselves.
Now, a bit note: you can't change the mesh or polygon count. You're still going to see some models with more primitive, sharper edges at times, but remember we're putting a 10 year old game through its paces; all the mods we've added in mask the old game engine very well.
I do miss the greater aspects of the weapon modifications from Fallout 4, and the armor crafting in general was more immersive than the Pipboy menus we get in Ultimate Fallout, but I know there's mods out thee that can address these issues as well - I just had to a pick a baseline for the "minimal" requirements of a remaster and these extra bits didn't really feel as important.
If you follow this guide, you'll get a fantastically put together assemblage of games and mods for a true Fallout experience. From there, you're free to add upon it and take it to the next level. Anything you think Fallout 4 did better, you can bring to your Ultimate Fallout copy (sans the story line, but let's be honest: nobody thinks that's better). Does the process and gameplay experience have its flaws? Yes, but the presentation is so smooth you'll quickly forget there are any.
If you've got Fallout 3 GOTY & Fallout New Vegas Ultimate kicking around, the Ultimate Fallout project is worth your time.