I am not a fan of post-apocalyptic horrors and utopias. At best I consider the genre silly.
Nevertheless, I am saying that Fallout 1
was a game of genius. The moment I saw the intro it caught me.
Unique content was created by making dreams of 50-th (atomic cars, robots etc) come true and then throwing in the nuclear apocalypse. The story was great. Being send out into unknown to get a part needed to repair water supply in your vault is great. But being born and raised in this vault without knowledge of outside world beats Mad Max by far. The feeling of running out of time (and in first version of Fallout the time was actually sparse), the devastated outside world filled by mutated creatures and remnants of technology... and you in the middle of the story.
Multiple storylines were well developed. In every game location you had a set of multiple choices and all of them led to some future. Character reputation actually meant something. Street urchins in one of towns (provoking you into killing them by cleansing your pockets) were censured in the British version of the game. With following, err, controversy. And winning the game led you not into becoming a cheered hero, but to lifetime exile from your home.
Success brought Fallout 2. Of course, I bought it. The interface was improved, several flaws in gameplay were solved.
And... the game was an utter failure. It lost all flavor of original. There were two good movies (see above) and it's all.
Instead of telling a good story, game content become an eclectic feast. Imagine town filled by gangsters of depression times (complete with suits and Thompson guns) in post nuclear world - that's fallout 2. The end was as anticlimactic as possible (bad government guys on oil rig planning to kill humankind once again - please, spare me...).
Now it is time for the next clone. Fallout 3 is announced. I don't believe that the third game will be on par with the first. But, may be, just may be - it will be better than the second.