Fallout 3's Wasteland is a dangerous place, but that only makes it more exciting. For me, the Our Lady Of Hope Hospital was a crucible that brought out some of the best the game had to offer.

Life is cheap in the Wasteland, and none more so than your character’s. I was warned by those playing the game in the office not to head into the city too early. I took this to heart when I first stepped out of the Vault, but even then I wasn't fully prepared for the game’s beginning difficulty. 

After trying a few quests, hanging around Megaton, and getting my ass kicked in the Super-Duper Mart, my curiosity got the better of me and I headed to the big, bad city. I went into the hospital first because I was lost in the city and sick of slumming around the underground. But what started as respite quickly became quite the test.

I was fairly low level at the time without a significant stock of weapons, ammo, or supplies, but I used the hallways and rooms of the hospital to my advantage. In particular, I remember one sequence where I took out a handful of Super Mutants by picking them off one-by-one as we played cat-and-mouse through a series of rooms.

I can vividly remember the terror of seeing a hulking mutant walk through a doorway. As I lined up a shot, I started to panic. What if I miss? A head shot is fun, but shouldn't I take the best-percentage shot? Even though the mutant was frozen in place by the VATS combat system, I couldn't but help envision the hell that would be unleashed by the beast even after I got my shot off. Even though the VATS stops time and ostensibly makes combat easier, I credit it for still not draining any of the tension and brutality out of battles.

I managed to survive this sequence thanks to finding a few first aid kits at appropriate moments, and previously I came across a few copies of the D.C. Journal of Internal Medicine, which gave me permanent boosts to my Medicine skill. When I entered the hospital, I was a 99-pound weakling, but by the time I walked out I was a hardened, ass-kicking machine.

I would experience a similar character catharsis when taking on the mutants in their trenches in the Mall, but by that time I was a better character and player. It never would have been a possibly without Our Lady of Hope.

Here's a YouTube walkthrough video from Culveyhouse showing the hospital:

Thanks also to Blain Newport for the screenshot at the top from his gaming blog.