Like a lot of people growing up in the 80's and 90's, my first experience with anything "post apocalyptic" was the Mad Max film series. I loved Westerns and I loved Sci-Fi but the marriage of those two genres seemed doomed to failure. But like so many things, it doesn't exist until it does - someone just needed to make it work. And Australian director George Miller finally made it work in a mass market medium with blockbuster sales. From that moment I saw The Road Warior, I knew my favorite stories would always be post apocalyptic. The Mad Max films had such resonance and influence that we are still feeling it's effects today - and gaming was no exception.
1988 saw the release of Wasteland which gained enormous popularity among PC gamers and showed that the setting was ripe for RPG gameplay. But the wait for the sequel was long - 26 years in fact. We actually didn't see the sequel until last year when Wasteland 2 finally released to critical acclaim with the Director's Cut set to hit home consoles soon on October 13th. I highly recommend it!
But during that long wait for the sequel, another series was born out of the frustration of impatient gamers. A series that would prove to be far more important. In 1997, Interplay launched Fallout to the PC market. The game was a monumental hit which still sees high ranking on top PC games of all time lists. The open world setting, the retro soundtrack and art style, the tactical combat, the dark humor, Ron Perlman's narration - It was so unlike anything gamers had ever seen.
I remember getting the game for Christmas that year and thinking it was the most original and darkly humorous game ever created. I loved how much freedom the game gave me to play as I wanted... Well, after the patch anyway. Originally, you only had 500 days to beat the game before automatic game over. The fact that there were 3 different ways (Combat, charisma, science) to beat the final boss "The Master" was mind-blowing at the time. And the ending, after saving Vault 13, where your character is exiled because you are too changed by your adventure was such a poignant way to end a game. Reminded me a lot of the ending to the Lord of the Rings actually.
Needless to say, the hype for Fallout 2 was huge! But we didn't have to wait long, F2 was released exactly 1 year later in 1998. And I really wish the game had more time in the oven. It was a great game and a worthy successor to the first Fallout but there were so many bugs and graphically, it looks exactly the same. It felt more like an expansion pack than a sequel. But one area where the sequel excelled at was the humor and pop culture references. It was a blast to play through but my hunger for the next Fallout game was not yet satisfied.
We began hearing rumors of Fallout 3 not long afterwards but the next game we got was Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel released 3 years later. I never got a chance to play it myself but many of my friends called it an excellent spin-off but too focused on combat instead of the open world exploration and role playing. Still, it was a fine addition to the Fallout universe and one of these days I need to go back and play it.
3 years later we got the very disappointing Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel for the PS2 and Xbox. This game was blatantly trying to cash in on the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance craze of Action RPGs but was very disrespectful of the Fallout series, poorly made and very repetitive. It debuted to poor sales and was quickly forgotten. In addition, around this time it was announced that "Van Buren" AKA Fallout 3 had been cancelled and many of us fans began to despair that our favorite game series would never be seen again. Perhaps there would be a spiritual successor just as Fallout had been to Wasteland? We could only hope.
May 2, 2007 was one of the happiest days of my life. That was the day that Fallout 3, developed by the makers of Morrowind and Oblivion, was teased. Bethesda Softworks finally revealed a trailer on June 5th and promised a Fall 2008 release. I had recently been in a very bad car accident and was in incredible pain. The depression and frustration with my injuries seemed to magically disappear once I saw that trailer. The wait was agonizing!
When I finally got my hands on the game, it was a very different experience than I expected. For one thing, it was no longer in isometric perspective - that part I expected from seeing the trailers. But the bigger things were the tone of the game and the less tactical and imprecise combat. There was much less of the dark humor and much more "epic quest to save the world!" The combat is okay while you have VATS points but once those run out, you have to shoot FPS style and frankly that felt so imprecise. You could feel the game rolling dice every time you pulled the trigger. That's not how an FPSs or RPGs should play. Still, I was just so happy to have the series back that I couldn't complain.
And activating Liberty Prime?
"Communists detected on American soil. Lethal force engaged!"
I found myself totally liking F3 despite my problems with it. And that's always a sign of a good game. The DLC was a HUGE step up from Bethesda's previously disastrous Oblivion add-ons. And the 3rd DLC pack, Broken Steel, even changed the ending and made me appreciate the game even more.
Not long after, we received word that the next game would be a made by former F1 and F2 devs at Obsidian Entertainment called Fallout: New Vegas and 2 years later it arrived in my grubby hands. Oh the fun I had with this gem of a game! So much of what I thought was missing in F3 was in F:NV. The dark humor was back in spades and the new crafting systems were a welcome addition. I love how the story has 4 totally different outcomes depending on what you do. One of my favorite memories from New Vegas is making a character that was entirely focused on unarmed combat. Punching someone in the gut and seeing their head fly off was so much fun! Unfortunately the game was RIDDLED with bugs at launch that made the game almost unplayable. Unfortunately, the high bug count led to lower review scores and fewer sales than F3. Thankfully, there's been plenty of patches and the game plays butter smooth now. So if you're looking to ease the wait for F4, I highly suggest trying it out.
It's been 5 LONG years since New Vegas released and I've been desperately hoping for ANY news on F4. I even went to the last several Quakecons just hoping to see something from Bethesda. All for naught, sadly. But in June, we finally got to see the game in action at E3 and with a promised November 10th release, I couldn't be happier. This series has meant so much to me over the years. It's a testament to the strength of the series that even with so many buggy releases, I still find myself obsessed with it's quirky dark humor and retro aesthetics. I mean, what other game series lets you shoot someone in the foot and laugh as their whole body explodes in a bloody mess! If I live to be a 100 years old, I hope there are still Fallout games to play!
In the world of entertainment, there are very few things as good as Fallout. -Todd Howard, Game Director of Bethesda Game Studios
Thanks for reading! What are your favorite Fallout memories? Let me know in the comments.