This week, the world got a new Fallout announcement. With E3 coming up, it wasn’t really a surprise, especially considering Bethesda is hosting its first stand alone press conference at the show. The Fallout 4 teaser trailer looks incredible, but I probably won’t play the game. I have this problem with Fallout. It just bums me out. Let me explain.
Let’s take a closer look at that amazing trailer. So it begins with an Alsation dog, sniffing around an abandoned and dishevelled home. The Ink Spots croon ‘It’s All Over’ to set the retro scene, as the camera pans out from the old style TV, which is branded ‘Radiation King’ and there’s a children’s game called ‘Blast Radius’ – fun times in Fallout.
We get flashes of what it used to be like, before the world ended and it’s bright and optimistic with domestic robots. I want to play in that world. But then the nuclear detonation happens and the music switches to more cinematic bombast, with choppers and futuristic marines with guns. We pan over the devastation. Gone are the pistachio greens and cherry reds of that idyllic retro future kitchen, with the shiny car in the drive. Instead, it goes brown and there’s twisted metal everywhere and everything’s hanging by one hinge or broken or singed or both.
But then, there’s what appears to be a jet powered pirate ship. The scene suddenly switches to a man in a trench coat and hat – it’s Bladerunner style cyber-noir. Now my interest is piqued. But the shop sign says Memory Den, which sounds creepy and he’s standing in a shabby back alley. There is neon though, so not everything’s been destroyed.
Then the trailer takes us on a tour of the game’s zones. There are
droids crossing the desert, R2 and Threepio style, and then a place that may be called Diamond City, with its ramshackle market area. There’s a store called Med-I-Care, which suggests they really don’t care, but you can always go for some Power Noodles instead. There’s lots of corrugated iron and tattered rags hanging over makeshift windows and lots of dust and everything’s the colour of despair.
The scene shifts again and we’ve got a Napoleonic town statue (which I’ve since learnt is Boston) and the majestic pirate ship is back. This time it’s slipping through the sky, with the town in its shadow. And I’m intrigued again. Do we get to fly a jet-powered pirate ship? Surely I could stand a bit of grim dystopia to fly a pirate galleon.
Jump to the next scene and we’ve got what appears to be rabid hoards. I assume these are victims of nuclear fallout, who can’t just sit and whimper while their faces melt. Looks like they’ve, instead, got some kind of nuclear rage, which means they want to wear my skin like a onesie.
Then we’re back with the dog, our guide through the trailer. He sniffs at the 50s style Nuka Cola vending machine and there’s an ominous looking mech chained up in the garage, which I think I recognise from my brief sojourn with Fallout 3. There are lots of guns in this garage, a Fallout Boy figurine and more Nuka Cola merchandise. But then the dog turns and runs outside to meet what I suppose is the hero of the piece, who just says, “Let’s go, pal.”
I gleaned all those details from a three minute trailer, which is incredible. When it comes to world building, Bethesda’s Fallout games are a master class. The scene is set so beautifully and then destroyed. The themes of blind optimism and consumerism, shattered by violence and nuclear technology, echo through every detail of the game.
I really want to play Fallout 4. The trailer has done it’s job. Plus I
know that everyone loves those games. They’re great games. I even dipped a toe into Fallout 3. There I was in the bunker, enjoying the Cold War style propaganda and the characters, but then I got out of the bunker.
Outside, the world was just plain grim. There were people who wanted to kill me. Everyone was just existing. All hope had died. I wanted to go back to the bunker. Couldn’t I just take my protein pill and live in retro-future blissful ignorance?
I pressed on through the wasteland, collecting what was needed and rescuing people or avoiding altercations with ne’er do wells. There was a moment when I was in a subway station or an abandoned supermarket, picking my way through shelves and broken fridges to find supplies, when I realised. I took a step back, looked around and thought, “this isn’t actually very fun, it’s just depressing”.
Bethesda have made Fallout feel so real, that I just can’t bear to play in their world. There seems to be no relief from the abject horror of it all. Maybe I didn’t play enough. Maybe I need to give it another go. But then I think, even before the world went bad, the kids played Blast Radius and the happy ignorance, enhanced by my real world hindsight, depresses me again.
There’s a dog in it. Maybe that glimmer of companionship will get me through. Maybe, just maybe, this time, I’ll be able to play Fallout without slipping into an existential depression.
Here’s that beautiful trailer again: