Fallout: New Vegas mega-primer - a brief history of Fallout in two universes

Fallout 3 (2008, Developer: Bethesda)

In the Fallout universe:

The goings on in California and the Midwest went largely unnoticed by the inhabitants of the “Capitol Wasteland” (Once known as Washington D.C.). There was no growing threat on the horizon. There were no factions any worse than the others. Life was hard, and then you died. But in this bleak limbo of an existence, a group of scientists touched upon an impossible dream: clean, non-radioactive water. For everyone! The project was ambitious and progress was slow. But then the birth of a certain child (who just happens to be the player character) derailed “Project Purity” entirely for 19 years.

The project leader, a brilliant scientist known simply as “James”, abandoned the project in order to raise his child in the comfort and security of nearby Vault 101, vowing to return once his child reached adulthood and no longer needed him. But bonds of blood run thick in the wastes, and the child (known thereafter as the Lone Wanderer) followed in James’ footsteps soon after he escaped Vault 101. The ever persistent Lone Wanderer eventually tracked James to another Vault, freeing him from the mental prison of a mad overseer.

For the briefest of moments, along with a team of volunteers, father and child worked side-by-side. Then the Enclave crashed the party, killing James in the process. After leading the surviving volunteers though the subways and sewers, the Lone Wanderer took refuge with the local Brotherhood of Steel chapter. Scientists assured the Brotherhood that the project could be completed, if the project site was retaken…and if they were able to obtain a GECK. Of course, none were better suited that the Lone Wanderer to find the fabled artifact. But just when the GECK was pried loose from its radioactive confines, the Enclave ambushed the Lone Wanderer and brought the adventurer to their secret base at Raven Rock. However the intrepid hero seized upon an opportunity to escape, destroying Raven Rock and bringing the GECK to the Brotherhood.

Holding to their end of the bargain, the Brotherhood clashed with the Enclave ranks for control of the project site. The Enclave garrison was eventually shattered, and the Lone Wanderer, supported by a company of Brothers, was able to install the GECK successfully. However, legend holds that one final act of radioactive service either killed the Lone Wanderer or inflicted such injury that the adventurer barely survived (depending upon whether you bought a particular expansion pack and assuming you didn’t force a follower to commit the final, suicidal act of heroism).

Meanwhile, back in the real world: Not to be confused with the aforementioned, cancelled Fallout 3: Van Buren (which we’ll just leave alone), Fallout 3 was a phoenix-like rebirth for the franchise. The announcement that the game was going to be a first-person shooter/RPG hybrid based on the same software backbone as new publisher/developer Bethesda’s game Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was met with some hostility on behalf of the fans. Misplaced hostility, perhaps, as Fallout 3 was awarded PC Gamer’s coveted “Game of the Year’ award as well as several “Best of E3” awards.

While the Fallout series had always been big on character creation, none actually let you “grow up” as Fallout 3 did. From your emergence kicking and screaming from the womb, to your first steps, to your tenth birthday party, to your last day of school; Fallout 3 let you experience it all. Furthermore the VATS system (that’s Vault Assisted Targeting System), which enabled the player to pause the action and target specific enemy body parts, offered a fair bridge for the gap between hardcore fans of the series and trigger-happy newcomers raised on shooters.

While Leonard Boyarsky, one of the original creators of Fallout, described Interplay’s sale of Fallout’s rights to Bethesda as “an ex-wife selling his children that she had legal custody of”, critics and gamers by-and-large couldn’t have been happier with the final product. All of the flavor and charm of the series had been retained, and this time we were seeing it through the eyes of our character rather than an isometric camera. 

Fallout Online (Developer: Interplay, 2012)

In the Fallout universe: While little is known about Fallout Online, visiting the game’s site reveals some cryptic clues regarding its subject matter. “The Master Lives!” can be seen, etched hastily into a table. The Vault-Tec survival manual, “Coping with Mr. Virus” can be seen on a nearby book shelf and may be a reference to the “New Plague” or “Super Ebola” that emerged in the late 21st century. There’s another book called “Floating Homes and Seaweed”, pictures of what may or may not be mining rigs. We’re not sure what the arrow-through-heart etching with Harold the Ghoul’s name is about…but if your character is sweet on a ghoul (a race of radiation tolerant, but decomposed-looking ex-humans), that could be evidence that ghouls are a playable race alongside humans, mutants, and only the devs know what else. 

Meanwhile, back in the real world: Perhaps aptly abbreviated “FOOL”, Interplay’s Fallout MMO has found its very right to exist in question, as lawsuits fly between publishers Interplay and Bethesda over who actually owns the rights to a Fallout MMO. While the legality of the title has still yet to be decided, FOOL was officially announced on June 15th, 2010 and is tentatively slated for release in 2012. Write that one in pencil. Very, very light pencil.

Fallout: New Vegas (Obsidian, 2010)

In the Fallout universe: Finally, we arrive at the pending release of Fallout: New Vegas. Not much has been revealed about the meta-level plot of FO:NV. We do know that it takes place a few years after Fallout 3 and that the setting is, obviously, the Nevada desert, complete with Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, and a solar power plant. The stage is set for a major conflict between the New California Republic (a political faction from Fallout 2), and Caesar’s Legion, a powerful cabal of slavers.

We also know that the player character, the Courier, is shot and left for dead early in the game…and the package he/she was to deliver contained a game-changing artifact that would alter life in the Mojave Wasteland forever. This explains why, when you awake after being found by a friendly robot and nursed back to health by a doctor, you set out to recover it.

Meanwhile, back in the real world: Using an improved version of the Fallout 3 software engine, FO:NV is actually being developed by some of the same people who worked on the “original” Fallout 3, the cancelled Van Buren. As such, many of Van Buren’s locations (possibly even characters and plot points) will finally see the light of day. Either way, New Vegas promises even more content than its vast predecessor, Fallout 3. Most notable, of course, is the addition of the much anticipated – by masochistic Fallout purists, at least – “Hardcore” mode. In this mode, ammunition will have weight (no more going into battle with 7,000 rounds and three mini-nukes), the player character will suffer from heat exhaustion and dehydration, and death will come much more quickly to the unwary.

Players will also be treated to a more robust reputation system that extends to more than being liked by the “good” factions or the “evil” factions. Finally, lest we forget, it will also offer that most ancient of Las Vegas staples: gambling.

So there you have it! The epic story of the franchise that chronicles end of the world, and everything that comes after it. Here’s hoping the tale doesn’t end in Vegas.

Oct 18, 2010

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  • Henragorn - October 21, 2010 7:21 a.m.

    Very interesting article :) Cant wait to buy New Vegas
  • EricBratcher - October 20, 2010 11:23 p.m.

    Actually, in response to your point The_Tingler, you could do that with the ghoul dude as well. I was thinking I got a reasonable ending when I sent them in instead of a cop-out like you've described, but I may be mistaken. I reloaded that save several times to see all the variations and I may be forgetting which went with which.
  • EricBratcher - October 20, 2010 11:16 p.m.

    We're fixing the pics now. Sorry about that. I wish I could say it was a meta-joke.
  • Chaoscoolperson - October 20, 2010 8:45 p.m.

    Thanks for explaining the story so I don't have to play the others. Also Fallout 2 seems like fable in an apocalyptic nightmare. And finally Now I think i might get fallout New Vegas.
  • BrunettePride - October 20, 2010 11:45 a.m.

    Thanks for doing this! The first Fallout game I ever played was 3, which got me interested in the first two games on PC. I'm extremely excited for New Vegas, I have the Collectors Edition on pre-order and I really cannot wait to see what this is going to be like, especially with it being Obsidian. Going to be interesting to see some of Van Burens areas come to life!
  • FreekinIdiot - October 20, 2010 10:33 a.m.

    Where's your review guys? I'm desperate to read it :)
  • G0D - October 20, 2010 6:01 a.m.

    This definitely got me pumped (and more educated) to play New Vegas!
  • Smeggs - October 20, 2010 12:20 a.m.

    That Super-Mutant looks like a cross between Shrek and an Orc from WoW. Also, a device that can change the wasteland? *GASP* Could it be...A GECK?! God I hope Bethesda isn't that predictable, I really do. AND I BETTER GET A PROPER ENDING THIS TIME, DAMNIT! None of that "Pictures show up while narrator talks about how you died/failed/killed your teammate/turned into an evil douche and murdered all impure beings in the wastes with the modified FEV for about thirty seconds before rolling credits."
  • philipshaw - October 19, 2010 9:26 p.m.

    Getting New Vegas on Friday so this was a intresting read for me
  • 435 - October 19, 2010 6:52 p.m.

    Great article, aside from art mixups! Having played all of these to completion (yes, even the console beat-em-up piece of shit), it was a lovely trip down memory lane. Maybe I'll install 1 and 2 on my netbook tomorrow. :|a
  • AlpineGuy - October 19, 2010 5:17 p.m.

    Cool retrospective. Makes me really want to play the first two Fallouts now...
  • AA95mp - October 19, 2010 4:52 p.m.

    i can't fucking wait for new vegas! also i don't mean to be too nerdy but Harold is actualy a super mutant, just a different kind from what we're used to.
  • Chiefslapaho - October 19, 2010 2:29 p.m.

  • nikrusty - October 19, 2010 11:01 a.m.

    Awesome article dudes...thanks. I actually played FO 2 before the launch of FO 3 as I wanted a taste of FO Universe. The only thinng that FO3 really lacks I felt, a better more engaging NPC character playout, something akin to ME 2 series.
  • Dan3va - October 19, 2010 9:48 a.m.

    you got the images for fallot tactics and fallout brotherhood of steel mixed up. the 2004 releases picture is with the 2001 game and vise versa
  • Yaro - October 19, 2010 9:05 a.m.

    Funny, I took a quick glance at the pics (the map is awesome) then I glanced over the headlines and thought to myself "damn, I gotta read all of this" (as in it sounds interesting and I'd like to refresh my memory) and the first sentence of the article told me "you don't HAVE to read all of this"....I lol'd. You do what you please and you please what you do. Keep up the good work. =)
  • NightCrawler_358 - October 19, 2010 4:06 a.m.

    Great article! Man, i know its horrible to say, but i wish you could still kill children in New Vegas. I swear, in 3, everytime i go into Little Lamplight!-i just dream of the day.
  • Crimmy - October 19, 2010 3:58 a.m.

    Can you fix the Fallout Tactics and Brotherhood pics? They are switched. For some reason, that really bugs me.
  • The_Tingler - October 19, 2010 3:06 a.m.

    The most annoying thing about Fallout 3 was the slightly screwed up ending, which you briefly touched on. If you had a Super Mutant companion (whose name I forget), you could ask him to go in the radioactive chamber and he'd be totally fine - but the game would still treat you like you killed him. Really, really looking forward to New Vegas.
  • YuGiOhisbetterthanMagic - October 19, 2010 2:57 a.m.

    YES! although, i do have to be that guy and say that it is in fact, possible to get a G.E.C.K in fallout 2, so you dont HAVE to go back to arroyo empty handed.

Showing 1-20 of 35 comments

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