Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fallout 3: A Twisted, Disturbing Future-even before the nuclear holocaust

Fallout 3 is the sequel to (appropriately enough) Fallout 2 and Fallout. These games as a group are the spiritual successor to a very old computer game called Wasteland. I've played all of these games. (Warning - going to that link may lead to a lot of spoilers - well, all spoilers, so don't go there unless you don't care to spoil what is an awesomely fun game).

This most recent sequel is a long time coming and has changed the game from a 3rd person view to a first-person 3-D immersive view.

Imagine a society set 200 years in the future with robots and ray guns and other fun toys. Now imagine that this society resembles the 1950s. Or rather, what the 1950s looked like in idealized form with the technology looking like what they imagined technology would look like in the "far" future (such as the 1990s). Robots that look like Robbie the Robot. Future-cars. And so forth.

Of course, the 1950s were a time where TV had a rather twisted view of what life was really like. It was all sugarcoated and hidden from view - reality, that is. Fallout turns this on its ear and gives a very dystopian view of the future. The bleakest of black humor is the way you really need to take the game. It is twisted. That is half of its charm. And charm really is the proper word. It is a charming sort of twisted. It is a deadly serious game with a serious plot (you seeking out your father in the "Capitol Wasteland" - the remnants of what used to be Washington DC). It would be funny if it were not so deeply disturbing, on so many levels.

In all the games, you play a character - a vault dweller. What is a vault? Vaults are underground, sealed shelters where many families live, courtesy of "Vault-Tec(tm)" to survive the nuclear war that may (and eventually did) happen between the US and China. You start the game many decades after that war has happened, safe and secure in your vault. Only then you are forced to leave it and explore the wasteland and what is left of humanity (along with mutants, ghouls, and other things too horrible to describe).

I was thinking of this game as I watched Obama's inauguration today. No, not because I'm contemplating the apocalypse. No, it is something much more mundane. For you see, in the game, one of the areas you can go to is the Mall in DC - the Capitol Building is a place you can explore. Not a very safe place, mind you. But having played the game and fought many a tough fight on the steps leading up to the (to scale) complex, seeing it layed out for the inauguration as I watched it this afternoon (thank you work!) all I could think of was, wow, that looks just like in the game. Well, except for the fact that there were a million people there, of the non-mutant variety, and there were not large craters blasted into the facade. But other than that, wow!

Anyway, I highly recommend this game. I've played it and finished it twice. Once doing all good, once doing basically all evil. There are different paths you can take. Both were fun. Oh, and my daughter loves it to. She would sit on my lap and watch me play - she'd beg me to "go play computer game" so she could watch. Then she'd tell me to go into the "scary tunnels" - her favorite - plenty of those there, between sewers and old metro lines, and other things even worse. She's so disappointed I finished with it. Now she asks me to "play another computer game" - ah, the joys of a 3 1/2 year old.

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