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Fallout: A Bluffer’s Guide

A whistle-stop tour of everyone's favourite post-apocalyptic fun-fest in preparation for the imminent Fallout 4

It might feel like the whole world is getting hyped-up about the next nuclear role-player whilst you’re left cowering in your concrete bunker, but, if you haven’t a clue what the fission-frazzled finger-tapper Fallout 4 is, you’re not alone.

Don’t know your Pip-Boy from your Vault-Boy? Blasted into the wilderness of confusion by the Brotherhood of Steel? Say no more: we’re here to hold your hand through the atomised wasteland with our complete Bluffer’s Guide. You’ll be clued up with nuclear know-how in a jiffy.

The player is a citizen of Vault 111

I’m busy! WTF is Fallout?

How nice of you to ask! Fallout is a hugely influential series of post-nuclear open-world role playing games (aka PAOWRPG, pronounced ‘pow-war-puh-guh’). Originally created by Interplay and Black Isle, Fallout 3 was made by Bethesda, who you might know from The Elder Scrolls games (Skyrim etc). Inspired by 1950s, ‘Atomic Age’ pulp culture (think Flash Gordon and The Jetsons), the series also has a unique retro-futuristic personality and look.

All Aboard The Hype Train?

It’s been 5 years since Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 4 will be the first game in the series to debut on PS4 and Xbox One, so it’s kind of a big deal. People are excited by the promise of huge, dangerous wastelands, weird characters, endless customisation, hundreds of secrets, easter eggs and big moral dilemmas, all drenched in atmosphere and wrapped up with a plethora of intertwined storylines. Plus, how many games let you role-play as a radioactive cannibal?

Take Fallout wherever you goTurn your Apple Watch into a Pip-Boy 3000

What’s happened in the series so far, then?

The original Fallout in 1997 had an isometric viewpoint, was gory, weird, meta and free-form. There have been spin-offs from the formula too, such as the strategic Fallout: Tactics and more recently, and much, much, much more addictively, Fallout: Shelter. Shelter is the first mobile version for the series, in which you must build and manage an underground vault for its dwellers, make them have babies and defend it all from pesky bandits. It’s the perfect way to get a quick feel for the Fallout style and its sense of humour.

Also, though all 7 of the games take place in the same world, the narratives aren’t linked, so newbies won’t have any trouble jumping straight into Fallout 4.

Can I Make My Own S.P.E.C.I.A.L Character?

But of course! Character creation and building is a huge draw. You’ll make a Vault Dweller from scratch using the building blocks of Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. Pick carefully, these stats really do affect your interactions with the world.

As you level up you’ll also unlock perks to improve your character or change the gameplay in subtle ways (such as ‘Child at Heart’, which gives you unique dialogue options with the kids). The choices are yours! You really could build a big dumb oaf that likes to hit things with a metal pipe (my favourite) or a quick-talking nerd that refuses to get their hands dirty (too close to real life for my liking).

All the atomised dealsOur Fallout 4 preview

What do I do exactly?

Explore, talk, survive, craft, kill. There are a tonne of quests, ranging from the main story to all kinds of NPC requests and random events. Fallout keeps you on your toes by frequently throwing tough moral dilemmas at you that can really affect the game world.

For example, in Fallout 3 you could explore Megaton, a thriving town built around an unexploded nuke (with its very own cult of worshippers, natch) that you could totally choose to blow up. If you were play as a particularly cold-hearted warrior, that is. The series has always given players loads of freedom in how to approach situations – do you go in all guns blazing, charm your way through, or simply pickpocket what you need and leave an armed grenade the place of your ill-gotten gains?

Denizens of the Wasteland

Living through a nuclear apocalypse does strange things to people, so it’s no surprise that the Wasteland is home to plenty of folk you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a vault with. You and your gun will mix with communities of rotting, talkative ghouls, Raiders and Slavers, strange cults and the power-suited Brotherhood of Steel.

Then there are the companions, trusty sidekicks you can recruit if you want the company and an extra pair of gun-gripping hands. Past examples include a vengeful sniper, intelligent super mutant, Dogmeat the dog, a retired raider, and more. Your interactions are governed and affected by your sliding karma scale, so think carefully before half-inching those stim-packs or, y’know, eating people.

Motors from the wastelandFallout 4 cars are coming to Forza 6

…I Can Shoot People, Right?

Itchy trigger finger eh? Fallout has you covered. Combat since Fallout 3 is very satisfying, thanks to the VATS (VaultTech Assisted Targeting System). You can of course pew-pew in real time, but at the touch of a button you’re also able to freeze time and target specific body parts. Then shoot them in slo-mo.

Snipe off the leg of a charging, machete-wielding raider, or even the gun out of someone’s hand if you want. Or go straight for the noggin if you’re after a clean kill. Actually, "clean" really isn’t the word – Cronenburg himself would be proud of Fallout’s exploding head animation.

But it’s not always best to shoot first: there will apparently be more alternatives to violence in Fallout 4 than ever before in the series, and these often have surprising outcomes. Take Tenpenny Tower from Fallout 3 – instead of murdering the Ghouls nearby the fortified tower as requested by the snooty inhabitants, you could broker a peace between them and the residents. Return to the Tower after a while and you’d find that the Ghouls had taken over and dumped all the now-dead human residents in the basement. Karma bites!

If You Build It, They Will Come (And Be Shot)

Give it some elbow grease! Crafting, repairing and upgrading items has long been an important part of Fallout, but it looks set to be even more useful and fun in 4. It’s not essential, but you’ll have more freedom to invent your own weird and wonderful combinations of armour and ordnance. A bayonet on a scoped laser rifle is what my dreams are made of.

For the first time you’ll also be able to establish your own settlement and presumably fill it with useful fellow travellers. And if you’re anything like us, spend way too much time sorting out the feng shui of your dustbowl palace.

Why So Serious?

If all this talk of nuclear cataclysm, weighty moral dilemmas and cannibalism sounds like heavy going, well turn that frown upside down. Fallout doesn’t pull punches but it has a great sense of humour, often showing its best side in the brilliant dialogue and mad characters. New Vegas’ Yes Man, a Securitron robot hardwired to do exactly what he’s told (with a smile, by anyone) is my favourite of the series so far, but I’ve little doubt he’ll be topped in the new game.

The easter eggs are famous, too. In the past there have been guns from Dirty Harry and Blade Runner, the skeletons of Luke Skywalker’s uncle and aunt, and even Indiana Jones’ body in a fridge – a not so subtle mocking of the The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Quick Start Guide

Half the fun is in figuring things out for yourself but here are a few essentials to help make your first steps into the Wasteland fun and survivable.

  1. Look around! Go off the beaten path, be curious, search containers and corners, you’ll almost always be rewarded.
  2. There is no ‘right’ way to play the game. Having a bad karma rating has its perks too…
  3. Save a lot. Trust us.

See you in the Wasteland, Vault Dwellers.

Profile image of Danny Wadeson Danny Wadeson
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