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.
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?
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).
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.