After a hiccup this morning that briefly put the Fallout 4 site online early, Bethesda Softworks has officially announced the game with a trailer.
The trailer took a slightly more narrative focus than previous Fallout announcement trailers, crosscutting between atmospheric images of a devastated home and flashbacks to the moment when the family that once lived in that home hears about the war's escalation. It also situates Ron Perlman's "War, war never changes," into a monologue from a news reporter which... Were people really clamoring for more lore about "that cool narrator voice"?
In any case, after years of rumors that the game would be set in Boston, the trailer's inclusion of Boston landmarks like the Bunker Hill Monument pretty firmly confirm that. And as it turns out, what we know about Fallout's Boston is pretty interesting.
Back in Fallout 3, there was a Blade Runner-inspired quest called "The Replicated Man" which featured an android fleeing from his Boston-based creators, "the Institute." By piecing together little clues throughout the quest, you could build a pretty interesting picture of Post-Apocalyptic Massachusetts, which was called the "Commonwealth." Like much of the wasteland, the Commonwealth had suffered terribly in the events that ruined America. But unlike most other places, the Commonwealth had some areas in good shape, protected by the Institute's technologies (and willingness to use them violently.)
Now, who knows if any of this is still true. Bethesda could've junked that whole angle. But there are signs of it here, for sure. In between shots of the wastes, there are clips of dense, urban sprawls with flashing lights and lots of pedestrian activity. It paints a picture of the post-apocalypse slightly different than Fallout 3 did, and I'm hoping that we see lots of interesting cultures and characters stuffed into close proximity. That's part of what made New Vegas such a good followup.
It's easy to dismiss the "post-apocalypse" genre as a nihilistic fantasy of structural decline, lawlessness, and "might makes right" morality. So many (bad) examples of the genre exclusively commit to this route, where the audience is expected to find joy at the brutalities committed on or by the protagonists. It's not that the violence is bad in-and-of-itself, it's that it's positioned as the main attraction.
But there can be another sort of post-apocalyptic story, too, and it's one that I think the Fallout series has managed to deliver in the past. In a story, an apocalypse isn't just an ending, it's a chance to start fresh. Some post-apocalyptic stories burn everything down and then relish in the ashes. Others focus on characters who stand in the destruction and say, "Okay. Now what?"
These stories offer opportunity for different characters and organizations to decide what they want the future to look like, and then to struggle to enact that future. And, best of all, it lets these ideas come into contact with each other, to struggle and synthesize with each other. This is (part of) what makes Mad Max: Fury Road so great: It's about a group of folks trying to decide (both individually and as a group) what to do with this shitty hand they've been dealt. My hope is that we'll continue to see that sort of post-apocalypse from Fallout in this new entry.
My suspicion is that we'll get a gameplay demo (and, maybe, a tentative release date) from Bethesda at their upcoming Pre-E3 press conference on June 14th. We'll be there to yammer excitedly and/or skeptically.
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