Those of you who follow gaming news might have noticed an upswing in excitement, euphoria and general screaming on Wednesday. This was due to Bethesda finally announcing the next installment of their popular Fallout franchise, simply titled Fallout 4. The project’s been long-teased and long-awaited, and upon its announcement, the fans reacted with the sort of hysteria usually reserved for the outbreak of nuclear war. Or the Half-Life 3/Last Guardian bundle.
For those of you who don’t know your Yao Guai from your Cazadores or your NCR from your FEV, the Fallout series takes place in an America where the Cold War never ended, the culture of the 1950s stayed predominant and the world managed to blow itself up 200 years prior. Your character is usually a Vault Dweller –the descendant of those who hid in survival shelters – who ends up wandering their local wasteland. You explore the vast world, fight enemies, make friends and, most famously, make moral choices that affect the future of the entire world.
The last instalment – Fallout New Vegas – came out five years and one generation of consoles ago. In the interim, any scrap of information relating to a possible Fallout 4 was pounced on faster than a wanderer through the Deathclaw Sanctuary. Voice actors implied the game was coming through social media. There were leaks indicating that the game would be set in Boston and that its map would be three times bigger than Skyrim’s, and a script which suggested that the player character would speak for the first time (and that players would no longer be able to play as a woman).
Then there were outright hoaxes. The most infamous of these was probably TheSurvivor2299, an elaborate wild-goose chase of fake phone numbers, countdown clocks and secret codes that cost £605 to set up. In the end, its Polish creator admitted he just wanted to provoke a real announcement from Bethesda (and upset a lot of people on the internet in the process).
Then, on Tuesday, Fallout’s official website stuck up a “Please Stand By” message and a countdown timer, which was helpfully pointed out by Bethesda’s official Twitter feed. The excitement that grew was almost immediate, and code-savvy individuals started to dig through the website and see what they could find. Someone noticed a script called “institute.js” – in the Fallout universe, the Institute is a shadowy scientific cabal working from Boston – while others managed to uncover box art. Some noted that fallout4.com linked to the same clock. People tried to trick the countdown clock into spilling the beans early by changing the time on their computer.
Some, however, were upset that clues in the code indicated the game would be released on the older generation of consoles – the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – alongside their newer counterparts. They claimed that this would inevitably lead to compromise to ensure the game ran comfortably on older systems, failure to use the newer systems to their full potential and decreased graphical quality.
But then one hour before the countdown clock ended, Bethesda prematurely made the Fallout 4 website accessible, confirming the game was actually happening. An hour later, an official trailer was the released. That trailer confirmed the rumours of a talking player character and Bostonian setting, in a world seemingly more functional than the dilapidated wasteland of Fallout 3 (following neatly from New Vegas’ major theme of letting go of the past).
But the past wasn’t completely gone – scenes were shown from a pre-apocalyptic society just before the bombs hit. The trailer was also praised for seemingly using actual, unpolished gameplay graphics, rather than CGI trickery, and for indicating the game would be next-gen only. And also, there was a dog. People really liked the dog.
And there was much rejoicing. But some things are still unclear. Will the pre-apocalyptic sections be just a tutorial or a full-blown subplot? Will we have customizable weapons? Most importantly, will the game contain any of those paid mods (user-made additions that are usually free) Bethesda was lambasted for trying about a month ago? Even now, discussion rages on. Because hype…
Hype never changes.