Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Why You Shouldn't Be Excited About Fallout 4

One thing that pisses me off to no end (among many) is how easily seemingly sensible people are willing to enthusiastically climb aboard consumerist hype trains. Today's instalment appears to be a tease for a new game in the Fallout "franchise," inauthentically brought to you by Bethesda Softworks. Why shouldn't you care about this? Let's begin:

It's Inauthentic
As you may know if you ever read these humble jottings, I'm a bit of a stickler for authenticity. I like characters, plots, settings and general ideas to be worked on by the people who invented them, not simply by the highest bidder. Y'know who invented all that stuff you liked in Fallout 3, like bottle-cap currency, multi-headed cows, the big war between China and the USA, T-51b power "armor", super mutants, the Brotherhood of Steel, Vault Boy, the SPECIAL system and all that other shit? A team from Interplay in 1997. Y'know who didn't come up with any of those fundamental ideas? Bethesda in 2004 when they started developing Fallout 3. Now I know that the Interplay team that made Fallout 1 wasn't identical to the team which made Fallout 2, and the team which made New Vegas bore virtually no resemblance, but the whiff of authenticity is completely absent in the Bethesda-created instalment. They didn't come up with any of the crap that actually makes Fallout into Fallout. All they came up with is a reworking of the concept into less of a 'rebuilding of society, war never changes' type game and more of a generic post-apocalyptic "look, it's Washington but blown up" type simulator.

I guess if you never played the first Fallout you wouldn't give a shit, and good for you. But you ought to perceive that Bethesda Fallout is basically just licensed fan fiction with no actual creative link between itself and the intellectual property it bought from Black Isle Studios in 2003. You may say "well, Bethesda bought the rights, they can do whatever they like with it, and take as much credit as they wish." Yeah, sure, according to dumb, blunt corporate logic that might make sense, but artistically speaking it's nonsense. It'd be like if someone had paid John Wyndham a tonne of money to buy the rights to The Chrysalids and then wrote a sequel to it exploring the post-apocalyptic world portrayed in the book. Would you get all excited about that? Probably not, because you probably have no idea what The Chrysalids is, but my point is it'd be artistically meaningless. What could possibly be conveyed authentically by a bunch of completely different people playing around with toys they'd purchased from another company?

Bethesda doesn't understand Fallout
This is probably one of the stronger arguments against another Bethesda Fallout game, I would argue: Bethesda simply doesn't understand Fallout. The Fallout games are about a) how even under the most extreme circumstances, human nature carries on in both its better and worse capacities, and b) how as a result human morality is complex and difficult to define. Weirdly enough, the team at Obsidian understood this when they developed Fallout: New Vegas, but Bethesda didn't. As a result, Fallout 3 is a simplistic morality tale: the good Brotherhood of Steel versus the evil Enclave. You can be as good or bad as you like but ultimately you're shepherded towards the same conclusion: you have to help the Brotherhood beat the Enclave, even though you can go on to help the Enclave by poisoning the water supply so it'll kill mutants. It's the kind of simplistic black and white morality Bethesda have developed through their long history with their main franchise, the Elder Scrolls, a vaguely enjoyable series of Fantasy RPGs which nonetheless indulge exactly the same simplistic good versus evil bullshit you can find in any generic Fantasy paperback in an airport bookstore.

There's also the fact that Bethesda seem to see Fallout as being about simulating the ruins of the old world rather than exploring a strange new one. The whole point of Fallout (the first game) is that the area of the United States in which you find yourself has become virtually unrecognisable as a result of the horrendous nuclear war. Fallout 3 by contrast presents you with Washington DC as it would probably appear if it was abandoned for a decade, when of course in a nuclear war between the superpowers it'd be one of the first places which would be turned into glass. It would have been bombed flat. It's the romanticised "cosy catastrophe" nature of the disaster in Fallout 3 (to reference Wyndham again) which makes the situation a bit ridiculous, but obviously Bethesda figured that pictures of a vaguely sooty-looking Capitol building would sell better than pictures of a bloke wandering around a desert between mud huts built by survivors.

Maybe these aren't terribly strong reasons for not buying into the Fallout 4 hype, but in my opinion not buying into hype should be self-evident. You have literally no idea if the game is going to be good or not, unless you're so blindly, ideologically enslaved to the franchise that you know you'll enjoy it no matter what. I'll give Bethesda some credit: Fallout 3 is an expansive and atmospheric game (albeit one which misunderstands its source material and has an extremely weak story) and I feel that the Creation Engine, as used with Skyrim and hopefully with this, ought to be a major improvement over the clunky and ugly Gamebryo engine, which was understandable for Oblivion and more or less for Fallout 3, but despite the fact that it was obviously not going to be replaced to develop a mere spinoff, looked extremely dated by the time of New Vegas. I may well give Bethesda's new Fallout a chance myself, although I worry that it will be another simplistic morality tale. As I always say, however, question the authenticity of these things, ask yourself if you're getting something as artistically and intellectually rigorous as what has actually come before, have a little self-respect and don't get on board hype trains. It's undignified, if nothing else, and while it's perfectly fine to be interested in and enjoy these things, companies that mass-produce exploitative products to take your money, with as little effort as possible on their own part, don't deserve excitement or enthusiasm and certainly don't deserve gratitude.

Looks like BioShock Infinite crossed with The Last of Us. Basic signifiers like Ink Spots track, TV screen, Vault door, Vault suit, power armor etc to make fanboys automatically think it's awesome. Don't buy into the hype!

Yeah! Let's all pre-order Fallout 4! Let's all be good little consumers and blindly line the pockets of a big corporation that simply buys other people's more intelligent ideas and then repackages them into easily digestible blockbuster mush!  Let's all get our special Pip-Boy Editions so that we can get more cluttered shit in our bedrooms so people will know how geeky we are!

Have some god damned self respect you utter sheep. These people do not deserve your enthusiasm, they do not deserve excitement and they certainly do not deserve your money.

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