Fallout 4 is real. This morning Bethesda's countdown ended - not before the game's website briefly showed up - and the new Fallout was introduced to the world. A trailer full of familiar imagery: The Vaults, a Nuka Cola machine, Brotherhood of Steel power armor, Mr. Handy, the Pip-Boy and a friendly dog. Kotaku's nearly-two-year-old rumor that Fallout 4 would take place in Boston has been proven completely true. The generic protagonist at the end of the trailer is wearing a Vault-111 outfit... which doesn't mean anything yet.
Fallout 4 is coming to PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, with Bethesda revealing more information at its E3 event.
It's interesting how much love the potential idea of Fallout 4 has when you look at the series' history. This is a game that was essentially rebooted only 7 years ago. Fallout was developed and published by Interplay, while Fallout 2 was was developed by Black Isle Studios and published by Interplay. Both of those titles were developed around the same core gameplay pioneered in the 1987 PC RPG Wasteland. Both were played from a third-person isometric perspective. If you want a real modern version of those games, InXile Entertainment's Kickstarted Wasteland 2 is the spiritual successor to those originals.
Fallout 3 was a mix of thematic and gameplay aspects of those titles and Bethesda's own Elder Scrolls series. In fact, Fallout 3 was developed by the same team behind Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and used the same Gamebyro engine. The fact that Fallout 3 wouldn't stick completely to what made the Fallout series what it was in the late 90's meant that Bethesda had an uphill battle in promoting the game. In fact, major Fallout fans hated the idea before it launched. And hated Bethesda's Todd Howard, for some reason.
"If I were a betting man, I'd say that the Fallout communities should brace for impact. Bethesda has made several indications that it will steer the Fallout franchise away from what made it special," wrote poster Bradylama in an extensive No Mutants Allowed post entitled Don't Buy the Hype. "Bethesda is a clear example of the fact that regardless of how well a company behaved in the past, it still has the chance to develop into a soulless money-making machine."
"This odd way of making sequels worries Fallout fans, because it suggests that Todd has a habit of focusing on precisely what hasn't made a franchise special. For Fallout and Fallout 2, specifically, they used Isometric perspectives, turn-based combat, and a simulationist roleplaying experience. Playing Oblivion and Morrowind it's clear that, for better or worse, they don't feel like traditional Elder Scrolls games."
"Why bother with a sequel if the fans of the series will be disappointed?" wrote another writer on the NMA frontpage. "There's a fundamental key that any developer or publisher bravely striding into the Fallout universe should know, and if they don't, they'll learn it by the time their game is released: Fallout is all about the fans. Oblivion is mainstream. Fallout is cult. For Fallout 3, the worst thing Bethesda could do is attempt to reinvent the franchise."
"Fallout 3 will suck," said a team of writers on the Daily Raider. "It will. Don't question it. There's no possible way for it to be any good. Don't bother trying to come up with arguments or counter-arguments or mount any kind of inquiry to prove reasons why there's theoretically a possibility of Fallout 3 being good. The Daily Raider cannot in good conscience tell any of you readers to anticipate Fallout 3 or expect anything less than 'unplayable' or 'unconscionable'. Fallout 3 will undoubtedly end up on an EGM 'What were they thinking?' list 10 years from now, next to Lair and Blinx The Extreme Time Cat."
Fallout 2 came out in 1998 and the first real talk of Fallout 3 began in 2007. Imagine you had been waiting years for a sequel and then it's handed to a team that has little to do with the original. A team that stated it didn't really want to head in the same direction? It'd be like Mega Man ending up at Activision and being handed to Infinity Ward. Fans had every right to be skeptical.
Bethesda stuck the landing though. Sure, the first-person gameplay annoyed some stalwart fans. Sure, the game was buggy as hell. Despite those problems, Fallout 3 was a deep, engrossing RPG right from the beginning, as you replayed your childhood growing up in your Vault. The world-building was amazing, the VATS mechanics worked great in first-person mode, and your choices actually mattered. It was you and your faithful friend Dogmeat, wandering the wasteland and getting into trouble. Fallout 3 wasn't "Oblivion with guns" like fans had worried. It was so much better.
Then Bethesda made the right decision and handed development of the Fallout 3 side-sequel to Obsidian Entertainment, the studio co-founded by Fallout director Feargus Urquhart. Those folks got into the engine, doubled down on everything that made Fallout 3 great, and then went further with Fallout: New Vegas. The characters and interactions were a step beyond Fallout 3 and ultimately New Vegas moved the series closer to the original Fallout games. Obsidian's dialog was smarter and meatier than Fallout 3's, the callbacks and easter eggs were more pronounced. The game had that right mix of despair, black humor, and imagination that makes Fallout games work. Fallout: New Vegas is still one of my favorite RPG experiences to this day.
So yeah, people are excited for Fallout 4. Yes, that does look odd when you step back and realize this version of the series is only 7 years and 2 games old. That Bethesda succeeded is a mark of their hard effort and a bit of luck. But they did. Fallout 3, but bigger and better? I can certainly get behind that.
We'll let you know more about Fallout 4 at E3.