Spoilers follow for both Blade Runner and Fallout 3.
In Fallout 3, there’s a quest called “The Replicated Man.” The title itself is a clear reference to the 1982 scifi film Blade Runner, but the entire quest is an homage to the Harrison Ford flick. And it may be an indication of what's to come in Fallout 4.
The quest can be started in Rivet City’s science lab by talking to Dr. Zimmer, a scientist of the Commonwealth’s mysterious Institute. Zimmer will explain that he is in the Capital Wasteland looking for an escaped, advanced android that became self-aware and likely got facial surgery and a mind wipe.
The doctor then tasks the player character to find the android. After obtaining three holotapes found in the possession of various NPCs, it becomes clear that the escaped android disliked his slave-like role. And like Zimmer suspected, he did receive facial surgery and a mind wipe in order to forget his past, live like a human, and evade his masters. Once you learn the identity of the android, who is apparently fitting in just fine as Rivet City security chief Harkness, his fate is left in your hands.
You can heed the instructions of Victoria Watts, a member of the android-saving organization The Railroad, and deliver a unique android component to Zimmer and tell him you found it on the corpse. You can talk to Harkness, tell him that he’s an android, and warn him of Zimmer. Or you can let Zimmer know that the android is hiding in plain sight and watch as Zimmer overrides the mind wipe and brings Harkness back under his control. And you can see it all play out in the embedded video.
Regardless of the outcome, the quest constantly addresses themes of humanity, consciousness, and existentialism, much like Blade Runner did. Blade Runner follows Rick Deckard, a retired hunter of replicants, or androids. He’s brought back into the police force in order to hunt down four replicants that had revolted on another planet, and have come to Earth in order to find some way of getting past the fail safe four-year lifespan built into their beings. In the process, Deckard forges a relationship with a replicant that was led to believe that it was totally human. The final conflict with the leader of the replicants ends in an existential monologue and the android’s pre-determined death. And it’s even made quite clear by the director’s and final cuts of the movie that Deckard himself is a replicant, complete with a lifetime’s worth of implanted memories. (Ed. Note: This is still the subject of some debate with... well... everyone).
So both Fallout 3 and Blade Runner tell tales of synthetic life and the struggles that come with it.
The Possible Connection to Fallout 4
So how does this connect to Fallout 4? Well, there's a good chance it will be telling all kinds of android-based stories, and pulling a lot from Blade Runner in the process.
Fallout 4 will be set in Boston, which is known as the Commonwealth in Fallout lore. In fact, “The Replicated Man” quest is one of the few instances that the region is referenced, and it gives some juicy information. Firstly, the Commonwealth is home to the Institute, a scientific facility that still produces androids regularly. By extension, the surrounding areas are much more technologically advanced and better off than the Capital Wasteland, at least according to the snooty Dr. Zimmer.
The residents of the Commonwealth may even have access to android servants and bodyguards, much like Dr. Zimmer does; he is always followed by an android named Armitage. And maybe androidhuman relations aren’t at their best in the Commonwealth, if Harkness being driven to flee miles away and undergo intense changes to both his face and mind is any indication.
Dystopia is one of Blade Runner’s ever present themes. Watchful police cars and cameras are everywhere, and plants and animals are artificial versions of the real thing in an overgrown, oppressively dark, and rainy concrete jungle. While not many in the world of Fallout have the resources or mind to control on a grand scale in the face of the constant struggle for survival, the Institute might. With a potential army of androids to enforce its will, the Institute can be a force of good or evil in the post-apocalypse.
The general plot and various sidequests of Fallout 4 could and most likely will incorporate androids and pseudo-human rights. The idea of what androids deserve was certainly the most clear of Blade Runner’s many themes. But it also blurred the line of what was right and wrong when it came to those rights. Deckard does end up hunting and essentially killing every one of the replicants he was ordered to find, despite being sympathetic to and running away with one at the end of the film. Fallout 4’s karma system will certainly take advantage of the kind of complex issues synthetic life can bring about. By the time the game starts, there might be a whole android revolt on the Institute’s hands; it’s very feasible that the androids and the Institute are two of the factions in the game.
According to Bethesda’s recent E3 press conference, Fallout 4’s player character is the sole survivor from 2077, the year the bombs drop. Somehow, though, he/she is walking around 200 years later after events transpire in Vault 111. This is the most enticing possible connection to Blade Runner. Fallout has always told great stories, but always in isolated instances and from the perspective of an outsider in a strange world. The player characters of Fallout aren’t really emotionally developed, after all. But it looks like Bethesda Game Studios, director Todd Howard, and his team may be taking a cue from the glut of games with investing stories that have come out since Fallout 3 released in 2008. Fallout 4’s player character is fully voiced, which immediately strengthens a connection to him/her, and he/she may actually be viewed more than once after the character select screen due to third-person dialogue. One angle of Fallout’s apparent attempt to tell a compelling story will be the man/woman-of-time trope. Behind that trope, however, is a hopefully compelling reason for why said man/woman is out of time in the first place.
The player character may be an android just like Deckard, is what I’m getting at. It’s quite possible that the reason for the player character’s survival isn’t wholly explained at the get go, and as we know from Blade Runner, the questioning of one’s own humanity final twist is a powerful one.
Then again, the player character may find out that he/she is an android soon after the beginning of the game, which can add a whole new layer to interactions with characters in the Commonwealth.
But the player character may just be a human and Fallout 4 may not feature androids heavily, or at all. This is all speculation at this point, of course. But Fallout 3’s Replicated Man quest makes it clear that someone at Bethesda Game Studios has watched Blade Runner and, like anyone that has, was impacted by it. If we’re lucky, Blade Runner made an even bigger impact on Fallout 4, and we get a story full of dystopia, androids, existential debates, and personal, moral struggles.