With the announcement of Fallout 4 on the latest generation consoles, my ears perked up because Bethesda certainly know what they are doing when it comes to creating a video game. Fallout 3, unbeknown to me, would become one of my top 5 games of all time. Upon its release in 2008, I was too busy playing GTA IV to even acknowledge anything else.
A friend of mine who is a veteran gamer like myself, called me at work excitedly and explained that there is a new generation of RPG on the horizon. Bethesda studios had created a 3D version of a post-apocalyptic world, in which you can chose from multiple different scenarios, play them out how you want, wearing what you want, using want you like. It sounded too good to be true, the marrying of RPG and first person adventure in the past had been very hit and miss, but from screen shots the game looked innovative and detailed, the conceptual art work also looked amazing. This was all thanks to late, great Adam Adamowicz. A hugely passionate man who loved to sketch EVERYTHING out, often without the aide of a computer.
I decided to buy the game without reading too much into it, I didn’t know what to expect. As I sat there installing and waiting, I imagined how my character would play out. I imagined how I may emerge from the vault. Wearing some ‘borrowed’ civilian clothes, a welders mask and an apron, wielding some kind of cleaving weapon I found in the canteen. Or maybe I’d just run around stark bollock naked and run after people waving a broom handle…the game was ready to roll, I cracked open a beer and began my survival journey, all three hundred and twelve hours of it.
One of the greatest aspects of the Fallout world is that something you may discover or decide, could affect you later in the game, hours, days, weeks even…before the ‘fallout’ of said situation comes to fruition (depending on how long your sessions are obviously). You have to watch what you say and do, or else you’ll make many enemies and receive bad ‘karma’. Providing a game with these kinds of situations and logic means that you can play to suit your real life persona, or completely out of character, making the experience even more immersive.
Unlike in real life when you make enemies, make bad decisions, ruin people’s lives and emotionally scar them, or that you have been wronged yourself. Instead of undergoing counselling, therapy or medication, you are surviving in a world with no law enforcement and little structure. So, providing you have the right weapon, you can become your own judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one. Probably the appeal of the current library of games being released right now is that games allow deeper decision making, but one of the choices is to sort out your day to day problems, fulfilling ones fantasy to either diplomatically end confrontation using a brief exchange of words, or go ape shit and bludgeon said problem with a sledgehammer.
Starting life in the vault is fairly linear, there isn’t a lot of freedom but you have created a character that will be under your control for the duration, so the connection begins here. The shit hits the fan fairly early on and people start throwing their morals out like they were old Rolf Harris records. You have to exit the underground vault pretty sharpish. You were born here, you grew up here and now you’ve become a young adult. The first time you emerge from the darkened vault, your eyes are full of sun glare and the unforgettable score of music begins. Armed with only a pistol, a lead pipe and wearing a welders mask (my dream came true!), I had no idea what the wastelands had in store for me, but I was ready…or so I thought.
I decided to play from here on in, as cautiously and thoughtfully as if I were in the situation myself. Full immersion, and why not, this was defiantly a defining moment in gaming history. I’m not going to bore you with a blow by blow account of the entire game, what I will say is that the difference playing Fallout stoned compared to when sober was hilarious. If I had got baked one night during a couple hours session, I’d reload the game the next day and find myself trying desperately to remember where and when I collected all of these random items in my inventory. Fallout is like a kleptomaniac’s dream, when stoned this game satisfies my OCD…a lot of items in Fallout are simply junk, somethings rare, others can be fashioned into weaponry. At one point after many of the story line missions completed, I retraced my steps and hunted out as many Nuka Cola trucks as I could, storing them in the spare room of my house…the reason? None really, other than satisfaction and to show off to my best friend, who would then proceed to show me what he had collected, in a kind of ‘junk off’.
Until this time, one of my favourite first person shooters had been the Call of Duty series. COD as it is now referred to, is the classic pro American war tribute game, where by you play one man who singlehandedly achieves a kill count even Arnie would be jealous of. Nevertheless, the game series has been entertaining from the offset, it’s a damn sight better than actually cowering in trenches in the cold for hours on end, crying for mummy and wiping snot from your face, as tanks roll over your head.
As ridiculous as an American love for a power lifting Austrian death machine is, COD is simply ridiculous but then that’s also the beauty of it. As a video game war hero you have the ability to carry and reload an infinite amount of times, take hits from high calibre rounds and regenerate health, drive any vehicle and kill as many enemies as you can with no lawful repercussions.
Strangely COD has been on the tip of many news anchor’s lips due to its controversial content, even though nearly all of the titles so far have simply been based loosely on real life events, like a book or a movie. COD in Its infancy was never a problem in society, earlier COD titles were about World wars of the past…killing Germans in their thousands and throwing in a bunch of Russians for good measure, is not considered controversial.
Making a video game based on the ongoing American occupation in Arab lands however is deemed to be a problem for the young audience of today. In my experience, stupidity is cause for concern and simply confusing a virtual computer generated world and real ‘warfare’ is today’s issue.
Since the days of Wolfenstein 3D, killing Nazi’s is a little favourite past time of mine. There’s something quite therapeutic about ruining their snazzy little outfits with a machine gun or a few ‘nades. In more recent times Activision have combined two demographics into one spin off game, Nazi Zombies. It’s a satisfying little number in which you fend off hordes of the undead third Reich, simply two things humanity doesn’t care for.
Prayers were answered with the release of another now established title, Battlefield Bad Company. There wasn’t a lot wrong with COD but after a while it had become a little tedious, not being able to destroy enemy hideouts and other scenery. DICE debuted their Frostbite engine which has now catapulted the games popularity to great heights. Now it was a lot harder to simply ‘camp’ out and snipe people from a far, your ass could be targeted with heavy weaponry and your cosy hideout would become Swiss cheese in an instant.
Suddenly I was a lot more interested in multiplayer online action. Myself and four friends managed to obtain copies and get together online. Hilarity ensued. Playing with your friends in a war zone is entertaining…it’s not the simulated violence or depictions of war, it’s more to do with the fact your character has a voice and in the midst of battle, the confusion, fear and laughter comes thick and fast. Sure, it’s not a patch on real warfare but I’ve been paintballing and this is the closest you’ll get to watching your friends run for their lives under ‘live’ fire.
One such incident stuck in my mind in which myself and my best friend met up with a good friend of ours in a battle that was almost over. This was playing in the Vietnam expansion of the Battlefield titles and this meant, flamethrowers.
Our friend takes Battlefield extremely seriously and in this scenario we were instructed to join the opposing team. To obtain a certain ‘medal’ for taking the lives of four enemy soldiers with only the knife, we were going to have to stand still and be stabbed by our friend for him to obtain it. The last few soldiers were fighting their battle in this game, meanwhile my best friend and I were instructed to stand in a stream, hidden in a ravine, waiting for him to come and stab us.
My best friend is easily bored and so whilst waiting he decided to make him work for this medal and “Make him run the gauntlet!” he said…I didn’t know what he meant at first but then he started throwing grenades down the ravine in the direction our friend would be coming. I followed suit, obviously. Jumping, weaving and dodging he came through the narrow gap towards us and somehow managed to evade the random explosions, whilst shouting obscenities over the headset.
Eventually after a lot of antagonising we had successfully stabbed him enough times to acquire our medals. There was only his left. We had to relocate and spawn elsewhere as the rest of the players had cottoned on to the fact we were using the game merely to increase our score. We found a small village on the other side of the map, both me and my best mate found ourselves in the same hut…we couldn’t see our companion until we looked out the window. We could see him, several hundred metres away in another hut, looking for us.
We stayed hidden from view but communicated to him to give him our location. He made a run for it across hostile territory, as he entered the hut, my friend turned him into a human torch with his flame thrower…the body fell to the ground in front of us, followed the screams and bad language.
So there we have it, my first foray into online console gaming. This was defiantly a step in the right direction.
Next in the gaming history will be a look at 2009-2010, where I play some of the best and worst console games of all time.