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The Ten Best Gameworlds


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Post-Apocalyptic Southern California
Fallout

Even back in the '50s, it didn't take a child prodigy to figure out that hiding under a school desk wouldn't do a lot of good if an atom bomb dropped nearby. Perhaps a better way to prepare for the consequences of nuclear disaster might be to play a lot of computer games; after all, games that take place in post-apocalyptic settings are a dime a dozen. The bleak, war-torn visions of the future first brought to life by science-fiction action movies like The Road Warrior and The Terminator have permeated computer games since their humble beginnings. And in the 20-year history of computer games, only one actually succeeded in presenting its own viable, creative, and memorable interpretation of life after the bomb - and that's Interplay's 1997 role-playing game, Fallout.

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Fallout opens with an incredible sequence set to an old blues song by a band called the Ink Spots. You see a washed-out, black-and-white television screen flashing all sorts of nonsensical, overzealous commercials for cars and public service and such. Meanwhile, the camera view slowly pans back to reveal the television itself, then the shambles of a living room, and then the decimated outskirts of the bombed house. You get a pretty good sense of what happened right away.

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Fallout takes place in an alternate future world in which '50s bomb-threat paranoia actually survives the nuclear catastrophe that it predicted. Some small portion of humankind has outlived the worldwide radiation threat by sealing themselves into huge underground fallout shelters. Your character emerges from one such vault some generations after the nuclear war to find himself in a very strange land: Two-headed cows, buildings made of wrecked cars, and fearsome radiation victims called "ghouls" are just some of the bizarre images in Fallout. Meanwhile, bloodthirsty bands of desert raiders, idealistic technology freaks, weird cultists, and a vicious army of Incredible Hulk-like super mutants vie against each other to claim control of the world after the bomb. And the game also has an appropriately dark sense of humor: It cleverly combines scenes of graphic violence with child-safe '50s-style cartoon images and a lot of kitsch.

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Fallout has a very distinctive and cohesive style and appearance that make its funny, dangerous post-nuclear world seem to come alive. Over the course of Fallout, you'll meet a lot of interesting characters who are brought to life using a lot of cameo voiceover from actors like Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver) and Richard Moll (Night Court), but perhaps the most memorable thing about the game is its setting. As you travel through the devastated remains of Los Angeles and its outskirts, miraculously, you'll start to feel right at home in that strange and inhospitable environment, because Fallout's eccentric and creative design is so memorable and so endearing.


 

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