Fallout (video game)

Fallout (video game)
Fallout box art

Original box art
Developer(s) Interplay Entertainment[1]
Publisher(s) Interplay Entertainment
Edusoft (AR)
Designer(s) Tim Cain
Leonard Boyarsky
Christopher Taylor
Composer(s) Mark Morgan
Series Fallout
Engine Fallout engine
Version 1.1 (21 November 1997)
Platform(s) MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Mac OS X
Release date(s) DOS/Windows
  • NA 30 September 1997
  • EU 1997
Mac OS
Mac OS X
  • NA 24 July 2008
Genre(s) Computer role-playing game
Mode(s) Single-player
Rating(s) ESRB: M (Mature)
USK: 16+
ELSPA: 15+
OFLC (NZ): R16
OFLC (Au): M
Media/distribution 1 CD-ROM, digital download
System requirements
10+ MB free space, mouse[2]
Pentium 90 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 2x CD-ROM, SVGA, SoundBlaster-compatible sound card.
Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, DirectX 3.0a or 5.0, 2x CD-ROM, SVGA, DirectSound-compatible sound card.
PowerMac, 16 MB RAM, CD-ROM, System 7.1.2.

Fallout is a computer role-playing game produced by Tim Cain, developed and published by Interplay in 1997. The game has a post-apocalyptic and retro-futuristic setting in the mid-22nd century, featuring an alternate history which deviates some time after World War II, where technology, politics and culture followed a different course.

The game is sometimes considered to be an unofficial sequel to the 1987 CRPG Wasteland,[3] but it could not use that title as Electronic Arts held the rights to it; and, except for minor references, the games are set in separate universes. It was also intended to use Steve Jackson Games' GURPS system, but that deal fell through due to the excessive amounts of violence and gore included in the game,[4] forcing Black Isle to change the already implemented GURPS system to the internally developed SPECIAL system.

Critically acclaimed, the game inspired a number of sequels and spin-off games, known collectively as the Fallout series.



Gameplay in Fallout centers around the game world, visiting locations and interacting with the local inhabitants. Occasionally, inhabitants will be immersed in dilemmas which the player may choose to solve in order to acquire karma and experience points. Fallout deviates from most computer role-playing games in that it often allows for the player to complete tasks in multiple ways, often choosing solutions that are unconventional or even contrary to the original task, in which case the player may still be rewarded. The player's actions may ultimately dictate the ending of the game, or what future story or gameplay opportunities are available. Ultimately, players will encounter hostile opponents (if such encounters are not avoided using stealth or diplomacy), in which case they and the player will engage in combat. Non-combat portions of the game are typically played in real-time.


Combat in Fallout is turn-based. The game uses an action point system wherein, each turn, multiple actions may be performed until all points in the pool have been expended. Different actions consume different numbers of points, and the maximum number of points that can be spent may be affected by such things as drugs or perks. 'Melee' (hand to hand) weapons typically offer multiple attack types, such as 'Swing' and 'Thrust' for knives. Unarmed attacks offer many attack types, including 'Punch' and 'Kick'. Players may equip at most two weapons, and the player can switch between them by clicking on their respective icons. The Perception attribute determines characters' 'Sequence' number, which then determines the order of turns in combat; characters with a higher statistic in this attribute will be placed at an earlier position in the sequence of turns, and subsequently get new turns earlier. Perception also determines the maximum range of ranged weapons, and the chance to hit with them.

Character development

Character development is divided into four categories, attributes, skills, traits and perks, which has been copied or adapted in some form or another in later iterations of the series:

The protagonist is governed by the SPECIAL (an acronym for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck) system designed specifically for Fallout, and used in the other games in the series. Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck are the seven basic attributes of every character in the game.[5] The SPECIAL stats continually add bonuses to skills. This is done 'on the fly', i.e. if the SPECIAL stats change, the bonuses are automatically and instantly adjusted. Some 'perks' and coded events within the game require a certain level of particular SPECIAL stats.

There are eighteen different skills in the game, ranging in value from 0 to 200 percent. The starting values for Level 1 skills are determined by the player's seven basic attributes, and initially fall within the range of 0 to 50 percent. Every time the player gains a level, skill points are awarded that can be used to improve the character's skills. The player may choose to tag three of the eighteen skills. A tagged skill will improve at twice the normal rate and receives a bonus at the start. Skills are divided into three categories: combat, active and passive. Books, although scarce in the early game, can be found throughout the game world, and permanently improve a specific skill when read. However, after a skill reaches a certain level, books no longer have an impact. Some NPCs can also improve skills via training. Some skills are also improved by having certain items equipped. For instance, a lockpick improves lock-picking skills. Stimulants can also temporarily boost a player's skills, however, they often have adverse effects such as addiction and withdrawal.

Traits are special character qualities which can have significant effects on gameplay. At character creation, the player may choose up to two traits. Traits typically carry benefits coupled with detrimental effects.[5] For example, the trait "Small Frame" improves agility by one point, but negatively affects maximum carrying capacity. Once a trait is chosen, it is impossible to change, except by using the "Mutate" perk which allows a player to change one trait, one time. Perks are a special element of the level up system. Every three levels (or every four if the player chooses the "Skilled" trait), the player is presented with a list of perks and can choose one to improve their character. Perks grant special effects, most of which are not obtainable via the normal level up system. These include letting the player perform more actions per round, or being able to heal wounds faster. Unlike traits, perks are purely beneficial; they are offset only by the infrequency with which they are acquired.

The game also tracks the moral quality of the player character's actions using a statistic called Karma, as well as a series of reputations. Karma points are awarded for doing good deeds, and are subtracted for doing evil deeds. The effect of this statistic during the course of the game is minimal; however, the player character may receive one of a number of "reputations", that act like perks, for meeting a certain threshold of such actions, or for engaging in an action that is seen as singularly and morally reprehensible. The three reputations a player may receive in Fallout are:

  • Champion - this reputation is received for standing on the side of justice and defeating evil-doers. The Champion reputation makes it easier to deal with good-natured people, and generally has a positive influence on non-player characters.
  • Berserker - the opposite of Champion received for killing a large number of innocent people. This reputation makes it easier to deal with the darker elements in the Fallout game world.
  • Childkiller - received for killing two or more children. If attained, a band of bounty hunters will set out to kill the player character.

Recruitable NPCs

A diverse selection of recruitable non-player characters (NPCs) can be found to aid the player character in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Examples include Ian, an experienced traveler and gunman who can equip a pistol or SMG; and Dogmeat, a nonhuman NPC the player may recruit in Junktown by either wearing a leather jacket or feeding the dog an iguana-on-a-stick. Unlike in Fallout 2, there is no limit to the number of NPCs that the player may recruit, and NPCs' statistics and armor in Fallout remain unchanged through the entire game; only their weapons may be upgraded.


The protagonist of Fallout is an inhabitant of one of the government-contracted fallout shelters known as Vaults. In subsequent Fallout games, he or she is referred to as the Vault Dweller.

Fallout is set several decades after a worldwide conflict brought on by global petroleum shortage. Several nations begin warring with one another for the last stores of non-renewable resources, namely oil and uranium. Known as the Resource Wars, fighting begins in April 2052 and continues until October 23, 2077. China invades Alaska in the winter of 2066, causing the United States to go to war with China and using Canadian resources to supply their war efforts, despite Canadian complaints. Eventually the US annexes Canada in February 2076 and reclaims Alaska eleven months later. After years of conflict, on October 23, 2077, a global nuclear attack occurs. Nobody knows who strikes first, but in less than two hours most major cities are destroyed. The effects of the attack will not fade for the next 100 years. As a consequence, human society has collapsed, and survivor settlements barely eke out a living in the now-barren wasteland, while a lucky few lived through the occurrence in underground fallout shelters known as Vaults.

The game takes place in 2161 in Southern California and begins in Vault 13, the protagonist's home. Vault 13's Water Chip, a computer chip responsible for the water recycling and pumping machinery, breaks. The Vault Overseer tasks the protagonist with finding a replacement.[6] He is given a portable device called the "PIPBoy 2000" that keeps track of map-making, quest objectives, and bookkeeping. Armed with the PIPBoy 2000 and meager equipment, including a small sum of bottle caps which are used as currency in the post-apocalyptic world, the main character is sent off on his quest.

The Master.

The player initially has 150 game days before the Vault's water supply runs out. This time limit can be extended by 100 game days if he commissions merchants in the Hub to send water caravans to Vault 13. Upon returning the chip, the Vault Dweller is then tasked with destroying a mutant army that threatens humanity. A mutant known as "The Master" (previously known as Richard Grey) spreads a pre-war, genetically engineered virus called the "Forced Evolutionary Virus" to convert humanity into a race of "Super Mutants" and bring them together in the "Unity" — his plan for a perfect world. The player must kill him and destroy the military base housing the supply of FEV, thus halting the invasion before it can start.

If the player does not complete both objectives within 500 game days, the mutant army will discover Vault 13 and invade it, bringing an end to the game. This time limit is shortened to 400 days if the player divulged Vault 13's location to the water merchants. A cinematic cut-scene of mutants overrunning the vault is shown if the player fails to stop the mutant army within this time frame, indicating the player has lost the game. If the player agrees to join the mutant army, the same cinematic is shown.

In version 1.1 of the game, the time limit for the mutant attack on Vault 13 is delayed from 500 days (or 400 depending) to thirteen years of in-game time, effectively giving the player enough time to do as he or she wishes.

The player can defeat the Master and destroy the Super Mutants' Military Base in either order. When both threats are eliminated, a cut-scene ensues in which the player automatically returns to Vault 13. There he is told that he has changed too much, that children would want to leave the vault to emulate his actions, and therefore his return would negatively influence the citizens of the Vault. Thus he is rewarded with exile into the desert, for, in the Overseer's eyes, the good of the vault. There is an alternate ending in which the Vault Dweller draws a handgun and shoots the Overseer after he is told to go into exile. This ending is inevitable if the player has the "Bloody Mess" trait or has accrued significant negative karma throughout the game. It can be triggered if the player initiates combat in the brief time after the Overseer finishes his conversation but before the ending cut-scene.


A number of well-known actors were cast as voice-talents for this game. The game's narrations were performed by Ron Perlman. The game's prologue featured one of the foremost iconic catch phrases of the game series -- "War. War never changes". He was re-invited to, and narrated, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. Other appearances included Richard Dean Anderson as Killian, David Warner as Morpheus, Tony Shalhoub (credited as Tony Shalub) as Aradesh, Brad Garrett as Harry, Keith David as Decker, Richard Moll as Cabot, and Tony Jay as The Mutant Lieutenant.

Black Isle intended to use "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" by The Ink Spots for the theme song, but couldn't license the song because of a copyright issue.[7] This song was later licensed by Bethesda for Fallout 3. The song "Maybe" by the same artists was used instead for the original Fallout theme song.

At one point in Fallout's development, in Junktown, if the player aided local sheriff Killian Darkwater in killing the criminal Gizmo, Killian would take his pursuit of the law much too far, to the point of tyranny, and force Junktown to stagnate. However, if the player killed Killian for Gizmo, then Gizmo would help Junktown prosper for his own benefit. The game's publisher did not like this bit of moral ambiguity and had the outcomes changed to an alternate state, where aiding Killian results in a more palatable ending.[7]

The game, along with its two followups, Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics, were later sold together as part of the Fallout Trilogy.[8] Fallout and Fallout 2 also appeared together in "dual jewel" format.[9]

In the early stages of planning, other settings based on the GURPS handbooks were considered, including a time-travel theme with aliens and dinosaurs.[10]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 91.92%[11]
Metacritic 89/100[12]
Review scores
Publication Score
Allgame 4.5/5 stars[13]
GamePro 4.5/5 stars[11]
Game Revolution A- (Mac)[14]
GameSpot 8.7/10[15]
PC Gamer US 90/100[16]
PC Zone 91/100 (UK)[11]
Computer Gaming World 4.5/5 stars[11]
Entity Award
CGW "Hall of Fame"[17]
GameSpot "RPG of the Year" (1997)[18]
GameSpot "Greatest Games of All Time" (2003)[19]
GameSpy "Hall of Fame" (2000)[20]
IGN "Hall of Fame" (2008)[21]

Fallout was named #4, #10, #13, #21 and #7 on the list of best games of all time by PC Gamer in 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010 respectively.[22][23][24][25][26] It was ranked #5 on IGN's list of "Top 25 PC Games of All Time" in 2007,[27] and #19 in 2009.[28] It was ranked #55 on IGN's "Top 100 Games of All Time" list in 2005,[29] and #33 in 2007.[30] PC Zone named it #21 on its "101 Best PC Games Ever" list in 2007.[31]

Fallout has been inducted into Computer Gaming World, GameSpot, GameSpy and IGN's "Hall of Fame" or equivalent.[17][19][20][21] It also was named "RPG of the Year" by GameSpot in 1997,[18] and ranked sixth on Game Informer's 2008 list of "Top 10 Video Game Openings".[32]

PC Gamer US's Todd Vaughn called it "a joy to behold and play", and "one of the standout RPGs for the 1990s". He criticized its numerous glitches and high system requirements, but finished the review: "The tightly integrated mix of combat, storytelling, and puzzling keeps the pace brisk and lively, and it’ll keep you coming back for more".[16] It is notable that all review scores for Fallout are consistently high and none are lower than an eight (out of a maximum of ten), with the only criticism involving its graphics.

Influences and references

Fallout draws much from 1950s pulp magazines, science fiction and superhero comic books. For example, computers use vacuum tubes instead of transistors; energy weapons exist and resemble those used by Flash Gordon; the Vault Dweller's main style of dress is a blue jumpsuit with a yellow line going down the center of the chest and along the belt area. Fallout's menu interfaces are designed to resemble advertisements and toys of the same period; for example, the illustrations on the character sheet mimic those of the board game Monopoly, and one of the game's loading screens is an Indian Head test card. The lack of this retro stylization was one of the things for which the Fallout spin-offs were criticized, as retro-futurism is a hallmark of the Fallout series.[citation needed]

Fallout contains numerous Easter eggs referencing 1950s and 1960s pop-culture. Many of these can be found in random encounters, which include a vanishing TARDIS from Doctor Who (complete with sound effect), an enormous reptilian footprint, and a crashed UFO containing a painting of Elvis (a Velvet Elvis). Another reference comes in the form of a quotation: in the Old Town district of The Hub, an insane man named Uncle Slappy wanders in perpetual circles calling out non-sequiturs, one of which is "Let's play Global Thermo-Nuclear War!", a reference to a similar line in the 1983 film WarGames. The game also refers to other pieces of fiction, including Robin Hood. Through an optional sidequest, the player can obtain a powerful pistol that resembles the one Harrison Ford wields in the 1982 film Blade Runner.

There are also many references to post-apocalyptic science fiction, such as Mad Max or the infamous post-apocalyptic musical and detective movie Radioactive Dreams. One of the first available armors is a one-sleeved leather jacket that resembles the jacket worn by Mel Gibson in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. The player can also get a dog, named Dogmeat after Mad Max’s dog, to join the party in Junktown.

Although the time frame of Wasteland is completely different from Fallout—and despite the fact that the game's designers deny that Fallout or Fallout 2 take place in the same universe as Wasteland—there are many references to the events and the style of Wasteland in the Fallout series, which is why Fallout is sometimes regarded as the successor to Wasteland. For example, the protagonist can meet an NPC named Tycho, who mentions that he is a Desert Ranger and, under the right conditions, will talk of his grandfather, who told him about Fat Freddy, a character from Las Vegas in that game.


  1. ^ Cheong, Ian. "Game Info". Lionheart Chronicles. GameSpy. http://www.rpgplanet.com/lionheart/info-faq.shtml. Retrieved 2006-07-25. 
  2. ^ "Fallout Frequently Asked Questions". Anonymous. 1998-05-19. http://www.nma-fallout.com/fallout1/official_site/faq.shtml. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  3. ^ Barton, Matt (2007-02-23). "Part 2: The Golden Age (1985-1993)". The History of Computer Role-Playing Games. Gamasutra. http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20070223b/barton_05.shtml. Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  4. ^ "IGN Presents the History of Fallout". IGN. 2009-01-28. p. 3. http://uk.retro.ign.com/articles/948/948937p3.html. Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  5. ^ a b Rollings, Andrew; Adams, Ernest (2003). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on game design. New Riders. pp. 108, 357–360. ISBN 1-59273-001-9. 
  6. ^ Rollings, Andrew; Adams, Ernest (2003). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on game design. New Riders. pp. 108, 357–360. ISBN 1-59273-001-9. 
  7. ^ a b Avellone, Chris (2002-11-06). "Fallout Bible #9". Black Isle Studios. http://www.duckandcover.cx/content.php?id=71. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  8. ^ "Fallout Trilogy". IGN. http://uk.pc.ign.com/objects/033/033123.html. Retrieved July 20, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Fallout/Fallout 2 [Dual Jewel"]. Gamervision. 2001. http://www.gamervision.com/games/falloutfallout-2-dual-jewel-for-pc. Retrieved August 17, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Fallout with Tim Cain, Pt. 1". Matt Barton. Matt Chat. Armchair Arcade. June 27, 2010. No. 66. 647 minutes in.
  11. ^ a b c d "Fallout for PC". GameRankings. http://www.gamerankings.com/pc/197289-fallout/index.html. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  12. ^ "Fallout (pc) reviews at Metacritic.com". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/fallout/. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  13. ^ Suciu, Peter. "Fallout - Review". allgame. http://www.allgame.com/game.php?id=6460&tab=review. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  14. ^ Cooke, Mark (June 5, 2004). "Fallout review for the MAC". Game Revolution. http://www.gamerevolution.com/review/mac/fallout. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  15. ^ "Fallout Review". GameSpot. November 21, 1997. http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/fallout/review.html. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  16. ^ a b Vaughn, Todd (January 1998). "Fallout". PC Gamer US. Archived from the original on March 12, 2000. http://web.archive.org/web/20000312175928/www.pcgamer.com/reviews/421.html. Retrieved April 14, 2010. 
  17. ^ a b "CGW's Hall of Fame". 1UP.com. http://www.1up.com/do/feature?pager.offset=3&cId=3139081#23. Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
  18. ^ a b "Fallout 2 Previews". GameSpot. http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/fallout2/news.html?mode=previews&tag=tabs%3Bpreviews. Retrieved 2010-11-15. "Greg Kasavin finds out what's in store for the sequel to GameSpot's 1997 RPG of the Year, including story details and tons of screenshots." 
  19. ^ a b "The Greatest Games of all Time". http://www.gamespot.com/gamespot/features/all/greatestgames/. Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
  20. ^ a b Buecheler, Christopher (December 30, 2000). "The GameSpy Hall of Fame: Fallout". GameSpy. http://www.gamespy.com/contact-us.html. Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
  21. ^ a b "IGN Videogame Hall Of Fame: Fallout". IGN. 2008. http://games.ign.com/halloffame/fallout.html. Retrieved 2010-11-20. 
  22. ^ "50 Best Games of All Time", PC Gamer, October 2001 
  23. ^ "50 Best Games of All Time", PC Gamer, April 2005 
  24. ^ "PC Gamer's Best 100". PC Gamer. August 13, 2007. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=169961&site=pcg. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  25. ^ "PC Gamer's Top 100". PC Gamer. August 5, 2008. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=194593. Retrieved 2010-11-16. 
  26. ^ "PC Gamer's top 100 PC Games of all time". PC Gamer. February 5, 2010. http://www.gamesradar.com/f/pc-gamers-top-100-pc-games-of-all-time/a-2010012911133649022/p-5. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  27. ^ Adams, Dan; Butts, Steve; Onyett, Charles (2007-03-16). "Top 25 PC Games of All Time". IGN. http://pc.ign.com/articles/772/772285p1.html. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  28. ^ Ocampo, Jason; Butts, Steve; Haynes, Jeff (August 6, 2009). "Top 25 PC Games of All Time". IGN. http://pc.ign.com/articles/101/1011624p1.html. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  29. ^ IGN's Top 100 Games
  30. ^ IGN Top 100 Games 2007 |33 Fallout
  31. ^ "The 101 best PC games ever". PC Zone. May 20, 2007. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=164289&site=pcz. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  32. ^ "The Top Ten Video Game Openings," Game Informer 187 (November 2008): 38.

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