I guess I should explain what this is.

This isn’t really a traditional review of a game, because video games just advance too quickly to do a traditional bullet-point type review of these older titles. Sure, there is a score at the end, but that is just because most people need to grind up quantified scores and inject them into the webbing of their toes or else they get the cold sweats. I don’t like when people detox during my articles, it lowers my hit counts. Don’t be fooled by the score though, this “Retrograde” experiment isn’t so much a review as it is a stream of consciousness commentary on interesting screenshots from gaming’s past. Sometimes there will be anecdotes or personal stories, other times I will actually discuss the game, and at even other times I’ll probably just make borderline offensive jokes, beat a running gag into the ground, or spoil the ending for you.  Think Mystery Science Theater 3000 meets me looking for an excuse to dick around playing awesome retro video games instead of doing real work. This might seem familiar to the three and a third of you who follow me on Tumblr, and it generally seems to entertain one of you, so what the hell, let’s slap a fresh coat of paint on this lemon and call it a Chryslus .

Ah, Fallout. I was around the tender age of 12 when this game came out, and it was one of the first games I can really remember knowing inside and out like it was a warm Tauntaun. I played and beat this game in every possible combination, and fully believe that it deserves it’s place as a near holy relic of those glorious PC gaming salad days. Oh, the 90s, you sure sucked for mainstream music and fashion, but you were awesome for computer RPGs.

For people who haven’t played the original Black Isle (not yet called so) developed Fallout games and are only familiar with the more recent FPS variants of the series, you may be surprised by how familiar a lot of the stuff in this game really seems. Even despite Fallout 1 and 2 being completely different games from a different publisher than Fallout 3 and New Vegas, the attention paid to keeping the lore and atmosphere intact across the entire series is really impressive to look back on.

The plot of Fallout revolves around the Vault Dweller, a member of Vault 13 who is sent into the unknown wasteland to find a replacement for their malfunctioning water chip. What makes the game quite unique, especially for 1997, is that you initially only have 150 days to do it. The wasteland is a huge and dangerous place, so this can be quite challenging on the first playthrough … unless you just Google it or something, but that would make you a time traveler since this game out 13 years ago. You’ve also got to figure that the corpse three feet away from the Vault door probably wasn’t the best first choice for this mission. What possibly could have killed him? Was he deathly allergic to rocks?

All the traveling in the game is viewed through your trusty Pip-Boy, and going from one point to another is what takes the vast majority of time from your main quest. Many of the important destinations can be discovered through talking to NPCs and can help cut your travel time a bit, so it really encourages you to absorb as much of the atmosphere as you can.

At first I thought it seemed really asshole-ish of the Overseer to sit in a huge cyberpunk throne well above the people he is in charge of, but then I realized that in his free time the Overseer fights Sonic the Hedgehog in that thing.

Hey, I didn’t know your mom was in this game. HAH! Burn!

The references to the post apocalyptic inspirations for Fallout are purposely noticeable. Whether it be A Boy and His Dog or Mad Max, you see a lot of little winks and nods to the movies and novels that helped inspire the universe. Two men enter the waist high wooden gated enclosure and one man leaves the waist high wooden gated enclosure.

Darkwaters? Then why isn’t that scantily clad Morrigan chick selling me guns? Wait, that was Darkstalkers. I think I’d rather do my shopping there.

The dialog is one of the strongest points of the game. Fallout brings the wit as well as Wu-Tang brings the ruckus. It’s so hard to resist picking some of the more ridiculous options even though you know they are going to get you into trouble. It makes it easier if you tend to roleplay as a raging asshole though.

Skum Pitt. Still sounds classier than the places I usually go to.

By far, the most impressive part of the first Fallout game is the atmosphere. Every single piece of the game just exudes nuclear wasteland. From the caravans and the trader communes to the insane cults and technology hoarding armies, the aesthetics combine to make this really feel like the retro-futuristic apocalypse it is supposed to be.

Suddenly, I have the overwhelming urge to watch some Troma films.

Meanwhile, on the set of Starship Troopers…

Now I know how my black friend feels anytime he visits the south.

Another aesthetically pleasing strong point is the game’s voice acting. While there isn’t a ton of it, and only a handful of characters have rendered animation or voice acting, the parts that are there are highly professional. You’ll probably be doing the whole, “Where do I know that voice from” thing plenty of times, so to save you some time I’ll get that part over with for you- Hellboy, MacGyver, The Lobe from Freakazoid, Monk, Raymond’s brother from that show about everybody loving him, Childs from The Thing, Bull Shannon, and Mortanius. This has been a public service.

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it Boba Fett, stay away from that Sarlacc pit!

The combat plays out in a strategic RPG fashion. Depending on a number of factors, you or your enemy will start the battle, at which point you have a number of action points to spend on things like using your inventory, shooting your weapon, and even reloading. For those who have only ever been exposed to the franchise through Fallout 3 or New Vegas, VATS is present in its original form here and helps to add another level of tactics to the game. The combat isn’t overly deep, although there are a fair amount of weapons to decimate the games various mutated baddies with, but it is certainly deep enough. Oh, and if you said, “That’s what she said,” chop yourself in the throat for me.

One of the best things about Fallout is how organic the world seems. Whether through the rich dialog, clues in the surroundings, or just good ol’ fashion history collectin’, pretty much every aspect of the game you would be curious about is explained or, at least, made to make as much sense as can be made in a world where radioactive ghouls and super mutants roam the land.

This is actually exactly what it looks like when you cross the Benjamin Franklin Bridge into New Jersey.

“You may be a doctor. But I’m the Doctor.”

Like any good game of this type, most of the major quests have plenty of different ways to finish them. There are some hiccups with this, as there seem to be in every Fallout game, and some of the quests are as fragile as Sam Jackson in Unbreakable.  The littlest misstep can make quests impossible to finish no matter how far through one you are. Sometimes it is a bit on the realistic side, most people won’t give you money after you make fun of them even if you did kill a horde of raiders, but more often than not it just seems like programming loose ends.

Figures. It’s the end of the world and they still have Republican National Conventions.

Doesn’t this guy know what happened to the last person with a name like “Mr. Handy” when they got sexual? At least he wasn’t asking for a horse right! Haha-


In the end, Fallout is really one of the best PC games ever made. In the wasteland of PC gaming, Fallout is living a lavish existence in a cobbled together village with games like Deus Ex, Diablo, and Planescape: Torment. With a ton of concentrated atmosphere, engaging gameplay, and a great story with an appropriately wow-the-world-fucking-sucks-doesn’t-it ending, this is definitely the classic that all the cool kids always said it was. If you haven’t played this, you probably should or else you might lose your geek license. In fact, you should play through it before you even start New Vegas, just like I’m doing.  That way you don’t have to write about anything substantial or important and can just make tasteless jokes relating to screenshots you took of a 13 year old game.

I mean, uh, I’m a serious journalist!

Fallout was developed by Black Isle Studios and published by Interplay  for DOS, Windows, and eventually the stupid Mac like a hundred years later probably, amirite! The game released in North America, the best America, on September 30th, 1997. The copy used in this review was for Windows and given to me by my dad for Christmas 13 years ago, even though my mom totally wasn’t happy with me playing a mature rated game which probably lead to their divorce or something. Fallout was played until completion infinite times for around My Entire Adolescent Life hours.

Next time: Fallout 2


  1. Brilliant as always Gavin. However, being the resident Fallout fanboy here, I refuse to let you review anything else Fallout related without my input. Managerial man hath spoken!!