In late 2013, leaked casting documents from Fallout developer Bethesda seemed to confirm a long-held suspicion: Fallout 4, the latest installment of the post-nuclear shooter series, would be set in Boston. According to dialogue in Fallout 3 and its DLC, a war-torn region called “The Commonwealth” exists in the Fallout universe, lending credibility to the predictions. Despite multiple hoaxes over the past year, Bethesda hasn’t officially announced the title—although the rumor mill seems to be heating up again. Here’s why we hope Bethesda does bring nuclear winter to the Hub.
Both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas turned iconic American locales—Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas, respectively—into the series’ trademark wasteland sandboxes. Exploring the radioactive remains of the Capitol in the shadow of the Washington Monument, or blasting feral ghouls outside the gated enclave of the Strip—these games made the setting the star, plunging the player into warped future versions of familiar places. Part of the series’ appeal is the way it shows us a twisted reflection of an idealized Americana gone feral.
Boston boasts a wealth of iconic locations to, well, twist. Modern skyscrapers like the Hancock and the Pru tower over historic sites like Old North Church and Boston Common. While Fallout 4 wouldn’t be the first videogame to feature Boston prominently—Assassin’s Creed III and The Last of Us come to mind—it could be the first to make it a fully-realized, relatively geographically-accurate sandbox. Still, the Sox fan in me shudders to think what Bethesda might do with Fenway Park. It’s a safe bet there will be actual Green Monsters.
The Fallout games have always tied setting and narrative together in fascinating ways. As the cradle of the American Revolution, Boston provides extensive history for Bethesda to play with. Imagine what the Boston Tea Party would look like in the Fallout universe, or what the Freedom Trail might be used for. (Given the games’ goriness, I’d prefer not to picture Bethesda’s take on the Boston Massacre.) Events that took place here are so strongly woven into the fabric of our national identity that it’s hard to imagine Bethesda not picking up on that thread in its own storytelling. The leaked casting documents make reference to the “Commonwealth Minutemen”, so it’s likely Bethesda has already taken steps in that direction.
Key locations in Fallout 3 were linked via an ingeniously-condensed version of the D.C. Metro, featuring real-life stations. The only way to get to certain locations was underground, traversing the ghoul-infested subway tunnels. As home of the oldest subway system in America—the MBTA, known to locals as “The T”—Boston is an ideal setting for a return to that design feature. Those of us who take the T every day understand how integral our public transportation system is to our daily life, and how central the T is to residents’ understanding of the region’s geography and landmarks. (Also, how signal problems at Park Street can ruin your day in a hurry.) After a break from subway tunnels in New Vegas, it would be exciting to see Fallout 4 take us back underground. And after a famously flubbed portrayal of the T in The Last of Us, it’d be cool to see Bethesda’s post-nuclear version of the Red Line. I’m sure their cockroaches will be only slightly more radioactive than ours.
Greater Boston is home to some of the world’s most prestigious universities, from Boston University in the city to MIT and, you know, that other one across the Charles River in Cambridge. Plus, Boston is home to some of the most cutting-edge companies in high tech, bioengineering, and medicine. Imagine the nefarious uses all that brainpower could be put to in a Fallout game! Hideous mutant experiments, designer drugs, artificial intelligence…better spec up that Science skill.
More tellingly, there’s already reason to believe MIT will play a key role in the new game. Fallout 3 featured a sidequest related to freeing (or capturing) an android who escaped from The Institute, Fallout’s version of MIT. There’s a terrific Blade Runner quality to that storyline, as the android you’re tracking truly believes he is human. There are even hints that there has been some kind of android rebellion fomenting in the sealed-off confines of the Institute; a secret organization called the Railroad has been helping androids (and human slaves) run to freedom. Don’t be surprised if this conflict ends up informing the main storyline of Fallout 4. But speaking of AIs…
While New England wildlife certainly provides for some fun monster design—radlobster roll, anyone?—we’re hoping the real stars of Fallout 4 are the artificial lifeforms. The Fallout games contain a proud lineage of robot enemies and companions, from the Lost in Space-style Protectrons to the hovering butler-bots, Mister Handy. Given the Institute’s work in artificial intelligence, it’s likely we’ll see an increased variety of robotic and cybernetic characters in the Commonwealth, hopefully both friendly and hostile. Both will allow for interesting interactions, no doubt with plenty of Fallout’s dry humor.
What do you hope we see in Fallout 4? Let us know in the comments below.
J.P. Grant is a Boston-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Gamers With Jobs and other outlets. He blogs about games at Infinite Lag and is also on Twitter.