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Eurogamer's Christian Donlan has penned an editorial on Fallout 4's retro sci-fi post-apocalypse and how its setting ultimately isn't very interested in nuclear war as anything more than a backdrop in spite of its powerful aesthetic. Here's an excerpt:
From what I've played of it, Fallout 4 is a game about nuclear war inasmuch as the Narnia adventures are books about a wardrobe. Nukes may add a dark wit to a few of the central systems and give NPCs something to latch onto when they want to philosophise about humanity's endless cycles of violence, but their primary function seems to be ushering you from the character creation sequence and into the vast and brackeny post-America playground where the real fun takes place. Like Skyrim, Fallout 4 is a fantasy game. It's just that this time the fantasy revolves around the notion that there could be a meaningful kind of life following any decent exchange of ICBMs.
Fallout 4 toys with some of this stuff quite brilliantly, but a few hours in I remember that I could already feel its importance receding - at least for the time being. As I staggered around, trying to avoid the fights my stupid dog got me into and performing favours for the Minutemen, I found myself exploring a world in which nuclear weapons were actually no big deal at all most of the time. Radiation poisoning simply stuffed up the end of my health bar, and I could wave it away with an item or two from the inventory. Nuclear fallout made the wildlife into beasts, but I've been battling crazy monsters in every RPG out there for years, and these were really no different.
The only thing that really stuck with me was those cars, still covered in fins and cosmonaut bubble-domes, still ready for a bright consumerist future, but now rusting out in the Wasteland, piled up, wedged in ditches, relics of a sublime era of optimism and stupidity that brought about this collapse. The cars were a reminder: people did this, and we are no less ridiculous today.