Fallout3: Where’s the Original Sin?

by Steve Bowler on November 19, 2008 · 31 comments

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Apologies that the posts haven’t been coming lately.  I hope you can understand.  I’ve been playing Fallout3.  A lot.  Like, every possible moment I can.  It is, in a way, the ultimate culmination of some of my gaming favorites.  It’s quite possibly the peanut butter/chocolate combination of my American RPG favorites, so hopefully this will be the first of a three part series this week about teh Fallouts.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest Fallout fan on the planet.  I’ve only previously played Fallout 2 until it became impossible to play any further due to a bug in the 1.0 version of the game (I’d come to find out that the 1.0 version was impossible to finish even if I didn’t hit the following bug).  The 1.1 patch made 1.0 saves incompatible, and I wasn’t about to start over after investing over 40 hours in the game.  But I loved every minute of it.  I figured out how to play through the entire game solo mission until I got the “cursed dog” bug, where it won’t ever leave you, giving you a Luck score of 1, which makes the game pretty much unplayable.  You and the guy fighting you will never hit the broad side of a barn with a mini-gun set to full spray.  It’s that bad.  But my time invested?  Loved every minute of it.

I’m also a ginormous fan of Bethsoft’s Arena Scrolls RPGs.  I never played Arena (although I watched my wife play it a bunch), but I dove right in when Daggerfall came out, playing it until I was simply exhausted from the grind.  I played Morrowind again until I was spent, never finishing it either.  Then Oblivion hit and I played it every night ’till at least 2 am (try it with a baby on your hands sometime.  It’s like staying up ’till 5am) until I had logged about 54 hours in and wound up realizing that a thief/assassin didn’t care if the world was in peril; there’s nothing to steal and no one to kill under contract in hell.  So I retired as the world’s greatest Theifsassin and called it a day.

So, as you can imagine, when Bethesda did the press release that they had purchased the rights to Fallout, and when I learned that Oblivion’s Assassin’s Guild writer was going to be doing a larger role in Fallout3, I was pretty ecstatic.

Let me attempt to explain why.

Fallout already was steeped in debauchery.  Not only did they handle the graphic violence better than almost anyone (bloody mess perk = amazing), the Fallout series was always brutally honest about humanity.  Sure, you can be a beacon of hope if you want to.  But you can also revel in sin.  Like drugs?  Fallout has ‘em.  Like sex with prostitutes?  Hell, Fallout 2 will take it one further and let you be in a frickin’ post apocalyptic porno.  You have a sub-class of humans (ghouls) who not only symbolize every underclass in American history, but they even took the literal step of making them horrible to look at.  The player actually is forced to look past the surface if they hope to understand ghouls.  Of course, you’re welcome to hate them and murder them at will, too.  In fact, they balanced a lot of this out by making you addicted to drugs, with negative repercussions, you got a nasty venereal disease from nailing the tramps, and you lost out on any good quests/items the ghouls had by wiping them out.

While the Elder Scrolls games were never really about debauchery, I eventually stumbled upon something fairly “wrong” that made my time in their worlds as a Thiefsassin (screw the term “Rogue” I’m coining a new one here) even more compelling of an experience for me.  It all happened out of complete necessity way back in Daggerfall.

While I was wandering the wilds getting my murder and my killing on, two things happened almost simultaneously.

  1. I realized I was wasting a lot of my time in game re-exploring dungeons I’d already been through because they were barren, with no dead bodies in them.
  2. The game was reaping dead bodies, with loot on them or not, while leaving items dropped persistent in the world (items aren’t ever reaped.  You drop it, it stays there).

Now, being the Thiefsassin that I am, I wasn’t about to go leaving big ticket items like swords or armor in front of the exits for dungeons.  That shit is to be sold and make you big money!  And I largely ignore cups or daggers left lying about as just general detritus; how am I to remember if I left that cup on the floor or if it was one that happened to be placed there by the designers?  After a few dungeons it’s hard to remember you’ve even been to a dungeon, let alone if you’ve dropped an item there or not.

Then, a funny thing happened.  I was looting a corpse, and I accidentally removed a shirt I didn’t want from the victim.  Instead of putting it back on the victim’s body, I just cast it aside, and it appeared on the ground, neatly folded, and the victim was left bare chested.  I wondered, would this trend continue?  I grabbed the pants, and sure enough, naked legs.  I threw them on the floor (neatly folded, of course), while I yanked off the boots and threw them on the floor as well.

Suddenly, I had the solution to knowing if I’d been in a dungeon or not:  Folded clothes left everywhere.  The bodies would reap, but the clothes would remain.

But more importantly, I realized the hilarity/absurdity of the situation.  Here I was, the world’s greatest Theifsassin, killing my marks, and then taking their clothes off, and folding them neatly next to their bodies.  I began laughing out loud while I imagined what the poor victim’s families must have had to go through stumbling upon the scene:

Oh god, Gwendaline, are you okay?  Did you have too much to drink again last night?  My sweet wife, why are you–   OH GOD SHE’S DEAD.  She’s been murdered, and…wait, why is she naked? MY WIFE IS DEAD.  AND NAKED.  AND waitaminute why did he fold her clothes?

I don’t know, it’s possible I’m the only person who finds this hilarious, but it eventually became my calling card.  If I killed a victim, I put their clothes on the floor.  Even if I knew I wasn’t coming back.  It’s not enough to kill your victim.  It’s not even enough to leave a card.  Only the greatest Theifsassins leave their victims dead and humiliated.  That is the greatest card of all.

So you can imagine how delighted I was when that infamous “nude patch” came out for Oblivion.  The one that rendered the bra invisible?  My interest in it wasn’t sexual.  No, in fact, it was professional.  It was one more degree of humiliation for my victims.  If someone had made the bottom underwear also see through I would have been just as excited to leave the men nude.  I’m an equal opportunity post mortem humiliator.  I’m no misogynist Thiefsassin.  I want to shame both sexes equally.

Now, imagine my excitement when I found out that not only was Fallout3 going to be made in the Oblivion engine, but that it was going to be rated M.  Surely they were going to allow for some nudity?  I was fully expecting at least nude breasts straight out of the box.  Prostitution is practically a bullet point on the back of the box.  They’ve taken moral themes farther than any other game in history.  There’s pat/matricide.  Not only can you take drugs, you can make drugs.  Active player participated cannibalism (if you choose).  Players enslaving NPCs.  Frickin’ interactive slavery for crying out loud.  Garden variety violence no longer seems even remotely T rated in light of this title.

And yet.  They evidently were pretty sore about the ESRB fiasco over the Oblivion nude patch.

There’s no real nudity to speak of in Fallout3.  I think you can game a really blurry view of a crotch if you can find Dukov’s Place and find an upskirt view of Cherry of Fantasia in their silk teddies, but for the most part, there isn’t even side-boob.  And it’s not that I need nudity in the game.  I can surely mod it using the previous Oblivion tools to get it if I wanted (and I’ve already installed a few), but it’s downright absurd that there isn’t nudity in this game.  I’m not asking for even soft-core porn, but when I remove the armored bra from a Raider with the hope to sell it, and a giant grey sports-bra pops up in its place, covering 200% more skin than the original bra did, well, you’re really killing the immersion, and making a hilariously pointless moral stand in a game about depravity.  The bucket’s already overflowing.  Your thimble sized bail-out effort isn’t really saving anyone here.

Even the prostitution stinks.  All she does is go lay down in the bed you’ve purchased for the night, and you get to sleep next to her.  You wake up in the morning, and she leaves.  Sex isn’t even hinted at, other than an “I’m done here” voice call way.  It’s really less virtual prostitution and more like a 25th marriage anniversary simulation that you just paid 120 credits for.  Mass Effect certainly created a more titillating sex scene.  They at least showed some blue side-boob.

Now, I’ve had some folks call me a “pervert” for finding this beef with this game, but come on.  I’m not a sick bastard for enslaving people (or wanting to enslave at least the slavers?  I’m not at that point in the game yet)?  No one questions my desire for the bloody mess perk which causes my victims to spontaneously explode into a gooey mess with eyeballs flying at the camera?  Cannibalism is taken at face value somehow?  I know I’m just retreading an old straw-man here, but why is super ultra violence and moral depravity okay so long as it’s not naked?

Let’s face it:  Fallout is about a post-apocalyptic wasteland frontier.  The universe is painted with some of the most desperate souls, doing some of the most desperate acts conceivable by man.  So where the hell is the original sin?

Fallout without at least some R rated nudity/sexual themes is like the Wild West without the guns.  It’s like Vegas without gambling.  Amsterdam without the red light district.  Okay it’s like the Wild West and Vegas without the strippers and prostitution, too.  The fact that Fallout’s missing one of the pillars of debauchery is inexcuseable.  Especially when the Fallout franchise pretty much created the expectation for it to be there in the first place.

But to be fair it isn’t really Bethsoft’s fault.

I have a feeling it’s the ESRB’s.

More on that tomorrow (or at least later in the week).  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to experiment with alpha settings on an underwear.dds file.

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