With the exciting new announcement of the video game Fallout 76 from Bethesda, we wanted to take a look into just how accurate their portrayal of nuclear warfare actually is. I am personally a massive Fallout fan and have sunk thousands of hours into all of the games in the series, and if you are even considering playing the games I recommend trying them if you are into open-world role-playing games.
For those who might not know, the basis of the Fallout games (there are 7 games in the series, and the 8th just been announced) is you play as a someone who emerges into the post-apocalyptic wasteland after nuclear bombs were dropped across the United States of America. So far the games have been set in southern California, Washington DC, Boston, Las Vegas, and the new game will take place in West Virginia. In the games, you can choose to make the world better or worse, depending on how you choose to play. But just how accurate is their portrayal of nuclear bombs and attacks?
The Accuracy of the Fallout Games
Before we delve into this it is important to note that Fallout is a fictional series and was not meant to be analyzed with a microscope to find discrepancies with actual science. What we are looking at is plausibility, effects the bombs had on the world, and the animals remaining in the Fallout world.
First, let’s go over the effect of the nuclear bomb itself. In the Fallout series, it is unclear how many bombs were dropped and where in the world they were dropped, so let’s look at Fallout 4. In Fallout 4 you watch as the nuke is dropped and the explosion rushing at you as you are lowered underground. In all likelihood, your character would have died instantly when the bomb dropped since ground zero was so close to you. If you weren’t instantly killed you would quite possibly be blinded by the intensely bright light emitted from the explosion, but only temporarily. The video below explains it very well and gives a great picture for you to see.
We know some effects of nuclear bombs because of the ones dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, such as severe burns and climbing cancer rates. The women who were in one way or another exposed to the effects of the bombs suffered deaths and miscarriages, and if those children survived they had an extra risk of disabilities. These effects are necessarily stated directly in the Fallout series, and the closest thing to it might be the ghouls who the radiation ate away at their skin over time.
Scientists have studied what would happen if multiple nukes were to be set off at one point, and the effects would be catastrophic on the environment. In the study (found here) one of the scientists, Dr. Michael Mills says, “Hours after the bombs go off in cities, these fires continue to build up and they create firestorms that feed on themselves. They get so hot that everything in the city becomes fuel for its own destruction. The energy released becomes much greater than the weapon itself.” Fires would obliterate cities lasting for a very long period of time, and the smoke produced from this would actually cloud the atmosphere so bad that Earth would likely experience another miniature ice age.
The games haven’t quite explained the destruction, nor have they delved into any ideas of massive fires with smoke that affected the atmosphere, nor have they really shown what a “nuclear winter” could be.
Next, let’s look at the animals and creatures that are in the Fallout world. In the games, you come across a plethora of creepy and disgusting creatures. These creatures include deathclaws, super mutants, mole rats, rad roaches, feral ghouls, centaurs that spit venom, Yao-guis… the list goes on. While some of these creatures are probably far-fetched, others could have some basis. Radiation has been known to restructure DNA cells, and for that, we look towards the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Animals from Pripyat and the exclusion zone around Chernobyl have been found with pretty severe deformities and birth defects, and when those animals mated they did pass those genes down to their offspring. Maybe over a timespan of 200 years, animals and insects may have changed into something vastly different than what we know. With that being said, these deformities and mutations do NOT make animals grow freakishly large… hopefully.
Super mutants, however, are another story. They are created by humans through various lab tests and experiments. These guys are absolutely ruthless and are quite nasty looking, and you can find them across all the Fallout games. The video below goes into some great detail about super mutants if that is something you are into. So, are super mutants possible with science? Maybe, but they are something that could be plausible given time, lack of morality, and the right set of drugs and resources for scientists to create something like this.
Finally, let’s look at what Fallout got right. In the games, there are some areas that are considerably more radiated than others, like the Black Mountain in New Vegas. Depending on the geography, climate, and location of where the bomb was dropped this could be a realistic thing. Another thing they got right is the EMP blasts that happened after the bombs fell. In Fallout 2 and Fallout: New Vegas it is mentioned that there was a massive blackout after the bombs fell. An EMP (stand for electromagnetic pulse) occurs after a nuclear and it essentially surges electronics, frying any electronics. This is an actual concern to this very day in the US and is estimated that if the US were to ever be hit by an EMP bomb that 90% of people could die from it.
Fallout 76 Legitimacy And Anticipation
The premise of the newest game, Fallout 76 is that you are released into West Virginia 25 years after the bombs are dropped to repopulate the world. The trailer for it looks absolutely beautiful and is possibly the prettiest Fallout game released to date. However, this beauty is what detracts from its scientific accuracy. Like we said above, there were multiple nukes dropped so there was a mini ice age. There is absolutely no way the environment can be as beautiful as it is a mere 25 years after nuclear devastation.
I will say, however, that we don’t know the situation and story behind the nukes in this area. For all we know the closest bomb was 200 miles away. So I will reserve judgment. I do look forward to seeing what this game will bring not only to the Fallout universe but to the idea of a post-apocalypse so soon after it happened. This game serves as a prequel to every Fallout game, so I truly look forward to seeing how this will serve in the Fallout world as a whole. I am disappointed that this will be a multiplayer game with absolutely no NPCs but will be giving it a chance, just as many other Fallout fans out there will be.