The upcoming release of Fallout 4 is bringing more players than ever into this deep and complex universe. Many of these new players will probably be lost in the details that make up the Fallout universe's common history. Is this game happening in the fifties? The future? What's with the timey music? As a result of these types of questions, many Youtubers and game news websites have created companion videos which explain the Fallout lore. And they're great. And I'm not going to emulate that. Go watch them!
There are however a few who, like me, look at the Fallout universe and say, "I feel that I've seen this before, somewhere." Most usually these wonderful people are movie enthusiasts, history buffs and/or brains with extraordinary eidetic memory. I might be all three combined (or a blowhard). And so the following list has been created for people like me; a list of influences, direct and indirect, that contributed one way or another into shaping up that vast, post-apocalyptic world. Enjoy! Oh, and just in case you haven't played any of the games... There will be spoilers ahead.
1) The Obvious Source: Mad Max
We can't go through this list without mentioning the extremely obvious reference that is Mad Max. The wasteland, the raiders, the dog; you'll find many of the staples that make Fallout in this franchise by George Miller. Like in Fallout, we have a world that has survived a man-made armageddon, dwindling resources and people who have resorted to crime and horrible deeds to survive. In the second installment, a Blue Heeler dog appears, which would become the basis for Dogmeat in the Fallout franchise. The name? We'll talk about it below. The kids from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome seem a direct inspiration for Little Lamplight in Fallout 3. And the references go down into small details, from sentences used, to gear styles taken straight from the movies. Yes, Mad Max stays one of the biggest influences for Fallout. But it's not the only source...
2) The Lesser-Known Influences: A Boy and His Dog and The Postman
The movie starring Don Johnson, based on Harlan Ellison stories by the same name, has much in common with the Fallout universe and actually predates Mad Max by four year. Besides the fact that a post-apocalyptic boy and his dog (referred to as "dog meat" by the boy) scour the wasteland for resources and sex, we see here many events and locations that would later appear in some ways in the game franchise. Vaults? Yep! A post-apocalyptic society or rich, deluded people? Of course! A possible lush garden, much like Oasis in Fallout 3? Yep! Cannibalism? You betcha! And more importantly, the kind of dark, twisted humour that Fallout ended up being famous for.
The movie The Postman, based on a book by the same name, regrettably starred Kevin Costner and felt like a strange, mutated cousin to Waterworld. While it was a box office bomb, it still contains many ideas that have been seen in the more recent chapters of the Fallout franchise. You see a post-apocalyptic America, an unnamed courier and an anti-government militia led by a tough, smart man named Bethlehem; compare this to Fallout: New Vegas, where you play a courier, in an post-apocalyptic America, where an anti-government militia led by a tough, smart man named Caesar. It'd be insane to deny the similarities.
3) The Irony that is Man: Time Enough at Last
Fallout offers many moments of intense yet humorous irony. Peppered through the wasteland with skeletons or toys being placed in strange predicaments or people receiving the blunt end of karmic justice, Fallout never fails to amuse. This kind of irony is most palpable in the Twilight Zone episode Time Enough at Last, where Burgess Meredith plays a man in much need of quiet reading time. He gets it, though probably not the way he's hoped; he ends up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and his glasses break, at which point he cries out "that's not fair! There was time, now!"
4) The Machine of Yesterday's Future: There Will Come Soft Rains
The Ray Bradbury story has now been referenced twice in the Fallout universe. In Fallout 3, by having a Mr. Handy in your house and in the trailer of Fallout 4, by being closer to the novel's story. In the story, we go through the interactions of a computer-controlled house that cooks, cleans and does everything a 1950's housewife would do. Only gradually does it become apparent that the house, and its human inhabitants, has been attacked by a nuclear thermal flash. The robot essentially continues its program because that's all it's supposed to do. Fallout 4's trailer shows Codsworth, the Mr.Handy that stayed active at the protagonist's house for 200 years.
5) The Dystopian Chaos of the Eighties: 1984 and Brazil
While one is serious and the other anything but, both movies share themes of overzealous bureaucracy, stoic militias and the obfuscation of the big truth. And while the Enclave of the Fallout universe isn't exactly like Big Brother, it does have a few things in common. Big Brother, represented by a big eye, can easily be seen in the aptly named eyebots; these floating propaganda-spewing bots that also serve as population control and eavesdropping tools. And that strange, fanatical bureaucracy and need for secrecy found in both movies can be seen in both the Enclave and the Brotherhood of Steel. But more than this: Brazil was written directed by Terry Gilliam, who has a very peculiar sense of humour; a type of strange hilarity that is very similar to a lot of the funniest moments in the game franchise. Go on, play Fallout: New Vegas' Old World Blues DLC and you'll see.
6) The kitsch and famous: Flash Gordon, The Jetsons, Forbidden Planet and Big Boy
The Fallout universe is famous for its fifties' entertainment. Old music, old styles and a vision of the future that was dreamt up half a century ago; this is due to this version of the USA being stuck fighting an endless war that would result in nuclear annihilation. Just look at North Korea today and you'll see how easy this can happen. They still look like they're from the fifties. The franchise takes a lot of that old nostalgia to give the universe its own distinct look. And no TV series was as wildly stylistic as Flash Gordon. From cars to the Red Rocket gas station logos, to the look of alien ships in many of the games and Mothership Zeta DLC, the look of Flash Gordon seeps its way everywhere.
The Jetsons are also a big influence, especially in how the robots are portrayed. The same can be said of Forbidden Planet: one can see how Robby became the Protectron. And finally, you can't look at Vault Boy and not see Big Boy's mascot. Each of these influences give the franchise its distinct look and feel.
7) Monster Mayhem: Damnation Alley, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Starship Troopers, Blade Runner and... THEM!
Damnation Alley is the story of a group of (this is getting old) post-apocalyptic survivors work together to, well, survive. What separates this from other post-apocalyptic movies is in its portrayal of animal population. Radiation has touched wildlife and made them bigger. Giant cockroaches show up. So do giant scorpions! If you know anything about the Fallout games, it's how annoyingly aggressive the giant rad-scorpions can be. Oh and get this: they get to Las Vegas. Familiar?
Beneath the Planet of the Apes fits this category as well for many reasons. Actually, the totality of the franchise does; they're essentially the super mutants of the Fallout universe. Similar to humans, but differently evolved... and taking over. But the main reason this particular title is mentioned is because of part of its story. In it, Taylor the astronaut reaches the remains of St-Patrick's Cathedral and finds a group of people who have survived and worship... a nuclear bomb. This idea would later be used in Fallout 3, by having the Children of the Atom base their religion on an undetonated nuclear bomb in Megaton, the town they formed around it.
Starship Troopers is the quintessential science-fiction army movie. Giant bugs, armored humans, tons of guns. If that's not representative of the Brotherhood of Steel and the many crazy creatures of the Fallout wasteland, I don't know what is. Just as influential, THEM! is a movie about giant ants, something you also find in the franchise's wasteland.
And finally, Blade Runner. More than for Deckard's blaster, which you can find in Fallout: New Vegas, this wonderful, wonderful science-fiction movie has a definite influence on the franchise and especially on its last chapter, Fallout 4. Based on the novel, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick, the story revolves around androids, their possible insertion in human life and explores the issue of what it is to be human. Androids were teased in Fallout 3 and seem to be the main focus of the new instalment so it wouldn't be any surprise of the source inspiration comes back to influence the game's story!
Did I miss anything? I left out some minor inspirations, like how the Pint-Size Slasher is an obvious homage to Halloween, Vault 112 is an homage to both The Matrix and Pleasantville and so on. Still, if you think there is something major I've left out, let me know in the comments below!