The Accuracy of the Fallout Games “Blue Moon” plays in the background. Or maybe “Uranium Rock”. It’s trying to find you. Its eyesight is poor, but one wrong move, one cracked stick could be your downfall. You can hear its breathing, labored from sprinting for its meal. You’ve got one final bullet left in your rifle. You know it’s not going to be enough. Running is always an option. But how much of a chance do you have against this predator? No chance.
So, it’s a good thing these predators don’t exist and never will.
The Fallout game series has a very specific and dangerous view of a nuclear fallout. It’s not exactly accurate though. Humans have seen the effects of nuclear radiation for nearly a century. With the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they have been able to study the after-effects of radiation on an environment.
The Fallout game series takes place in a universe where humans mastered nuclear fusion and they prospered, (Figure 1).
Nearly a century after we started playing with nuclear power, we’re still stuck with nuclear fission. As explained by the state of Utah’s ninth-eleventh grade chemistry textbook: “…the reaction [nuclear fission] begins when a nucleus of uranium-235 absorbs a neutron…
When a neutron is deliberately crashed into a uranium nucleus in a nuclear power plant… the nucleus of [a] uranium [atom] becomes very unstable and splits in two… The reaction also releases… a great deal of energy.” Fission leaves us with waste, dangerous to life on earth.
This waste must be stored safely and expensively. Fusion, on the other hand, is quite safe. Fusion is the act of crashing two hydrogen atoms together to give us helium, a fun-abused substance, but ultimately not harmful to humans. With the mastery of fusion, humans thrived.
Everything was powered efficiently. But due to this, humanity stopped moving forward in certain ways. America never ended a cold war of sorts with the Soviet Union. This everliving hatred was part of the flint which sparked The Great War in Fallout. The war is said to have begun and ended on October 23, 2077, lasting only two hours. While that sounds insane, think about it this way; from 1939 to 2077, the world progressed with nuclear power. The study of nuclear power and weaponry began in 1939 with the Manhatten Project, giving the world had 138 years to make nuclear bombs.
Currently, it takes less than ten months to make an atomic bomb similar to Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima. Doing the math, (excluding the leap years and averaging each month at 30 days), America alone would have 184 nuclear bombs. Atomic bombs have a blast radius of one mile and use fission as their energy source. The Fallout 4 prologue gives some of the only knowledge of the beginning of The Great War along with Mr. House in Fallout: New Vegas. The Fallout 4 prologue shows the playable character, (Figure 3), referred to as the Sole Survivor, the day of the war. The first bombs are dropped on New York and in Pennsylvania. At this knowledge, the Sole Survivor, their spouse, Nate if the playable character is female, Nora if the playable character is male, and their one-year-old child, Shaun, run to Vault 111. To clarify the threat, Mr. House, states: “…On the day of the Great War, 77 atomic warheads targeted Las Vegas and its surrounding areas…”
Whether these “atomic warheads” were atom or hydrogen bombs is left to speculation. But the number of bombs dropped near Vegas alone also seems out of place Vaults are safe places. They’re deep underground and built to withstand the most destructive bombs. Under the pretenses of being decontaminated, the Sole Survivor, spouse, and child are frozen cryogenically. As of today, cryogenics are possible, but not to the degree Fallout takes it.
Cryonics Institute states: “Dogs and monkeys have had their blood replaced with protective solution and cooled to below 0ºC, with subsequent rewarming and revival…Although a whole mammal has not yet been cryopreserved to cryogenic temperatures and revived, science is moving in that direction.”. However, it is stated clearly in Fallout 4 that the vault dwellers were only meant to stay for a max of about eight months or until Vault-Tec, the creators of the vaults, gave the all clear. By the time the Sole Survivor escapes, the employees of the Vault are long dead along with the seven other cryogenically frozen people. Fallout 4 attempts to show what a nuclear fallout would look like. No plants are alive (Figure 5), few animals live, but this is only semi-accurate.
While the earth would be severely radiated, plants do survive. They are the one thing that remains resilient through countless disasters as shown in the article “Radiant Wildlands” by Winifred Bird and Jane Braxton Little about the aftermath of Chernobyl: “When the disasters struck, radioactive fallout hit trees, shrubs, and grasses. In Chernobyl, as much as 70 percent of the radionuclides fell on forests. Over time rain and snow washed plutonium, radiocesium, and other radioactive particles onto the forest floor. Plants and fungi soon began taking up these particles and passing them on to the leaves, berries, and pollen that insects and other animals eat. Traveling the very same biological pathways that normally bring sustaining nutrients to forest life, the radionuclides permeated entire ecosystems.” Radiation effects plant only in the seed stage of life and its DNA.
These effects include the inability to reproduce, consequently, depleting the pollinator, bees and butterflies, population. But, not all plants receive this mutation. As the surrounding areas sit and the radiation lessens, plants can eventually come back in full force. While Fallout 4 seems to ignore this with trees as seen in Figure 5, Fallout: New Vegas brought back many desert plants native to the Mojave such as the joshua tree (Figure 6) or prickly pear cactus. These plants are radioactive and inedible, but alive and thriving just as they’ve done in Chernobyl or Hiroshima. In Fallout, Ghouls and Super Mutants can be seen and sometimes have to be killed.
A ghoul is a creature once human but due to prolonged exposure to radiation, they’ve mutated into something new. Some keep a human mentality such as Jason Bright and John Hancock (Figure 7), while others have lost it completely. These ghouls are known as Feral Ghouls in the games. They attack on sight, usually jumping on the character and knocking them down for a few moments. A Super Mutant (Figure 8) is also a mutated human, but in addition to radiation, they’ve contracted a virus. Forced Evolution Virus or FEV causes the mutation responsible for Super Mutants. These mutants are easily described as tall, bulky, green, and usually hostile.
They’re smarter than most dangerous ghouls and actively use weaponry when being fought. They can never die from old age but wounds can kill them. A human, however, is more likely to die from radiation before any mutations manifested. Fred Pearce explains the effects of radiation sickness in his article “Zone of Secrets”: “It [radiation sickness] is characterized by extremely low haemoglobin levels in the blood, a range of neurological and immune-system disorders, fatigue, sleep disorders, loss of muscle control, disturbances to the digestive system and bone pain.”. Neither of these mutations would be possible.
Radiation messes with the DNA of a human, but the only mutations humans receive is cancer, namely skin and lung cancers. Animals are also severely affected by the bombs, but not accurately. In New Vegas, giant geckos and bugs are commonly fought, some geckos even have the ability to breathe fire. But this is not accurate. Animals receive mutations of the body and DNA but do not gain fairytale-like abilities.
The Forced Evolutionary Virus comes into play again with one of the most dearly despised enemies in the games: The Deathclaw. The Deathclaw (Figure 9) is an apex predator. You do not want to come across one and one would love to rip your torso in half. They started out as mutated chameleons, the FEV caused them to grow to predators. Fallout sticks to the facts for the most part. Some points are exaggerated to place more drama in the game as necessary to sell the product, (Ghouls and Super Mutants), but all in all, they’ve done a great job. From the surviving plants in the Mojave to the mostly thriving humans in the Commonwealth, Bethesda seems to blend true science and science fiction, but they do a decent job.