Fallout Shack: Ten things I love about Fallout 2
Released less than a year after its benchmark-setting prequel, Fallout 2 once again provided RPG players with an abundance of post-apocalyptic goodness that’s still impressive over a decade later. Although it was released with bugs, the sheer scale of the game compared to the original’s certainly helped with the frustration. Although there are many more, what follows is a list of ten of my favourite aspects of this immense game…
The Temple of Trials
Although I kind of loathe it when actually faced with it, I still wouldn’t remove The Temple of Trials from Fallout 2. It’s an unforgiving and thankless rite of passage the fledgling player must survive at the beginning of the game. Before you experience the wider hardships of the wasteland proper, you must first trudge through an ancient temple (formerly a museum) filled with traps, giant ants and radscorpions…whilst wearing a loincloth. The temple is intended as a tutorial, although it was only added at the behest of Interplay to assist new players, thus Black Isle made it extra hard. However, it still serves as an adequate precursory microcosm of the game at large, as, if you can’t survive being attacked by mutated fauna and having spears shot into your ears, you probably won’t survive the harsher aspects of the wasteland.
Highlight: After the gruelling trek through the temple, bloodied and in need of rest, you come to the end and are greeted by a fellow tribesman. You think you’re about to get a slap on the back and get out of there, but no – he actually wants to punch your nose in and kick your scalp off.
One minor complaint levelled at Fallout was that its map was fairly small in comparison to the scale of those in other RPGs. For the sequel, this gripe was addressed by Black Isle and then some. Fallout 2’s map is huge, populated by thousands of denizens and 22 memorable locations – it truly dwarfs its predecessor and consequently offers many more hours of post-apocalyptic super-fun.
Highlight: The sense of accomplishment felt when discovering the game’s final location.
It’s dark, really dark
Crippling drug addiction is rife in the wasteland, the new mass-produced drug, Jet, is actively being pushed onto many hapless civilians by nefarious gangs and ruthless crimelords. If you acquire a shovel, you can rob the graves of those lucky enough to be given a proper burial. Prostitution is freely flaunted on the streets; you can indulge if you have the money and inclination. You can, by accident or even on purpose, cause the deaths of children, become tagged with the reputation of ‘childkiller’ and then be stalked and attacked by bounty hunters as a result. These aspects aren’t presented as ‘cool’ or desirable; they’re presented as realistic possibilities of the brutal wasteland within the game’s universe.
Highlight: Purging the wastes of evil with righteous hell-fire.
It has a functional car!
If you’ve played the early Fallout games, you’ll know that the time it takes to travel between locations can be boring at best: watching a tiny red cross slowly moving from one green circle to the next, praying it doesn’t suddenly turn into a lightning bolt (random encounter). Well, if your skills are up to it, you can bag yourself a car in Fallout 2 which turns that soulless drudgery into a pleasurable experience. The Chryslus Motors Highwayman is acquired in The Den once you find its missing fuel cell controller. Its trunk is bottomless and it can even transport your entire party.
Highlight: Wasteland-cruising, wishing there was a cut-scene where you mowed down stumbling mutants or re-enacted the Bohemian Rhapsody scene from Wayne’s World.
One of the biggest locations in the game, New Reno is a direct precursor to the titular city of New Vegas and was similarly spared direct contact with nuclear weapons. It’s a vivacious hub of violence, vice, vandalism, voyeurism, voracious drug-addicts supplied by narcotics vendors and voluptuous women…what’s not to like? ‘The biggest little city in the world’ is run by four warring crime families: the Bishops, the Mordinos, the Salvatores and the Wrights. You can work for one family exclusively, helping them rise to ultimate power or cause havoc by playing them off against each other.
Highlight: Getting it on with Shark Club boss John Bishop’s promiscuous wife and daughter (not at the same time), being discovered and then having to shoot your way out, all because you couldn’t control your Johnson.
Becoming a Prizefighter
If you have the required strength and unarmed combat skills, you can test your fistic prowess in New Reno’s boxing underworld. Walking into the Jungle Gym for the first time, you’re met by a red-haired midget named Stuart Little (if you can write that sentence about any game, it’s clearly ace). If Stuart likes the cut of your jib, you select a nickname and embark on a brief boxing career where you can gain experience and cash, unless you illegally kick someone in the balls or get unceremoniously knocked out.
Highlight: The final fight takes place against champion heavyweight Mike “The Masticator”, who is in no way based on Mike Tyson. As such, if you lose this fight, you’ll also lose one of your ears!
Aside from the fact the recruitable NPCs controls have been tweaked so you can now control, in much more detail, their in-combat actions, choice of armour and can shove them out of the way, Fallout 2 has possibly the greatest NPCs of the entire series. Three of the most diverse include Skynet, a copyright infringing artificial intelligence downloaded into the body of a Robobrain, Marcus, a supermutant sheriff who players may also encounter in Fallout: New Vegas and Goris, a highly intelligent scholarly deathclaw who wears a hooded robe.
Highlight: The first time you get into a fight with Goris in tow, you wonder how he’ll fare before he spectacularly throws off his robes and starts chomping, swiping and killing with the best of ‘em.
Fallout 2’s weaponry is so diverse it could easily spawn its own article, but for now, a brief rundown of my favourite guns will have to suffice. The HK P90c is a silver, single-handed machine-pistol acquired later in the game that not only looks sleek and futuristic, but can also take out most enemies in one chest-perforating burst. The original game’s combat shotgun was great, but it’s surpassed in the sequel by the greatly named Pancor Jackhammer and H&K Caws, two heavy-duty automatic shotguns that can blow your enemies into crimson. The game’s energy weapons are all notable, but special praise must go to the PPK12 Gauss pistol and its M72 rifle counterpart just for their innovation, and the sound they make as their electromagnetic field charges, then propels rounds through foes in a bushel of gore.
Highlight: Finding a downed alien craft in a special encounter and salvaging the fabled alien blaster.
Encountered mainly in the Wannamingo mine in Redding, these xenomorph-looking, tentacle-wielding dudes were genetically engineered for war but scurried off into the underground, just waiting for someone like you to come down and provide them with a nice fleshy snack. It’s clear at this point that Fallout 2’s designers just said ‘So, are we basically just referencing everything awesome ever in this game?’ The answer, of course, was ‘yes’.
Highlight: Taking on the egg-laying queen.
The Enclave has not only one of the best names of any game’s antagonists, but also the coolest armour. Looking like some kind of ornithological Space Marine hybrid, The Enclave’s power armour screams out ‘merciless terminator’ with ease. Before they made life difficult for Liam Neeson’s heir in Fallout 3, The Enclave was the fascistic scourge of Fallout 2. Descended from surviving remnants of the US government and military, their primary concern is wiping out all non-human life in the wastes. They have access to a vast array of weaponry and supplies that make them a bitter rival to the similarly equipped Brotherhood of Steel.
Highlight: The first time you see the 12-foot tall Enclave enforcer (and modified super-mutant), Frank Horrigan, out in the wastes, blowing some hapless civilians away in front of you before telling you to move on…