Sat. May 25th, 2024

‘Fallout’s video game references go beyond homage.

By ki0nk Apr15,2024
News

Not only that, but there are Pip-Boys, Mr. Handy, and, naturally, Dogmeat the dog. Plus, they’re more than just for show.

For numerous reasons, some of which have previously been mentioned here, “Fallout” is receiving positive reviews (93 out of 85 on Rotten Tomatoes). Its main selling point is that, rather than ripping from other games’ plots and visual style in order to make an adaptation, it uses its own universe and story to create an entirely new adventure that might stand in for the original game. That is accomplished through meticulous labor in reproducing settings and in production design, all while maintaining a ‘Fallout’ quality.

In both instances, the utmost regard that the series’ developers have had for the games’ concepts since the late 90s is readily apparent. Again, smart choices, like using natural environments instead of the cardboard-mache effect of so many futuristic series with lots of sets and green screens, will make any long-term player feel at home, whether it’s in the first chapter’s fantastic bunker or the suffocating Wasteland that we explore when Lucy’s true quest to find her father begins. She also manages to make the most of the double-edged sword that is the screenplays and the production design by incorporating references and tributes that bring the series to life and provide exceptional consistency.

In many other shows and movies, we see winks as nothing more than fan service, with several tributes that aim just to tease the audience and serve more as a reference to the source material than an opportunity to explore the lore in greater depth. ‘Fallout’ pays a lot of respect to the almost dozen games in the series, but it also aims to provide context and meaning to the stories portrayed.

One example is the incorporation of pop culture references into the future world, just like in video games. ‘Grognak and the Ruby Ruins’, a cartoon series, and the Pip-Boy game playable in ‘Fallout 4’ are shown on television commercials right before the bombs go off at the beginning of the series. Naturally, the musicians featured in the video games share a friendship with the music from the Fallout series. In addition to being winks, they comment on the humans’ relationship with the bomb prior to its explosion.

Also, we’ll witness the strategic and dramatic usage of game objects, such when Lucy uses a stimpack to pierce herself during the first episode’s bunker explosion (which is, of course, practically an instinctive response in games). Alternatively, the pharmacological method of making Jet fight more aggressively.

Another significant reference: the dog that Dr. Siggi Wilzig saves—and whose name we’ll learn later in the series—is called Dogmeat—the same name as the dog that joins us in ‘Fallout 4’—and it literally initiates a major chunk of the plot. The appearance of a dog with the same name in the series is significant, as it helps the player empathize with Wilzig, given the intimate relationship we form with Dogmeat throughout the game.

There are a lot more, and they’re usually filled with the same wonderful taste; with this wink, we end this extremely brief review, but the Mr. Handy robots are equally important. Originally designed to be helpful, the Mr. Handys eventually malfunctioned or were reprogrammed to do evil. The show’s Mr. Handy is actually a medical robot with the ability to remove organs from humans. In episode 6, though, we meet Bartholomew Codsworth—an actor who lent his voice to Mr. Handy—in a standalone story. Naturally, Mr. Handy, who is with us throughout ‘Fallout 4’, goes by the name Codsworth.

Just over a week after its release on Amazon Prime Video, the Fallout TV series has become the talk of the town. A lot of people were surprised by how well the film adaptation of the popular video game series held up. Lately, there has been a proliferation of high-quality film and television adaptations of video games. After decades of some very terrible remakes of classic games, fans are understandably wary. When I say that, I’m referring to movies like Monster Hunter and Assassin’s Creed. The question is, though, what precisely distinguishes a decent video game adaptation from an awful one?

Hollywood gets adaptations a lot of things right (and a lot of things wrong). A lot of times, the games that get adapted into TV shows and movies are almost sacred to the most devoted followers. They have a lot of pressure to stay faithful to the original content, yet there are a number of ways they could fail at this first test.

As an example from the recent past, let’s take a look at Fallout. The franchise’s iconography is instantly recognizable, and it maintains a fairly consistent tone that may be shocking at times. While not sacrificing the visual quality of its setting, the Fallout TV series stays faithful to the games’ tone and fundamental concepts. It has a pulsating score that sounds like it came straight from an in-game jukebox, plenty of Vault-Boys, and that residual 1950s Americana. To keep the Fallout vibe going, there’s a lot of gore, gallows humor, and allusions to game mythology (like Shady Sands in the NCR).

The story-driven approach is where Fallout diverges from other critically acclaimed video game adaptations. The TV show’s story is more than simply a recounting of one of the games—sure, the bombs still landed in 2077, key gaming groups still exist, and Vault-Tec’s intervention is a given. Instead, we’re taken to an alternate Vault where a new story unfolds, staying faithful to the beloved Fallout formula. It was a bold move, but the storyline deviating from the original in the adaption paid off.

This goes against the grain of previous attempts at game adaptation, such as HBO’s The Last of Us. Staying true to the core plot points of the original game, TLOU avoids being a boring carbon copy by delving into metaphorical dark areas that the game skipped over, including the love story between Bill and Frank, which was a standout in the first season.

While the two series take quite different approaches to their respective sources, they both manage to successfully bring the video game worlds to life in ways that fans would recognise while still appealing to those who may not have played the games first. Their contributions enrich the plot while being true to the games; in fact, I think they should integrate these new elements so well that it’s hard to tell they weren’t always there. Both Fallout and The Last of Us are considered the pinnacle of contemporary video game adaptations, and these crucial elements likely contribute to that.

In contrast, how might an adaptation be detrimental? Now that streaming behemoths like Amazon, HBO, and Netflix appear to have a handle on what viewers desire and anticipate, there are less and fewer badly received remakes of games. But there are still equally contemporary but badly executed examples, like the controversial Halo series.

Once again, the story and tone are the deciding factors in whether people like it or not. Although it makes sense to humanize Master Chief in order to create an engaging television drama, fans have criticized it for being completely out of place with the Halo story. The reimagining of game elements and characters throws fans for a loop since it doesn’t fully fit with what they know. The adaption is flawed in many other ways as well, but I think we should leave it alone.

There are a lot of previous “bad” adaptations floating around, but a lot of them have turned into cult classics again recently. Street Fighter, released in 1994, is the first that immediately comes to mind. However, similar to the previous year’s Super Mario Bros., it has a campy, over the top quality that makes what could be seen as dubious storytelling into something that is somewhat entertaining to watch, if only for the accidental comedy and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s performance.

Unfortunately, we can’t hold more modern adaptations like Monster Hunter and Assassin’s Creed to the same standard because they refuse to let go of the seriousness that made the original games so captivating. Monster Hunter becomes mired down in dull narration and an excess of fighting, while AC spends too much time in a dry science fiction plot instead of the time travel that makes the games so fun.

This brings me full circle to my original point: there are plenty of video game adaptations that either do the source material justice (like Arcane, Castlevania, and Sonic the Hedgehog) or do it dirty (like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Doom). Even when they deviate from the official plot, good adaptations make you feel like you’re still in the game. They stay true to the overall tone and themes, and in some outstanding cases, they even look the part.

Global audiences were captivated by Fallout season one, and now that a second season is supposedly in the works, we’ll have to wait and see if Prime Video can pull it off again. Later this year, both The Last of Us and Arcane will release their second seasons, with the former delving into Part II. There will be a slew of video game adaptations hitting theaters in the near future, including Minecraft, Dredge, and It Takes Two. Despite Hollywood’s apparent grasp of the formula that draws in both fans and newbies in droves, we can only hope this trend persists so we can save ourselves any more cringe-worthy recreations of our beloved video games.

Street Fighter is currently airing on PEDESTRIAN TELEVISION, which can be viewed on 9Now. It’s worth noting that our parent company and its parent company own these channels, so you can judge for yourself whether they’re good or bad adaptations of video games.

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By ki0nk

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