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Pixel Obscura:
Broken Earth

Vol. 2, Issue 3 
November 23, 1999 

In Fallout 2, the role of the narrator was expanded to include recapping the first game. As a result the voice, by having to drone on, only served to drill into the viewer just how overused a tool it was...Fallout needs no elongated introduction. The creators limit the use of the narrator to add just the right amount of atmosphere. Underneath the voice, photographic stills punctuate the story, tortured black and white prints as silent evidence. In one painting, a nationalistic poster, Uncle Sam stands, shirt sleeves rolled up, huge American flag billowing out behind him like a manmade cloud, in front of an armada of planes, all flying in formation in the aesthetics of war.

We see cities and tunnels, burning ships and wrecked oil fields, antiquated machines and massive structures. In these images scale becomes a horrifying thing, like when looking at people standing next to the base of a ship in dry dock fills you with an unexplainable fear. There is a sense in these images of industrial projects designed to negotiate a teetering earth, ghosts leaking out of its bending axis. The images appear taken from the 1930's, and perhaps it's appropriate considering that the third decade of the 20th century was a time when the future seemed to reach back and pierce the present. The Depression and Flash Gordon, pagan rituals as politics and airships docking with the Empire State building...2077 might as well be 1939 in these snapshots taken just before an apocalyptic opening of our eyes.

We've seen things fall apart many times; in Fallout the world ends to the tune of a 1920's pop song.

"Maybe you'll think of me, when you are all alone," a melancholy voice sings while, on a television screen, newsreel footage records the coming end. Animated characters, straight out of Disney Studios, make the idea of having to live in underground vaults more comforting as soldiers shoot civilians in the head, laughing and waving to the camera. The image slowly pulls back, revealing a burnt out city in the distance. The television is playing to a dead world, the very house it's in shattered to a ruined wooden iceberg. The song, a lament for lost love, becomes a mass for a broken earth. "Maybe you'll sit and sigh, wishing that I were near..." but there's no one left

One can only hope that the team working on Fallout deliberately crafted this opening to their game with full intention of leaving the player with a slightly haunted feeling. Fallout 2 seems proof of this as it continues the same basic structural ideas. In both Fallout games, the creative team at Black Isle has shown commitment to maintaining a sense of humor and style in presenting a darkly graceful vision of the end.

 

- Joshua Vasquez is the resident film critic here at loonygames. He also writes for the Internet film site Matinee Magazine.

(Editor's note: the preceding is a revised version of an article that originally ran in Volume 1. Josh requested this revision, as he felt the piece to be one of his best. A brand new edition of Pixel Obscura will run next week.)

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Credits: Pixel Obscura is © 1999 Josh Vasequez. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, you cartoonish villian, you.