There Are Two Ways Of Looking At The continued proliferation of nuclear arms. Number one: as long as such weapons exist, the prospect of a nuclear war simply cannot be ruled out; inevitably, it'll happen sooner or later. One day the skies will fill with fire, and our flabby carcasses are going to fry like pigs on a spit-roast. The oceans will boil, our cities will burn, and Planet Earth will be reduced to an incinerated pellet of lifeless radioactive carbon. It'll be almost as harrowing as an EastEnders Christmas special. Almost.
That's viewpoint number one. Viewpoint number two is a little more cheery. It runs like this: sod it, we all have to die some time. Let's try not to think about it. Fancy a pint?
If you favour viewpoint number one, Fallout will probably seem like a documentary from the future. The game is set in a brutal and anarchic post-nuclear wasteland, populated by mutants, bandits, radioactive zombies, gigantic deformed animals, and gun-toting fascist cops. It looks a bit like Rotherham - except Fallout is prettier. Indeed, Fallout is very pretty - assuming you find the sight of bloodied chunks of human flesh arcing through the air aesthetically pleasing that is. But before we go into that, let's describe the darned thing first, shall we?
We'll all go together when we go
It's a role-playing game. A full-on trad-rock RPG complete with character stats, experience points, armour classes, inventories, and turnbased combat. But before you start vomiting, listen up: it's really good fun - honest. For one thing, healthy Tolkien-o-phobics have nothing to fear from Fallout; there isn't an orc or a goblin in sight: this is, after all, an exercise in gritty post-apocalyptic sci-fi. Second, it's very much an adult game. Aside from the sobering subject matter, there's a smattering of profane language, lashings of grisly unpleasantness, and even a touching sequence in which the lead character gets to sleep with a prostitute. Again, anyone from Rotherham will feel right at home.
But the very best thing about the game is its inherent non-linearity. Although it does have a primary, 'proper' quest - actually, there's more than one, but we don't want to spoil it - Fallout actively encourages the player to have full control of his/her own destiny. Rather than being led by the nose through a rigidly-defined storyline, you explore the irradiated wastes at your leisure. Not that your actions don't have direct consequences of course: if you visit a township and attack someone's mother with a sledgehammer(just one of the myriad possibilities in the charming world of Fallout), they won't exactly welcome you with open arms the next time you show up. It's one of those rare things: an absorbing, believable, 'virtual' environment in which, it seems, anything is possible.
All suffused with an incandescent glow
Anyone who thinks turn-based combat is a crashing bore should give Fallout a spin. It may have a slower pace than the endless visceral skirmishes that make up Quake II, but that doesn't make it any less cathartic when a bad guy gets his lungs blown out. Those who've succumbed to the insanely addictive X-COM series in the past will be comfortable with Fallout - the player's gnawed fingernails stand in silent testimony to the taut compelling nature of the combat. It also has the added appeal of bodypart-specific targeted shots (you can go around shooting people in the testicles, for example). There isn't an efficient way of describing how moreish it can be: just think about those Government information films warning of the dangers of drug abuse, and you're on the right track. And, since the game is so open-ended, it could conceivably go on for ever. It's a dangerous prospect for those of you with relationships on the go: book that Relate appointment now.
Criticisms? Well, some of the non-player characters who join your party are lacking in the 'smarts' department - they have a habit of standing in your line of fire and, whatever else you do, don't give any of them a rapid-fire automatic weapon, because they'll use it with the carefree abandon of a child blasting at cats with a water pistol. Also, we ran into a few 'glitches' in the dialogue - dead characters were sometimes referred to in the present tense. But these are quibbles. Give it a chance, and you'll discover that Fallout is a rewarding RPG that will keep you entertained for hours. Think of it as the silver lining in the mushroom cloud.
Bomb in Streets
The bomb... with its deadly aplomb, and the cloud... like a mushrooming shroud, and the folk... as they go up in smoke -that's entertainment. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, wholly terrifying they may be, but nuclear weapons have an up side - they've kept the movie industry busy for years. Heartening, isn't it? There now follows a brief rundown of some of our favourite apoc-o-licious motion pictures. Duck and cover...
Sadly neglected film in which a dweeby musician accidentally gets wind of an imminent nuclear attack on Los Angeles. Highlights include the mindless, panic-stricken public rioting that occurs moments before the blast, and an uncompromisingly downbeat ending. Viewing hint: keep some Prozac close to hand.
Reece Dinsdale starred in this fictional account of an all-out nuclear attack on Sheffield - a classic TV movie designed to induce lifelong neurosis in impressionable children. Easily the most terrifying thing the BBC had screened prior to the genesis of Pets Win Prizes.
The Day After
US TV's answer to Threads was blessed by a far larger budget - all the better to scare us with. Classic scene: a galloping white horse vaporises as the bomb explodes. More or less everybody in the cast dies in an unpleasant manner. A laugh-a-minute carnival of zany cartoon slapstick it is not.
Obscure American 'arthouse' flick, set in - hey, you guessed it - a post-apocalyptic wilderness. A pre-credit sequence explains that following the war, 99 per cent of the population are allergic to sexual intercourse. The remaining 1 per cent are legally obliged to 'do it' in front of everybody else. Moody performances, inventive costume design and bizarre choreography all conspire to give the impression that we are witnessing a piece of intelligent highbrow cinema - until strings of genuine semen begin soaring through the air like mayonnaise at a food fight, prompting the realisation that Cafe Flesh is nothing more than an incredibly filthy pornographic film.
Teenage hacker Matthew Broderick digitally burgles a US military supercomputer and almost triggers World War III. These days he'd probably be too busy downloading Internet smut to bother with such geeky concerns. Now that's progress.
When The Wind Blows
Raymond Briggs followed up his thoroughly charming children's books Fungus The Bogeyman and Father Christmas with a relentlessly unpleasant tale of two loveable pensioners dying a cruel, lingering death in the aftermath of an atomic exchange. The subsequent strip artwork was adapted into an animated film so horrible it could traumatise a rock.
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode