August 30th, 2008


Addendum: Ah, I love the smell of hate mail in the morning. To those commenters who’ve posted constructive criticisms below, thanks for your input and corrections. (Those who didn’t comment constructively, you may have noticed, have disappeared. Poof!) I’m more than willing to admit I have a lot to learn when it comes to the intertextuality of the Fallout and Bioshock series. It seems Bioshock may have in fact been “ripping” off the earlier Fallout games with its aesthetic and narrative approach, and not the other way around. With that said, I still think there’s room to discuss the dialogue that’s taking place between the two franchises. I look forward to playing Fallout I and II and reporting back with a more informed analysis in the future.


Today at The Penny Arcade Expo I was lucky enough to join the thousands of other easily excited fanboys and girls for a big screen demo of Fallout 3. Unlike every other journalist I’ve talked to here, I wasn’t psyched for Fallout 3 before arriving, and I didn’t make an appointment to play it on the expo floor. In general, when a game gets a lot of hype, I get less likely to check it out — not more. Call me cynical, because I probably am. My point is, after seeing the Fallout 3 demo, this grumpy old reviewer has been both annoyed and intrigued.

It’s pretty obvious the game is ripping off Bioshock. Send me hate mail if you must, but first let’s look at the comparison. Bioshock was a shooter with RPG elements that took place in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Fallout 3 is, yeah, just that. Bioshock achieved stunning visuals and environments by juxtaposing desolation and destruction with a campy, retro aesthetic in its posters, radio broadcasts, and items around the city of Rapture. Fallout 3… Well have you seen vault boy? (We’re not even getting into the nit-picky, interesting comparisons, like how Bioshock’s world is defined by having too much water, while the Fallout 3 landscape seems defined by its lack.)

As frustrating as it is to see one game rip off another, it’s hard to stay annoyed at Fallout 3 for long — because, frankly, the game looks awesome. The crowd here at PAX, perpetually entertained by explosions, cheered whenever someone’s head got blown off. Personally I could do without all the fighting in this shooter. Seriously, forget the guns, forget the enemies, and make this world simply explorable. For the first few minutes of the demo, when the audience was free to admire the eerie landscape and the bizarre, radioactive towns, the game’s fiction was really fascinating — and fun. Radioactive cola, anyone?

To simplify: Fallout 3: cool. Fighting: a boring, old-fashioned gameplay mechanic that’s holding this creative project back. The real star of this game: it’s awesome fiction and art design. Me: strangely psyched.

Tags: events, new games

114 Responses to “PAX08: How Fallout 3 rips off Bioshock (and why that’s ok)”

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  7. Surgeon Says:

    Lol, I think it’s nuts to say that for a game which borrows heavily from the Fallout Universe…

    Isn’t it obvious that F3 is a SEQUEL to F1 and F2? The game rips off its predecessors, rather. And as I’ve already mentioned, admittedly, BioShock was LARGELY influenced by Fallout.

  8. Jack Smith Says:

    Well, I’m 58 and have been gaming since the 80s on the computers since the first desktop came out.

    I will say this, Fallout 3 is a good game as is BioShock 1 and 2. Now regardless of who is saying is doing the ripping off here, the fact is “Everyone is ripping everyone off in the gaming industry,” no matter how you put it. Look at all the lawsuits over this or that.
    Myself, I can’t wait for Fallout 4 to come out in 2013. I am a big Bethesda fan and of their games, but I like EA games as well as other games. I have seen copyrights copied, infringement rights broken, but, the gaming industry kept on going.
    It didn’t stop because we complain about who is ripping off who. It’s a matter of opinion, I respect that, now back to my gaming. (Fallout 3, of course)…lol

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  11. Kakaka Says:

    I’ll call you a phaggot, which you probably are as well.

    LMAO just kidding, i searched google for why fallout 4 has uncannily similar visual elements and sounds to Bioshock and Bioshock 2.

  12. Mr.Timmy Says:

    How is fallout 3 and 4 ripping of bioshock? THERE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT GAMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Lukeg Says:

    Fallout 4 is a mistake. We gotta go back Marty!

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