Hell Followed With Me: Jimmy Chinless in the Capital Wasteland

Fallout: New Vegas is released this weekend, and I’m dead stoked. Fallout 3 was one of my favourite games of the last few years, and I played it to death. I created one of the most unusual characters I’ve ever made, defied my own expectations, and got down for weeks of big big radioactive fun. I had a fantastic time – but right at the end of my time with the game, something happened. Bethesda did something I hadn’t thought them capable of, and they blew the game wide open. I stopped playing soon after. What follows is the story of one of my all-time gaming highlights. Hang on tight.

WARNING: Big ENORMOUS SPOILERS for one of the best quests in Fallout 3 follow, so if you still haven’t done Tenpenny Tower in the aforementioned, steer clear.

Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

The Stage Is Set

Jimmy Chinless was not the man I expected him to be.

I use certain games to scratch certain itches. Mount & Blade* for when I want to death everyone up real good. Max Payne 2 for modern day deathing, but with diving around and growling. Football Manager when I want to gaze at statistics, storm out of press conferences, and scream impotently at non-existent people. Civ for when I just need screaming howling rage, stat.** Outrun 2006 for when I want speed. And a girlfriend, natch. Fallout 2 is my bastard-‘em-up.

I loved Fallout 2. For the first time in a game, I wasn’t a glittering goody-two-shoes, but rather a murderous depraved gangster, more concerned with wealth and with bonking and killing his way to the top of the heap in New Reno than saving his crappy village from slow radioactive death. It was a tremendous breath of fresh air, and it still draws me back occasionally, when my inner nob just won’t be suppressed any longer (although that engine is getting harder and harder to deal with). I had expected something similar from Fallout 3 – a chance to sex and violence my way through post-apocalyptic DC with a snarl on my manly chops and a sub-machinegun in my hand. Cracking.

The first thing that went wrong was the face (natch – this is a Bethesda game, after all). For the first time in a Bethesda game though, I looked human. This was a shock. What was more shocking was the atypical appearance I gave the chap. Usually when building a character, I have to admit that I go for ugly. I like ‘em thick set and grimacing, with big noses, fat lips and acne scars.*** Actually, scars all round. Of any kind. Also, moustaches. Basically my characters tend to look like low budget 80s action heroes. Then I made Jimmy Chinless.

Jimmy Chinless was an aberration, and it was here, right at the start of the game, where I went wrong. He looked wet. He looked girly. As his sobriquet suggests, he looked like he had no chin. He looked like a cross between a member of Boyzone and a snooker player, in fact. Not just any snooker player, either. This snooker player.

 

This chap, crossed with Ronan Keating. HOT.

 

But a bit prettier. With a John Travolta haircut. Yeah. Picture that.

So there he was. Jimmy Chinless. Even dressed up as a nuclear cowboy and toting Kalashnikovs and flaming swords, he just didn’t look like the violent sum’bitch I wanted. But my curiosity was piqued, and out he went to seek his fortune in the wasteland.

Fallout 3 is probably the best game Bethesda have ever made. Flawed of course, but less markedly so than any of the Elder Scrolls series. It was a big, interesting world (if grindingly brown). The combat was meaty, explodey and brilliantly gory (yum). The soundtrack was excellent, as was the atmosphere – if slightly different from Fallouts 1 and 2. It even had good voice acting and a half-decent script! Wonders never cease, truly.

But Jimmy just wasn’t doing what I wanted him to do. He turned out nice. He helped people. He saved people from danger rather than shooting them in the eyes and nicking all their stuff. That idiot DJ was always banging on about how great I was.**** It felt weird. Somehow, Bethesda had turned a wannabe Tony Montana into some pansy nice guy, and whatever I tried, something kept dragging me back to heroism. It felt strangely like guilt.

Then came Tenpenny Tower.

Tenpenny Tower is a great big tower, oxymoronically luxurious in the scorched and blasted landscape of the Capital Wasteland. It is full of people – pricks, mainly, but a few decent chaps as well. The boss, Alistair Tenpenny, likes to hang out on the roof, deathing people with a sniper rifle (my Fallout 2 character would have high-fived him. Then shot him in the eyes.). It is locked up tight, too – they don’t like riffraff. But despite that, they really aren’t all bad (just mostly.) Problem comes when the ghouls get involved.

Ghouls are hideously ugly radioactive mutant people – humans left outside during the radioactive apocalypse who somehow survived, but not looking any better for it. They are pretty widely shunned. Tenpenny, unsurprisingly, is not a fan at all and most of the people in his Tower think ghouls are cannibals. The ghouls around the tower live in the sewers. But they want in.

They wanted me to get them in. They wanted me to bust open a hatch in the basement, so they could crawl in and slaughter everyone inside, then dress up in their clothes and hang out in much nicer digs. Not very nice, but then no-one is in Fallout. No-one, that is, except Jimmy Chinless. Jimmy decided to sort this out with the powers of his girly faced niceness.

He talked to everyone in the Tower. He charmed, seduced, threatened and cajoled until everyone had either come around to the idea of sharing with the ghouls, or had got the hell out of Dodge. Tenpenny agreed. Jimmy went back to the ghouls, hailed as a hero for finding a peaceful solution. Cohabitation! Who says we can’t all just get along? Cheered by the triumph of his babyfaced diplomacy, Jimmy straightened his biker helmet and went on his way.

Jimmy travelled across the wasteland, seeing sights, shooting people (only bad people who deserved it, natch) and encountering robots. He was having a lovely time. Then one day much later on, well into the search for Liam Neeson (seemingly as cloyingly nice as his son), it occurred to Jimmy to pop back to Tenpenny Tower, to re-supply and to see how all his friends were getting along. He could just imagine the hi-jinks!

Jimmy stepped into Tenpenny Tower, and was surprised to find how quiet it was. The music was playing and the robot servants were whirring. There were some of his ghoul pals, all dressed up nicely now. Only where were the humans?

Jimmy found the humans. The ghouls had murdered them all, and dumped their naked bodies in the cellar. All of them. Tenpenny. The old married couple upstairs. The nice old man who liked ghouls and had wanted Jimmy to find his friend. All these people, initially hostile but eventually persuaded to give the ghouls a chance. I had convinced them to put their prejudices aside and let the ghouls in. This was how the ghouls had repaid them. This is how the ghouls had repaid ME.

Betrayal is one of the strongest motivators in games. Most games struggle to elicit a response, which is ridiculous. My very presence in the world of the game makes emotional triggers easy, natural. That’s what games should strive for. Most just throw baddies at us until finally pacifying us with an end cutscene where our avatar smokes a cigar or something.

Bethesda have never been very good writers, but they upped their game for Fallout. They created discrete NPCs, wrote better than they had ever written before, and married the whole shebang to their strength – their peerless world building. Fallout 3 had made me care for this world, the wasteland, and for its various hopeless people. I had wanted to help. I had tried to help. I had brought two disparate groups together, and the game had filled me with hope. I had felt genuinely great about solving that problem – it had taken a substantial investment of in-game time, and I thought it had paid off. That’s how things work in games, right? But the ghouls, the bastard ghouls had betrayed me. I had fought for them, sided with them, advocated their case to this community in the Tower, most of whom just didn’t know any better. My thanks? A massacre.

I was angry. Jimmy was angry. Jimmy was really very angry indeed. He took off his biker helmet and body armour. He put on his Stetson and duster. Jimmy was going to ride the pale horse, and these ghouls were going to regret what they had done. But he didn’t draw a gun. Not yet.

Jimmy climbed the stairs to the top of the Tower, calmly. He found the leader of the ghouls, living in Tenpenny’s apartment. Jimmy asked him what had happened. The ghoul said that the humans and the ghouls had a disagreement, and that he’d had to get rid of them. He was very matter of fact about it. So was Jimmy.

Jimmy shot the ghoul leader in the face. He left his dismembered corpse at the top of the Tower, as a sign to whoever came next. He killed his way from the top of the tower to the bottom, and he took his time. He murdered every ghoul he found, and when he had killed them and ripped them to pieces he ate their corpses. He took his revenge. Ghouls might not be cannibals, but now Jimmy was.

That was the end of Jimmy Chinless, post-apocalyptic nice guy. He’d seen how that ended. Instead, he got on the pale horse, and he never got off. He rode that horse right across the Capital Wasteland, and if anyone stood in his way, then he took his revenge on them too.

I never did complete Fallout 3.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*I’ve gone back. Again. God help me.

**Civ may be about slow and considered strategy to you. To me, it’s a relentless autobahn taking me straight to flailing, desk-battering anger.

***AND IN THE GAME.

****I did kill him. In the face. Hard. But even then he wouldn’t shut up. Biggest flaw in the game? YES.

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2 Comments on “Hell Followed With Me: Jimmy Chinless in the Capital Wasteland”

  1. Nightjuju Says:

    heh, this post has made me download Fallout 3 again. Now if I could just stop getting sidetracked by smashing people’s faces in with baseball bats or running away from big ugly mutants with miniguns, I might also complete it one day.

  2. NightHunter Says:

    I completed my PS3 version. It wasn’t worth it. Just keep on playing the side quests, that’s what I did on PC and it was much more fun.


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