5 post-apocalyptic games to tide you over until Fallout 4

1 Jul 2015

With the recent announcement of the next in the series of one of the most acclaimed post-apocalyptic video game series of all time – Fallout 4 – here are five post-apocalyptic games to tide you over until it comes out.

Making its debut with relatively little notice at E3 in June, Fallout 4 couldn’t be more anticipated by its vast legion of dedicated followers, only comparable to the announcement of a new Apple product.

Having been in development since Fallout 3 launched all the way back in 2008, Bethesda Softworks has promised big things for the fourth game in the franchise that, until now, has put you in the role of a mute wanderer – the ‘Lone Wanderer’ who travels across the mutant-infested wastelands of parts of the former US in the 23rd century.

What set the three games ahead of many other competitors was a story rich in character development, quests and, most important of all, atmosphere, where you live in an alternate history where the transistor was never invented, leaving a world powered by vacuum tubes, despite the existence of laser weapons, artificial intelligence (AI) and gigantic robots.

On top of this, culture hasn’t advanced all that much with an overwhelming 1950s Americana, Communist-hating belief system the order of the day (and the cause of the nuclear apocalypse in the game), all to the soundtrack of real music from the same period.

So, if you haven’t played any of these games before – particularly Fallout 3 – then it would be advised to pick them up and lose yourself in hundreds of hours of quests, dark humour and battling mutants and robots.

Most importantly, there’s no single-track storyline, with the player being able to influence the way they want it to go with a karma system that lets you either finish in glory, or finish as the most-hated man in the wasteland, which few games offer.

But if you have, then what other games are out there that can keep you in the post-apocalyptic mood until then?

1. Fallout Shelter – iOS

Ok, so not exactly a left-of-centre answer for the first suggestion, but Fallout Shelter is unlike anything that the series has seen before.

Released on the same day that Fallout 4 was announced, Fallout Shelter is very much a game for the modern age, as its first mobile game has all the hallmarks of what it takes to be an addictive game that keeps people coming back.

In the game, you play the part of the Overseer of one of the vaults seen in the Fallout series that were used to shelter people from the nuclear carnage above and it’s your job to build and develop your vault while keeping everyone in it happy.

Fallout Shelter screenshot

Screenshot of Fallout Shelter via GameZone

While always running in the background, it’s your job to gather enough bottle caps (currency) to build and expand your vault, making sure that you have enough energy, food and water for your 200-max dwellers.

From initial playthroughs, it’s very much designed to keep you coming back, with almost Pavlovian response triggers to collect food and level up your dwellers, and thankfully doesn’t force you to buy bonus packs to progress, but they do certainly help

With all the dark humour of the Fallout series, it’s enough to keep you ticking over until November’s big release.

2. Metro 2033 (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)

Compared with the Fallout series, Metro 2033 (based on the novels by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky) is an altogether more grim and realistic affair.

Set in the year 2033 (obviously), the game takes place 20 years after Russia was targeted with a barrage of nuclear weapons that left the country’s major cities an irradiated wasteland that’s completely uninhabitable.

As a result, the citizens of Moscow were forced into underground living in the abandoned underground rail network that has quickly established itself as a multi-state network, with each of the stations representing another faction.

There’s no ’50s music here as survival is the order of the day with bullets used as currency, weapons cobbled together with what’s left from the old world and mutants as well as radiation a constant threat.

In terms of mood, it’s very much leaning towards horror and yet, despite being largely set underground, it doesn’t fail to offer a world you want to explore and discover more about, much like Fallout.

Last year, the game was given a graphical overhaul over its 2010 release to bring it up to speed with the next-gen consoles as well as adding some new features that add to it. Definitely worth picking up.

3. The Last of Us (PS3, PS4)

There are plenty of video games out there that have been adapted from a movie, but you know a video game is iconic when a movie is made from a video game.

This is the case for Naughty Dog’s The Last of Uswhich has arguably done more for PlayStation console sales than any other game thanks to incredible character development that more game studios should take note of.

Coincidentally also set in 2033, the game takes place in a world ravaged by a virus that 20 years’ ago turned much of the population into mindless zombies, but unlike many other zombie stories, this one is all the more real given the source of the zombification is linked to a mutated strain of the Cordyceps, which can infect an ant and control its brain.

Screenshot from The Last of Us

Screenshot from The Last of Us

As the player, you follow Joel and teenager Ellie, with the latter potentially holding the key to reversing the effects of the fungus with her apparent immunity, despite being infected.

In terms of game mechanics, it’s not the most revolutionary and is similar in style to other Naughty Dog games like Uncharted, but its rightful acclaim lies in not just the beautifully-designed backdrops, but how much you become invested in the pair of characters.

When I reviewed the re-issue of the game back in 2014, I described it as making the end of the world look beautiful and I definitely stand by that.

4. The Walking Dead (mobile, PS3/4/Vita, Xbox 360/One, PC, Mac)

No, not that rubbish first-person shooter that was released with The Walking Dead name clinging on to it like a zombie clinging on to a person’s leg, but the fantastic storytelling seen in Telltale Games’ version, which shows once again that a rich story offers much more than any fancy graphics can alone.

Similarly breaking the mould compared with other games is that its own game set in the world of the zombie apocalypse of The Walking Dead was much like a TV show in that it was released episodically every two months or so online.

Image from The Walking Dead game

Described as a graphic adventure, the game doesn’t focus too much on levelling up weapons or smashing zombie heads in, but interacting with a world not just in terms of the world left behind, but also the people.

The player’s progression depends largely on how they interact with characters in the world, with one of their choices in dialogue having a significant effect on how the storyline progresses.

Many of these don’t just tug on the emotional heartstrings, but full-on yanks them, putting you in rather unenvious positions of choosing whether a character is going to live or have a really bad day.

Every ‘season’ contains five episodes and to-date there have been two seasons of the game with plans for a third season due to launch next year, all of which are available on traditional gaming consoles, but also on mobile, which adds to its appeal.

5. Day Z (PC)

This might prove to be a somewhat controversial decision, but there is no denying that you’ve stumbled on a fantastic concept when a modified version (‘mod) of a game that had very little popular appeal is suddenly one of the most-played games around.

That’s exactly what happened when an online military simulator game called Arma II was modified to remove most of the powerful weaponry and place players in an enormous map with zombies, ruthless players and one mission: survive as long as possible while collecting enough food, water and gear to better your chances.

The mod of the game was so popular in a matter of weeks that it propelled the Arma II to the top of the Steam sales charts and has arguably led to the spawning of rushed copycat games, many of which ended up being called out for what they were (I’m looking at you, The War Z, later to be re-named Infestation: Survivor Stories).

That is why it came as no surprise that the developers of Bohemia Interactive decided to back a poject to develop a standalone game for Day Z that, to this day, is still in development and looks like it will be for some time.

Given that it’s not a fully-released game yet and still in beta development, there’s plenty of bugs and oddities to be worked out from the game but there’s frankly nothing as terrifying as stumbling across a real-world player who you can either try to talk down into not killing you, or convince them to join you on your journey.

It’s frankly more of a social experiment than a survival game but it can offer some fantastic glimpses into the mindset of the typical online gamer in a post-apocalyptic setting.

Gas masks image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic