Fallout 76, an irradiated odyssey part 1: The last resort

Adam Mathew 9 October 2018 NEWS

Step into the irradiated lobby of the Greenbrier Hotel with the first part of our hands-on preview of upcoming multiplayer RPG Fallout 76.

A decade's worth of press junkets has seen me deposited in some very strange places. The weirdest journeys, without a doubt, have been to real-world locales that are digitally recreated in the game I'm playing on-site. Mix that faux-déjà vu with a day or so of jetlag – add in the aftermath of a few high-altitude beers – and things can get pretty surreal.

For example, last year, I was asked to get sideways in a Mercedes across a Swedish ice lake in Project Cars 2 (both behind a Logitech wheel and in an actual SLK Roadster). That was as odd as it was ill-advised. More recently, I was asked to poke around the stately grounds of a hotel in West Virginia – both in the real world and in the alt-history of Fallout 76, an MMO action-RPG set in 2102. This, my friends, is my current titleholder for the most delightfully bizarre disconnect I've ever experienced.

Before we go any further, it's important to note that this article is one part of a quadrilogy. My hands-on with Fallout 76 was immense. It took place over many hours and, it should be noted, on the dime of Bethesda (airfare and accommodation only). Basically, the info I collected there could never be contained in one article – hence I'm doing four of them. There's a lot to unpack here, and I'm quite over-encumbered with anecdotes and impressions – so jump to the specific topic you're after below.

Fallout 76, an irradiated Odyssey

The Greenbrier Hotel turns my blood to ice water when our tour bus arrives. It's like the White House had a baby with the hotel from The Shining and the result of that unholy union gestated well, well beyond term. Colossal, decadent and haunted: that's my four word, five star review for you. I won't waste time recommending you visit. You'll soon be skulking through it in Fallout 76 come 14 November.

There's nothing else like this establishment in the United States anymore. A nationally historic landmark that's been host to Civil War generals, A-list celebrities and a slew of sitting presidents since its opening year in 1778. (Aussie side note: it boggles my mind to know that I'm staying in a place that started operation a full decade before my country was even colonised.)

Today, this 11,000-acre luxury retreat calls itself "America's Resort". For a secret stretch of thirty years from 1962 onwards, it was known to a very select, very powerful few as something else – America's last resort.

Back when atom bombs could only be delivered via planes and you had half a chance of surviving them, the US Congress decided The Greenbrier Hotel would be the perfect place to "duck-and-cover" for the end of the world. Naturally, Washington D.C. would become a glowing crater in the opening move of any thermonuclear war, but by that time, the legislative branch, their families and aides would have already relocated five hours west to a fallout shelter constructed under a veil of absolute secrecy, beneath the west wing of The Greenbrier Hotel.

When those officials arrived, they would get to enter a fully-stocked facility (their jewellery and other non-essential items would be seized and incinerated before entry would be granted). "The Bunker" could keep 1,000 of them comfortable, in caviar, and allow them to command the remnants of mankind for at least 60 days. After that, presumably, the mole rats would tunnel in and eat them all.

Come judgement day, everything would be ready. A large chunk of the hotel staff were actually undercover government agents, ready to drop their serving trays and scoop up an M16 or a shotgun at a moment's notice. Conceptually, this plan B known as Operation Greek Island truly was some Vault-Tec level madness that you and I might only accept as fiction in the opening moments of a Fallout game. Touring this bunker in reality while the current news headlines were speaking of the US and China jousting with warships in the South China Sea was a little too real, and I caught myself picking out a bunk.

What's The Greenbrier's significance in the game? Well for starters, it's literally smack bang in the middle of 76's "reimagined for gameplay" map. You're going to spend ages here. Possibly snooping through its enemy-free, Protectron-patrolled innards or maybe running for your life out in its expansive gardens as high-level enemies try to check you out of the hotel, permanently.

Surprisingly, it's not every player's initial spawn point in the game. You're thinking of Vault 76, which sits a good 15-minute hike to the north west. However, I am told that this hotel and its bunker "feature heavily" in the main thread of the narrative. It's a place that holds nuke codes – earnable strikes that can destroy large swathes of the map (and the resulting radiation can create super flora and fauna that equal sweet XP and rare loot).

I myself saw one of Oppenheimer's babies detonate in-game, right outside Vault 76. It made me collapse back into my chair and involuntarily shake my head at the sheer folly of man. Why would the few survivors of thermonuclear disaster want to further burn and irradiate one another after a world-kill event, you might ask? Because war never changes.

However, sequels do change, and as I deep-dived further into this rad-ically different take on the franchise, Fallout 76 opened up in strange new ways. Part of my experience was good, clean fun. Other parts were toxic enough to make my game critic Geiger counter begin to crackle...

Read more in Fallout 76 part 2- PvE, a look and see

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