Image courtesy of Amazon Prime Video / MGM Studios

Fallout is a game series I’m intimately familiar with. Growing up, I watched my dad play Fallout: New Vegas, observing intently as he explored the nuclear wasteland. Since becoming old enough to play M-rated games, I’ve played Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4 prodigiously, and I think it’s safe to say that New Vegas is among my favorite games of all time. When the new Amazon TV series Fallout was announced, I was thrilled by the prospect of one of my favorite games being adapted to the small screen, but not without wondering whether the TV adaptation would do it justice. Luckily, Fallout joins The Last of Us as a successful video game adaptation, intensely faithful to the look and feel of the games without being slavishly chained to their “canon.”

Fallout takes place 200 years in the future, after a nuclear apocalypse has ravaged the world. The privileged survived by hiding in “Vaults,” massive underground bunkers dedicated to preserving “traditional American values” so they can be taught to the rest of the wasteland when the time is right. Fallout sets itself apart from its post-apocalyptic contemporaries by taking a humorous, satirical approach that riffs on the aesthetics and attitudes of 1950s Americana, Cold War paranoia and ignorant consumerism. The Vault Dwellers clinging to old-school civility and rule of law makes for an entertaining juxtaposition with the violence of the wasteland. Protagonist Lucy (Ella Purnell) is a shining example of the unsuitability of the Vaults’ mission to the post-apocalyptic status quo. After a raider attack leaves her Vault ravaged and her father kidnapped, Lucy leaves to explore the wastes and search for her father. Her chipper attitude only gets her so far as she encounters murderous marauders and vile creatures. Her crisp blue and yellow jumpsuit doesn’t stay crisp for long.

There are other storylines at play. Coop is an ex-movie star who lived before the bombs dropped, persisting into the apocalypse as a hideous and long-lived mutant called a ghoul. Coop survives as a ruthless bounty hunter, and his search for high-value quarry puts him on a collision course with Lucy. Through Coop’s point of view, we get glimpses of what the world was like before the apocalypse and the changes that take place in one’s mind after witnessing so much horror. Also at play is Maximus, a low-ranking member of a faction called the Brotherhood of Steel. The BoS is a fanatical religious order obsessed with tracking down and either seizing or destroying pre-War technology. They have access to Power Armor, hulking exosuits iconic to fans of the game. When Maximus gets the opportunity to rise in the ranks, he takes it, and it turns out he’s searching for the same game as Coop.

The most striking element of the show to a fan of the games is just how accurate it is the source material. The show looks and sounds amazingly authentic, with props, locations and costumes looking like they’ve just come from the computer screen. Everything from weapons to motley assortment of extras that fill scenes in the wasteland towns feel like they belong, creating an immersive experience. The soundtrack, composed of 50s tunes, is ripped straight from the in-game radio. Even the over-the-top violence is accurate to the games. Fallout is not for viewers with weak stomachs – expect plenty of high-velocity cranial surgery and maiming. I wonder if the creators of the show were familiar with the perk “Bloody Mess” from the games, which increases the player’s damage and causes every kill to result in comical explosions of gore.

Three episodes in, the writing and character development is compelling. There’s a lot of worldbuilding going on, but the show also gives room to show how characters are adapting to their unique circumstances and the harsh environment. I’m especially interested in seeing how Lucy grows – will she remain a cheerful idealist or will she become just like any other surface dweller? The show is frequently hilarious, and darkly so. Fans of the games will recognize tried and true visual gags like “skeletons arranged in weird positions” and the ever-smiling “Vault Boy” logo.

Overall, both fans of the games and newcomers to the series will find enjoyment in Fallout. I’m itching for another replay of the games – maybe it’s time to reinstall Fallout: New Vegas … again.