On HalluciGen, Inc. (and why I wish Bethesda had done more with it)
[Warning: Spoilers for HalluciGen, Inc. and Vault 108 in FO3.]
This is something that has been bothering me for a while now, and I feel that I’m not being entirely unreasonable here.
When I first heard about HalluciGen in Fallout 4, I got excited. I found two notes. One was a flyer titled “Help Wanted!”, which talked about HalluciGen, Inc. looking for volunteers to help test “non-lethal police and military technology”. Knowing Fallout’s affinity for wacky science gone wrong, I was intrigued.
Pretty much right next to the flyer was a dead Gunner. Now I don’t remember if the note was on the Gunner’s corpse or if it way lying next to him, but it was most likely his. It was talking about a mission objective to retrieve military technology from HalluciGen, Inc. for a well-paying customer, and mentioned something called “InvisiWave” and “Irradicator” weapons.
So now I knew that there was a location that had a bunch of interesting events going on, possibly even new or unique weapons, marked right on my map.
Now even if you don’t find any of these notes you can still get a quest from Fred Allan, the local drug dealer in the Rexford Hotel in Goodneighbor. If you ask him for work he will tell you that he heard about some chemical that was stored in HalluciGen and asks you to get one canister of that chemical so he can examine it.
So Bethesda gave us three different instances to build up HalluciGen, Inc. and for me it worked. I wanted to go there and see what the fuss is about. (Besides, how can you not investigate a place called HalluciGen, Inc.? That name is just asking for trouble.)
Once you get there, the front of the building is littered with dead Gunners. Again, very ominous.
And then I opened the door, and the inside looks like this:
Notice how the floor is covered in ominous green fog. If you have a companion with you, chances are they’ll cough a bunch and worry about breathing the stuff in.
Almost immediately you can hear the Gunners that are in the building. But…something is clearly wrong with them. They will laugh maniacally, talk to people that aren’t there, chant things like “kill kill kill” or “Bugs! Bugs bugs bugs!”
At this point it’s quite obvious that whatever this gas is that’s filling the building, it’s bad.
I thought “AWESOME! Maybe the gas will cause my character to Hallucinate as well? Maybe I need a gas mask?”
After all, it wouldn’t be the first time Bethesda screwed with our minds, right? Remember Vault 108 in Fallout 3? That too had an incident which released a psychoactive gas into the air, causing your character to hallucinate.
Like here, where your character sees their dad (who is missing) walk around the vault. Only there is…about three of him:
Even the terminal entries you could find would start messing with you:
It was creepy, and unnerving…and so, so cool.
So now I was in HalluciGen, Inc. literally standing ankle deep in a mysterious, clearly hallucinogenic green gas, without a gas mask or even a bandana or anything to protect my character from breathing it in. Surrounded by Gunners who had themselves gone completely nuts thanks to this gas.
And in my head I was thinking of all the exciting ways this could play out:
- What if some of the enemies started looking like your companions/ your late spouse/ NPCs from locations you have discovered (like Mayor McDonough or Ellie if you’ve been to Diamond City, or Daisy, K-LE-0 or Fahrenheit if you’ve been to Goodneighbor)?
- What if some of the Gunners you find would turn out to be hallucinations, disappearing once you hit them?
- What if suddenly you were attacked by giant molerats, or a tiny deathclaw, or other enemy creatures whose size or color would not make sense?
- How about non-hostile hallucinations, like bugs crawling over the walls (hence the occasional Gunner chanting “Bugs! Bugs bugs bugs!”)? A room suddenly filled with idle housecats (Gunners saying “Here, kitty kitty kitty!”)?
- Objects or noises that don’t belong (like a crib, or a lullaby playing in the background? An announcer talking directly to you, GLaDOS style?)
- You gun suddenly shooting with Teddy bears instead of ammo? Melee weapons making squeaky noises, or screaming at you when you hit something?
My point is, there were a million ways Bethesda could have messed with our heads while trying to navigate the building and fix the gas leak. It could have been one of the more interesting side missions/locations in the game. they’ve done stuff like this before, after all.
And what did I get?
You shoot/hack your way through a bunch of crazed Gunners, kill a Gunner Commander at the end, pick up some nice loot plus a Gas Canister for Fred Allen and fuck off again.
They didn’t do anything with the gas leak that affects your character.
And the reason I’m so frustrated about that is because it’s such a big fat waste of potential. Because Bethesda has shown in the past that they are capable of doing this.
They didn’t even make it so you find a unique weapon there (in a facility that was specifically targeted by the Gunners because of suspected military tech). The InvisiWave turns out to have been a complete fraud to impress potential customers (achieved with two hacked Stealth Boys and a mirror) and the Irradicator is too large and too much of a crapshoot to be useful.
And it would have been fine if it turned out that the HalluciGen Gas was also some kind of fuck-up that didn’t work properly, but the whole building is filled with Gunners that prove otherwise.
[Note: Using the HalluciGen Gas canisters allows you to craft a special grenade that when used makes enemies attack each other; but there is only nine gas canisters you can find in total, and one of them has to be given to Fred Allen to complete his quest. So…not exactly a big win.]
Why isn’t my character influenced by the gas? They weren’t wearing any special headgear or even just a regular gas mask. How come they’re immune to it’s effects?
So not only is the lack of effects on the player character dissapointing, it’s immersion breaking (at least it was for me).