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Fallout series, being post-apocalyptic, generally leans towards either a Crapsack World or a World Half Full. So (almost) anything that looks bright and cheery on the surface usually turns out to be as bad as, if not worse than, the mutant-infested wasteland. Specific examples:


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     The Vaults 
The Vaults in general count, as they are portrayed as the ultimate safe havens in the post-apocalypse world, protecting its population not only from the radioactive fallout but from the raiders, mutants and constant war outside (The war that never changes). As you explore the vaults, you discover that the populations have either willingly escaped the safety of their idyllic homes (rather violently in some cases) or died/gone mad in obscure ways. It soon becomes clear that whatever took place within the Vaults was way more fucked than the war and mayhem outside. Vault-Tec Corp made the vaults as mostly a massive social experiment by the US Government to understand how people acclimated to enormously reduced space and occasional issues popping up For Science!, as they didn't believe that nuclear war was a possibility. To quote Penny Arcade, "The Vaults were never intended to save anyone...".
  • Vault 106, in which a hallucinogen gas drove most of them insane, spurring sane survivors to seal themselves off in a small cave in the lower part of the vault and safely dig their way out instead of going through the insane ones to the vault entrance; they didn't get far.
  • Vault 11, where the residents were told to have annual human sacrifice or they would all die, only to reveal after a massive civil war that it was bluff and a pre-recorded message congratulates the five remaining survivors, for choosing to stick by their virtues instead of sending their own to die. It's even worse when you find a recorder at the vault's entrance that reveals that four out of the five survivors shot themselves in the head because they felt too guilty for sacrificing their friends.
  • The musician-populated Vault 92, where an experimental mind-controlling "white noise" was emitted through dormitory loudspeakers to the citizens, causing them to obey every order - even killing each other. A third of the population ended up permanently damaged by the white noise, and soon went out of control; cue total silence for X years. Hell, there's even a series of diary entries in a computer written by a young girl aspiring to be a musician which starts out good and dandy, but which end with her remarking how she is feeling more sick as time passes, evident in her entries as a degrading ability to type properly. The last entry is the result of her mashing the keyboard, desperately asking for help to "get the voices out of her head".
  • Vault 12 had the door intentionally sabotaged so that small amounts of radiation would seep in overtime, to study the effects of long-term exposure. The result was a city full of ghouls. Other vaults were set up and tampered with to study the (often failed) adaptation of societies under certain conditions.
  • Averted with Vault 21, a vault were all disagreements were settled by gambling, but by all accounts was a nice place to live, before Mr. House drove most of the residents out.
  • Vault 101, the players home at the beginning of Fallout 3, was created to evaluate the performance of an omnipotent, dictatorial overseer in a closed community, adopting a policy of "isolationism."
  • Vault 95 was designed to be one big rehab center for it's residents, that consisted almost entirely of drug addicts, which turned out to be a complete success... then Vault Tech's agent initiated phase 2 of the plane and revealed a secret compartment loaded with drugs, just to see what happened. It went about as well as you would think.
  • Vault 19 was segregated into two groups, Red and Blue. The groups lived in separate sections of the vault and the inhabitants may have been chosen due to pre-existing paranoia, with a select few Vault Tech employees assigned to generated paranoia and distrust towards each other.
  • Vault 22 was designed as a "green" vault, filled with plants that were to be sustained after the war and used to help keep the population alive. For a time, it was very successful. Unfortunately, a genetically-modified fungus that was brought in to control the pest population began spreading to humans. The fungus killed its hosts, causing them to transform into Spore Carriers, which included the majority of the population- including children. This isn't even including the aggressive mutant plants that grew there as well. By the time you find it in Fallout: New Vegas, the Vault has warning signs all around it. And the Spore Carriers are not confined to this Vault...
  • Vault 34 was too small to support its population and had an overstocked armory. As the Vault became overpopulated, the Overseer installed a remote link to the armory to ensure only he could decide who accesses it. This didn't sit well with some of the residents, who requested access to the weapons on the grounds of defending themselves. When the Overseer denied, a riot broke out and the group that requested access stormed the Vault's exit and left. Unfortunately, whether by accident or as an intentional design choice, the Vault door remained sealed after it closed a second time. The other residents didn't realize they were trapped until a failed coup and an attempt at storming the armory damaged large areas of the Vault, including the reactor. And then radioactive gases started leaking everywhere...
  • Some Vault experiments seemed to exist solely for the purpose of tormenting their residents. The populations of Vaults 68 and 69 had only one woman and one man respectively, Vault 36's food dispensers only offered a thin watery gruel, and Vault 43's population consisted of twenty men, ten women, and one panther.

And many more.

     Pre-War USA 
The entire Pre-War USA of the Fallout series is like this. The entire world is known, not only feared, to be on the fast track to destruction, and society is more dog-eat-dog than ever before. There are hints that the average attitude in the pre-war world is far more cynical and self serving than our own. On the surface, however, the nation presents itself to be a patriotic heaven filled with wholesome families and optimistic cheerful people. Some hints include that in Washington, D.C.'s alternate Mall, they had a War Museum where we have part of the Smithsonian, and that they willingly allowed the addictive, radioactive Nuka-Cola Quantum to be produced.
  • This only gets worse with hints present in the 3D games (Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Fallout 4) that paint a picture of just how awful America was before the bombs dropped. Reverence of capitalism was such that unions were illegal and worker rights were non-existent, health and safety was a joke to the point that promos for Nuka-World, the In-Universe equivalent to Disneyworld, proudly boast about meeting "minimal safety requirements", lackluster quality control could get you killed by everything from the food you eat to the robot workers or defense turrets in your office, and the government was essentially an all-controlling totalitarian bunch of psychoes who'd do things like support Vault-Tec in its experiments and use gatling laser-bearing Powered Armor troops to put down peaceful protests while smiling and waving for the cameras.
  • The dog-eat-dog aspect also extended to America's foreign policy. For example, in 2051, the country accused Mexico's pollution and political instability as a threat. They placed sanctions on Mexico, causing it to destabilize completely. This was followed by an American military intervention to protect business interests and keep the oil supply flowing across the border, while leaving the rest of Mexico to fend for themselves. And then there was their bullying Canada into allow American troops onto their land and planes to fly over their airspace in order to better reach Alaska. As the Sino-American war dragged on, they also began drawing upon Canadian resources, destroying whole swaths of timberland and stretching others to the breaking point. When Canadian protesters tried to break the pipeline in 2072, it was the perfect excuse America needed to begin forcibly annexing the whole country, gunning down any resistance in their path.
  • If you thought Vault-Tec was as evil as it got, take a closer look. Paranoid, corrupt, and insane corporate leaders seemed to be commonplace throughout the pre-war United States. REPCONN's founder and vice president refused to sell the company to Poseidon Energy, much to the displeasure of his colleagues. When RobCo made their own offer to buy them out, the employees worked behind the vice president's back to ensure that they would have the leverage to force a hostile takeover and vote him out so they could sell. And one of those employees was also working with Poseidon to sell RobCo secrets to them. RobCo themselves collaborated with the Government to forcibly transform prison inmates into military Robobrains. The head of the H&H Tool Company reaches absurd heights of insanity, ordering all bathrooms be walled off, banning anyone from speaking a foreign language and forcing his employees to undergo screenings for the "traitor gene." However, the crowing example has to go to Hallucigen, a biochemical research company who kidnapped people in order to perform experiments with crowd-control chemicals on them. During one such experiment, where their experiments with a field decontaminant proved fatal to all subjects, they simply recommend re-branding it as a weapon.
  • There's one area of society in pre-war America that is a subversion of this trope: given that the USA of the Falloutverse is essentially a Neo-50s dystopia, one would expect that the pre-apocalypse America would suffer under real-world social issues from that time frame, such as racism, sexual inequality and homophobia. But, the prelude segment in Fallout 4 suggests otherwise. Nora, the female protagonist, had a successful legal career despite being a woman (and, potentially, non-white). Likewise, Nate, the male protagonist, attained a significant military rank despite, potentially, being non-white himself. Likewise, if one or both protagonists are non-white, there's no indication of them facing racism, nor any of the rampant bigotry that they would have faced for being a mixed-race couple. There's also an established pair of neighbors strongly implied to be a biracial lesbian couple, a pair of African-American neighbors, an Asian-American neighbor, and an Ambiguously Brown implied neighbor in the Vault, all of whom seem to have been living a happy, normal life before the bombs dropped. In our 1950s, the lesbian couple would be damned twice over as perverts, and the other neighbors wouldn't have a chance in hell of being allowed to own nice houses near "decent white folk". In the Fallout 3 DLC Operation Anchorage many female soldiers can be seen serving in the US Military, even in frontline roles, something that wasn't possible until very recently in our own timeline. Except for Chinese-Americans. During the Sino-American war, thousands were rounded up and sent to internment camps, where they were kept in squalid conditions and often experimented on. They were also fitted with explosive collars to prevent any of them from attempting escape.
    • There is, however, a holotape from a young woman who was disowned by her parents and forced to flee over an argument. The implication is that she was pregnant.
  • Another Pre-war feature is the New Plague, a disease created to be used against the Chinese. Originally called Limit-115, it was designed to be indiscernible from the common cold, but could cause death within 3-5 days and usually left the survivors sterile. During a sabotage attempt at Hoover Dam, Chinese infiltrators discovered the disease and released it in populated areas. As the New Plague spread throughout the 2050's and 60's, the U.S. government closed the borders and enacted the nation's first quarantine. Rather than trying to find a cure, they used the disease as an excuse to register citizens, claiming that "socialism" was a symptom. They also ordered people to remain indoors, limit all public activities, and enjoy a nice home-cooked meal. A nice and easy way to keep the peace.

     Other 
  • Fallout 2 has Vault City. It is one of the most peaceful and prosperous places in the entirety of New California and it has the best medical technology and knowledge in the entire region. The dark side of this is that only citizens of Vault City have access to any of this and the only way outsiders can enjoy any of this is to either become citizen which is very unlikely because the citizenship test in nigh impossible and only one person has been able to pass it or alternatively you can servant which essentially means that you become a slave. Vault City also actively participates in slave trading and the city itself is a dictatorship under the rule of the extremely arrogant First Citizen Joanne Lynette who actively despises democracy. Information is also constantly censored and the city is trying to keep a lid on the fact that their drinking water has been recently contaminated by a nearby nuclear power plant.
  • Fallout 3:
    • The Tranquillity Lane simulation. At first glance it's an overly sweet mimic of black-and-white 50s sitcoms a la Leave It to Beaver, but soon you discover that it's being run by a sadistic scientist disguised as a Creepy Child who has been using the people in the simulation to slowly break each other down (reading the designer's journal reveals he'd done the same thing placed in a tropical island paradise prior to Tranquillity Lane). In order to save your father, he sends you on increasingly heinous deeds, like murdering a mistress of a man and framing his wife. In the end, you have to choose between allowing the people in the simulation to remain trapped forever, or run a program that sends AI to kill everyone inside, freeing them from their prison but ending their lives in the process. On the plus side, killing them is releasing them from torment, and leaves the villain alive. Alone. Forever.
    • The town of Andale. It's nice and peaceful (by Fallout standards, at least) and doesn't seem to be bothered by raiders. The townsfolk are cheerful and friendly, and proudly claim that theirs' is the best town in the US of A (as if the War had never happened). But it turns out that they're all inbred cannibals. With basements and sheds full of bodies and fridges full of 'strange meat'.
  • Fallout: New Vegas
    • The title city, which is built up as an oasis in the Mojave untouched by nuclear war, where fortunes can be made, good times are had by all, and it's full of neon lights that can be seen for miles away. In truth, only the central area really survived and only The Strip itself is so grandiose. Unless you have a couple thousand caps to blow at the card tables, you're stuck in the crime filled slums surrounding The Strip, that are only protected from outside raiders because of a wall of discarded neon signs that surrounds them and the nearby NCR troops. Anyone who tries to enter The Strip without the proper amount of money, will be unceremoniously gunned down by Mr. House's Securitrons; the closest thing to law in these parts are local militias and your Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters, none of which are interested in helping the NCR immigrants, who are often targets of violent crimes due to the locals, blaming the NCR's attempts of annexing the region for the current state of things.
    • Of the three casinos, the Ultra Luxe is the one that most prides itself on elegance, refinement, and class. Its owners, The White Glove Society, enjoy putting up a high society atmosphere, making sure their casino/HQ is the most beautiful and fancy looking of the three casinos, and dressing in fine clothing and fairly unsettling masks. But, other than the creepy masks and the somewhat self entitled attitude of the residence, it seems like a fairly pleasant place to stay the night and grab a bite in possibly the only high end restaurant in the entire wasteland. Then a visiting cattle baron loses track of his son, while discussing business with the society, and asks you to investigate. Then you learn The White Glove Society used to be a tribe of cannibals before Mr. House's efforts to "reform" the local tribes, and although they have more or less abandoned this tradition, one sub-faction wants to return to their old cannibalistic ways and their leader plans on making the Cattle Baron's son the main course of their next dinner.
  • Fallout 4:
    • Diamond City is the first major settlement you are likely to enter in the game, if you follow the main plotline quests. Compared to most of the rest of the Commonwealth (and their more disreputable counterpart, Goodneighbor), Diamond City is a pretty good place to settle down. It is situated in Fenway Park, the walls of which provide excellent protection. The guards also help to keep the peace as well. Unfortunately, not all is well; fear of synths have the citizens paranoid as hell, and the mayor has put into law a racist regulation barring ghouls from entry (although they will give no grief if you come with Hancock who happens to be the mayor's brother). Not helping matters is the fact that the mayor, himself, is an Institute synth who came to keep an eye on the town.
    • the Institute: a beautiful scientific haven where some of America's best and brightest work on technological wonders that could help restore humanity to its former glory. Too bad they also kidnap innocent wastelanders and replace them with robotic clones, experiment on them with the Forced Evolutionary Virus (creating the Super Mutants), enslave and mind-wipe free thinking synths, consider anyone not part of the Institute to be ignorant savages at best and vermin at worst, and enforce their will through violence and oppression. They also regularly release armies of Synths and Super Mutants to wipe out towns so that no one can become powerful enough to threaten them. University Point being one such example, but according to Nick Valentine, far from the only one.
    • There's also Covenant, a small, peaceful settlement that can only be entered after taking a short and easy test. It has excellent security from the dangers of the wasteland, pristine houses, cheerful residents and even a robot giving away free lemonade! The player character can remark that it looks almost Pre-War, and every resident will gladly tell you how great a town it is to live in. It turns out the settlement is nothing more than a front designed to lure in wastelanders and determine whether they are synths or not. ‘Failing’ the entrance test will result in you being branded a synth, kidnapped and dragged away to a nearby facility for interrogation and brutal torture.
    • The DLCs give us Nuka-World, the branded theme park for Nuka-Cola. While the post-apocalyptic version is abandoned to the local wildlife or occupied by raiders, its pre-bomb counterpart invokes the trope fully. The park's cheery exterior masked several government projects; beverage developers also worked on making nuclear weapons, the animal park housed a top-secret animal cloning facility, and Vault-Tec got a sponsored exhibit which it used to test psychotropic drugs on visitors and employees. And this on top of the Nuka-Cola Corporation's fairly blatant disregard for visitor safety, such as having lethally poisonous snakes in their reptile petting zoo. Fun for the whole family!
  • Fallout 76 takes place in the Appalachian region in and around West Virginia, and seems downright idyllic compared to the series's other locations, with relatively little damage to infrastructure thanks to the region escaping the horrors of the Great War, lush green forests as far as the eye can see, the works! There is one little hair in the soup, however: no signs of intelligent human life aside from the odd Vault 76 resident. No occupied towns or settlements, no roving bands of raiders, not even intelligent ghouls! The only other humanoids you encounter are feral ghouls, Super Mutants, and the "Scorched", semi-feral victims of a deadly and virulent plague that is so dangerous to humanity at large, the only foreseeable way spare the world from the plague is to bust out the nuclear arsenal concealed in the region and let Atom do the rest!
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