Here’s What Happens When You Launch a Nuke in ‘Fallout 76’

Tom Regan
Games Fallout
Games Fallout Xbox PlayStation PC Gaming

Fallout games have always been defined by the destructive power of nuclear weapons. Yet, despite the series revolving around these tools of mass destruction, Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic series has never actually let players launch a full-size nuclear warhead of their own — until now. For the first time in Fallout history, Bethesda’s online take on the series — Fallout 76 — allows players to unleash nuclear devastation on its game world — and, more crucially, on other players too.

After witnessing one of these devastating blasts in action… honestly? We came away slightly underwhelmed. While nukes are incredibly hard to come by in Fallout 76, it turns out they’re actually rather easy to avoid. Once a high-level player has tracked down all the activation keys, they can pop down to a missile silo and unleash these devastating warheads on ’76’s already-eradicated West Virginia.

The caveat? Once the nuke has been launched, their presence is actually incredibly well signposted. A huge red circle of the target area will appear on everyone on the server’s map, effectively giving players a three-minute window to get the hell out of there.

We’re sure we’re not the only ones who envisioned being able to drop a massive mushroom cloud on unsuspecting enemies, so it’s a shame that that’s not really going to be a thing here. It turns out, though, they will still be a pretty game-changing event. Speaking to Bethesda about why the team opted for this approach, they explain that a nuke’s purpose in the game isn’t really to eradicate other players — it’s to destroy their settlements and provide limited-time event content.

The nuke is not really designed to be a thing you surprise people with, it’s high-level content, you can use it to blow up a workshop or a scorched beast, but it’s high-level repeatable content,” explains Chris Mayer, Fallout 76’s Production Director. “So, the nuke area afterward will be heavily radiated [and then] you’ll see glowing creatures, that’s really what this is designed for.”

“The nukes are really instrumental in completing the main quest, but you also don’t have to [use them for the main quest],” adds Emil Pagilarulo, Design director. “You can [choose to] aim it at an area a lot of players are frequenting…We didn’t want anyone to be ambushed by it, or ruin their game. we’ve taken a lot of steps to ensure it’s fun and that it’s not ruining anyone’s experience.”

It WILL obliterate your camp though,” chimes in Jeff Gardiner, ’76 Project Leader. You’ll have your blueprints to quickly rebuild but if you have problems with a player and they’re sitting on a workshop you can, y’know, blow it up.”

The afflicted area will remain a high radiation zone for “several hours” after the detonation, confirms the team, meaning that actually, nukes serve as a fairly clever way of not only providing new content — but also of ‘resetting’ parts of the map and redressing the balance between players that get a bit too powerful. It may not have quite been the devastating player destroyer we’d hoped for, but in terms of a way to keep a quasi-survival game feeling fresh and unpredictable? We couldn’t have asked for better.

Tom Regan
Having written for everyone from Trusted Reviews to The Guardian, Tom is a London based writer who can't stop talking about games. Now he's joined the team at FANDOM as gaming editor, we have to constantly remind ourselves that he's not actually Ed Sheeran.