Fallout 76's VATS makes it tough for the Mysterious Stranger to be mysterious

I leveled up in Fallout 76 today and immediately scrolled through my Luck perk cards, as I always do. There are other attributes in my SPECIAL that need far more attention, but I always begin with Luck, because ever since I first stepped out of the Vault I've been looking for one perk card in particular. And today, I found it. Finally! The Mysterious Stranger!

He's appeared in Fallout 3, 4, and New Vegas: the trench coat wearing gentleman of intrigue who, if you've got the perk, randomly appears while you're using VATS, suavely opens fire at your enemy with his revolver, and then totally ghosts you. 

He's just so cool. Here's a clip of him doing his thing in Fallout 4. (Gif made from this Mysterious Stranger compilation video on YouTube.)

We've known The Mysterious Stranger was a perk card in Fallout 76 for months, but I've been extremely curious how he'd be handled. Since VATS in Fallout 76 doesn't slow down time or use cinematic camera moves, how is the Mysterious Stranger going to appear, exactly? And how will he make his super cool exit, vanishing from sight before you even have a chance to thank him? He can no longer slip in and out of the world with movie tricks, so won't he lose a bit of his trademark mystery?

Once I had the Mysterious Stranger perk card, I immediately ran around like a damn idiot using VATS every chance I could until I got mobbed by a bunch of Scorched. As they started kicking my ass, it happened. I heard the familiar sting of music, saw the perk animation appear on my screen, and there he was:

If you don't see the video embedded above, here it is on YouTube.

So... yeah. Like VATS itself in Fallout 76, the Mysterious Stranger lacks a bit of drama and finesse in real-time. He just sort of appears facing a corner, then has to run backwards into the action (somehow finishing off the enemy standing behind him). He aims his gun at someone else, doesn't appear to fire, and then ducks behind some cover to fade away into the Trench Coat Dimension... even though I'm standing there staring directly at him and can see him going all see-thru.

But you know what? I'm fine with it all. Maybe it lacks a certain cinematic elegance when there's no bullet time or camera tricks to allow him to gracefully appear and vanish. Maybe he had to jog backwards instead of arriving in the perfect crouched position with his revolver already aimed for the killing shot. 

Even if a bit of the magic is gone, The Mysterious Stranger is still cool as hell. His perk card can be in my deck any day of the week.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.