The Fallout games have always been about the horror of nuclear weapons, about how they could potentially destroy most of the world and leave the rest an irradiated crapsack. Fallout 76 goes and gives players the chance to drop a nuke if they feel like it, and you might think you'd never want to do such an awful thing.
This feeling lasts about five minutes into the actual game, at which point you encounter other players chewing noisily over open mics and jumping around crafting stations in their underpants. Thermonuclear punishment suddenly seems justified.
But it's a long road to getting your finger on the big red button. Naturally, there are Fallout 76 spoilers below.
First you'll need to work through the Enclave faction's storyline, joining the evil government jerks you spent hours fighting in Fallout 2 and 3. Since this is all in service of activating a nuclear bomb, it's not like the moral high ground is yours anyway. To start this questline head to the Abandoned Waste Dump, over the river from Harper's Ferry in the east of the Mire. A couple of deathclaws patrol these caves and you can either sneak past or take them out to get to the elevator that's your goal. To get inside you'll need to search the deathclaw nest on the far left as you enter the cave for a holotape.
The elevator leads to a Senator's Bunker, with clues inside that point to another bunker in Whitespring run by an Enclave AI named MODUS. Working for MODUS—which is definitely not a supervillain name—gets you basic Enclave membership, but to get access to the full military wing of the Whitesprings Bunker you'll need to go to Camp McClintock in the Forest, pass basic training to become a soldier, and then work your way up to general.
That's a long-term goal, as you'll need to earn 10 commendations either by completing Enclave Events (public quests that appear on the world map), or by killing three-star epic creatures or scorchbeasts to get that promotion. The events are probably the easiest way to do it, as some of them give two commendations at a time. One two-commendation event, which involves guarding a crew of robots as they power up then helping them clear the area, pops up in the bottom left of the map semi-regularly.
As a general you'll have access to all of the Enclave's bunker, including a room that explains the process for launching a nuke. You'll need a special one-use keycard, as well as one of three decrypted codes that change every week and are tied to specific missile silos. The terminal in this room can update your map with the location of a keycard or a fragment of those codes (you'll need eight fragments if you plan to decrypt one), but only one at a time, so you'll be coming back here often.
Keycards are carried by flying cargobots, which take a lot of bullets to put down and are sometimes guarded by vertibots. Code fragments are carried by scorched officers and feral ghoul officers—the ones with the backpack antennas that flash red and make that very annoying beeping sound. You'll probably have encountered a bunch of these guys before you get to this point, as they spawn randomly all over West Virginia. Try Uncanny Caverns in the Forest, Mount Blair in Ash Heap, Abbie's Bunker in the Mire, and Grafton in Toxic Valley. (The one in the video above all by his lonesome was spotted between the Charleston Fire Department and Belching Betty, which is a mine on Mount Blair).
Each code fragment has a letter and number which you'll need to plug into the changing algorithm at the Enclave bunker, a final code-breaking puzzle to solve. If you don't want to figure it out yourself, head over here for a guide to cracking it. Or if you can't even be bothered hunting down the officers in the first place, this website will straight up tell you each week's three codes—they're the same for everyone across all servers.
Alpha, Bravo, Charlie
The next step is to get into one of the three missile silos: Alpha, Bravo, or Charlie. Each one's accessed via an unguarded elevator you'll be able to activate simply by being a general, but once you get underground the real work begins. You'll have to fight through multiple areas full of robots and laser turrets, completing objectives to open laser grids in each space. Stock up on food, water, and Radaway as well as ammo and fusion cores, because you'll be down here for a while. It's worth bringing a couple of hand-to-hand weapons as well for when you run out of bullets. The number of robots is increased the more friends you bring, so rocking up with a posse won't make it any easier.
One thing that will help is having the hacking skill at level 3. Each area has a terminal that controls the local turrets, and turning off their targeting parameters so they attack the respawning assaultrons and protectrons you'll be up against is a big help.
Among the objectives you'll have down here is to repair a bunch of pipes with a two-minute time limit and they won't be marked on the HUD. Listen for the hissing sound they make and follow the jets of steam to find them. After that you'll need to smash up some mainframe cores, which are the things with the red lights pictured below.
Frustratingly the next objective you'll have is to replace 15 of those mainframe cores to open the final door. Some replacements can be found lying on shelves but you can also craft replacements with damaged cores, circuitry, and steel at a nearby tinker bench. Be warned there's a bug that can make them vanish out of your inventory between there and plugging them into the terminal that opens the doors, however. It seems more likely to trigger if you're carrying over three at a time.
Next you'll need to initiate launch prep which means protecting the robots operating the machinery from more robots trying to destroy them. If you weren't sick of laser turrets before now, you sure will be. Use your nuclear keycard in the receptacle (it'll be used-up in doing so as it's a one-time item), type in the decrypted launch code, and it'll all be over.
Finally, you can choose who to drop a bomb on and scavenge some sweet irradiated loot. By this point you'll have been playing for long enough to have made enemies with someone worth nuking to hell and back. Like that one guy who keeps jumping in circles around the crafting station in his underpants while you're trying to turn junk into scrap.