VATs, synths, and cybernetic implants.

Content of the article: "VATs, synths, and cybernetic implants."

Note: It's 0130 here by the time I finish this, and I should have been to sleep like three hours ago. Please forgive it's probably rambling nature, and I may well have forgotten some details.

Something that just sorta occurred to me about VATS, and it's in-universe explanations:

First, a caveat: the original reason for VATS was simply to provide some method for aiming in a non-FPS game, and percentages and APs just a way to inform players. It makes sense to just ignore it in that situation, but I think there's some interesting speculation to be had regarding it's appearance and behavior in later Fallout games.

tl;dr: The Sole Survivor doesn't have VATS because they're a synth, VATS is based on a characteristic of the SS, and the synth implants based on genes "inherited" from the SS.

In-game Info

The Institute has a terminal entry strongly implying they can surgically implant something which creates VATS-like capabilities. (This is a core part of the argument that the Sole Survivor is a synth.) Key words: surgically implant.

Gen3 synths carry some of the Sole Survivor's DNA, by way of Shaun. Since they look wildly different and because only some are capable of the VATS-like enhancement, probably to varying degrees. It makes sense, experimentally, to have different "genetic mixes" to evaluate.

In Fallout 3 as the Institute-side rewards for the Replicated Man quest, you can get an implant that increases your VATS hit chance. However, there's basically no way the Lone Wanderer could be a gen 3 synth. So that tells us that enhancing VATS behavior through implants isn't a synth-only thing.

Real-world Info

There's the "flow state", or "being in the zone". It puts you in a state of extreme focus, where action and awareness are more closely linked than normal, a feeling of control, a perceived stretching of time.

Sounds kinda like VATS, right?

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Natural "VATS"

The Sole Survivor isn't using "VATS" without a Pipboy, they just have a natural inclination. A genetic one. The Pipboy helps, but they don't necessarily realize to what degree it does or doesn't.

It'd make sense for either Nate or Nora:

  • Nate's a combat vet. Being able to "zone in" and make careful, rational decisions in combat would go a long way to ensuring survival.
  • Nora's a lawyer, and would spend a lot of time digging through masses of information. Being able to get in the zone would help collate information, observe witness reactions, and generally do lawyery things. I don't think it'd be hard or even odd for her to "re-purpose" that ability for combat.


Vault-Tec knew of the flow state, figure how it'd be useful for combat, then piddled around and figured out to induce a flow state on-demand. I think it's obvious how "extreme concentration, improved observation-decision-action loop, extended sense of time" would be a huge boon in combat. (See: OODA loop.)

I can't imagine how they did that in a Pipboy, but I'm willing to lump it under "Stuff that doesn't make sense in the real world but is canon, so just accept it".

The Institute's Research into VATS/Related Techniques

I believe there's two general possibilities for the Institute's "VATS": they knew of VATS and were deliberately trying to implement it, or they just happened on the same line of reasoning. I don't think the specifics really matter, ultimately the Institute was working towards the same concept, but couldn't just "copy-paste" the technique.

By the time the Sole Survivor rolls up with a working Pipboy and experience, the Institute was already far enough into development they weren't interested. Or, at least, weren't interested enough to distract the SS from more pressing tasks. (Unless the SS decides to side with anyone else, in which case the Institute just didn't have time to worry about it before being turned into a crater.)

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Visual Feedback On the Screen vs In-game

A lot of the visual "stuff" in the game's HUD don't make sense literally, but do as a method for displaying things the player–as opposed to the character–can't be inherently aware of. E.g. people don't have health bars, but do have pain and similar feedback so a person knows their general status; so the game adds a health bar to replace that tactile data with visual.

So the percentages and highlights in VATS may not actually be present, they're just a game mechanic to represent something a computer can't otherwise relay: the character's experience and expertise telling them how likely they are to perform a certain action.

Other Capabilities Rolled Into "VATS"

There's a behavior known in hunting circles as "buck fever": people get a bit excited, adrenaline hits the bloodstream, and they start shaking almost uncontrollably. I understand something similar happens to soldiers in combat or police in shooting situations.

The various VATS accuracy improvements could just be the system counteracting adverse conditions. If Vault-Tec could induce a flow state, why couldn't they also calm someone down so their aim is better?

At Long Last, the Conclusion

The SS uses "VATS" before getting a Pipboy simply because they're capable of doing so on-demand anyway. The Pipboy and such may help the process along, though.

The visual highlights are purely game mechanics, not something that's an in-universe effect of VATS.

This characteristic is at least partly genetic, and not terribly common. Perhaps it's not enough of an advantage historically to be evolutionarily desirable (so to speak), but also either not a downside or not enough to impair survival.

Since most people lack the genetic predisposition, the Pipboy allows them to consciously–albeit artificially–enter a flow state.

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The Institute's original implants–seen in Fallout 3–only enhance a flow-state, rather than inducing one, but the Pipboy's induced flow state suits.

Synths with the "VATS gene" from the SS are limited from entering the state, I'd say accidentally by their programming. However, later versions of the implant can cause them to enter the state.


Psycho, Jet, and various other chems are maybe a third development of the principals behind VATS and the Institute implants. Easier to produce, but far more significant and adverse side-effects.

Source: reddit.com

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