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|This is a lore summary, presenting intradiegetic or in-universe information about the subject. For game characteristics and similar data, consult the table on the right.|
Super mutants are mutated humans, products of infection by the Forced Evolutionary Virus (FEV). They are much taller, bulkier and muscular than pure strain humans, have (mostly) green, gray, or yellowish skin, are immune to disease and radiation, and are gifted with superhuman strength and endurance. Although they are completely sterile, the rapid regeneration of their cells caused by FEV makes them virtually biologically immortal (but not immune to death from injury).
There are three different known sources of super mutants in the post-War world - Mariposa Military Base in New California (on the West Coast), Vault 87 in the Capital Wasteland (on the East Coast), and The Institute in the Commonwealth (also on the East Coast). The three populations have separate histories and origins, and are yet to interact with each other. While originally the term was only used to refer to the Mariposa generations, the Brotherhood of Steel carried the term with them and applied it to those from Vault 87 upon encountering them. The term has since become the defacto name for mutants of this variety.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Variants
- 3 Behind the scenes
- 4 Gallery
- 5 Appearances in games
- 6 References
Super mutants are an uniform group of mutants created by the exposure of humans to the Forced Evolution Virus. Originally created by West Tek as the Pan-Immunity Virion, FEV research was spun off on governmental orders when it was realized that PVP was an extremely potent mutagen. In a nutshell, changes to DNA are expressed phenotypically thanks to recursive growth patterns coded in the FEV. The goal was the creation of super soldiers capable of fighting in any conditions with minimal preparation. The primary research effort was set up at Mariposa Military Base in California, with a competing research initiative spun-off at Vault 87 under Dr Wayne Merrick. The Commonwealth Institute of Technology also had access to FEV samples, allowing it to set up its own research efforts after the Great War.
Super mutant transformation requires prolonged immersion in the virus: in Mariposa this has been achieved by a twenty-four hour exposure to FEV-II in the vats, achieving a severe overdose of the virus. In Vault 87, infection took place in sealed chambers, where an aerosolized virus was introduced. The exposure was relatively brief, compared to the Mariposa procedure. The Institute practiced prolonged immersion in FEV, in contained tubes.
A noted feature of FEV is that it partially relies upon the DNA of the individual coming in contact with it. Coupled with portions of its own recursive code, effects of exposure can be unpredictable, particularly when non-humans are exposed to the virus, or multiple organisms are placed into the same vat (vide centaurs).
FEV-II super mutant
In humans, phenotypical changes brought upon by the Mariposa strain are substantial, accomplished by recursive growth patterns integrated in FEV. In order for the mutation to succeed, the subject needs to have a low level of radiation-induced damage and should not have been exposed to the mutated FEV in the wasteland. Subjects that do not meet these criteria will suffer a massive overhaul of the body's systems, leading to organ failure and an extremely painful death.
The average super mutant is 3.2 meters tall and weighs in excess of 350 kilograms. Muscle accounts for over 75% of body mass, while bone and tissue are 10% each. Fat mass is exceedingly low, accounting for between 3-5% of body mass. The increased muscle and body mass lead to a change in posture: FEV super mutants have a characteristic, hunched stance. The skin tone changes substantially and becomes gray with tints of light green, though as the mutant ages, it may become more green or even olive. The skin becomes much thicker and resistant to trauma, including cuts, bruises and damage from fire, acid or even gunfire. Despite this resistance to trauma, completely destroyed tissues cannot be regrown, and will result in permanent scarring or organ loss.
These changes are uniform across mutants, due to the aforementioned growth patterns and pre-programmed DNA loaded into the virus. This also has the effect of removing secondary sexual statistics, in favor of a pre-programmed masculine body shape. Primary sexual characteristics, such as the penis and testicles in males and the uterus and ovaries in females are unaffected. However, super mutants are sterile, as FEV perceives gametes as damaged DNA and corrects them, resulting in sterility.
Increased size of neural transmitters and synaptic receivers in the body give super mutants acute reflexes and heightened senses. However, these changes are usually not accompanied by a similar rise in intellect. The FEV strain in Mariposa has a chance of modifying intelligence: while most people retain their pre-dipping intellect, a majority of the remaining group experiences a loss (typically by 30%), while the remaining minority of exceptional individuals may even experience an increase. The loss is the result of damage caused by recursive growth and increase in brain mass, which may be accompanied by disfigurement and damage to existing neural patterns, causing loss of memory.
The most stunning effect is practical immortality. Although theorized to only bring an approximate 10% increase in life expectancy, the FEV strain in Mariposa results in a cell regeneration rate that exceeds cell death rate and prevents DNA degeneration through aging. The Hayflick limit is believed to have been completely overcome. This allows a super mutant to live for centuries, though if care is not given to exercising one's intellect, elder mutants may suffer from onset of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Death is made even more unlikely by the fact that super mutants are immune to common diseases and radiation.
EEP super mutant
Produced as part of the Evolutionary Experimentation Program, this variant of super mutants comes from an inferior FEV strain used at Vault 87. The strain retains the recursive growth patterns characteristic to FEV, but has a different effect, which may be also linked to how infection was performed in the labs. Test subjects were exposed a single time to FEV in isolated chambers, where virus was deployed as airborne particulate. When exposed, phenotypical changes occur within three days and include increased muscle mass, changes in skeletal structure and atrophy of all visible sexual characteristics, creating an uniform body shape devoid of genitalia or other sexual dimorphism. At ten days, skin pigmentation becomes a mixture of yellow and green, while its thickness and resistance to radiation and other environmental hazards rapidly increases.
However, a key problem with this batch is that the mutation does not stop. Within fourteen days of initial exposure, subjects regress to an almost feral state, exhibiting extreme aggression at every non-mutant. While some semblance of cognition is retained, exhibited by the ability to speak, operate machines and use basic tactics in combat, super mutants of this type are typically characterized by significant mental retardation. Another unforeseen side effect is that the unfinished virus strain codes the body for continued growth. If a super mutant of this type eludes death for prolonged periods of time, they may become a considerable threat, reaching the size of a small building.
The first super mutants of this variety were created in 2078, becoming a permanent feature of the Capital Wasteland. Too dumb to overrun it, but too strong to die off. Their routine behavior included raiding to kidnap people for conversion with the EEP mutagen. That being said, they possess almost no intelligence. They are tough to kill, impossible to reason with, and incredibly resistant to attacks and radiation. They can speak, but their vocabulary is limited.
Their inability to reproduce (possibly bolstered by the FEV batch and/or human procreation instincts) leads to an obsession with preserving their species: they attempt to capture live humans as often as possible, in order to infect them with FEV, or "green stuff," at Vault 87. However, by 2277, the mutants are running out of FEV and are looking in desperation for a new source of the virus. By 2282, the Super Mutant "Shepherd" had been looking to re-organize the regions Super Mutants, but was quickly stopped by the 15 year old Arthur Maxson, a victory that would cement the young leader's standing with the West Coast Brotherhood of Steel.
Huntersville super mutant
Huntersville is the source of Appalachia super mutants, created when West Tek's local research facility conducted a secret experiment dumping FEV into the local water supply. The secret, sinister experiment went horribly, horribly wrong, creating a scourge on the region that would persist as late as 2102. These Mutants share a common ancestry with the Vault 87 Super Mutants but are slightly smarter and able to adapt to life in the mountains. They rarely make permanent strongholds, but will do so occasionally.
Institute super mutant
The super mutants of the Commonwealth are a different strain from either Vault 87 super mutants or Mariposa super mutants. While they possess the imposing musculature and resilience of the former, they have a level of intelligence on par with the dumber examples of the latter. They are capable of following a chain of command, erecting fortifications, and even setting up traps and ambushes - such as at Trinity Tower, where Fist deliberately used Rex Goodman as bait to lure humans and weed out the weak super mutants among his host. They are also capable of speaking like normal humans, unlike their practically feral brethren from the Capital Wasteland, and consider themselves the superior race of the Commonwealth.
All Commonwealth super mutants are the result of The Institute's research into FEV, which began in 2178 under the auspices of Doctor Frederick. Research on samples acquired by the team was authorized by the Directorate and the program began despite the objections of some members of BioScience. Both women and men were abducted from the Commonwealth and submerged in The Institute's modified FEV, their mutations carefully tracked and extensively investigated. Successful mutations would be monitored to ensure survivability, then tagged and discarded. In layman's terms, The Institute was simply releasing super mutants into the wild, creating a scourge on the Commonwealth that lasted for years. In fact, the first super mutants attacked human settlements as early as 2180. Their actions were even more heinous considering the fact that in case the mutation destabilized, it would create horrifying behemoths: Warped, immensely powerful giants with a fierce territorial instinct.
The research was intended to produce effective synthetic organics, but it ground to a halt in March 2224. Despite perfecting two FEV strains, the accumulated radiation damage in test subjects provided an insurmountable barrier to further development. Just three years later, in 2227, the organic synth project experienced a breakthrough due to the acquisition of Shaun and his undamaged pre-War genetic code. The third generation synth project was spun off from the FEV research initiative. The FEV research effort continued for several more decades, despite producing no useful data - except for manufacturing more super mutants for the surface to contend with. When Brian Virgil succeeded Dr Syverson as head of the project in April 2286, it became evident that FEV experimentation ran its course and served no useful purpose, not with the availability of third generation synths. Eventually, as Virgil's conscience took its toll, the scientist lodged a formal complaint with the Directorate. When no reaction came, Virgil rebelled and escaped the Institute after transforming himself into a super mutant, destroying as much of the project as he could.
Behind the scenes
- The name of the super mutants is spelled differently at different points. Despite "super mutant" is the most characteristic and the most widely used, other variations exist including super mutants, super-mutant, supermutant and Mutants.
- While Marcus the mutant in Fallout 2 claims that "it only takes a few years to get the juices flowing again" (in regards to sterility), Chris Avellone, who wrote the dialogue said that it was just a joke.
- Some mutants in Mariposa in Fallout 2 are called "Super Duper Mutants", but it is not known why. This is most likely just a joke.
- Fawkes prefers to use the term "Meta-Humans" when speaking about the super mutants, especially when referring to himself. However he is the only person who refers to super mutants as "Meta-Humans".
Fallout and Fallout 2
Fallout: New Vegas
Tabitha, an insane nightkin in Fallout: New Vegas
Strong, a super mutant companion of the Sole Survivor.
Brian Virgil as a self-infected FEV mutant in the Glowing Sea.
Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel
Mutant berserker interior illustration
Appearances in games
Super mutants appear in all Fallout games.