There are few games in the Fall/Holiday lineup with as much hype behind them as Bethesda’s Fallout 4. Following up one of the most beloved games of all time, Fallout 3 (no, I didn’t forget New Vegas… it’s just not as universally loved!), this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Not naming any names, we’ve seen a fair number of games this generation fall short, very short of their lofty, hype-induced expectations. In the day and age of social media it is very easy for a game, or anything for that matter, to get shared, liked, favorited and retweeted to the point of oversaturation and with it comes a staggeringly high, nigh unreachable, expectation of quality. Luckily, Fallout 4 hits its mark with precision. This doesn’t mean, however that this post-apocalyptic epic is without some criticisms.
As we’ve come to expect from Bethesda Game Studios, Fallout 4 is an RPG of absolutely epic proportions. The obvious comparison would be Skyrim but instead of a glorious high fantasy setting you’re placed smack dab in the wastelands of a post-nuclear… uh… fallout. While certainly not for everyone, this barren and scarred piece of earth provides the setting for the best and worst humanity has to offer after someone pushes the button and nukes the planet. Building on what Fallout 3 did right this is a deeper and much more complex experience than the last time around and something many players, even the most hardcore of gamers, might find daunting at first.
“Nearly every step you take can lead you on a new tangent and once you begin to settle in to the world of Fallout 4 it becomes less of a ‘complete the mission’ experience and rather, you become a fully integrated citizen of the wastelands.”
It’s tough to breakdown a game that is so story reliant without being spoilery, but suffice it to say that despite the story being a huge strong point in the game, the extra side quests and people you meet along the way do a lot (if not more) to carry the experience as well. Starting out, you are thrown into the wastelands of Boston (herein referred to as The Commonwealth) on a search for your family. You are 200 years removed from the time you knew due to the wonders of cryogenics, and when you emerge from Vault 111 you are very much a lost and confused soul. Of course this doesn’t last long as you quickly find yourself in the midst of power struggles between factions, on your heels from attacking raiders, and cowering from Deathclaws all while struggling to survive.
Nearly every step you take can lead you on a new tangent and once you begin to settle in to the world of Fallout 4 it becomes less of a ‘complete the mission’ experience and rather, you become a fully integrated citizen of the wastelands. While you might try to make it from point A to point B on a mission you’ll often find yourself off on something completely different with hours lost in the process. You’ll stop into a settlement, build some houses, tinker with your weapons and paint up your power armor. Despite being a man (or woman) on a mission you’ll begin to just live in this world. It is a highly engaging and truly immersive feeling when you finally realize that you can spend hours upon hours just existing in this world without actually doing much of anything.
Now, as I mentioned above the game can almost certainly be daunting at first. Never before in a Fallout game has there been this much to do and this much to engage with. The crafting system is beyond intricate and it will have you picking up every last piece of junk you find in efforts to have the materials on hand for your next modification. Toy car? WANT IT. Jangles the Moon Monkey? WANT HIM. Pencil? YES PLEASE. Don’t be surprised if you’re merely hours into the game and already dealing with the dreaded inventory management crisis. Both armor and weapons can be modified and this just adds a layer of depth that previous entries missed. Once you get a handle on the system it becomes one of the best parts of the game. Muzzles, grips, sights, barrels, boiled, hardened, pocketed, pneumatic, painted… the options are exhaustive and everything a hardcore RPG lover should appreciate in its entirety.
“Toy car? WANT IT. Jangles the Moon Monkey? WANT HIM. Pencil? YES PLEASE. Don’t be surprised if you’re merely hours into the game and already dealing with the dreaded inventory management crisis.”
An addition that many will love (admittedly, not for me) is building structures and furniture, defenses, gardens and more in settlements you’ve come across. This is a Minecraft lover’s paradise as you rip apart and put together the world at your whim. For someone like myself, I found it tedious and often times an absolute pain in the ass. Trying to place a wall or a staircase just so proved to be painstakingly difficult I found. Not only that, the interface when in Workshop mode was rather laborious to work with as items were constantly being highlighted while I was trying to build or place other items. I’d often leave the building to an open space to get what I needed ready and then trudge back in to attempt to place it. With time spent this would undoubtedly become easier but I predict a lot of people putting this portion of the gameplay to the wayside unless they happen to be the creative type.
Combat has been much more finely tuned in Fallout 4 in comparison to its predecessors. Gunplay feels much more responsive and the weapons more impactful. The ‘God mode’ feeling of V.A.T.S. is reduced as now, instead of freezing time completely it merely slows it down as if you’re playing in bullet time. It took me a bit of time getting used to the inputs and resulted in some palpable fear and frantic moments early in. Still, I adapted and came to enjoy this more dangerous version of the Vault Tec Assisted Targeting System. Basic movement and targeting is much better than any game I’ve played in Bethesda’s past though so I found myself forgoing V.A.T.S. in favor of more traditional FPS combat a lot of the time. That says a lot about how much better it has gotten as I rarely, if ever, did the same in Fallout 3 or New Vegas.
As any veteran of a Bethesda RPG (or nearly any RPG for that matter) would tell you, it’s always a good thing when a game allows you to play in a manner that suits you personally. As with previous entries into the franchise, Fallout 4 wants to know what makes you S.P.E.C.I.A.L. and the answers you give completely tailor the gameplay to your play style. I used the word daunting a few times already but again, it’s the best way to describe the options that present themselves to you here. At first it took me considerable time on where to spend even one skill point but as I grew in strength, learned the nuances of the game, I began to see how I wanted to play the game and began to navigate my perks in a way that felt natural to me. I started to focus on my endurance, agility, charisma and perception while leaving some other options behind (kind of… I still upped them a bit). I really felt I could play the game the way I chose and was ready to face the consequences of not creating a beefy, strength based character for example.
Companions play a big part in the game as well but you do need to be careful how you act around them. Apart from your faithful, I don’t ask any questions because I’m a dog companion, Dogmeat, others can disagree with your choices and even leave you wholesale because of it. Now you’re down a pal and short of someone to carry the extra 200 pounds of shit you just found. Regardless, you’ll find yourself absolutely agonizing over choices to be made in game as your decisions have more weight to them than ever. Big decisions have real consequences to them and heavily influence you as you spend time going over your options.
“Big decisions have real consequences to them and heavily influence you as you spend time going over your options.”
A big part of the sell in a game like this is the environment, atmosphere, characters and ultimately graphics that are there to pull you into this universe. While many might rant about the graphics not being the best they’ve ever seen I truly believe there is good reasoning behind this. When you honestly breakdown the size and scope of a game like this you just have to realize that it will never, EVER be at the levels of an Uncharted or Halo or whatever your ‘prettiest game ever’ happens to be. When you take that into consideration I find the game to be more than serviceable. For this review, I played it on the PS4 and I can imagine that the PC version will be infinitely more detailed, especially once mods get their hands on it. Look at Skyrim now as an example; it’s amazing.
At times the wastelands looked almost pretty with blue skies and distant hills but more often than not, the dull browns and greys are still very prevalent in Fallout 4. Character animations were decent enough but little things I noticed kind of irked me; like where are Preston Garvey’s ear holes? Some creatures, ghouls for example, look just awful to me as if they were half finished and forgotten about. Again, considering the game’s size, I am more forgiving here than I would be with other games.
Adding voice work to the protagonist in the game was a point of contention for many early in but I for one am happy it’s been introduced. My character’s responses never seemed out of context with the conversation I was having and on the whole are very well done. This is only my experience with the male voice mind you but I’d assume the same for the female voice overs.
Now the elephant in the room for any Bethesda Game Studios piece of work is the ever present bugs. I can say with absolute certainty that you will encounter them. I can say with almost the same amount of certainty that you will be faced with patches and bug fixes over the course of your playthrough as Bethesda comes up with lists of hot fixes that need to be made. My only recommendation is to save and save often to avoid being too disappointed. Luckily, I’ve yet to encounter much more than clips and raider scum stuck in walls instead of game crashing bugs that have been reported elsewhere. Strange too as I never invested heavily in my Luck perks! Still, I feel it’s only a matter of time before I do suffer it. Now I’m not making excuses for the dev here but I can’t help but feel that a game of this magnitude will almost always come with bugs like this. Play testing and Q.A. sessions can only do so much before the general public get their hands on it.
Fallout 4 might not reach the insane expectations of the hype that built it up these past few months but it undoubtedly comes closer than many other games that have been in the same predicament. Complex, full of depth and infinitely customizable, Fallout 4 manages to stand above its glitches and odd subpar animations to be an experience well worth having. Venture forth from Vault 111 and have a blast!
*** PS4 copy provided by the publisher ***
- Incredible depth
- Crafting is extensive (and awesome)
- Engaging campaign
- Hundreds of hours of playtime
- Huge value for your dollar
- Building settlements is tedious
- May be a bit too complex for some
- Some graphical blemishes
- Bug, bugs, bugs