Fallout 4 (2015)
PS4 / Rated M
RPG / Shooter
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
It’s been almost seven years since Fallout 3, one of my favorite games of all time, was released by Bethesda. The game included massive amounts of exploration in a rich world with stories and adventures around almost every single corner. It was impossible not to get lost in the Capitol Wasteland. The novelty of seeing familiar historic landmarks with a post-apocalyptic lather over them was also unique, especially for an RPG of Fallout’s size. It was only this past summer when Fallout 4 was introduced to the masses and it took gaming fandom by storm. It’s pretty rare these days to have a game announced the same year that it comes out. Excitement and speculation were everywhere leading up to last month’s release. However, what’s the one downside of massive amounts of hype? Overhype. Luckily, Fallout 4 met most of its expectations and delivered one of the year’s best experiences in gaming.
One of the most unique and different aspects of this iteration in the series is the game’s introductory sequence. In past Fallout games, you only saw what life before the war was like through billboards or posters that could be found around the wasteland. In Fallout 4, you finally get a glimpse into what life looked like before the bombs dropped. You play as a married military veteran (man or woman) with a kid named Shaun. It’s just a normal day in Sanctuary Hills when things start to go south really quickly. Your personal Mr. Handy, Codsworth, alerts you to the television where news of nuclear fallout starts to rear its head. It’s then a full on sprint with your newborn child in hand to nearby Vault 111 where you will wait out the Great War. Unfortunately, things are not so happy and cozy in the vault, as you emerge from the vault 200 years later as the sole survivor. I’m not going to sit here and spoil what goes on in the vault, but it’s pretty easy to draw conclusions.
After you gain the knowledge that your child Shaun was taken from the vault, your mission to find your son begins as you take your first steps out of the vault into the harsh wasteland, courtesy of a couple of nuclear bombs. (Sound familiar to the plot of Fallout 3? Well, just switch out “your son” with “your father” and bam, you have the same exact plot.) As you explore the wasteland, you’ll find settlements and factions that will help you with your quest to find your son. There are four factions in the game, including the Minutemen, the Railroad, the Brotherhood of Steel (which should be familiar to anyone who has played Fallout), and the mysterious Institute. Each have their own motivations and enemies and it’s up to you to decide which faction you want to carry on with to the end. This promises four different endings, with minimal differences between them, aside from the Institute ending. The story is not the strongest aspect of the game, but’s its serviceable and it acts as a device to get you exploring the world, which is in my opinion the best part of any Fallout game.
Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are the home of Fallout 4. Its immediately apparent that the nuclear bombs did not do a number on the city like they did Washington D.C. Boston still lays in ruin, but the scenery is much more colorful and there’s an abundance of buildings that are largely intact, including some tall skyscrapers. For one, it makes the world a lot more enjoyable to explore. The boring drab atmosphere of Fallout 3 got old after a while, but Fallout 4 changes it up a bunch with locations ranging from metropolitan sprawls to swampy marshes to coastal beaches to rural farmland to suburban neighborhoods. The map is also massive with tons of locations and points of interest. The best part? None of it seemed to be filler. Almost every nook and cranny had a story to tell. Bethesda has managed to create a living and breathing world where NPC’s do their own thing and random events happen all around you. My story exploring Boston will most likely be totally different from another player’s experience, which is a good indication that you have done something right.
Fallout 4’s gameplay and combat mechanics have also gotten a massive overhaul. Combat is actually more fun this time around. In previous games you had to rely on V.A.T.S. (Vault Assisted Targeting System) to take out your enemies because aiming with your gun was a joke. Although the game does not compare to your modern FPS, Fallout 4 manages to make it easier to aim you gun and play the game like you would a normal shooter. A more updated, and now dynamic, V.A.T.S. system is in place (and still highly recommended), but you can use your sights again.
Dialog options have received an overhaul as well. Gone are the days of scrolling through a menu of dialog options during a conversation. Instead, you have four options which are paraphrases of what you are going to say. You now have options like “Sarcasm” or “Threaten,” but without the exact words that you would utter. This dynamic system also allows you to leave a conversation at any time you want by just walking away mid conversation. This dynamic system seemed cool at first, but it had its troubles. I often found it hard to determine if I was in a conversation with someone because the classic conversation camera zoom from the previous games is gone. I often found myself walking away from characters who would then get annoyed that I was ignoring them. It’s too bad there wasn’t an “Apologize for Being Rude” option, because I would have used that one a lot.
The level up system has also changed, giving you a chart of all the perks in the game right up front. Depending on your initial stats that you set in the beginning of the game, you can place your points that you receive from leveling up into the different perks, ranking them up to get more advanced versions of those perks. This allows for more customization based on the way you want to play. Some people have been put off by this new approach, but I found it more enjoyable. Finally, there are a lot more options for modding your weapons and armor. Now, all the junk that you find in the world has a purpose beyond just populating the world. You can use the junk and materials that you find to develop more advanced versions of your weapons and armor, giving you the advantage in battle. There was a surprising amount of customization options for your guns, armor, and power suit.
This leads me to one of the craziest parts of the game which is settlement building. Fallout 4 gives you the tools to create your own settlements from the ground up using all of the junk that you find throughout the world. You construct buildings with beds and then defenses and power. You also have to make sure you provide your settlers with water and crops as well, keeping them happy. The mechanics can get pretty deep, especially when you start talking about trading between your settlements. You can create trade lines between your settlements, which in turn give you more supplies and resources. Although some of the mechanics and systems are a little janky and hard to use, I spent way more time then I originally imagined I would in this mode. There’s no real point to creating big settlements, but it was still fun anyway. It’s something that you can show off to your friends.
My only real complaint with Fallout 4 are the bugs and jank that are scattered throughout the game. It’s hard to fault a game as large as Fallout for technical glitches and hiccups, but it’s still frustrating. I imagine the QA process for a game like this is a nightmare but I still think it’s inexcusable for a game to be so buggy in this day and age. Look at a game like The Witcher 3. That game rivals Fallout 4 in size and scope and still manages to look better and run better as well. It leaves Bethesda with no excuse for why their game is technically less superior. Fortunately for them, the game’s other aspects more than make up for these problems. However, future Fallout games need to clean up their act.
I have put a borderline unhealthy amount of hours into Fallout 4 because the game basically combines the best parts of the previous Fallout games with more updated and modern mechanics. Anyone who has played the previous games will feel right at home while new players will find the game to be a nice springboard into the rich and engrossing world that Fallout 4 has to offer. In a year that has been full of great games, Fallout 4 caps off the year just like a bottle cap on an ice cold Nuka Cola. Okay, that was a bad Fallout joke…
Also available on PC and Xbox One