After a very long lead up of hype for this game, it is fair to say that it has opened itself up to criticism of the tiniest little tidbits. As you have no doubt noticed, there have been a few articles out there playing on this. Highlighting terrible frame rate drops on consoles and how bugs and glitches abound on PC. However, my time with Fallout 4 didn’t see any of these issues.
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Avg Game Length: Campaign without any DLC 25hrs. Campaign with all DLC 60hrs. An extra 45hrs of side quests in original release
So I can’t help but feel we’ve seen these articles as a result of die hard fans looking to hate on the smallest minutiae for the sake of opening up a debate online. Such are the early days of AAA titles that have been hyped up more than a white Christmas in the UK. As our lack of snowy Christmases disappoint us year on year, can the same disappointment be said of Fallout 4? And is there any truth to the criticism’s we’ve seen on those news widgets of our android phones?
Once More Into The Breach
Anyone who has played previous Bethesda titles will know what to expect in a broader sense. A massive game world, with plenty to see and explore. One that has sacrificed small areas of quality for the sake of quantity. In the case of the current generation and stronger hardware, these sacrifices are reduced but still remain. Character models remain Bethesda’s weak point as we see wooden movements that I’m almost sure did not make use of motion capture. And faces that express little more than surprise or discontent. Like previous iterations, we’re still seeing NPCs equipping weapons by materializing them out of nowhere. Opposed to reaching for the holster and pulling them out properly.
On the current generation, design choices like this seem lazy and unnecessary. I start to wonder if Bethesda became a little overwhelmed by the hype its latest project was receiving. As a result, pushing it out the door a little hastily. As we all know, these are minor things and hardly have any bearing on how much fun we can have with Bethesda’s latest free roaming experience. Despite my nay saying thus far, it happens to be rather a lot.
War Never Changes
Upon beginning the game, we are greeted by a live action cutscene that explains Fallout 4’s backstory and why the bombs were dropped in the first place. Frankly, it clarifies and exposes a large part of Fallout lore more clearly than any of its previous titles ever did (except perhaps that one mission in Fallout 3 with the virtual reality…). It’s pretty cool and sets the game up brilliantly while showcasing exactly how much money Bethesda has made from this franchise so far.
How Shiny Can A Wasteland Be?
Typically of Bethesda, the graphical prowess of this game seems a tad dated upon release. Like I said – small sacrifices for a greater cause. Regardless of this, all the textures are pretty sharp. I never saw any screen tearing and the lighting really shines in the next gen vaults and buildings you’ll be exploring. Speaking of lighting effects, just wait until you stumble into a wasteland storm.
Lightning strikes bring great flashes of white. While the storms themselves lead to a radioactive green tinge. Players will squint to see gouls in the distance, splashing about in some lovely irradiated water. To build a strong sense of atmosphere in a broad open world can be tough but Bethesda achieved it. If you sit and squint at something for a split second too long in one of these storms, you may regret it.
When the game is really trying to impress you, your console may start to struggle and I did experience a few issues with my weapon popping in and out. slaying foes with an invisible gun. Sound familiar anyone? We’ve seen these issues before from Bethesda. After making so much money on the franchise, I don’t believe it is acceptable to still be seeing these things. On the plus side, Fallout 4’s colour pallet is now far more varied. Bethesda has done away with the muddy browns and greys of previous titles in favour of colourful cities or vibrant sea views.
Fallout 4’s Immersion Tactics
It looks Bethesda has spent a little more time focusing on player immersion which is much appreciated. The character that you play as has been brought to life more so than any of Fallout’s previous protagonists. A welcome breath of life has been put into your character as Bethesda have done away with the silent protagonist of old. So they put a lot more effort into voice acting for the game.
The character customization has been simplified while at the same time, deeper than ever before. Players can stand in front of the mirror with their wife. Here, they can switch between him and her and select specific features to sculpt them as they please. Bethesda have always made the most of this to randomly generate hundreds of different NPC faces across the map.
So a deeper customization system allows a far broader range of faces in the Fallout 4 world. I suppose this is where next-gen technology begins to kick in for the game. While many playing Skyrim, Fallout 3 or Oblivion may have made a really stupid looking character for the occasional giggle, I wouldn’t recommend it in the case of Fallout 4. You’ll be seeing your character more often than ever before as conversations pan out to third person by default for a slightly more cinematic feel.
Dynamically Anti – Social
You’re never locked into conversation with any of the characters as, once activated, you can simply walk away from an NPC instead of waiting for a ‘goodbye’ option to pop up. Although, this won’t save you from hearing the same lines of dialogue from a geographically fixed NPC every time you walk past them. Another unfortunate Bethesda trope. I suppose we wouldn’t have the famous ‘arrow in the knee’ quote without it.
The conversation system in Fallout 4 has been simplified down to a set of four different responses – agree, disagree, sarcasm or … just being a dick. After trying different options I was disappointed to see that NPCs respond with exactly the same lines of dialogue. While Bethesda would have believe that you posses the power of leading a conversation in a new direction, this simply isn’t the case.
Come Into My Office…
How player friendly is Fallout 4? Well, if Bethesda is to be commended on anything its their user interface for this game. The control scheme is almost instantly accessible to players. After discovering a few places and racking up a few missions, the training wheels come off pretty quick. With an added sense of familiarity from previous titles, players will be raring to go with a great list of priorities to attend. Anybody with a smart phone can also get involved with the Fallout 4 Pip Boy app. This was a lovely little surprise. Once you have the app, you can sync it to your PS4 just as you would with Spotify or Youtube.
It will basically replace your in-game Pip Boy and provide you with a live inventory / menu system as you play. Switch weapons, turn on the radio, use the torch function. You name it. If you can do it with the Pip Boy in the game, you can do it with the app. My favorite aspect of this was how your position on the map shows up in real time on the app. Meaning you can defer to it during the many long load screens in the game. Collecting old school arcade cassettes that will be playable on the Pip Boy can also be played with this app. So you’re getting added value here even when you’re out and about.
This Is MY Boomstick!
Combat is no longer quite so frantic. In previous titles, I found I was heavily dependent on the V.A.T.S system to really land my shots. Being left without energy to apply V.A.T.S is no longer a big red flag. Busy shootouts are now far more manageable without it.
While New Vegas before it had a weapon wheel, Fallout 4 has opted for a simple up/down/left/right tree of quick slots. Double or triple tapping the D-pad during combat feels more efficient. These moments are now far less broken up by a paused Pip Boy screen to equip things. Again, this is a welcome development as immersion seems to have been a new focus even for combat. Switching between hip fire, aiming down the sights and V.A.T.S is easy to execute rapidly and with fluidity. Considering how combat had always been one of Fallout’s weak points, it’s really good to see that Bethesda have finally ironed it out. Complimenting this is a crafting system that allows you to modify the crap out of just about anything you please!
The Master Builder
Indeed, you can modify your weapons to your heart’s content, provided you have the resources to do so. If you stick enough bits and bobs to a simple laser pistol, it turns into a badass laser machine gun. These modifications aren’t simply changing player stats. Players will actually see their weapon grow and develop as new parts are added. Which gives a sense of satisfaction once your latest boomstick is completed. Clothing and armour can also be modified in the same way.
A little like the Witcher’s pinning system, if you can see there are parts required that you are missing, you can highlight them. Once highlighted, they’re marked on the map and players can then go forth into the wasteland and get the bits they need. This is another welcome addition as I think we’ve had enough of being one part off a final build only to wait ages to come across it by chance. Alternatively, if you are missing a component, you can even try and build that as well, with specific sub categories of components. In a nutshell this gives EVERYTHING a purpose in the game. Even if its a crumpled empty pack of cigarettes, it can be put to use somewhere.
Home Is Where The Heart Is
At least, it will be once you’ve built it. What I’ve just explained also extends to base building which is a completely optional aspect of Fallout 4. One that you will doubtlessly pour hours into, especially if you’re a Minecraft nerd. Holding down the touch pad in highlighted areas opens up the build menu. There is tonnes to do here, which is why I was a little disappointed at the lack of any real tutorial. You kinda just float around until you figure things out for yourself. Placing items like decorations or base buildings upon which to build, can be a little finnicky. You see, the context sensitivity for placing them can be very choosy. I suppose, in the worst case scenario, it will lead to things being not quite where you want them.
All that aside, base building is still very fun. You scrap what you see – trees, fences, benches, anything – in order to get the resources you need. Or you can simply use what you already have in you inventory. Electricity is also fun to play with as you connect lights and electric doorway. Mounted turrets and cool shop signs with lines of power cables to ensure everything works. Sure, there’s no tutorial, but once you have a full understanding of how all this works, you’ll be creating genuine settlements that you would expect to see as part of the base game.
I’m The Juggernaut B*tch
This review would be incomplete if I didn’t talk about the power armour. Frankly there’s not much to say. Firstly, power armour is more like a vehicle that you step into. It requires fusion cores to function that can run out and leave you up a creek. Like the weapons and clothes, your power armour is totally customizable. For the most part, this is cosmetic but you can tack on a jetpack. Allowing for extra maneuverability during those nasty Deathclaw encounters.
You may have seen people discussing online about how it breaks the game a little. Power armour allows fast travel to any difficulty spike you may have encountered and abuse its power. However, despite its boost in combat performance, I still had to play smart while using power armour or suffer the consequences. Wading into any old scenario and expecting stroll right back out again isn’t realistic.
To wrap things up, Fallout 4 is undeniably fun. The Witcher 3 remains the largest ever game world created. While Fallout 4 is about the same size as Skyrim, I would argue that there is an equal amount to do compacted into a smaller game world. There’s no denying that Fallout 4 still feels like a last-gen game. What with the many long loading screens and squiffy A.I. Yet there’s no denying that Bethesda have brought a refreshed version of the wasteland to us. It will provide roughly one hundred and fifty hours of enjoyment for the average gamer. Let’s face it – before you even read this review you knew that Fallout 4 was a good game. You knew what to expect from Bethesda.