By Andrew Dodson on December 5, 2015 at 12:05am
Alright, guys, let's grab a seat (that bullet-ridden couch is actually pretty comfy), crack open a lukewarm Nuka Cola, and talk about "Fallout 4."
If you've just wandered out of a Vault, "Fallout 4" is the latest addition to the "Fallout" series, which take place in post-apocalyptic America. What makes the "Fallout" universe unique is that besides feeling stuck in a kitschy 1950's sitcom, it also has an interesting sci-fi element with robots, flying cars, and lasers. Each "Fallout" game is set in a different location; "Fallout 4" is set in Boston, now called Commonwealth, and it is in this sprawling, radiated landscape where we play the game.
And the game is...fun. It really is. It's fun sneaking around, sniping raiders, scavenging for supplies in abandoned houses, stealing a Fat Man (portable nuke launcher) and blowing up a bunch of super mutants. It's fun putting on a suit of power armors and punching deathclaws in their faces. It's all fun. And it's all pretty much stuff you can do in every other "Fallout" game.
"Fallout 4" feels like the last game in the series, "Fallout: New Vegas," with random mods attached. The textures have been improved, new weapons and armor have been introduced, and the entire "settlement" feature is new, but that's basically it. When "Fallout: New Vegas" was released in 2010, it was a winning formula for sure, so why should "Fallout 4" try to tamper with greatness? So "Fallout 4" is still okay, but it does not feel like a next-gen game, nor are its offerings groundbreaking.
A great game does not need great graphics, but when you compare "Fallout 4" to other recent games like "Witcher 3," "Far Cry 4" or "Metal Gear Solid 5," they all leave "Fallout 4" in the dust. For a game that has been five years in the making, this is pretty disappointing. The lighting looks great, but my character does not cast a shadow when I'm in the first person. The character animations are clunky and awkward-looking. When you meet your son, Shaun, for the first time when he's a baby, he looks like a creepy doll that you could buy at Toys R' Us. It's very frustrating because the art direction and environments, from a distance, look incredible,but as you get closer to locations or to other characters, and it all kind of looks like wet clay. One would have hoped that Bethesda would have considered updating their game engine from "Fallout 3," or maybe even creating a new one entirely for a game with so much potential.
"Fallout 4" plays very nicely, just like the past two Fallout games. You explore and kill, and you're probably dealing with an overwhelming number of sidequests (NPCs in Bethesda games are always so needy.)
Exploration is probably the best part of the game. Really, exploration is where every Bethesda game shines. They excel at creative massive, interesting looking worlds and they don't railroad you into any one area - if you can see it, you can go there. "Fallout 4" is no different. You're able to investigate almost everything (which, mostly consists of ruined buildings) and there is no end to the amount of loot that you can scavenge from them. While you expect a city destroyed by a nuclear bomb to look rather...lifeless, the Commonwealth is actually full of life and has tons of interesting little events occurring that you can stumble upon.
When "Fallout 4" sneaks in these interesting, little events, however, about 95 percent of the time, they end in the player being forced to kill everyone Everyone is a raider, a super mutant, or a secret robot or some kind of bad thing, and then it has to die. Which is fine for some things, but there were a few situations where I didn't want to have to draw my gun, but you rarely have a choice when it comes to drawing your weapon.
That leads to another one of my frustrations with "Fallout 4." This is the first game in the Fallout series where the player doesn't actually know exactly what the character is going to say in a dialogue - you're given four options, which range from being super nice to being a super dick. Choosing one or the other never really seemed to have much influence on the story. An NPC may react angrily at me if I'm sarcastic with them, but they're still going to give me the information or quest that I need to continue. You're not given a lot of opportunity to talk your way out of fights. It always seems to come to bloodshed, which, is fine, but at the same time, it gets kind of boring, because by the time your character is level 25 or so, they are basically (short of a nuclear explosion) unstoppable.
That said, fighting in "Fallout 4" is quite nice - especially compared to the older games. Certain combat elements have been cleaned up. Firefights in the first person actually feel possible, and it's not necessary to use VATS all the time. However, it remains the most satisfying way to kill an enemy. Nothing beats watching the slow-motion, cinematic video of a bullet leaving your rifle, traveling across a bloodied-battlefield and blowing off a raider's ugly head. Though, VATS was one of the best mechanics of the past "Fallout" games as well, and "Fallout 4" doesn't really add anything interesting to it.
Crafting is a really impressive aspect of "Fallout 4." The mods all add interesting and noticeable aspects to guns and armor, and they make it really possible to create a gun that suits how you want to play the game. What I really appreciate is that to make mods or build other items, you actually use items that you find out in the world. All that junk that you use to leave laying around in places you explore? It all has a use now, which is awesome albeit in an overwhelming way.
The new mechanic that really separates "Fallout 4" from the other games is, of course, settlement building. Almost right off the bat, you are given a tiny piece of land to call your home. In this area, the game almost turns into a weird, apocalyptic version of "The Sims" with a sprinkling of "Minecraft" for flavor. You're able to build houses, power them, fill them with furniture and then you have to see to the needs of the people that move in there, providing for water, food, defense and happiness. It's a part of the game that I wasn't that interested in first, but it grew to be what I spent the most time on. While the way you place objects with the builder or assign settlers to different jobs is awkward, it is nice to be able to solve problems in the game that don't require bullets.
In my opinion, the main story of "Fallout 4" is the weakest part of the game. The gist is that the world ends, and the player's character is cryogenically frozen in a Vault with the rest of the family. While waking up, they find their significant other is murdered and their baby son has been kidnapped. The rest of the game follows the character as they track their son down through a series of elaborate events. The entire story relies on the player getting attached to a baby that you only interact with for less than a minute. I did not feel an attachment to child in the first few minutes of game-play, so the main story of the game essentially felt like just going through the motions of a dumb side quest.
There are interesting stories that emerge around the character and the "main quest." One's that involve robots that look like people, a shadowy organization known only as The Institute, the rebuilding of a militia that wants to protect the people, the arrival of airship carrying an army of soldiers in powersuits. Those aspects of the story interested me. Even some of the one shot side-quests were interesting, even if most of them were simple: "Go here, kill these people and bring back this thing" type of missions. But my favorite part of the story involved things that we never even get to see. Hacking into terminals or finding old journals which reveal what happened to some people at the end of the world (or even in the 'current' day) were fascinating to read. You could read about some raiders feuds with other raiders and then meet (and kill) those raiders. You could read about crazy research a scientist was doing and then find some pieces of that research that you could use.
The writers for "Fallout 4" did a fantastic job of writing for an interesting and immersive world, but the story for the game really falls flat when it comes for the search for the main character's son. Even with the "twist" at the end, I just did not care. I mostly just wanted to get back to one of my settlements, so I could build them another power generator.
Is "Fallout 4" a good game? Sure. It's fine. It took me so long to write this review because I was spending so much time playing "Fallout 4." The Commonwealth is huge and open, and there seems to be no limit of things to do or explore and that is fun but not indefinitely so.
The biggest problem with "Fallout 4" is that it doesn't feel like a game that I should be playing 2015, and besides the settlement building, it doesn't bring anything new or exciting to the "Fallout" series. A lot of people are saying that once people start really making mods for the game, that will fix all the problems we're having it and really push "Fallout 4" to the next level. It's frustrating that we have to wait for third parties to mod the game to get the game feel "next gen." I still like playing it, but I can't help but feel a disappointed after all the hype.