Fallout 4 has easily been one of, if not the most anticipated games this year. People have been waiting for a new release in the Fallout series for around seven years and each passing day brought more and more wild speculation. With fake teasers like thesurvivor2299.com, the Internet breathed a collective sigh of relief when this game was officially announced at E3 this year. The best part of this announcement was that the game would be released a mere three months after its official reveal. Hype has continued to build on this game, even after release. So with all of this in mind, I was very eager to start my adventure in this new wasteland provided by Bethesda Game Studios.
“And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.” – Robert Plant
Fallout 4 is set in the dystopian, post-apocalyptic wasteland of Boston following the nuclear war that devastated the world 200 years ago. You choose to play as either a man or a woman who has lived in complete cryostasis for a little over 200 years inside of Vault-111. Vault-111 is one of many Vaults designed by Vault-Tec to keep designated residents safe from the nuclear apocalypse. However, about 150 years into your cryostasis you are temporarily awakened to bear witness to horrific events that unfold within Vault-111. Sometime after that you are properly awakened from your slumber to find that your Vault and its inhabitants have been ravaged by outsiders and you are abruptly forced to venture out into the Boston wasteland known as the “Commonwealth.” Your character has the main directive of seeking vengeance on the guilty parties that caused tragedy to befall you and your family in Vault-111. As you travel across the Commonwealth you encounter various monsters created by the radiation spread throughout the lands while also encountering gangs and raiders whose sole purpose is to harm (or kill) you and pilfer your loot.
The game begins with an interesting prologue which takes place before the bombs were dropped. It gives a brief insight as to how life was lived in the pre-war era where colour and life was a little more vibrant and jubilant than what we now know and love in the wasteland. It is in this prologue where you are introduced to your spouse, your child and your robot. It was great to get a taste of what life was like before the war ravaged the lands and it marks a change of pace and variety of setting that the preceding Fallout games seemed to lack. This prologue also explains how you entered your Vault in the first place and what exactly went down when you were forced to take shelter in the underground sarcophagus known as your cryochamber. Following this prologue you escape your vault and are left to your own devices to do whatever you please within this open-world adventure.
This game offers a compelling story filled with many tie-ins from side quests and factions that can often correlate with your main directive. Throughout your entire adventure you are faced with many choices, and even though the karma system has been removed from the game, they still play a role in the way the story pans out. Along the way you’ll encounter many moral dilemmas and be forced to make some big decisions, however these usually boil down to being fairly polar. Do you choose to do the evil diabolical thing that benefits only you or do you choose to do what’s right in order to benefit all of the Commonwealth? Of course if you’re a relatively heartless player like me you can just choose whichever option seems the funniest (the douchebag approach). Although there are various forks in the road during quests, more often than not there will be two main underlying outcomes for each quest: the positive and the negative. The characters you interact with also react depending on your choices. Given that in almost every interaction there is a “sarcasm” option, I expected a few more sassy responses from the NPCs you interact with. Unfortunately your sarcastic negativity is never really reciprocated and the responses you get are fairly mundane in these instances. Standout characters like Preston Garvey (important member of the Minutemen, a group of vigilantes that seek to help the people of the Commonwealth) and Elder Maxson (leader of the Brotherhood of Steel, a militia whose sole purpose is to preserve technology and keep the people safe) have some great dialogue, and while it’s not delivered impeccably well the subtle information they provide is interesting and adds to the underlying plot. Maintained focus on the dialogue is recommended to fully understand the clash that is occurring around you.
Thank you for addressing me by my proper name, Codsworth.
Weapon handling in this game is superb, with weapons having been finely tuned to help better define their strengths in combat. Semi-automatic weapons handle quite simply but require precise hands to fully utilise the raw damage that can be dished out by these types of weapons. Bolt-action weapons are similar to an extent, but are a little more difficult to handle with a more intense recoil pattern and deliver a much more powerful punch. They are generally better utilised at range rather than up close and personal. Automatic weapons offer low damage per bullet, but can deal a large amount of damage when held with a steady hand. Energy weapons, like laser rifles and plasma pistols, are also perfectly balanced and are better suited to enemies not wearing leather based armour, as they have higher resistances to energy damage, but not so much to ballistic damage. With all of this in mind, you also have the VATS system (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) which makes killing enemies a breeze. What VATS does is it temporarily slows time and highlights your opponents’ limbs, showing where your enemy may take the most damage and the likelihood of hitting your intended target. In previous Fallout games VATS would stop time until you made your decision. In Fallout 4 time is only slowed down, a very smart change that makes VATS a lot less overpowered. Each action you use in VATS consumes a portion of your stamina (or Action Points as it is referred to in the game), with how much depending on the weapon you’re using.
Along with these weapons you are provided with a crafting system where you can create and apply modifications to your weapons such as scopes, barrels and stocks that affect recoil, range and damage. These modifications allow for diverse experimentation with weapons and playstyles, offering more variety and can lead to gratifying effects. Some mods suit playstyles better than others, like mods that allow for fully automatic fire or bolt-action fire. But don’t think that you are hindered for not focusing on modifying, you can actually receive weapons that come with the top-tier mods, outclassing the plain weapons you may already have equipped.
A nice change about this game in comparison to a majority of games of this ilk is that there are variable difficulty levels. The difficulties go from Very Easy, being very easy, all the way up to Survival which is damn near impossible to accomplish anything without dying a bit. Being a massive Dark Souls and Bloodborne fan, I find this to be quite refreshing as most games are quite simply too easy and provide little to no challenge. I played on Hard to provide the most amount of challenge without getting on Dark Souls level of difficult. I found this to be ideal as Normal didn’t really provide enough of a challenge. Another thing that Bethesda have introduced with these difficulty settings is the presence of hardened enemies known as legendary enemies. These enemies generally have a larger health pool than your typical enemies do, and they also retain the ability to mutate once they reach below 50% of their health. This is almost like an enemy going berserk and regaining all health lost prior to that point. The higher the difficulty setting, the higher the likelihood of encountering a legendary enemy and believe me, you want to encounter these enemies. Legendary enemies all possess a legendary weapon or armour piece which offer unique bonuses such as increased defence from damage delivered by a particular type of enemy. Not only do these legendary weapons provide unique bonuses, but they can also be sold for a larger amount of money in comparison to your regular items, and you want as much money as you can get your grubby mits on.
Levelling in this game is slow but fun. Levelling up doesn’t really grant huge power increases like most games because Fallout 4 does not rely on any form of delta scaling. Instead the game scales your weapons and damage via perks you activate within skills trees. There are the base 7 stats called S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Each letter stands for a respective stat (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck). Some perks are more useful than others in a general scale, like the medic perk which increase how much health you recover from stimpaks and how much radiation you can recover from using RadAway. Speaking of radiation, the radiation system is a lot more brutal. In older iterations of Fallout radiation would basically do more or less nothing right up until you were completely irradiated which by then you would die. In this iteration, the more radiation you absorb, the less maximum health you have. The only way to restore your maximum health is by using RadAway or being cleaned by a doctor for 40 bottlecaps (the currency of Fallout). This is a welcome change as it makes RadAway a little more valuable than in previous games which at first is a little more scarce in its distribution around the wasteland.
Gamma rays? What’s next? Nanomachines?
Not everything about this game is great though. Unfortunately, like every Bethesda game on release, the game is riddled with bugs and issues. Areas don’t render properly and frames often drop and can sometimes render the game unplayable. Reloading in third-person can bug out and will often repeat the reload animation two or three time before the weapon actually loads. These bugs are very frustrating and the optimisation of this game overall is simply poor. GTA V is a great example of a large-scale open-world game which runs fairly smoothly with little to no framerate issues. On top of all these issues, some quests bug out with missing quest markers or mysteriously missing NPCs that are integral to the quest. Most notably, the Silver Shroud missions were broken where I was told to leave a specific item on the corpse of an enemy, but despite my best efforts I was unable to place said item on the body, making progression impossible. Bethesda do genuinely need to take a close look at how they optimised this game as it is genuinely detrimental to the experience. The game-breaking glitches which hinder progress and quest completion MUST also be looked at and fixed immediately as these kinds of bugs shouldn’t exist in the first place. I understand the game’s scale makes bug testing an epic task, but we are becoming too accustomed to games launching in an incomplete and buggy state.
Fallout 4 is an impeccable game with fantastically deep gameplay. With its well-balanced weapons, impressive visuals, compelling story, new and improved radiation system and smart levelling, the game offers hundreds of hours of fun. However, the presence of persistent bugs like improper rendering, quest-breaking glitches and stuttering frame rate do sully the experience to an extent. Although I definitely recommend jumping into the wasteland at some point, it might be an idea to wait a little while so Bethesda can iron out some of the more glaring issues. At any rate, you’ll definitely find Bethesda’s signature awesomeness well represented here, and the game is likely to become an enduring classic.
Reviewed on PS4