War never ends.
How far will you go to take revenge on those who took everything from you? To what extremes will you venture to, in order to make things right? When nuclear destruction destroys everything you knew, and the evil hearts of man strip the most precious things you have left from you, how will you react? Will you help the world rebuild to stand proudly once again? Or will you strike out to cleave out place for yourself, and only yourself?
These questions can only be answered by one person, and one person only… you.
I heard more buzz about Fallout 4 than I did about any other release during this amazing time to be a gamer (November 2015). We had Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Fallout 4, AND StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void coming out at the SAME TIME! I didn’t even realize the former and the latter had released with all the media going crazy about Fallout 4!
(Yes, I didn’t see any of the ridiculous Mountain Dew and Doritos Black Ops 3 commercials until after it released. No, I don’t live under a rock. Seriously… it’s a boulder, at least. Give me some credit.)
Crazy hype like that is a double edged sword—if it doesn’t live up to the hype, then it goes down in history as a blemish on both the publishers’ and the developers’ track record. But if it does, then we have our *insert year here* Game of the Year recipients, and it truly shines as a glorious achievement of gaming greatness.
The question remains—which one is Fallout 4? Does Bethesda still have what it takes compete? Or has the hype train taken off but totally derailed?
I’d venture to say that it’s traveling out of control at breakneck speeds, but it hasn’t derailed. Let me tell you why.
First off, is it buggy? Yes, it has its fair share of quirks. Is it broken? Absolutely not! I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Bethesda released the perfect game (even if I had to patch immediately before playing, even though I preloaded like the rest of the world, insinuating they were ready to solve such issues prior to the U.S. release). Are any of these quirks game breaking? No, not really. Enemies falling through the ground make for great laughs, as do funny camera placements in conversations giving us insight into what really makes Codsworth (your trusty Mr. Handy 3000, made by the one and only Vault-Tec) tick on the inside. It honestly feels like it adds a little bit of character to the game, as these types of minor glitches are typical Bethesda release ones. It gives it a familiar feeling to those who were there in the wings for Fallout 3 or Skyrim. It’s just a matter of time before the memes arrive. And I can’t wait for them!
Next, let’s go with graphics—the big hot topic of gaming these days. What is everyone talking about right now? Are Fallout 4’s graphics an improvement over Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, or simply a modern take on the “pallet switching” we’ve seen in the 16- and 8-bit days of yore?
As someone who played New Vegas and Fallout 3 religiously, both maxed out vanilla and modded to the teeth, I can tell you this isn’t a simple pallet swap. Yes, Fallout 4 does have a much more vibrant color scheme than its predecessors. That’s clear enough by character creation and the introduction sequence of the game. Even after the apocalypse happens, there’s still plenty of vibrancy to be had. Bethesda really went more for an artistic approach to life after the bombs dropped, rather than the immersive “survival simulator grey and brown” that the earlier titles adopted. I personally dig it—it gives me something interesting to keep my eyes on no matter where I go, and that keeps me more immersed than if I was in a more realistic (read as: “drab and dirty”) looking environment. Enemies, NPCs, and outfits have all been remastered in a more saturated and brightened way, almost in a way that gives us a sense of hope that all is not lost when, in reality, all has very well been lost in the instantaneous flash of nuclear fission.
From a 3D perspective, I felt the world and characters (enemies, player character, and non-player characters) that inhabit that world are done very tastefully and as close to realistic as could be possible while still maintaining the art direction. Everything looks as if it belongs, and does maintain a precarious balance between being outdated and being realistic for a modern AAA title. I most noticed the improvements in the environment and held gear. The intricate level of detail in redesigned weaponry, and the Pip-Boy, really let the graphic developers flex their chops. High levels of detail have been paid special attention to, truly bringing gear alive. I especially had fun watching the mini-gun heat up red hot, and the laser muskets look great simply being held. Explosions look and feel fantastic as well as the good old gore (gets into V.A.T.S and land some critical hit deathblows to really get the gibs flying in glorious close up slow motion).
Oh, did I mention Power Armor not only looks absolutely gorgeous, but plays even better? More on that later, promise.
Story wise, I have to admit, I’m only a few hours in, let’s call it something like… “in the interest of avoiding spoilers.” Yeah, that sounds good. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I will only say that I was pleased with the outset of the story. It set the world, and let us see a part of the world we don’t normally see, which is before the war and before the vaults. That’s all I’m going to say.
I really enjoyed that introduction segment, as it help set the tone for what the world was before it all went to hell in 2077. Something yet seen only through dialogue and diaries in the Fallout franchise. The chaos that the U.S. felt as the first bombs fell, and how completely prepared the world felt it was for the madness—yet, it still fell into an absolute chaotic wasteland. No matter what measures were taken to maintain the status quo of life before destruction, having to adapt to a brave new world was the only way to survive, saying all kinds of things about fate, destiny, and inevitabilities—but that kind of Inception talk can be saved for another time. I’m sure the rest of the story will follow suit with the introduction, as will many (if not all) of the side stories that Fallout is so known for.
Gameplay wise, in order to get through this with my sanity intact (which is hard to do right now—my hands are shaking from Fallout 4 withdrawals, and I’m really hoping it’s not radiation poisoning, ‘cause I’m all out of Rad-X…), we’re going to split this up into the two major “modes” that Fallout 4 involves.
The first is what the franchise is known for—first person exploration, looting, solving the worlds’ problems in however you choose to, and wanton murder (somewhere between those last two—the proverbial “line in the sand” is a little hard to draw at times—technically murdering someone who has a problem alleviates them of said problem, right? RIGHT?!). Much of this gameplay is just about what you’d expect from a modern entry in the Fallout franchise. Pip-Boy serves as your menu, and you’re involved in searching in first (or third) person to find people to talk to for quest opportunities (remember, NPCs are friends… not food…), find items to aid you on your travels, and simply slaughter any enemies who stand in your way with your choice of weapon. Melee, conventional, and energy based weapons all abound in the wasteland, so you are left to your own devices to decide how to remove obstacles in your path to complete whatever it is you are trying to complete at that given minute.
Some tweaks have been made to combat and exploration, which I feel are solid improvements. Let’s look at a few.
V.A.T.S, or the stop-action mode that allows you to spend Action Points (AP) to fire your weapon at specific zones of your enemies’ bodies, and watch the carnage ensue in slow-mo, cinematic bullet time, has been sped up. You have less time to strategize and plant your shots, as enemies are still moving more quickly than in the previous entries. I have yet to be hit by a close up enemy while placing my shots, however, I’d imagine that you’d likely get reverted to real time if you’re still diddling with the system when a strike connects. The satisfying crunching, popping, gibbing (yes, it’s a verb now), and exploding sounds are all still there, as is the highly graphic cinematography, so there’s lots to love there.
You also are given companions earlier in the story—namely your trusty canine companion, and Codsworth. I’m sure others are out there, but this brings one of my favorite elements of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain to Fallout 4, which is pretty damn cool. As much as I’m sure you read that sentence and thought, “Holy crap, I get to Fulton balloon my enemies out of existence?” (and trust me, I wish that was the case), no, I’m not talking about the Fulton Recovery System, I’m talking about the Buddy System. And no, not the one that is about taking a friend to the bathroom with you so you don’t get lost. Grow up already, will ya?
Having a companion not only helps out with combat or locating things (as you can give commands to your companion), but also brings a sense that you’re not alone. You’ve got someone or something watching your back, out there in the same crapstorm that you are, and has just as much to lose as you do if something goes wrong. The camaraderie is certainly there, even if you aren’t the kind of person to get feelings for inanimate objects or digital creatures. And if you are, trust me, what you do on your own time is your own business. I don’t want to know. All I know is I dig this system, and it helps make the game feel more like an I Am Legend style survival adventure with a twist, rather than a “survive the nuclear holocaust simulator.”
Now, for those who crave nothing but power, the Power Armor is more than just a piece of gear in your inventory this time. It’s more like a vehicle that you ride in, which changes your interface and abilities significantly. Pieces can be broken, and heavier gear can be wielded, such as a minigun. The Power Armor, however, is with limitations. It runs on fusion cores, which must be replaced as needed for the suit to function. Parts need to be repaired at a crafting station if damaged or broken, so you won’t be riding around in this badass set of armor all game long—only when you really need to, or you find an unlimited supply of fusion cores in the wasteland somehow. The level of detail down to your interface, HUD, HUD color change, and even your voice modulation during conversations is staggering. The Power Armor is something else in this entry, and something I plan on dabbling in a LOT as I get further on. Normal weapons can be used as well (big tip for first time players when you first get into your suit of post-apocalyptic knighthood).
Beyond that, weapons are modifiable right in the vanilla game. No modifications to the game necessary. The system seems pretty robust, but I’ll admit, I haven’t gotten enough gear or skill to make or use anything special yet. I’m really excited though—you can rename items too. I can finally live my dream of creating a legendary set of weapons that perform exactly the way I want them to (within reason), and help cater to my different styles of play.
On that note, we should delve into the second “mode” that I am completely, totally, and surprisingly addicted to (as are a few other players I’ve seen out there). Crafting/building mode. Yes, you read that right. No, it’s not just a craft a few items to get by kind of thing. This is a full-blown, robust building and crafting system. At some point early in the game, you will get access to a slew of crafting stations, allowing you to make weapons, armor, and other relevant gear. While not necessarily new, it’s truly in depth and fun, rather than mundane. More importantly, things are actually useful! It’s not a side gimmick or addition here—you’ll need to craft to improve yourself more often than not.
Build mode, however, is where I’m currently feeling the most alive. Around the same time as getting access to the work benches, you will also be able to essentially rebuild a settlement of your own, provided you have the necessary quests completed and possibly reputation. I haven’t gone far enough to get more than one or two locations available to me, but, it’s crazy! You can go into build mode and salvage tons of resources from homes and buildings destroyed by the bombs that went off in The Commonwealth. I mean, literally, entire piles of rubble, lamps, broken furniture, all of it can be scrapped for materials, and new things be built. Yes, that includes houses, furniture, and so on.
Are these things merely aesthetic? Absolutely not! There are quests involving needs for the settlements, such as food to be grown, water to be welled for, beds and homes to be built, power generators and wires run to power electrical components, etc. If you played Fallout Shelter, imagine it in 3D, and above ground, and you’ve basically got a tiny fragment of what Bethesda has accomplished with this mode. It’s truly amazing how large the scope is, and I’m enjoying every damn second of it. To get personal, I was streaming with all intentions of doing exciting stuff—exploring, killing, questing, and some crafting. Halfway into the stream, I realized I had spent several hours just scrapping stuff and rebuilding my first settlement. Several. HOURS.
The sound is pretty much par for the course. Old timey radio stations play time pieces to help build the ambience of the pre-war environment—the era that the world never left culturally when the sky was alit for the last time. Sound effects are about the same as previous entries. Voice acting, however, has taken a huge step up with the animations of characters’ faces. It’s not quite L.A. Noire, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, or Heavy Rain, but it’s getting better and better. I felt a connection with the characters I interacted with, and I expect that connection to grow on me significantly in the countless hours I’ll be putting into this title.
It really is that good ladies and gentlemen. The hype is mostly real, and I’m sure this one will go down in the books as a piece of greatness from Bethesda. Honestly, it truly is. Now, stop reading this review, and go buy it. Seriously, go. Get your wallet out, and go to Steam, and pick the bloody game up, now! Or go to GameStop, BestBuy, Amazon, whatever. I don’t care where, just go get it and start playing it.