Bethesda once again set us free into the wasteland.
The launch of Bethesda’s Fallout 4 was, in my mind, one of the most anticipated events of the year. It has been a while since Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, and players like myself were just itching to shun their normal lives and once again explore a familiar post-apocalyptic wasteland. That familiarity runs through Fallout 4, making it very easy for fans of the series to simply slip back into their roles. But alongside that familiarity is a whole host of new features, both big and small, that make Fallout 4 the incredibly impressive game that fans knew it would be.
In a series first, gameplay actually begins before the nuclear bombs start falling, giving players a glimpse of the alternate 1950s. Players begin by staring into a mirror and creating their character. The options are vast and include the choice of either a male or female hero along with all manner of different customization options. Players will then get to assign their points to the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats, which in many ways will be dictated by how they want to play.
As the player progresses through the game, they will earn experience and level up, being awarded with points that can be assigned to either the stats or to perks in the new perks system. Here, players will have access to a selection of different perks depending on their S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stat points, making that initial assignment of points all the more important for creating the type of character you want to play.
Anyway, once the character creation is complete, the player will be able to get acquainted with their family, including a partner, small child and robot butler. In an impressive feat, the main character is fully voiced now. No longer the silent protagonist, the incredibly varied dialogue options available to the character are much more enjoyable to follow. As with the rest of the game, the player has multiple choices in how they talk or respond to NPCs and are quite free to be kind and helpful or sarcastic and downright nasty. Adding the protagonist’s voice to this creates a much more significant bond between the player and their character.
Back to the idyllic pre-fallout life, the player can get to know their family a bit before a knock on the door reveals that the family has been pre-selected for admission to a local Vault-Tec vault in the event of nuclear fallout. It really couldn’t have come at a better time, as within moments, the bombs start falling. A quick run to the new, experimental vault will see the player being locked into some type of cryogenic sleep chamber, opposite their partner and child. However, something is amiss and the player wakes up alone some couple of hundred years later, left with a main story quest that is compelling and surprising as it twists and turns its way through the wasteland.
The player emerges from the vault to a whole new world. Familiar places are now left derelict and destroyed, strewn with rubbish. In fact, a lot of that rubbish can be collected up by the player and used. Fallout 4’s crafting system allows the player to breakdown all of the strangely regular items they gather into materials, which can then be used to craft various items or even modify their weapons. The variety of weapon mods really is quite impressive. Even the power armour, which becomes available much earlier in the game than would be expected, can be modified if the player has the right materials.
But the crafting doesn’t stop there, as players can now take the crafting to the max and build up settlements. This side of the game is fairly optional, which is handy as not everyone will want to spend their time building up and improving or defending settlements, but it is also quite compelling. The player is given an impressive freedom to create their settlements, with everything from beds to defensive features, and as more settlers arrive, the player will find themselves having to worry about expanding the amount of shelter, and ensuring there is plenty of food. It is not the most fluid aspect of the game though, being quite fiddly and time consuming, but players who are thus inclined will welcome this additional feature.
Still, aside from the various gathering and crafting activities, the player will find an abundance of other things to do in the wasteland. Almost every inch of the map will have something new to discover, some new place to explore or some new threat to overcome. There are plenty of different side missions to pick up along the way, leading to more exciting rewards. Players will also pick up companions through their journey, with Dogmeat the dog being an early companion that will aid the player. There are also various factions that the player can throw their hat in with, all of which offer different missions and rewards. Fallout 4 is a game that will easily take the player more than 100 hours to fully play through.
Of course, players will not get far before they have to fight for their lives against the many threats that the wasteland holds. The V.A.T.S. system returns, but in Fallout 4 time is only slowed when targeting specific points on an enemy, rather than being fully paused, making using the system a much more considered choice. However, it is now a much easier choice to work through the game without even using the V.A.T.S. system, with the gunplay being so improved. While the V.A.T.S. system depends on your characters stats for success, free aiming is much more down to the players’ own skill, and the fact that firing a weapon is much less clunky than it used to be in the previous Fallout games, makes using the massive variety of weapons in Fallout 4 a joy. The tweaked combat allows Fallout 4 to compete much more favorably with other modern shooters.
Where Fallout 4 doesn’t compare so favorably with other modern games is in the visuals. It was mode very clear from the beginning that the visual side of things was much less of a priority than the gameplay, so it should be no surprise that Fallout 4 looks like an updated version of Fallout 3. Compared to modern games, such as the stunning Star Wars Battlefront, Fallout 4 is a muddy mess. But the strange thing is, once you actually invest in the game, you don’t even notice how last generation the game looks.
What you will notice though, are the bugs and glitches. Bethesda games are known for being glitchy at launch, and Fallout 4 is no different. Gamers have almost become used to the glitches, many of which are actually quite funny. But it still remains that Fallout 4 contains plenty of strange graphical glitches, frame rate slowdowns and other bugs that will need to be fixed as time goes on. That being said, I personally feel that Fallout 4 is perhaps less buggy than the previous Fallout games, so that’s a good thing.
Despite the bugs, which are mostly worthy of a chuckle, and the visuals which you don’t even notice after a while, Fallout 4 is an incredible game. The game doesn’t make massive strides over the previous titles, with an overwhelming familiarity despite the new features. But the proof is in the playing, and once you start exploring the wasteland, it is very difficult to stop. There is always something new to discover in Fallout 4, making it one of the most packed open-world games I have ever played. While it may not quite manage game of the year, it is certainly a contender, and an essential purchase for any Fallout fan.