This review was published in The Student. Issue: Tue, 19 January, 2016.
Some Things Never Change
Fallout 4 is a huge game. It’s nigh-on impossible to sum it up in one small article, but its scale is one of the game’s strongest selling points. The world of Fallout 4 is so vast, so detailed, and so engaging that it swallows up your time like a newborn baby, and even then there is always more to be accomplished within its world.
Bethesda’s latest offering is essentially an RPG set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Boston, USA, known as the Commonwealth. Before the bombs fell, certain individuals were able to gain shelter within underground vaults, and you play as a self-styled character who emerges from Vault 111. Upon emerging from the vault, it is instantly clear that the pre-fallout world is no more, and what was once called your home is now but a shell of its former glory.
"Given the subject matter, it's perhaps ironic that the game's standout feature is just how alive the world feels."
Given the subject matter, it’s perhaps ironic that the game’s standout feature is just how alive the world feels. The apocalypse may have wiped out entire species, or any inkling of life as we knew it; monuments of culture stand only as a reminder of past glories, and former ideas of institution may have entirely elapsed, and yet the world feels so alive in its own anarchical skin that it’s impossible to not be submerged within the world which it provides.
Fallout 4, however, is not perfect. Released exactly five months after its initial announcement, the game has set something of a precedent for how games might come to be released, and it stands as a beacon of forward thinking marketing. That said, the game does not always feel like a forward thinking, current-generation game. Both in how it looks and plays it feels closer to a late PS3 game than PS4, and it’s visibly obvious in its rough edges, mechanical NPCs (and I’m not just talking about the synthetics), and often lackluster side quests. Bugs and small glitches, something with which Bethesda has regrettably become synonymous, are once again aplenty, but thankfully none of them seem to be game-breaking.
"A new addition is the ability to create and manage settlements, which is simultaneously engrossing and frustrating in equal measure."
Customisation still maintains a significant role with weapons and armour upgrades still accomplished through workshop use. A new addition to the game is the ability to create and manage settlements, which is simultaneously engrossing and frustrating at the same time. On console, at least, this aspect is just too fiddly for its own good, and explanations are incomprehensibly vague and brief, which hinders the success of this initially exciting addition. Attribute upgrades have been altered, with perks and upgrades all visible within a single table that is apparently intended to simplify the process, but which actually appears quite overwhelming instead.
Whilst ostensibly an RPG, and these elements remain as strong as ever through constant streams of quests and customisation options, this is perhaps the first time that Fallout can also be played as an FPS. In previous titles, Fallout has lacked the accuracy and fidelity needed to be played as a shooter, but this has been somewhat rectified with this release. Weapon stats feel like they really mean something, and upgrades accomplished through pickups on scavenging expeditions create significant alterations to how weapons both look and feel. Whilst I would never consider this to be as fluid as something like Star Wars Battlefront, the game is finally playable as a shooter, and the assisted targeting system can now be somewhat sidestepped instead of wholly relied upon like in previous iterations.
The main quest line of the game is also something of a disappointment, and the eventual conclusion, at least for me (there are multiple different endings), was a little anticlimactic. Side quests are also often lacking imagination, although one or two of them had their merits. The real draw of Fallout 4 is the world it gives you to play within. In terms of narrative the game, for me, fell flat; but, in terms of the sandbox world it provides, this game truly excels. The world really does feel like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and its up to you to succumb to the anarchy or bring back some order. If only the narrative had allowed me some closure, I might have truly loved this game.