Title: Fallout 4
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (reviewed on Xbox One)
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: Out Now
Price: $59.99/59.99 Euro
Tagline: A long awaited sequel lives up to the hype, with a dash of frustration around the edges
Family Friendly: Click here to read more
Verdict: Wait for a Sale
Standing in the middle of the wasteland of the Commonwealth, Zoey Allanah had been cast with a quandary. She had talked her way out of a gunfight with a mob boss and gained some intelligence with the kidnapping of her son, all positive things. But the girlfriend of the mob boss wanted me dead anyway and it had not happened against her wishes, leaving her running away from the scene of the ambush. Zoey could have ignored the woman and her desires to see me dead, but Zoey had been wronged, and in her eyes, justice had to be done, swift and quickly. And with that, Zoey dropped a handful of lead into the mob boss’ girlfriend and went about her way.
This, in a nutshell, is the core of what Fallout 4 is all about. The concept of the player making their own entertainment and narrative as they roleplay their way through the game. Sure, there is a plot that you can follow from start to finish, but the fun that you would expect from a Fallout game comes more from the one off instances that you find from exploring rather than the fixed story that has been created by Bethesda.
Of course, there is a story that you can follow if you choose to do, and it starts off with some intrigue and mystery as you and your spouse are whisked off to a vault to survive the bombs that start to fall from the sky, raining destruction upon humanity. As you come into the vault, you are played into a cryogenic slumber across from your spouse and child. Of course, nothing is that simple for family in Fallout games, and circumstances move you forward and on a quest to find your son who has been liberated from the vault into the Commonwealth.
As with most Bethesda games, the world of Fallout 4 is a huge open world endeavor that you can explore in full, digging into every nook and cranny to find adventure and story. It is a world that feels far more colorful than the last Fallout titles, using a full spectrum of the color palette. Gone is the drab brown and now we have blues, greens, reds and more. It makes exploring the world more pleasurable from a visual standpoint. You also have a full cast of NPC characters that you meet and interact with in this world, but unlike games released earlier this year, the characters don’t feel as alive and independent as they could be. Here, characters have static routines that are predictable and never quite go out of their patterns. There is a lack of dynamic interaction that one would want from a new generation of development, and it shows cracks in the formula for Fallout that can be irritating, even while you enjoy the exploration element of the world.
Combat is one of those items that comes to the forefront in Fallout 4 and improves greatly over its predecessors. As with before, you have two ways to interact with combat in Fallout 4 – the VATS system or in real time. The VATS system works as it has in previous titles, where you can super slow down the action in front of you and select your targets, picking specific body parts to shoot at. It allows for more precision in your combat, but does not always guarantee that a shot or hit will connect, as percentages based on skill come into play. Think of it as a checks and balance system so you don’t just spam VATS to work your way out of combat. VATS is also limited by primary skills, so you can only perform so many actions before having to wait for your action points to refresh. But the improved star of the show is the real time combat, where Fallout 4 can be played as a standard first or third person shooter.
While real time combat was available in Fallout 3, it was never a real option, as it was cumbersome and the controls were never quite ready to be used as a standard shooter. In Fallout 4, however, the shooting has been refined and cleaned up, allowing for one to play the game as a traditional shooter. Gone are the clunky controls and in are precision movements and aiming that make for a far superior shoot from the hip gameplay style. I found myself no longer using VATS as a combat crutch, and more often than not just using my skill to take down swaths of enemies.
New to the world of Fallout 4 is the idea of building settlements that you can develop from the ground up, attracting a populace that strengthens the community. In theory, the idea is sound, as you can envision groups wanting to find strength in numbers in an area that you can fortify. And you can build all sorts of structures and upgrades for these settlements. Beds, chairs, entertainment items and more are all accessible to you to build to encourage people to come to your settlement and to enrich their lives.
It sounds great, but in practice the building mode is a huge, hot mess of a gameplay mode. Fallout 4 drops all these tools on you and then gives you little to no instruction on how to actually go about using it. It is a baffling mess of menus that are halfheartedly explained or fleshed out leaving you wondering how to go about building things. I have built several structures and more in my initial settlement, but it was a struggle to get through the construction and it took the wind out of my sails having to stop and placate this one settlement. Worse is that you end up with several of these settlements, which expands the development nightmare if you engage in it. Thankfully, it can be mostly ignored, but there are a few missions that require you to interface with the building mode at times and it can be frustrating.
Frustrations also extend once again to the weird bugs and glitches that come with a game the size and scope of Fallout 4. Many times, we give Bethesda a pass on these items, looking at the size and scope of what they are trying to put together and say, things can happen, and this is true to some degree. But they have been developing these open world style games for so long now, that it seems like this excuse starts to lose weight. Why do I still have missions that just break with no real explanation? Or NPCs that will not give me quests even though I have clearly finished their previous quest? It is a chain of issues that has plagued Bethesda titles and I for one expected a new generation of tech and five years of development would have worked some of these issues out, but they are still there and they are no longer funny, but instead frustrating and annoying.
And yet with all the frustrations that I have found in Fallout 4, the core idea of making your own story is such a strong selling point that you find ways to look past the obtuse menu design and glitches that crop up far too often. Fallout 4 offers up a brand new are to explore that allows for one to make their own adventure and fun and that becomes the idea that makes the title enjoyable. Just be ready to be annoyed while enjoying the ride.
Brotherhood of Steel:
- Refined combat mechanics make freehand shooting more of a reality
- Large world for players to get lost in
- Creating your own story and narrative
- Easy to forget the main story which is not all that interesting
- The settlement building stuff is cumbersome and not fleshed out
- Chock full of glitches, which are no longer forgivable at this point in time
If you are a parent, you probably should not let your kids play Fallout 4. It is full of violence and misogyny, lacking any real sense of political correctness. Sure, it fits the mood of the world, but it does not make for a kid friendly outing. Plus, don’t forget the occasional person exploding into a puddle of blood and you have a game fit only for those over the age of 15-16 at best.
This review was prepared using retail Xbox One code purchased by reviewer.