War still hasn’t changed
Overhype is a dangerous thing, especially in this industry. Certain games and their developers are often subject to the public’s anticipation, heightening expectations to unbelievable reaches, which in turn, leads to a game’s downfall or success. Fallout 4 is the latest big release to have garnered everyone’s attention in the very short time its existence has been known. 2015 has had its share of AAA titles so far, many of which riding on a hype-train of their own, but none quite like this. Whether you’ve been a fan of the series since the original in the late 90’s or you’ve never played a Fallout game in your life, chances are you’ve probably been exposed to Fallout 4’s presence in the months, weeks, and days before its release. With that said, the most anticipated of 2015 is finally here; does it live up to the hype? Absolutely.
One would think that reviewing this game would prove to be a daunting task, based on the hype surrounding it and wrapping your mind around this being the very first “next-gen” open world Bethesda game. I found the case to be the opposite as this turned out to be one of the easiest reviews I’ve ever written. If you’ve ever played any of the excellent Bethesda games in the past 10 or more years, you already know most of what you’ll be expecting. Previous games like Skyrim and Fallout 3 are known for their massive open worlds (among many other things), and Fallout 4 is no different. Newcomers are in for a treat, but previous fans will feel right at home.
Fallout 4 feels and plays very similar to the franchise’s first foray into the last generation, Fallout 3. In fact, they’re so alike that it’s not at all a surprise that development into this game began almost immediately after the release of Fallout 3. That shouldn’t be taken as a negative. Taking what worked great then and improving on just about every aspect is the game’s biggest selling point. Something we haven’t seen before, however, is emphasis on giving the main protagonist a personality via hundreds of hours worth of dialogue. This resulted in the most in-depth main character we have ever seen in a Bethesda game and will likely be the standard from here on out. And it’s not just you, every character you come across speaks to you in a more realistic manner than we’ve seen before, and camera angles are positioned accordingly to give conversations a more natural feel. Long gone are the days of controlling a mute protagonist, as well as ugly and unnatural NPC’s awkwardly staring at you during conversations.
This new facelift to the series is a welcome new addition and fully showcased during the game’s opening. Another first for the series is not only giving you a glimpse of the world before the atomic attacks and nuclear war, but you also get to play in it. After you spend a ridiculous amount of time playing around with the impressive character creator, you’re given some freedom to look around your house and interact with a few characters, before going through some crucial story moments that take you from there to the eventual post-apocalyptic “retro future” we all know. Story has never been a huge incentive to play a Fallout game but here they do a really good job of implementing one into the character you’ll eventually play as and give you a sense of personal emotion to justify your actions and motivations. Being able to play in the modern, yet 50’s style “past” in the Fallout universe is something we’ve always wanted and here it is, even if briefly.
Then comes the fun. Once you’re out of the vault and step into the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Boston (here known as Commonwealth) then the hundreds of hours worth of gameplay are at your disposal. How you play the game in this massive map is up to you. Like the previous two games, side missions are aplenty and they’re where you’ll probably spend a majority of your time. It’s hard to finish just one without accidentally finding and triggering two more. Companions have returned, as well; the first of which being your trusty best friend “Dog Meat” who I found less useful once I started to meet other human companions. Having a dog who can fetch stuff for you is nice but I prefer another shooter next to me in battle.
If you were a fan of the V.A.T.S system, you’ll be happy to know it’s back and virtually untouched. There are some slight differences, but overall it’s the same exact system you’re used to. For those unaware, V.A.T.S provides an optional (and sometimes better) of using your weapons in battle. At the push of a button, the action slows down and you can pick out which of your enemy’s body part to target and a percentage shows you the hit ratio (always go for the head.) This targeting system can get repetitive, but depending on the situation, it could potentially save your life. However, it doesn’t necessarily make it a better option than simply aiming and shooting like in any other FPS. It simply offers an alternative, and you do have to deal with some frame rate drops that occur because of it. Speaking of weapons, everything you’d expect is there. Everything from baseball bats to plasma rifles to mini nuclear bomb launchers; weapon variation is still a plus. With that comes the new modding system, which lets you upgrade just about every weapon and piece of armor in the game. The amount of modding options can seem daunting at first, given the number of mods you can create for a simple handgun for example, but you slowly get used to the process, and I personally found myself modding my weapons almost after every side mission.
Other than adding more story and personality to the world, modding and crafting is the game’s other new overhaul of the series, and can be a time sink on its own. Almost immediately after completing your first mission, you’re given access to the game’s brand new crafting features via various workshops across the world. This is something they clearly wanted you to get accustomed to early on as you’ll be spending a lot of time with it. Personally, I’m a big fan of this new feature, as it turned the hundreds of junk you always find in the world into actual useful items. If you had a hard time dealing with item management in Fallout before due to weight restriction, just imagine what you’ll be dealing with now knowing that random toaster and carton of cigarettes are things you can use. Modifying a gun to fit your needs is a really cool feature that adds a lot of the game, and every mod you add drastically changes the look of your weapon as well. I haven’t even touched on the rest of the crafting mechanics. Besides your weapons and gear, you can take time and modify part of the world around you. Specific locations let you scrap your surroundings and change things around to your liking. Make houses, beds, add walls, radio towers, turrets, you name it. It’s not the best or most robust environment crafting system but it offers enough to keep you entertained for hours if you choose to.
Combine that with the level of exploration, and you have something you’re going to be playing for a long time. The devil is in the detail, and as soon as you boot up the game, you can clearly see the outstanding level of detail everywhere you look. I went into the game knowing almost exactly what to expect and that’s what I got, plus some nice surprises. There are plenty of bugs that you can run into but from my own personal experience, they are bearable enough to not mind them too much. Think of this game as an upgrade to the Fallout series, rather than an evolution, and you’ll find almost nothing wrong with it. Fallout 4 is an amazing open-world experience that every gamer needs to experience. It delivers on everything it promised and just a bit more.