With a game that’s been snowballing hype since its announcement in June, Fallout 4 has a lot to live up to. A game that gets overhyped and fails to deliver will go the rout of Evolve, which has developed a nasty mutation that made everyone forget about it after it was released. An overhyped game can cause backlash spanning years out, like how Unity’s botched launch caused Syndicate’s initial sales to be lower than expected. I decided to avoid reading or watching too much about the game to avoid the hype train. And after trekking through the wasteland for over forty hours, I can now safely say that I was thoroughly surprised by Fallout 4.
I had never really been drawn into the Fallout series. I own both Fallout 3 and New Vegas, and while I found the titles interesting, they never held interest. They became those games that I’d think about playing once in a while, play for an hour, then just stop. Maybe it was the dialogue screen that looked like everyone was equal parts paralyzed and mentally challenged. Maybe it was the fact that Bethesda never really gave their own take on the wasteland setting, trying to meet fans of the originals and fans of Elder Scrolls-esque RPG’s halfway, with both having issues with the overall experience. Fans of the original Fallout games complain that the game isn’t like XCOM, and the latter group complain that there’s no magic or dragons. Things have changed with their latest iteration of the Wastelands. Fallout 4 finally feels like a game made by Bethesda.
The first thing I noticed about the game is that there’s no shitty dialogue screens with people’s faces staring at me through the TV like I’m the test subject of some creepy Orwellian experiment. Conversation feels more natural, with some actual camera work being done, and for the most part scenes with multiple people conversing in them have a proper flow to them. The days of being told nonessential information from someone with a severe lack of ADD are over.
However, they’ve changed the dialogue options menu from being at the bottom of the screen to being in the center of the screen. To make the menu smaller and less noticeable, the dialogue options have been dumbed down from the full dialogue option to just a few words, making some options very ambiguous. This can cause problems when picking one option over another. When I select the “sarcastic” comment, will I be jokingly or angrily sarcastic? As well, your character is now fully voice acted, which can be a bit weird at times. My character looks like he’s in his mid 60’s and has the voice of someone in their mid 30’s. There’s still some kinks in the system, but the overhauled dialogue and its delivery is definitely improved.
After a few light conversations, the game sends me to the character creator, which is pretty functional. It’s been simplified from “here’s a few thousand options to pick from a list” to molding your character using the D-pad and left and right sticks, making it easier to create the character you’re looking for. I went with a sort of Captain Picard look and aptly named him such. Codsworth came up, and in passing and completely voice acted, said “Come now, Picard. Sam is crying and seems to need a more…human touch.” Codsworth has over 1000 names voice acted, and the fact that Picard made the list made me giggle.
After you create what your character looks like, you then begin to add in your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points. The leveling up system is much more streamlined. With the elimination of skills, the game relies on a simple point system. Every time you level up, your character earns a point, which he can either spend on increasing a S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill or add a new perk. I decided to go with a charismatic and lucky character with a keen eye and the strength of a kindergartner with polio.
Then there’s a loading screen. They follow the same format that Skyim’s does: 3-D object that you can move around a black void with some quotes or tips. The loading times have now changed from being really long to being exceptionally long, so be prepared to get some reading done or get nostalgic of your Commodore 64 gaming days.
The plot opens up after you enter Vault 111 as what would charitably be described as a “guest.” You’re placed in cryo-stasis pods that are turned on about two-hundred years later, whereupon your wife is shot and your son is stolen. You wake up again ten years later due to the cryo-pods failing and go on a quest to save your stolen son. After strolling around the rubble that was my hometown, I found a dog, which the game has aptly named Dogmeat. This is Fallout 4’s first introduction to the companion system.
You can either go the lone wanderer route and have no one accompany you on missions or take a trusty sidekick with you. Dogmeat specifically can attack enemies, grab onto their arms while you shoot them off, hold items for you, or let you know that he’s found an item that you might want. While having a companion is useful for running around and shooting people, navigating corridors with the companion can be as troublesome as you’d expect. Even with the ability to tell them to move takes up too much time to be bother with, but having that extra set of muscle in a fight is a nice bonus.
As well, the karma system has been changed, as in it’s no longer existent. Instead, your companions will respond to things you do as either likes or dislikes. For example, when I hack a computer terminal with a companion named Valentine, a synthetic robot that enjoys breaking into computers and locks, he likes it. This might have something to eventually do with romancing people and such, but I haven’t gotten far into the companion system past Dogmeat, who does not judge me for things like stealing bottlecaps or acquiring an alcohol addiction.
Out I went into the Wasteland, and after wandering into the town of Concord, I immediately saved some travelers and a Minuteman by killing a bunch of raiders. Combat feels much smoother, and guns fire more reliably outside the V.A.T.S. system. As well, V.A.T.S. has had a bit of a change. V.A.T.S. now only slows down time rather than pausing time. This causes for quicker decisions to be made mid-combat instead of going on a coffee break and deciding on whether you should shoot their kneecaps out or give them the ol’ double tap to the skull. It helps keep tension high in fights, whereas before V.A.T.S. felt like a cop-out.
Radiation now has a direct effect on how much total health your character has, which is so much more simplified than whatever it did in the last few games. I’m pretty sure it had some odd effect on health and your other stats in past games, but it was so ambiguous that even after the few dozen hours of playing Fallout 3 and New Vegas, I couldn’t tell you how radiation affected you at all. As you gather radiation, a red bar starting from your total health causes your overall health to diminish. Other than that, combat’s been preserved from New Vegas and 3, with your plethora of drugs, broken limbs, and cramming down inhuman amounts of food in the middle of a firefight.
The Minuteman, who’s revealed his name as Preston, then tells me that a second wave should be coming for them, but what might save them is a full suit of Power Armor on the ceiling. Power Armor isn’t just a specialized armor piece anymore. They’re more reminiscent of an Iron Man suit, because revving one of them up makes you basically invincible. Until the Deathclaw comes to remind you of where humanity stands on the food chain in a post-apocalyptic world. The Power Armor is even powered by big batteries called fusion cores, and running out of them will cause you Power Armor to become a statue wherever it stopped. It’s now not just a cool piece of armor and is a unique asset to your combat arsenal. Using the Power Armor feels like it should be: big, clunky, but durable as hell and takes more shots than Marion Ravenwood.
After rescuing the travelers, they decide to move into your home town of Sanctuary. This is when the town building aspect begins. Players can now gather materials by breaking down everyday objects like coffee cups, telephones, and typewriters. With the parts they can create other objects to make your town just as you want it. Defenses, food, water, and bedding have to made, though, to keep settlers happy, and a radio tower can be placed that attracts other settlers to your settlements. This is the moment that Fallout can turn into Minecraft: Post-Apocalypse Edition. For my town of Sanctuary, I decided on building a wall around a fair bit of the settlement with turrets guarding the entrance in a way that would make Donald Trump’s toupee sing the Star Spangled Banner.
The base building is quite addictive, and it gives finding random items in the world a purpose. Maybe you’ll pick up a few coffee cups for the ceramic, or grab a telephone for the springs inside. You can even find magazines around that open up more objects to build. Later on, you can rescue more settlements around Boston to manage, creating an interesting scenario of constantly having something to do. After spending a half hour setting up some beds and housing in one town, I found another town needed more food, then another place had a few more settlers and needed another water pump. After a while, you could attempt to dedicate most of your time to fixing up your towns.
While you can create things such as Power Armor benches, weapon mods, houses, and generators for electricity, I did find it odd that you couldn’t create ammo from the weapons bench. The feature was pretty useful, and I doubt that the player character could create wind turbines and machine gun turrets, but couldn’t figure out how to make a 10 mm bullet. But the upgrading system for guns and armor is much easier to understand, as well as the addition of Power Armor-specific upgrades such as paint jobs and headlights.
The city of Boston has a nice tone to it. Whereas Fallout 3 felt very much like a generic wasteland, Bethesda has taken some keys from Obsidian on how to make a place feel like a ruined version of itself. Patriotic tunes play, reminders of America’s foundation can be found across the city, and comparisons to the “shot heard ‘round the world” and the “nuke heard ‘round the world” create an interesting parallel that tightens up the game’s atmosphere. The game looks impressive too. While not being a graphical powerhouse, the game looks and feels much more refined than its predecessors. It’s just a shame that they used all of the good songs in Fallout 3 and felt like repeating them. I know it’d be hard to ask Sinatra to write another song in this day and age, but I mean they could’ve not used every hit song from the 30’s-50’s on the first go. It still fits the atmosphere well
It’s hard to review Fallout 4. I mean, it’s supposed to have over 400 hours of content, and being only 42 hours into the game seems like a bit of a cop-out. But the changes and additions made to Fallout 4’s base mechanics have created the first game that feels like a genuine Fallout game by Bethesda. So I guess it does earn some of the hype it was given. We could have done with not having every other news article be about Fallout 4, though. It was like being the most passive stalker ever. But for once it’s nice to see a game live up to its own expectations, and Fallout 4 does this. Bethesda has taken a serious effort on revamping and tweaking a lot of the issues in past games and on improving the things that make Fallout 4 shine brighter than a nuclear blast.