Fallout 4 Review
In many ways Fallout 4 feels like coming home. While the wasteland in Fallout 4 is a different one to Fallout 3 and New Vegas the world is instantly familiar. The world of Fallout is a hostile, unforgiving, unwelcoming and miserable place. Filled with desperate people, super mutants and killer robots, the future created by a global nuclear war is a bleak one and yet it is one I love spending time within.
While the open world of Fallout 4 may not be the largest it is one of the most densely populated, filled to the brim with interesting places to discover and side quests to uncover. You are never short of things to do and amazingly few of these distractions or diversions feel like a waste of your time. Be it something mundane or Earth shattering, almost everything you do in this world feels like it means something to someone. It’s a testament to Bethesda and the quality of the worlds they create and how they constantly make you want to come back for more.
One of the things Fallout has always done wonderfully is balance the dire and depressing reality of a post apocalyptic world with the weird levity of a skewed 50’s inspired Sci-Fi future, it’s what sets the Fallout universe apart from other more self serious post apocalypses such as Wasteland 2. This is one of the big reasons you will find yourself wanting to return to the world again and again as you never know what odd, awful, hilarious or disgusting thing you might encounter next. Due in part to the world my character in Fallout 4 is a good guy, and while I almost always choose the nicest possible path he never feels saccharin in his delivery but more like a light shining on and illuminating the wasteland, bringing hope to the hopeless.
In general the dialogue, characters and story on display within Fallout 4 are an impressive step up from anything Bethesda have offered before. To me the narrative of Fallout 4 is easily the best main story Bethesda have ever crafted. I genuinely cared about what my character did and the impact it had on those around him throughout the game as many of your choices, allegiances and actions seem to carry a real weight. While the actual character models on display may not be the best and the lip syncing is still terrible, what they actually say, how they say it and the reasons for their actions have never felt more realistic or compelling.
It’s true that the people of Fallout 4 may be almost universally ugly (it’s a harsh world after all) but the environments can be beautiful and offer a variety I wasn’t expecting. In Fallout 3 the world was generally a bland desert, in Fallout 4 everything from irradiated craters to forests and sprawling cities are on display and the grandeur of these environments can make you feel truly small and helpless. While it’s clear Bethesda are still working with the same engine that Skyrim and Fallout 3 were made on, things such as lighting are vastly improved and really help to ground you in the world.
Customisation plays an even larger part in Fallout 4 compared to it’s predecessor. From the amazingly powerful and yet subtle character creation suite at the start of the game into the weapon and armour customisation and even the ability to create your own settlements. Everything is structured to make your Fallout experience a personal one. I absolutely loved the amount of agency I was given and spent hours improving my weapons and armour. In addition I had a lot of fun building settlements though I think I barely scratched the surface of the robust editor, it’s yet another rewarding diversion that tens of hours could be sunk into.
Everyone remembers that while they loved Fallout 3 the gunplay was shocking and was saved by the introduction of the VATS system (being able to aim and shoot in an almost turn based style manner). Without it combat would have been just about impossible. Thankfully Fallout 4 goes along way to becoming a competent shooter. When you have created your ultimate weapon you can effectively shoot it now, while it’s not Call of Duty accurate the weapon handling feels good (if not great) now and I found myself playing through quite a bit of the game completely ignoring the VATS system. Be warned though, ammo is a scarce commodity so be prepared to carry a few different weapons that use different rounds.
The gunplay feeling better is an important tweak as you will be spending a lot of time shooting the various enemies you will find within the Commonwealth (the Boston area on the East Coast of the US). Almost as much time as you will spend within the menus, this is after all still a Bethesda RPG. With the addition of settlement creation and the resources it consumes everything in the world now has value so you will want to pick it all up. Due to this managing what you are carrying is of utmost (and tedious) importance. The Pip-Boy interface while quaint and wonderfully in world starts to feel lacking in functionality at this point and I wish Bethesda moved away from it and created something more functional such as the interface used for Skyrim.
Above all else Fallout 4 is very much still a Bethesda RPG. Those of us who loved Fallout 3 will love Fallout 4, but some of the weird jank inherent with the engine and the style of RPG Bethesda creates can sometimes grate. Framerate problems are common, weird NPC and follower behaviour is expected and endured. One of my favourite bits of jank is how you can overhear NPC chatter from floors or many rooms away, like they are stood next to you. It’s odd that even with the myriad of issues this game can have, especially on console, much of it can be forgiven due to the ambition, scope and enjoyment to be had in the world that is so wonderfully created for us to inhabit.
I said it at the start of the review, playing Fallout 4 is me returning to a world I didn’t realise I missed. I put hundreds of hours into Fallout 3 and I will do the same with Fallout 4. Within this world I am a beacon of light in the irradiated darkness of the Wasteland. I am a saviour and a ruthless executor of wrong doers. I am a father and a leader, a man of the people risen up as their protector. I am part of the resistance struggling to save as many lives as possible. I am even a Lieutenant assisting my robot Captain on an ancient sailing ship. These are just some of the things I am in this wonderfully sprawling and diverse world and there are many many more things you might be. That is the beauty of this game, that is the wonder of Fallout 4.