Game Review: Fallout 4

Very few game franchises get me excited about gaming like Fallout does. While I am fairly new to the franchise, with Fallout 3 being my introduction to the series, I was completely blown away by it upon entering the Wasteland.  I was only able to get about half way through New Vegas before my 360 crapped out on me (destroying the physical disk in the process), but thoroughly enjoyed my return to that post-apocalyptic world. The unfortunate events surrounding the demise of my copy of New Vegas combined with the impending arrival of Fallout 4 pushed me into the Xbox One console – so hooray for silver linings…or something.

On to the review…

First off, the game plays (for the most part) like a dream. It has all the things I really liked about its predecessors with a noticeable improvement to the shooting mechanics. I’m not a huge FPS guy, but even I could feel how much better it was to shoot from the hip in this version than Fallout 3 or New Vegas.

V.A.T.S is still there and is still my favorite way to dispatch my enemies. It no longer stops time, but instead slows it way down, to allow you to target that Gunner’s legs while you’re taking bullets. I didn’t really notice that it impacted my gameplay very much, but I did feel like I had to hurry a little bit to limit the amount of damage I was taking while targeting foes. Another change is that you can no longer throw explosives in V.A.T.S. which took me a while to get used to. In many ways it makes sense that you can’t target grenades at moving…targets…but it resulted in a significant reduction in my use of grenades and the like. I would typically just give them to my companion to use.

The leveling up system is overwhelming – even more so than in 3 and New Vegas. I actually took time to look at ALL the skills and perks in a walk through to try to give myself a basic outline for my character. It seemed like, if I wasn’t organized in my approach and how I was applying my added skills and perks, I wouldn’t end up with the characteristics I wanted. Turns out, I was totally right – and wrong, at the same time. Yes, it helped to get organized to begin with, but I STILL wandered off and chose skills willy-nilly, because I lost track of my organizational approach. I’m not totally convinced it made a HUGE difference in my character, but I did have to work a little bit harder to get to where I wanted to go, skills-wise.

The settlement stuff was good, but not really my thing – mostly. Sometimes I would find myself building stuff to keep my settlements happy, but mostly I ignored them when I was notified that they needed help defending themselves. There is value to getting the Local Leader perk and setting up the supply chain between your settlements. Before I did this I spent a lot of time going back and forth between Sanctuary (my main dumping ground for loot) and the settlement I had to build stuff for. And the game doesn’t really TELL you how to do this. It’s not that complicated, but it’s not really explained at all – which would’ve been nice to know. But that might just be a personal issue.

The crafting sort of fell into the same category as the settlement stuff for me; So deep, and so cool, but so much of a time suck. It also didn’t seem like it was going to be THAT much of a benefit for me. I got a couple of guns I really liked early on, which were calibrated in a way that really fit my playing style, so I didn’t feel like I really needed to craft much. It does pay off more if you upgrade your Gun Nut/Armorer/Science perks as you can craft some fairly powerful upgrades. Although many of these you can find in the Commonwealth. It should be noted that when you find a weapon with mods, you can strip them off and put them on a different weapon. The same goes for armor as well.

Renaming weapons/apparel is really handy for keeping track of what you were wearing when you accidentally dump your currently worn apparel into your workshop, full of hundreds of OTHER apparel pieces. If you’re like me, you hoard everything you find, and it might benefit us to upgrade Local Leader perk in order to build shops to sell that crap and turn it into caps.

Decisions, Decisions…

There are points in the game where it feels like you have to choose between two factions, and the decision feels like it will have a definitive impact in the game – which is so cool. It’s like enjoying Freaks and Geeks. It’s so real, and awkward, that it’s enjoyable. At one point I put off a decision for 10-15 hours of gameplay because I was afraid of what it will mean in the game. Some decisions ARE impactful and others may mean nothing, but the fact that choice FEELS like it’ll have big impact is a really cool thing in a game.

The story itself sometimes gets lost in all of the side quests. I typically like to grind a little (a lot) throughout the story so as to make later fights in the game a little easier. With this game, it seems like you can wonder almost too far off the story path – so much so that you have a hard time figuring out how to get back on the story line quests. While I ran into this issue a little bit when I played Fallout 3, it seemed to be a much more significant issue (for me anyway) with Fallout 4. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – or entirely the fault of the game – but I definitely felt lost on occasion throughout the campaign. For me, this reduced the impact of the story itself – It didn’t mean as much when I got to the end, almost like it was anticlimactic. I felt a little disconnected from the result, which is kind of strange in a game with an outcome based on a series of decisions the player makes throughout the game.

Speaking of endings, I really would be interested in experiencing the different endings, but I can’t see investing another 50+ hours (per ending) to work through those. 115 hours in, I just can’t go back and play that through again, at least not any time soon. I AM looking forward to the DLC coming out over the next three months, but before that, I’m looking forward to taking a break.

The companions are pretty great. I’m one that likes to have someone else with me in battle – whether it’s to act as a decoy while I hide and snipe, or to have another gun to help take down a Deathclaw. It didn’t seem like the companions opinion of my actions varied much. I tend towards being a nice, helpful, good, person in games – who likes to pick locks and hack terminals. So, for the most part, everything I did, the companions liked (indicated on screen). Sometimes, if I didn’t act aggressively in conversation, Cait didn’t like it, but overall, if one companion liked it, the others did too. Each character eventually asks you to help them out, which leads to additional quests that give the characters a little bit more depth.

Technically speaking…

Fallout 4 is VERY pretty to look at. The Commonwealth, and the detail within, is at times breathtaking. While it’s glitch sometimes, the environments really sell the apocalypse. There are still some goofy animations (heads getting blown straight up in the air on a headshot) but the characters look great too. The rain and atmospheric stuff is really cool too – nothing looks creepier than your first nuclear storm. That green fog rolls in and the lighting starts and you feel like stopping to watch it – like you would a real thunderstorm, without the nuclear fallout…

Boy, are there a LOT of bugs. Quicksave is your friend – but don’t push any buttons until it’s completed. The game locked up on me more than a few times. Sometimes I wasn’t able to shoot, or I was able to shoot, but I couldn’t hit the target (even though I was unobstructed, 1 inch away). Sometimes I couldn’t pull a gun, or act. In these times, I had to find a bed and sleep to fix it. Nothing TOO major – and certainly not unexpected from Bethesda – but still annoying to have to think about. Certainly took me out of the experience from time to time.

Verdict: 9 (Great)
When it’s all said and done, Fallout 4 is a perfect extension of Fallout 3 (and New Vegas). It has everything its predecessors had and so much more. Sometimes it felt like a little too much more. The solid gameplay, fantastic looking environments, and passable story, outweighed any feelings of being overwhelmed in the Commonwealth and the plethora of minor, albeit annoying, technical issues. While I do need to take a break from the Wasteland, I am already looking forward to returning once the DLC drops later this spring.

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