Fallout 4 Review: Crawl Out Through The Fallout

fallout 4After a week of nothing but Fallout 4, I’ve finally arrived at a point where I am comfortable doing a review having finished the main story (for my chosen faction) and experienced most of what the game has to offer. There’s still some things that I have yet to devote a large amount of time into, such as building settlements, but I feel I’ve done enough with them to know where I stand.

Fallout 4 garnered a lot of hype since its announcement, and has pretty much become the only game being talked about, despite Rise of the Tomb Raider releasing the same day (and from what I hear it’s pretty damn good too). However, the thing about games and gamers in recent years is that hype tends to get misplaced, and usually ends in disappointment. Thankfully that’s not the case here, as Fallout 4, while flawed by modern standards, is what long time fans of the series have been hoping for.

fallout-4-screenshot-nukeYou play as the man, or woman, out of time. When you start your epic journey, you don’t find yourself sitting around a vault, but in a world before the bombs fell, living a normal life with a family and a place to call home.  As soon as you start, you’re creating your character, and how you create both will change how your child will look too. This is where my character, Boobies, was born… If you expected better from me, then you don’t know me well enough.

For the first time in the series (and you can include The Elder Scrolls in this) your character is fully voiced. While you don’t get to choose from a variety of different voices, it doesn’t really matter. Both male and female are extremely well acted, and that same quality of voice acting can be found on NPC’s too, which is very important from an immersion level.

Without giving too much away of the plot, A vault-tec representative comes to your door, seemingly knowing far more than the rest of the world, and gets you a spot in the vault. Sound lad… Then, minutes later you find yourself running through the neighbourhood getting to said vault, passing the unlucky few who are not given access, including the vault-tec representative that stood just at your door. Long story short… Big boom, goes in vault, cryogenically frozen,  spoiler stuff, wakes up years later to find themselves hundreds of years in the future in everyone’s favourite post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Fallout4_MinigunKill
For a normal person, the realization of where they find themselves would be enough to break them. But this is a game, and you’re the hero, so you just accept it and 10 minutes later start melting raiders with miniguns as if you’ve killed thousands before.

The game is set in Boston and surrounding area, which has been mentioned somewhat in Fallout game lore in the past, so if you paid close attention through Fallout 3 and New Vegas you’ll have some idea of what the situation is before going in. Even before it’s announcement, a friend who lives and breaths Fallout (Kevin no.2) and I discussed these finer details, and pretty much nailed it.

The plot heavily involves a group known as The Institute, who, for the most part, are considered the greater evil in the commonwealth. The story gives you a great reason early on to despise them, for both personal reasons and how they have made the vast population fear them. They are a very different group compared with those of the past, like the Enclave or Legion. While most other factions in the Fallout Universe focus on war and fighting, The Institute are more like the commonwealth version of the bogeyman, with many even questioning their existence, relying heavily on fear and paranoia to further their goals from the shadows.

They are by far the most technologically advanced group in the wasteland that we know of, and seem somewhat heavily influenced by Terminator’s Skynet. Why? Because the majority of The Institute are not humans, but synthetics, which have progressed to the point where they’re indistinguishable from humans. Some even integrate within wasteland societies to help spread that fear and paranoia as humans are kidnapped and replaced without anyone noticing.

fallout_4_synth_striderIt gives a great base for the story to build on, because before you know what you’re even doing, you know what you’re up against, and from here it only gets better, with a great story that includes a twist I didn’t see coming a mile off. Hell, being a veteran Bethesda Game Studios player, I wasn’t even expecting a decent story… when did they get good writers?

Outside that, it’s what you’d expect from a Fallout game. A vast open-world RPG with a focus on questing, looting and killing stuff. Though, while at its core it remains the same, they actually made a lot of changes, mostly for the better.

Combat has been improved on significantly, allowing traditional FPS or Third Person Shooting gameplay to be a far more viable option, and in most cases preferred. Before, V.A.T.S. was the primary way of dealing with enemies, but now I only ever used it when absolutely necessary. Previously V.A.T.S. froze time allowing you to carefully plan your shots with no pressure, but this time instead of freezing time it just slows down, meaning you have to make choices more urgently as enemies rush in for an attack or about to hide behind cover. The values are constantly changing too, meaning you can hold a shot until the values increase to a level you’re comfortable with, or vice versa; they could be moving away, decreasing your chances. Because of this, V.A.T.S. is reserved until absolutely needed, like when there’s flying enemies that are difficult to hit normally, or when a suicide Super Mutant is rushing your direction, mini-nuke in hand.

As said, regular combat has been improved on significantly, though still isn’t as sleek as a more focused FPS, which is to be expected. Regardless, I am glad that it was improved upon as the V.A.T.S. system has never been something I particularly enjoyed, even with the improvements.

fallout-4-screenshots-6I think a large reason for the general improvement to combat comes down to the weapons, which carry a large degree of customisation. While you might not be someone too into modding your weapons, even guns looted can carry mods, and legendary weapons can also be improved on massively, giving the Gun Nut and Science perks a high priority for most players. The difference between base weapons and the fully modified versions can be staggering, and in later levels absolutely necessary to be a wasteland badass. Armor can be modified in the same way, though I didn’t feel it was as important as weapon modifications unless it was to Power Armor.

What I find amazing is how valuable junk has become due to this. That junk is no longer picked up to merely be sold to your nearest vendor, but is now a primary resources for creating mods and building your settlement, which makes perfect sense in a post-apocalyptic setting where everything gets re-used. Never before has a game made me shout “FUCK YEAH” for finding a typewriter, or a desk fan, because screws are the rarest resource known to man. Most vendors even sell shipments of certain resources, and can cost a pretty penny, but once you have the caps you’ll have no problem forking out 2,000 of them for a handful of 25 circuits.

On the subject of junk, companions are still about as useful as a talking cardboard box, in that they are only good for putting things in, and being a bullet sponge. Their AI is about as thick as walls that line Vault 111, unable to walk in a straight line, stay out of the way, or avoid a trap before I get the chance to get close enough to fecking disarm it, causing my guts to decorate the nearest tree. People say, “just give them orders”, but even then it takes about half the day for it to register the fact I’m talking to them, and often start walking away mid fucking conversation. Like seriously! That said, they do provide good company, as they actually have stories and personalities attached to them, and as they start to like you, they give you items and sometimes quests. You can bang them too! While it’s definitely a step up, they’re still drooling idiots who make me question whether or not it’s morally okay for me to be pursuing a relationship with them, in the fear that I’m taking advantage of their trust in me. Also, send Dogmeat to the doghouse as soon as you find a more talkative companion. He’s nowhere near the same level as DD from Metal Gear Solid V, so stop asking who’s better, internet! DD has a tiny knife he uses to kill people!

Dogmeat vs DD
DD is the better dog… there’s no argument!

For the most part, enemies remain the same with the addition to synths, but with greater variation in types and how they act. Radiation is also a more persistent threat, as it affects how much health you have and there are many more ways in which to gain it. One of these is by feral ghouls who have become far more dangerous a foe in the early levels. They pour out from under cars, through the walls and holes in the ceiling, then when close they burst into a sprint and jump at you making them a little terrifying at first, especially with how they are designed. It doesn’t help when each hit they deal not only does HP damage, but deals radiation too. The radiation permanently reduces health, which is a pain early in game when radaway isn’t too common, but later in the game it becomes a minor issue. The most feared enemy, Deathclaws, are just as brutal as before, if not more so, and their design drives home the fact they can rip you clean in two. Radscorpions are more of a threat too, and rarer, as they bury themselves underground to avoid your fire and pop up under your feet making you shit your pants.

The commonwealth is colourful, but maintains the look of an irradiated wasteland, with dynamic weather effects like radiation storms being both beautiful and deadly. The map is a bit smaller than most would have expected, however the world is very dense. While it may only take about 10 minutes to walk from Vault 111 to Diamond City, there is a lot to see in-between,  making the journey feel a lot more epic than it has any right to be… plus mines and ferals scatter Lexington so you’ll have to take your time anyway.

Ul3m-rkkTNzG.840x0.Vdef9KkmLevelling up is always exciting, as the perk system is much better now too. When you level up you have access to a lot of the perks immediately as they now also have multiple levels too. What perks you can build depend on where you put your points into the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats, but it doesn’t limit you to that as you level those stats up also, which allows you some breathing room early on while you decide how to build your character. The one criticism I have of the levelling system is how the tree is built itself. It’s difficult starting off to find the perks you want to level up, and can easily miss them. Simply having the name of the perk under the images could have fixed that pretty quickly as people can find what they are looking for much faster. Thankfully, there is no level cap, so if you get a perk you didn’t want, all you lose is a bit of time as you can upgrade everything anyway. Bonus perks can also be found in the wasteland too, in the form of books, often opening up new options and boosting stats.

While there’s some well fleshed out quests, that are both tied in with the story or have value within themselves, there is a larger focus on repeatable quests that have you doing essentially the same thing over and over for your settlements or factions, like “clear this area of raiders” or “find the DIA cache.” While they are good early on to get some caps, XP and filling out the map, after a while you are essentially doing the same thing, visiting locations you’ve already been to, and they get boring pretty quickly. That said, there’s a lot of quests, but I felt more inclined to do them immediately. I’ve never let quests pile up, and because of that I rarely forgot what they were about, and who they were for.

Fallout-4-Build-and-Manage-Your-Settlement-Guide1One of the biggest additions to Fallout 4 is building your settlements, though I haven’t spent a lot of time with that just yet. That said, there’s a lot that you can do with it, and if you’re someone who enjoys that kind of thing then this should be right down your alley. The only problem I really had with it was the controls, as it’s difficult to see where you’re building, and how it looks as you progress. For the most part though, it’s an excellent addition to the series, and could be a game in its own right.

Now, being a Bethesda Game Studios title, there’s one thing that there’s no short supply of, and that’s bugs (I don’t mean radroaches). The thing is, somehow their games get away with it because the games are such a high quality otherwise. It’s nothing like Arkham Knight or Unity, where the bugs would be an annoyance and often devastating to the experience, despite the game being full of them. However, this has become an accepted fact among Fallout and Elder Scroll titles, often considered part of their charm. It goes to show how great the games are that people would be so willing to put up with them, because without them the production value is clear, as every aspect of the game was clearly well thought out and worked hard on.

Performance on the PC version is pretty good too, though I have suffered from some frame-stuttering when things got a little chaotic. From what I am aware, a new driver is out for AMD users to help fix that. Outside that I’ve been running on Ultra settings with a few small liberties taken due to my somewhat older GPU, but I am very impressed by what my XFX AMD 7970 could still do. Of course, Bethesda make sure their games run well on a large variety of machines, and they tend not to be great lookers either, but Fallout 4 definitely passes on most counts. Its lighting, which was one of the biggest updates in the new engine, is a large reason as to why it looks good.

Fallout 4 building vault boy pixel artFallout 4, in my opinion, is the best in the series so far. It takes all the best aspects from Fallout 3 and New Vegas, improves on them, then adds its own finishing touches. I think it’s even better than Skyrim and Oblivion too, despite me preferring the Elder Scroll series as Fantasy RPG’s are my favourite genre.

Even as I wrap this review up, currently sitting on 2,530 words (before probable edits), there’s so much more I could talk about, like the literal mini-games that can be played on your Pip-Boy, defending settlements, the cities, the characters and factions, but that could be another 2,500 words, and I just want to play more of it.

There’s a lot of changes that some fans might be questioning, but they make the game better than any Fallout before. It’s scrupulous, permissive, entertaining, cheerful, imaginative, absorbing and lasting. It’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L…. See what I did there?

FINAL NOTE: This review was done on the PC version purchased by myself, and played on a high enough end machine sporting an AMD 8350 Black Edition CPU, 16GB of DDR3 RAM and an XFX AMD 7970 card. While not 100% completed (because come on?), I finished the main storyline for one faction, completed dozens of other quests and have spent over 60 hours in total playing the game, currently sitting around the level 50 mark.

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