Team Review: Fallout 4

B_EWAN“Where to begin?” it’s the age-old Fallout question. Not only does it apply to the game – you could pursue the immediately engaging main storyline, any number of the distracting side-quests, clear out a dungeon or acquire all the companions and power armour you can – but it of course also applies to any attempt at reviewing such a game.

I honestly think there is something in this game for everyone, or something to cater for any mood. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed simply exploring, fighting my way through the combat-zone, crafting armour and weapons, constructing my settlement or running errands for an eccentric bunch of marauding robots marooned atop a building (that will make sense when you stumble across it). The combat is a prime example: you can play with real-time combat, fast-based and action-oriented, or switch to VATS for an almost turn-based, tactical RPG-style of combat. There is a style of play for everyone.

The Fallout concept has been developed nicely in the years it’s remained dormant. The gunplay – whilst not entering the upper-echelon of slickness quite yet – has vastly improved in its fluidity. The overall presentation is dramatically overhauled, whilst maintaining the trademark retro-future feel we all recognize as Fallout. I was tremendously pleased to see environmental story-telling play a greater role as well. Whether it be the main story, side-quests or the environment, there is a story to be found around every corner.STILLS_0006_Layer 1Fallout 4 is a beautifully personal experience too; I genuinely feel like I make my own, unique impact on my own version of the post-apocalyptic Boston. My interactions with characters, the direction and methodology of my exploration, the way I select dialogue, the way I kill or be merciful, or the way I sculpt my settlement and where I choose to do so, feel like personal decisions not identifiably tied to mission objective or a karma system.

This game is best played with friends, not necessarily side by side, but through the sharing of stories and experience around the watercooler at work.

That’s where this game succeeds where so many fail. Whilst the adventure may not be the same quality narrative found in elsewhere, this feels like my story, my own personal experience where I am in control.STILLS_0005_Layer 2For those reasons and more, I forgive the bugs that remind you you’re playing a game, the somewhat annoying lack of explanation for the more complex mechanics and the loading screens that remove from the world a fraction too frequently.

This is a fantastic experiential game that I would highly recommend to anyone, assuming you’re willing to invest some time in the Wasteland and not immediately get turned off by the technicalities of its world and systems.B_JAKEFallout 4 is the first game of the series that I have had the opportunity to dive into. Whilst I have always been aware of the series and the class that said series holds not to mention the huge wrap its fan base boasts of. I have just never had a real reason to dive in, until now. As a complete rookie I found this game to be incredibly slow with a dangerously steep learning curve in the first few hours, to the point where I nearly gave up and traded the game in less than a day of having it.

STILLS_0000_Layer 7Currently I am beyond any counted hours and am addicted to this game as its in game drugs. Shooting mechanics are smooth, I loved how I can remap my controller to suit my style, the option of playing in the first or third person perspective is a treat and I am loving most of the RPG elements. One of the best parts of this game however is the companion feature. I have obviously chosen the only logical companion there is, Dogmeat. I didn’t think it was possible but I am absolutely dedicated to the safety and wellbeing of this companion and have found myself freezing hell over just to keep him safe and by my side.

I love the idea that in this game you are essentially creating your own story. Yes there is a base line story that you follow but more times than I can count, I find myself getting way off track investigating something off the beaten path that catches my attention. Chasing experience and shaping my own world how I see fit. I only have two regrets with this game. One is the wasted introduction chapter that I felt could have had so much more content to it. My second is that I have unjustifiably spent too much time with this addicting game looting and shooting without any intention of stopping soon. I just love making my own story.

JULIANFallout 4 is an exceptional role playing game despite its frustrating companion system. The nuclear wasteland of Boston is diverse and bleak, both in its sense of world building and people, but in the environments as well. Within my so far twenty-six hour journey, I have encountered construction sites turned home for super mutants with bags of meat hanging from the ceiling; deserted comic stores and schools plagued with ghouls and cyborg-like creatures known as synths; and even explored a villain’s memories first-hand.

The music is as enchantingly immersive as its world. Radio stations play a mixture of camp 1950s music and classical pieces, reflecting the game’s take on the cold war era and fear of a nuclear apocalypse; while the game’s original soundtrack effectively captures the scarce Boston landscape. It’s definitely entertaining exploring a raiders’ hideout to the sounds of Rocket 69.

Fallout 4’s gameplay is undoubtedly incredible. The VATS system is more responsive as activating doesn’t pause the game; rather, it slows down enemy movement so the player can fire at a specific part of an enemy at the precise moment. Switching between weapons is more fluid than in earlier games, as players can favourite a weapon or item and change on the fly. Weapons, armour and items all have a sense of weight to them – both in the change in player movement and their distinct actions, and each item’s literal carry weight.STILLS_0001_Layer 6
Although the game’s main narrative isn’t particularly interesting, the variety of distinct side quests have kept me entertained. I have definitely spent most of my twenty-six hour journey so far, exploring the world and completing side quests than pursuing the main story in search of my kidnapped son, Sean. One of my most recently completed side quests, The Silver Shroud, saw my character take on the role of a famed comic book vigilante cleaning the streets of Goodneighbor, after helping to find a costume of the hero from an abandoned movie studio.

Fallout 4’s companions are some of the most fleshed out and dynamic characters in the game. The synthetic detective Nick Valentine is probably my favourite for his characterisation as a hard-boiled detective and moral compass alone. Despite most of Fallout’s characters feeling one-dimensional and poorly detailed, the companion system feels authentically fresh, as each character has their own likes and dislikes which affect your relationship with them. It is frustrating that there isn’t a way to examine your relationship statuses (as far as I know), but I have found that most of my companions have opened up to my character after exploring the world with them for a few hours.B_DANIEL50+ play hours since launch and Fallout 4 has proved to be a rather divisive game for me. One the one hand, I can’t argue that it isn’t much improved mechanically from its predecessor; firing a gun no longer feels like you’re casting an Oblivion fireball dressed in C-grade shooter clothing. In fact, I’d say it feels about on par with the kind of gunplay now found in certain dedicated FPS games. But there are a lot of legacy issues that haven’t been addressed in Fallout 4 that really hamper my enjoyment of it. Most notable among these are the glitches: I’ve had quest-important NPCS fail to spawn, I’ve gotten stuck in simple world geometry, and I’ve even had one of my save files become corrupted (I’ve been playing on PC).

No doubt other players have encountered similar problems, and while the effects of less serious glitches can often be quite humorous, this is Fallout 4, not Goat Simulator. Glitches aside, the game can be incredibly fun: exploring, looting, leveling, and crafting have provided for a nice gameplay loop that has kept me thoroughly entertained despite a main quest that is as boring and uneventful as Fallout 3’s was. Side quests have fared a lot a better in this regard, with one quest involving the USS Constitution and its robot crew being my absolute favorite thus far. And so while I’m far from having seen everything the game has to offer, I can’t help but think Fallout 4 isn’t more than a little uneven. Maybe I’ll really love the game after I kill another hundred raiders or so. I guess it’s back to the Wasteland for me.B_KEVIN

Hype, hype never changes.

It’s quite astonishing the amount of hype Fallout 4 has managed to build over what can be seen as quite a small release window. Announced at E3 to be released in a matter of months that very year, it was a refreshing alternative to the countless amounts of delays and premature announcements (The Division is what…three years late?). Nevertheless, this is less a study of hype and more a review on my general impressions on the game after a solid amount of time within Boston.

Bethesda have always excelled in one thing: world building. Boston feels wonderful to explore. Locations have that wonderful apocalyptic feel to it despite the fact that nothing should theoretically be like this after 200 years of the bombs dropping (but that’s just nitpicking). Derelict buildings, hostile wastelands and in a almost poignant (poignant from Bethesda?) detour through your destroyed house and life after waking up in the wasteland, it’s hugely immersive but more importantly, it’s just fun.
STILLS_0003_Layer 4I enjoy the gunplay a lot more this time around. It’s a huge improvement over 3 and New Vegas, it feels satisfying to see your shot land where you want it to when you aim down the sights (something that never would happen in the older games). The reworked V.A.T.S system also poses a slightly greater challenge as it doesn’t freeze the game anymore, and it’s still a joy to pick the Bloody Mess perk and watch as your target explodes in an orgy of blood and guts. The shooting feels satisfying and the huge bevy of guns, mods and attachments makes this particular aspect of gameplay consistently engaging, deep and entertaining.

The game also looks gorgeous: the world is beautiful and adds to the constant need to explore new areas. Just taking a walk through the wasteland is deeply immersive. Textures aren’t spectacular up close and there is a bit of repetition, but nothing enough to shake my immersion in the world. I’m being a bit forgiving in this particular instance for some strange reason, but I’ve just enjoyed exploring Boston so much I can look over various graphical hitches.

Buildings are varied and the colour palette this time around is gorgeous, 3 and NV feel like miles behind in terms of how they looked. And all this is down without ruining the general feel of Fallout.
STILLS_0002_Layer 5In terms of the PC port, well, it’s not spectacular. No V-Sync options? 60Fps cap? No FOV slider? Most of this can be fixed via console commands but come on Bethesda, that’s no excuse. Apparently some of the physics in the Creation engine is linked to framerate, and having anything above 60 causes huge pains. That’s the Creation engine at it’s finest, and it’s about time Bethesda move on from what is now a 15 year old engine. Having upgraded from a GTX660 to 970, I can’t tell how this game would’ve run on my older system, but having everything maxed out with the exception of Godrays, I can easily run a smooth 60fps the majority of the time. In areas around Diamond City and in more intensive combat scenarios it flickers down to 40-50 which isn’t ideal but hardly a gamebreaker.

Speaking of gamebreaking….my experience has been shockingly smooth and relatively glitch free. This is no excuse for the not so stellar track record of Bethesda, but in my personal opinion I cannot critique this part since I haven’t been affected too negatively by glitches and bugs. The biggest problems I encountered had to do with missed triggers for dialogue cues.

Ah yes, the dialogue system. For every step taken forward, the dialogue system takes one huge gigantic leap backwards for it’s easily the worst part of Fallout 4, and the worst this system has ever, ever been. What made Fallout so funny, memorable and engaging had mostly to do with the dialogue system that made 1, 2 and New Vegas so witty. A bevy of options to choose from, some locked behind certain stats, these previous games stood out spectacularly as examples of strong writing and quest direction. Here your options are locked behind four button prompts Mass Effect style, but it’s even worse. Each option only has a word or two to describe the response, and clicking one will yield a response you had no intention of saying. Hell, most options have a ‘sarcastic’ option. There are a million different ways to respond to a question in a sarcastic tone, and having that option is just one of the hundreds of examples of poor, poor writing in Fallout 4. It’s almost disgraceful how bad this new dialogue system is, especially considering how good it already had been. Sure, mods can fix the dialogue layout, but it can’t fix the bland voice acting or the bland responses. And ‘mod it’ is no excuse, and it should never be one.
STILLS_0004_Layer 3I feel this streamlined dialogue system is a result of the fully voiced main character, which is something I also felt had no need to exist in a Fallout game. I play these games (and I’m sure many others do) to immerse myself within them, as a character I created myself and can roleplay as. Adding a voice to it just kills the immersion unfortunately, and it’s not like the voice acting is spectacularly good anyway. The main quest is also a resounding ‘meh’, and it’s no excuse for poor writing when New Vegas showed us how great a main quest story can be written. It’s a shame Obsidian can’t work on another Fallout instalment (especially considering the way they were treated) because 4 is a huge step backwards in terms of plot, dialogue and sidequests.

It’s still a fun game; shooting, looting and exploring is the best it’s ever been in a Bethesda game. The crafting system is bounds of fun, and I haven’t even started on the fun if shallow settlement building. Scenes like stumbling upon a lake that contained a high level Mirelurk Hunter (me being relatively low level at the time) that popped out gave me a huge fright and a great story for fellow players and coworkers, and it’s these sort of moments that really make me remember why Fallout is so cherished and loved. But for every unscripted moment of brilliance there is just so much bringing it down.

Unfortunately there’s just not enough here, there has barely been any progress in the four years between Skyrim and now. The writing is bland, the side quests are forgettable and the dialogue system is a huge step backwards. While general improvements have been made to the gameplay, it just feels too little too long. In a world of huge breathless worlds like Metal Gear Solid V and Witcher 3, Bethesda’s faults are looking bigger than ever, and their strengths don’t look as prominent. Fallout 4 is generally, in it’s basic sense, just more Fallout, and for some that’s just fine.

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