Arguably the biggest and best game of the series, Fallout 3 was revolutionary at the time for the way it changed the post-apocalyptic open world landscape, and expanded on a beloved series of RPG games that came before it. Followed by the spin-off Fallout: New Vegas, Bethesda was on a high, and it wouldn’t be until 2015 that we returned to the world of the Great War with Fallout 4. But with the lofty heights of these games setting expectations quite high for the future, it was only a matter of time until things came crashing down like a nuclear warhead on a Scorched base – and it seems that Bethesda’s latest offering is the one to cop the radioactive heat.
Following on from the relative success of The Elder Scrolls Online, it was inevitable that a title like Fallout would follow suit, which is what he have received with Fallout 76. On paper, an open-world online Fallout game sounds amazing – taking to the radiated wastelands of West Virginia after being locked in Vault 76 for generations and uncovering how the world has changed, all while playing with your friends and discovering the mysteries together. It is such a shame that what could have been amazing instead feels half-baked and unfinished; almost as if the game itself is still in the beta stage that opened merely weeks before launch.
Don’t get me wrong, at its core the game plays and feels very much like Fallout 4 – weapons and gunplay, exploration and crafting, and the story all feel very similar to its predecessor – but with the addition of online features and connectivity. The core gameplay is still entertaining and fun; sourcing materials and resources in order to craft weapons and supplies to keep yourself going while exploring the world as you uncover the journey of Vault 76’s Overseer and their travels, making contact with the Responders and attempting to restart civilisation. The narrative is still there too, discovering lost journals and holotapes of survivors as they attempted to make it in the post-apocalyptic world is still an inquisitive and harrowing journey. The VATS system is still there too, however you won’t be able to rely on it as much as you would previously due to the fact that it runs in real-time rather than slow-motion, due to the consistent online presence.
The S.P.E.C.I.A.L system for perks has been updated for Fallout 76 as well, now operating on a trading card system in which you can allocate perks to different categories, and combine multiple of the same cards to upgrade abilities. This is helpful for ensuring you don’t become over-encumbered by carrying too much, or by increasing your hand-to-hand combat capabilities. The only downside is the limit to which perks you can attach at a time, operated by a star rating system on each card.
The game includes a new feature where you need to keep your character hydrated and fed, which is both handy and frustrating at the same time. Feeding your character restores health but simultaneously can cause radiation poisoning or even diseases, which de-buff your perks or increase your susceptibility to other conditions. Additionally, giving your character water will keep them hydrated but at the same time will push you to find purified water or run the risk of drinking radiated water.
I wish could go on singing the game’s praises, because to be honest there are a lot of gripes with the game that overshadow the good. The biggest and most annoying concern is the consistent online presence which can wreak havoc on your gameplay – on my first time playing through the tutorial, the connection dropped out, and my character was left standing unable to move as the controls had ceased to work. This required a full restart of the game and, frustratingly, a full recreation of my character as well.
This online layer adds an additional ‘lag’ that seems to hinder gameplay somewhat; sometimes I would kill enemies and stand by their corpse waiting for my loot to load, or other times I would be shooting and hitting enemies while it took several milliseconds for those hits to register. Some near-death experiences were had in these cases where several times I had to resort to a physical weapon after running out of ammo, only for my swings to take forever and only *just* defeat the enemy before they defeated me.
Of course, being an online-only game, the only way to ‘pause’ is to quit to the main menu or run the risk of being attacked by something that finds you. I had stepped away from the game (with the screen on my Pip-Boy) only to hear moments later my character being beaten by a hostile Mr Handy unit, in a bunker which I had assumed was safe.
One of the worst glitches I encountered in the game started off really small, and then became unbearable to the point that I had to take a break from playing; while exploring I noticed that small streams of light that would normally filter through cracks and doors were ‘dancing’ across environments, even in places where light shouldn’t be. This blew out to full-on rendering issues where approaching buildings would see the textures phase and shift multiple times. The frame rate dropped at this time too (which it already had in environments with many enemies) and made the game unplayable visually.
It’s these bugs as well as the limitations that the online only portion of the places on the game that need majoring ironing out as the months roll on. For those that love Fallout, there’s easily enough there to persist through these issues, and there’s some really interesting things being done with PvP as well as events, but right now, there’s enough bugs to keep casual players away.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED ON A PS4 PRO. A PHYSICAL REVIEW COPY WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Underneath the extremely rough and laggy exterior, Fallout 76 has the makings of a great and entertaining game. To some, the damage may have already been done and the appeal may have already worn off, but with Bethesda’s level of support, the game has potential to grow into something much more than it currently is.