It wasn’t long that I had set foot in the ruined city of Cambridge before two menacing individuals pulled their firearms on me and demanded that I turn away. My eyes were filled with rage, which could be the reason why the raiders felt the need to hold me at gunpoint. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been angry; they were trying to survive during these hellish times just like I was. Too bad for them, because Dogmeat, my trusted four-legged ally, mauled one of them to death before I could even think about turning around and walking away. He knew it was them or us, and reacting quickly, I utilized my Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System to squeeze off a killing shot towards the other bandit’s head. I crossed my fingers as I approached his corpse to check for water, items, food, or anything that may prove useful.
The sight of the raider’s maimed upper body was unsettling, but it was the tumultuous cackle of thunder from moments later that truly put me on edge. A sudden sense of illness and discomfort overtook me. My skin began to itch and my eyes began to burn, as an ivory colored overcast filled the entire sky. Damn it; radiation storm. If I stayed on the surface or outside of a contained area for too long, I would’ve certainly become a microwaved grape. Seeking refuge in a nearby sewer, I popped a RadAway, and Dogmeat and I progressed down a dark tunnel filled with hatched Mirelurk eggs, firearm hoisted for the imminent horrors ahead of us.
This all happened around hour 50 of my current playthrough of Fallout 4, a game in which no two people will ever share the same story due to its enormity, its wealth of lively characters and enemies, and the wide variety of activities that players can partake in. There are countless tales to be told, an excess of places to explore, and tons of memories to be had while traversing the wasteland this time around. Hell, my story still feels like it’s just beginning, because though I’ve seen enough of the wasteland to make a coy man’s heart explode in fear. I’ve only scratched the surface of the game’s main quests. Most of my time has been dedicated to freeing the Commonwealth’s various settlements from the violent grip of Raiders, Super Mutants, and other hostile inhabitants of the wasteland.
You start the game by creating a male or female character, with the ability to edit their every facial feature. If you fancy yourself a character customization aficionado, get ready to spend some time on this screen. After you’re done, Fallout 4 sends you on a similar journey to the previous game – a search to find a family member who has gone missing. Only this time around, it feels as if you’re hot on the trail of finding your vanished loved one, as opposed to in the previous game where it felt like tracking them down was a toss up. You’ll find yourself exploring the Commonwealth, the remains of Massachusetts after being it was leveled by a nuclear bomb. There are several mentions of the city in Fallout 3, and if you remember the characters you met from the Commonwealth, that should clue you in on one of game’s overarching story elements.
Rebuilding the wasteland
Instead of roaming from settlement to settlement as a straggler a la Fallout 3, you’ll find yourself gaining control of multiple settlements, and making them a part of your network of refuge camps across the map. This typically requires you to clear out hostiles, and sometimes even pits you against challenging bosses. Upon clearing out each settlement, you gain the ability to fast travel to each destination and send folks back to these establishments.
Fallout 4 is just as much about building and expansion as it is survival. Each settlement operates similar to a vault in Fallout Shelter: you have your resources, you have your inhabitants, and your job is to keep their happiness level as high as possible. Using junk farmed while wandering the wasteland, you can craft weapons, mods, armor, clothing, and different structural elements to turn your base into a formidable stronghold. This adds a more engaging and personal element to the game. I feel more connected to each settlement I spend time rebuilding and am encouraged to revisit them because of this. Of course, sometimes I’m forced to go back due to my settlements being under attack, but such as comes with the territory.
Taking control of the apocalypse
Just like in Fallout 3 and New Vegas, players can choose whether to play from third-person or first-person perspective. When in third-person and using the touchpad on PS4, you can zoom the camera in for an over-the-shoulder view or out too see your entire character in the frame. From a core mechanics standpoint, Fallout 4 measures up with the top shooters on the market, boasting the series’ best feeling movement and shooting mechanics yet. Vegas, in fact, I often found V.A.T.S. to be unnecessary most of the time, given the fluidity and precision of the aiming mechanics. Unless, of course, I had a jonesing for seeing an enemie’s head explode in stylish fashion.
Most of the game’s main NPCs can be selected to accompany you through the wasteland, including your snarky robot butler, Codsworth, who probably talks more smack than a WWE wrestler. You can command their position, trade items with them, and if you’re able to establish good rapport with them, you’ll receive special perks and buffs to aid you during your travels. Most of these characters live within your settlements that you gain control of across the map.
The karma system of old is absent from Fallout 4 for the first time in the series’ history. By omitting the karma system, decision making in this game is left completely open-ended for the player, as opposed to being restricted to choosing between “good” decisions and “evil” decisions. That said, there are still ramifications for every choice that you make. Taking an item that doesn’t belong to you while no one is watching, or even responding inappropriately during dialogue sequences, may lose you brownie points with your companion.
Fallout 4 takes a similar approach to dialogue as a Telltale game this time around. You have a general idea of what each answer/response implies, but are ultimately left to steering the conversations on your own, with no indication of what reaction you’ll get for NPCs and how it will be viewed by the NPC accompanying you. I appreciated the fact that Fallout 4’s dialogue, overall, was never too tedious and obstructive to the gameplay; an issue other dialogue-heavy RPGs seem to struggle with.
The console versions of the game run at 30 frames per second, but that doesn’t take away from the overall experience in any way whatsoever. The impressive lighting effects and detailed environments are exactly what I hoped to see in Fallout‘s first next-gen outing. It’s the subtle moments, like when looking off into the distance and seeing tall-standing structures, that amplify the immersion factor of the game. The beauty and visual depth of Fallout 4’s environment are undeniably a site to marvel at. Other than the beautiful visuals, I’ve run into a few minor glitches, but none of them have been game-breaking or as intrusive as the ones experienced in Skyrim and Fallout 3 (there was a Brahmin spawning in on my roof in Sanctuary Hills. Glorious).
Fallout 4 doesn’t deviate far from the old Bethesda formula, but it does improve on many of the game’s previous setbacks. Additionally, it expands on the wonderful elements that we’ve grown to love about the series. All of this while adding the exciting new element of crafting, which helps to personalize your time in the wasteland more than ever before. Todd Howard and his team have set a new standard with Fallout 4, a game that will be renowned not just for being one of the best action-RPG titles of all time, but also one of the best games ever created.
- An open-world masterpiece. Hundreds of hours of great content packed into a large and beautifully designed sandbox.
- Aiming and movement mechanics feel as top tier as, if not better than, the front-runner AAA shooter titles of today.
- Narratives are compelling, robust, and delivered in the most concise fashion as to not interfere with gameplay.
- Crafting system adds creational elements to Fallout, and makes looting a far more meaningful undertaking.
- The most polished and well-rounded Bethesda game to date.
- I’ve got nothing
5 RADical Burritos out 5.
This review is still in progress using a PS4 copy of Fallout 4 provided by Bethesda. The game hits stores Tuesday, November 10 on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.