Fallout 4 has finally hit the gaming market, accompanied by a vast amount of hype and enthusiasm. Developed by Bethesda Game Studios and distributed by Bethesda Softworks, the game is the latest instalment in the critically acclaimed Fallout series. This time around you are placed in a post nuclear war Boston, trying to survive in a harsh world your character has never experienced before. Suffice it to say it has the biggest changes to the series since Fallout 3 and with these changes come the good the bad and the ugly. There are new game mechanics, an overhauled combat system and more effort put into the narrative, but do these innovations bring the series to its highest heights, its lowest lows, a bit of both or neither whatsoever? Well, if I’m going to be honest, it’s more like a bit of both. The game offers lots of new things to do but trips and falls over when it comes to changes that, arguably, didn’t need to be changed in the first place. It’s a true hit or miss situation, Bethesda tried to change a lot of things, with mixed results.
The game starts off in the beautiful post war Americana fantasy world; you are in a prefab house with your Husband/Wife, your son and your robot butler (we all had robot butlers back in the day…seriously). This is where you do the typical Fallout things of designing a character, their look, skills etc. All of a sudden the paradise is disrupted when there are reports on the television about nuclear detonations in Pennsylvania. You gather your wife and child (leaving the robot butler behind) and head to the local Vault; a giant nuclear bunker that will keep you and your family safe during Nuclear Armageddon. You get placed in a cryo-stasis pod for 200 years, where you emerge to find your home and the entire country to be a blasted wasteland full of raiders, mutant scorpions and other horrible shit. That’s the premise the game gives you and it’s not half bad, being similar to previous games (with the emerging from a vault) but also being unique in the fact you have lived a life before the war and have a stake in the new world.
I have to come to my first complaint of the game; the dialogue system. Bethesda innovated here by having the first fully voiced protagonist and to be fair the voice acting is very good. Impeccable I’d even say, in fact all the voice acting has been massively improved from previous games. The reason I’m complaining about this is because it doesn’t quite fit in with the series. The series has been tongue in cheek ever since the beginning, not in a light hearted way but in a surreal sickening way. You waltz around turning people into naught but gore and bones but all the denizens of the wasteland still have this neutral tone in their voice and look of apathy on their face. Kind of like “oh some idiot has just wandered into town, blew the Mayor’s face off with a shotgun and bounced away like Tigger on crack. Business as usual I guess”. It’s so surreal, almost like a nightmare or a fever dream and it’s that atmosphere that makes Fallout for me. It’s just so different to any other series. In Fallout 4 there’s actual emoting, facial animations and the like, in a strange way upping the quality has decreased my enjoyment of it.
Bethesda have added quite a bit and overhauled even more. Now there’s a mechanic that lets you build bases and I can’t wait to talk about this because I absolutely love the Base Building. Most of my play time in the game has just been building an epic fortress around a petrol station. Basically there are several zones throughout the game map that let you craft and place structures, such as walls, rooms, doors etc. The intention of this is to build a base and attract people to settle there, providing protection, food and water in exchange for vendors and other services. There is so much to do with this new system and the freedom it allows is tremendous. It also helps with immersion into the game world, with you and your fellow waste-landers trying to create a life out of the ashes, safe from the endless horde of mutants and raiders out to get you. You can place furniture and build complicated structures, the entire things is just fantastic. Your bases get periodically attacked, by super mutants and raiders usually, which means you have to build defences. These defences can be nests and pill boxes for guards to stand in or sentry turrets, automated machine guns, which attack any enemy that draws near. You also need to power your base; this can be done with generators or windmills. Power gets transported around via wires and pylons and lead to utilities like terminals and lights. I could talk about how much I love this mechanic for a while but I’m afraid I’m going to have to move on. Suffice it to say, this is one addition that wasn’t a bad move.
Something that was overhauled was the crafting system. The crafting system now allows you to make additions and modifications to your weapons and armour. It too is a really good system, streamlined and extremely easy to get the hang of. The way it works is you start off with a base weapon you pick up on your travels and use materials to create modifications. For example if you have some steal and adhesive you could create a bayonet, if you had screws steel and adhesive you could cobble together a scope. All these upgrades stack, which means you could end up with a weapon completely unrecognisable machine to the one you had in the beginning. You could start with a pipe pistol and end up with a bolt action sniper rifle. It’s an incredibly deep element to the game and a welcome addition. Crafting has been a headache in previous Fallout games, often not worth touching, but this game has made it a crucial part of the game and an incredibly enjoyable one too.
The combat itself was another thing that was changed completely. Gunplay in previous Fallout games was often sluggish and incredibly random. There was no strategy and whether you hit or not would be a random roll of the dice. I did enjoy it; its lack of quality was a challenge and enjoyed defeating foes because it always felt like I defeated the game mechanics as well. So when I saw trailers with the combat I felt a bit crestfallen. It looked like it ran like every other first person shooter on the market right now and that it might end up a bit generic. I can gladly say this wasn’t the case, the gunplay is slick and works like a charm. Instead of feeling like I’m fighting against the game I feel like the game is working with me, allowing for much more strategic play. I fully approve of this overhaul.
Something I have to say that I’m quite disappointed in is the actual dialogue options. In previous Fallout games you are a silent protagonist and you can pick a wide variety of things to say, no voice acting whatsoever. In Fallout 4 you have only four options and they don’t even represent what you are going to say, they just tell you the vague tone of the sentence which comes off as a tad lazy. It breaks my immersion in the game and disconnects me with my character even more than the voice acting already did.
Honestly, this had the makings of being the best Fallout game in the series. It added to the series, improved the dodgy combat and useless crafting and created something great. However it lets itself down by trying to fix elements that didn’t need fixing. Did we really need a fully voiced protagonist? Did the narrative need to be so loaded and emotional? Obviously those aren’t bad things, but sometimes things aren’t bad, they just don’t belong and that’s how I feel about them in Fallout 4. I don’t like to give games scores but I will anyway because it’s my review and I can do what I want. I give fallout 4 7/10. A positive 7/10, not a negative one, I’m still going to play it for hours and hours I just think it missed out on being the best in the series.