Review: Fallout 4

Game: Fallout 4
Made by: Bethesda Softworks
Published by: Bethesda Softworks
Available on: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One

Fallout 4 was the game I was most excited for in 2015, and it wouldn’t be incorrect to suggest it was the game I was most excited for for several years leading up to that point. Fallout 3 introduced me to action-RPGs, and Fallout: New Vegas is one of my favorite games of all-time. Naturally, I was excited to sit down the night of November 9, 2015 to experience the next entry in an esteemed series. Now, two years later, I think I’m ready to put together a real review of the game.

I’ve had a lot of fun with Fallout 4. I think there’s a lot the game does right, and I think there are some areas of major improvement when comparing the game to Fallout 3 or New Vegas. That established, I think one of the core design philosophies of Fallout 4 was experimentation; trying systems and ideas that hadn’t been attempted before. Some of these, like changing up the game’s gunplay, found success and acclaim, whereas others, such as the game’s inclusion of a voiced protagonist, have been received with criticism. Continue reading below and I’ll give you my take on the game the best I can.

FEATURES

First/Third-Person Combat: As with Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and the more recent Elder Scrolls games before it, Fallout 4 utilizes an optional first or third person camera, and the two can be switched between freely. The game’s combat is familiar to anyone who’s played a recent first-person or third-person shooter.

Role-Playing Game: Play how you’d like. Design your character and make their choices as you’d like. Are you a charismatic pacifist with a penchant for diplomacy, a stealth-focused thief with a desire for loot, or a maniac murderer with death in your eyes? It’s all up to you.

Open World: Traverse the open environment of post-apocalyptic Boston as you see fit. From the moment you escape Vault 111, your bomb-shelter-gone-wrong, the world is yours to explore. Attend to the main quest of finding your missing son, or choose to abandon a kidnapped infant in favor of pursuing the adventure and riches promised to you by the irradiated Commonwealth.

Progression: Fallout 4’s progression system is another of the game’s experiments; rather than upgrading skills as in Fallout 3 and New Vegas, progression is now entirely focused on perks, the availability of which are tied to your character’s chosen stats. Fallout 4’s perks are laid out in the form of a chart, and progression in lockpicking, gun handling, stealth, and everything else is done by navigating the chart and choosing upgrades.

Sandbox Environments: Make no mistake, Fallout 4 isn’t a sandbox game, but its Settlement system allows players to use the materials they’ve gathered from their adventures through the wasteland to build a new home for themselves and any settlers attracted by radio beacons. The settlements vary in size and location, but most limit your capabilities only to your imagination and the items offered in-game. Take a break from the danger of the wasteland and make a home for yourself.

Weapon Customization: A real victory of Fallout 4 is its weapon customization system, which opens up the option to explore your own combat playstyle. Build your perfect stealth pistol with quick-draw and a suppressor, or equip your assault rifle with a drum magazine, powerful automatic receiver, and recoil-compensating stock for some real carnage.

Moddability: Fallout 4 caters easily to mods and modders. As has become typical of Bethesda games, much of Fallout 4’s potential comes not from weapons and features put in by the devs, but instead those added in by volunteer modders. Particularly notable with this installment is the ability to install mods on both PC and console. Your game just got a whole lot bigger.

WHAT I LIKED

Gunplay: Fallout 4’s combat is leagues ahead of its predecessors. Landing a hit on an enemy is responsive and taking down Fallout’s ghouls, raiders, and super-mutants feels good. I found myself enjoying even the game’s radiant quests, which are essentially glorified repeatable filler objectives, because of the game’s strong combat.

Looting: Looter-shooters often suffer from gameplay wherein finding new loot is fun, but the process of searching for it and accessing it is tedious and bothersome. In the field of looting UI, Fallout 4 innovates by giving all lootable boxes, items, and bodies a small pop-up menu that opens when you hover over the object in question, allowing you to easily see what can be taken without hopping in and out of several menus in the hope of finding something good. It’s a welcome addition that I hope to see more of in future titles.

Modding: I don’t think I could say I’d really tried Fallout 4 if I hadn’t played around with mods. The game’s community has done a lot of impressive work in improving and building onto the game. It’s nice to be able to jump into the game, nitpick something I don’t like, and then easily find a mod that fixes my issue. If you’re on the fence about picking up Fallout 4 based on the description of the game so far, go ahead and check out the Fallout 4 Nexus for a plethora of features-to-be.

Settlement Building: Though simple and without real objective, I found myself drawn to Fallout 4’s settlements in such a way that I ended up seeking out the game’s repetitive radiant quests just to hoard more resources to build my settlement up with. I chose to build and upgrade a little town for my settlers, but Fallout 4’s settlement system, especially with mods installed, really puts the ball in your court for creativity and offers a nice aside to the horrors of the wasteland.

CONCERNS

Creation Club: You may have been waiting for this — the latest controversy to hit Fallout 4 and Bethesda games at large is the new Creation Club addition, which allows players to buy professionally-curated mods for real money. While I think concern for the Creation Club has been slightly overblown in that creating for it is completely opt-in and that free mods remain available, I understand and find myself sympathetic to the argument of those against it. So far, it’s not too intrusive, but it’s definitely there and here to stay. Buyer beware.

Voiced Protagonist & Player Choice: A swing and a miss. Giving your character a voice wasn’t the worst idea Bethesda could have gone with, and it does sometimes make you feel like a living part of the Commonwealth, but this success comes at the expense of both immersion in your own character (one that has a voice that doesn’t also belong to either Brian Delaney or Courtenay Taylor) and choice in dialogue. Conversations in Fallout 4 typically offer four replies, several of which may lead to the same outcome. While this new conversation system does allow for the alternative option of walking away without engaging, that addition comes with the added cost of narrowing other options and putting your character into a box where they can either be the hero, the sarcastic hero, or the villain with little leg room.

Story: No spoilers, but Fallout 4’s story is a mountain of wasted potential. Interesting characters and plotlines are wrapped up with a series of nonsensical and unnecessary choices. Fallout 4’s story progression is less the living world of Fallout: New Vegas and more the clear-cut single storyline of Fallout 3 with a multiple choice ending.

WHO’S IT FOR?

If you’re looking for an action-RPG with a fun action component and the backing of a passable RPG, and you’re interested in delving into post-apocalyptic Boston, give Fallout 4 a shot.

If you’re less about action and more about the RPG, or if you’re not convinced by what you’ve heard so far, consider giving Fallout 4 a pass for now.

STATISTICS

From Steamspy unless otherwise noted.

Average Playtime*: 117.75 hours
Average Cost per Hour**: $0.25

Median Playtime*: 51.25 hours
Median Cost per Hour**: $0.58

* Playtime rounded to the nearest quarter-hour
**Costs calculated using a price of $29.99

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