Spoilers, You will die.
Fallout 4 then. It’s finally here and after much deliberation with my colleagues who have also jumped into Bethesda’s brand new apocalyptic wasteland, and after two solid weeks of just doing very little else (I see you Star Wars Battlefront, sitting on the shelf awaiting me. All in good time, my young Apprentice) we’ve declared…well, you’ll just have to wait and see.
The first thing that I think people need to know about Fallout 4? It’s completely standalone, there’s nothing here in terms of narrative that connects it back to the games that went before it, and that’s without a doubt a good thing. As for many who have got suckered into the game through the crazy hype machine that’s surrounded it without any prior knowledge of the series, they can enjoy it just as much as those who have been from the series from day one. For fans, it’s almost immediately Fallout, instantly recognisable from the very beginning.
Boston, Massachusetts is where we find ourselves, 200 years after a nuclear holocaust, caused by a war over resources. Depending on if you choose the male or female protagonist to play as, you’ll have a beginning that’s pretty damn shocking and a tad unexpected. That you’ve been chosen to ‘survive’ the holocaust should bring up a few more questions, and this is elaborated on as you power through the games monumental campaign.
In terms of the story, there’s absolutely no doubt that it’s perhaps the best Bethesda have created thus far, in any of their IP’s – yep, including Skyrim. COME AT ME BRO -, the narrative is emotionally mature and speaks to you, rather than down to you. I won’t jump into spoilers in this review purely because it’s better off not knowing anything about it – the fact you can play hours and hours of this game and not even touch the campaign says enough about the sheer breadth of this game, and yet to miss the campaign would be doing a disservice to Fallout 4. You simply can’t miss it.
The familiar tropes of Fallout – and Bethesda in general – remain, for better or worse. Hoarding like it’s going out of fashion will blind you in the opening segments, demanding you to believe that everything you pick up will somehow be necessary further down the line, ‘I must take this mug, perhaps I can sell this mu…OOOhh a hammer’ etc, no fun. This is rationalised by using materials to craft weapons, armour along with building settlements.
Honestly for me building up my first settlement was actually a really fun thing to do. I gave myself three hours to just sit and build a brand new town for me and the fellow survivors which would benefit them and myself. From building two story hostels with nothing but beds and walls to scrapping full houses with their roofs caved in and you’ll have plenty of materials to build protection and guarded overwatches, along with ensuring your dwellers have power, clean water and food. I found myself spending an awful lot of time doing this, I must have put over 10 hours in total of my first playthrough just building settlements, I found it immensely satisfying and really rather deep once you’re able to unlock more substantial buildings and materials.
Here’s a look at rebuilding the settlement I lost. Sad face.
I think I remember blaring about this on Twitter when it happened the first time but for the sake of review I should mention that when I finished my first settlement in the Commonwealth – just after the Deathclaw battle -, the game crashed out on me and I lost everything. No I mean, everything. I had to start my settlement all over again and could have thrown my TV through the window. Luckily, I had been doing it for so long that the second time around it was much easier, but still. Part of me thinks it was my own fault and should have quicksaved the crap out of my beautiful creation – which I did the second time around. Literally, every five minutes -, another part of me thinks I shouldn’t have crashed on me and for a game as systematically huge as this one, should have the Autosave on lock. Ergo, it wasn’t to be. Still, this wasn’t the only time the game crashed out on me but it was certainly the most angering. Tip: Quicksave everything, everywhere. It’s the only way I was able to get through the game without resorting to ditching it to go back and play LEGO Dimensions.
Combat has certainly been improved since Fallout 3, one of the games biggest complaints. The VATs system is still alive and well, allowing for tactical motion shooting, and all feels great. The FPS aspect has never really been the series biggest achievement, and has certainly been doing far better elsewhere in the gap between Fallout 3 and now, and feels more similar to Irrational Games’ engine – akin to a Bioshock kind of experience, perhaps even Bethesda’s own publish, Dishonored – than say, Call of Duty, but it works like a dream when necessary. Melee feels as great as ever, punching fools who try to take over your turf square in the throat has never really felt so damn good as it does here. I never realised how bad an awful lot of melee combat is in other games until it felt so tight and weighty in Fallout 4. Thanks, Bethesda! You’re the best.
The first 90 minutes of Fallout 4, by Sean Davies. Completely unarmed.
You’ve probably noticed in the promotional material for Fallout 4 your companion is a good dog called Dogmeat, your immortal sidekick across the wasteland. He’s there to protect you and warn you of nearby nasties and focus your attention on collectibles in the area. He does have a habit of wondering off, but he always seems to find his way back which is handy. I’ve heard stories of people losing him and then not being reunited, which is upsetting. That hasn’t happened on my end yet, so one hopes it doesn’t. If you watch the settlement video above you’ll notice that you run into a friend from earlier in the game, your AI robot pal Codsworth. Upon seeing him again, he will ask you if you’d like his assistance throughout the rest of the game to replace Dogmeat. It’s completely up to you depending on how you want to see the game through, but Codsworth is certainly a reliable companion, full of knowledge of the areas you’re in allowing you to find certain things you may have overlooked otherwise. Either Codsworth or Dogmeat are great buddies to have nearby, so it’s your choice if you want a chatty friend or a barking one, really.
Fallout 4 then is a majestic single player experience, but it’s not like we’re particularly lacking in that department in this current gen. There’s plenty to discover across the wasteland and beyond, everyone who you’re seemingly not building a new home for wants to kill you dead and you’ll be sidetracked so many damn times but alternative missions and by building settlements you’ll forget what it is you’re actually doing in the main campaign. This is hardly a complaint because the game, reportedly, comes in at 200 hours+. I haven’t reached that ridiculous number quite yet but I’m sure there are some that have and have seen far more of the wasteland that I ever will. I enjoy exploring the wild world of Fallout 4 but hardly any of it is particularly visually gripping. Instead, the world around you is created to fully immerse you in its world, this post-apocalyptic retro-themed futuristic version of holocaust America. With The Witcher 3 and now this, the argument of whether or not single player is dying is absolutely muted.
A standout feature of the game is undoubtedly the soundtrack, which is excellent. The parallels of the 1940’s jaunty jazz and swing underlying the nuclear extinction of the human race gives the game a real feeling of dread. Songs have been chosen very carefully to counterbalance the fallout around you, the uncomfortable feeling the music creates never really goes away throughout. I found myself turning off radios the minute I found them, purely because it felt very strange to have this wonderfully jolly music playing next to a pile of skeletons in a trash bin. Almost as if the world was telling me it was happy that it was in this state and it wanted to remain as such. Deeply unsettling, but incredibly effective in that regard.
The music and sound effects add to the already rather dark feeling, another highlight of the presentation of Fallout 4 is the voice acting, performed beautifully across the main protagonists and the NPC’s. It’s well documented that Bethesda wanted to focus on NPC’s and interaction of the characters, and there’s no denying it’s been hugely improved in terms of the dialogue options, which were a bane in Fallout 3. The conversation tree has now been replaced from being full sentences to quick fire answers relying on instant reaction, speeding up the process of the cutscenes, however each option does have a different outcome, but not in a TellTale kind of way where it can enormously impact the overall narrative. A terrific addition and a great way to support the wonderful performances of the voice actors. God knows how long it took to record every piece of dialogue for this behemoth of a game.
This game seems to have had some rather strange criticism thrown its way in regards to the visuals, which apparently aren’t ‘good’. Now, I’m not going to sit here and defend the game claiming it to be the best looking game of the generation so far. It isn’t, not even close but damn, when the game hits daytime and the sun is beaming it’s flippin’ gorgeous, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, because they’re wrong. I love that the game is bright and colourful, the game when it’s dark and gloomy looks and feels miserable, and I genuinely can’t play the game when it’s so damn dark. I found the palette they use was giving me migraines, seriously. The dark greens and greys and blacks were causing my head to feel weird. After messing with the settings a bit I got this sorted and brightened everything up a tad. Daytime in Fallout 4 is where I spent most of my time, it’s wonderful to explore when the sun is beaming.
So Fallout 4 is buggy, prone to crashes and almost frighteningly expansive. It’s also great to look at, enormous fun to play and completely unique to each individual playthrough. As you play through the game you’ll come across areas and discover things that I never will, and I’m sure I’ll find things you’ll never come across which is just as exciting. The game will practically go on for as long as you want it to, it’s completely up to you. There is so damn much to see and do and so many people to meet, so any new colonies to build and so many fools to kill with your weaponry that you’ll have a simply brilliant time exploring everything this monumental game has to offer.
It’s not perfect, and I’m kind of tired of seeing ‘oh but it’s Bethesda, they don’t squash bugs. But who cares when it’s this good, right?’ everywhere I look. No, I have knocked off points for the overall lack of polish the game is clearly needing. I’ll never understand how Bethesda simply don’t learn from their own mistakes and continue to pump out titles with the same issues over and over and expect us to swallow it like we’ll never notice. Yes, I love Fallout 4 but it needs an update to really turn it into the absolute stone-cold masterpiece we all know it should be.
Until then, what we have is the Fallout we’ve wanted for so long that has to be played by anyone who still gives a damn about single player campaigns. Welcome back to the wasteland, enjoy your stay.
Fallout 4 is out now on PC, Xbox One and PS4 (reviewed).
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.