There’s a knock at the door. A sharply dressed salesman pitches the benefit of registration to Vault-Tecs local shelter: Vault 111. A brief conversation, an exchange of names and you’re good to go! Perfect timing too, because hardly 10 minutes later you’re scrambling for that very shelter as mushroom clouds engulf your town, destroying the world you once knew. Unwittingly you’re placed in a cryogenic sleep, along with your wife and newborn child, for just over 200 years. When you awaken, your wife is dead and your son missing: welcome to the world of Fallout 4.
Bethesda’s MO of creating sprawling, interactive worlds continues with the latest installment of the Fallout franchise. In this world you fight to survive against horrific monsters, as well as fellow survivors, as you build up settlements across the Wasteland and strive to solve the mystery of what happened to your son.
As the game starts you assign points to the different traits that make you SPECIAL: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck (a very clever acronym if I do say so myself). Each trait unlocks different levels of “perks” depending on how many points you attribute, including the ability to hack advanced or expert computer terminals, negotiate with vendors or increase your carrying capacity.
Your adventures in the Wasteland can be viewed from either a 1st person or 3rd person perspective. You can take a run-and-gun approach to battles, or utilize the V.A.T.S system to incorporate more strategy and slow down the encounters when needed. By activating the V.A.T.S system, you can specify limbs or sub-sections of targets to deftly take out weak spots or incapacitate an enemy by shooting at their legs, for example.
In Fallout 4, there is no shortage of amazing weapons for your to dispatch your enemies with: it’s the ammo that’s hard-earned. By utilizing workbenches throughout the Wasteland, you can fashion yourself some very impressive and hard hitting weapons to make survival just a little bit easier.
Overall I really enjoy the combat, except for one glaring issue: throwing grenades is terrible. I experimented with a number of thrown items including molotov cocktails and fragmentation grenades, and no matter what I did I couldn’t reproduce the same throw twice. You can use the V.A.T.S system to assist with grenade throwing, but given that thrown weapons can be a clutch save in combat, and that it’s an unreliable function at best, my experience with it ranged from slightly annoying to maddening.
If exploring the wasteland, completing quests and pursuing the central storyline wasn’t enough, there’s another huge element of gameplay in Fallout 4: developing settlements. As you come across scattered groups of survivors, you will be able to utilize the workshop to break down junk into essential materials and build towns that are habitable and have some semblance of civilization in the nuclear Wasteland. There are some essentials that all of your settlers will require, namely electricity, water, food and beds. By constructing generators, wells/pumps, planting crops and constructing houses, you can increase your settlers happiness and be seen as a benevolent and capable leader in the Wasteland.
Many of my friends have admitted without shame that they spent numerous hours tinkering around in the first settlement they were introduced to. I, too, was sidetracked by the sheer possibility of scrapping almost everything I set my eyes on.
Between the complex attribute system, the depth of combat and weapon building/customization, and the exhaustive settlement system, Fallout 4 will surely rack up countless of hours of game time for even the most hardcore of gamers.
Fallout 4’s universe is intriguing, capturing the zeitgeist of an alternative 1950s Boston based on an America that focused more on atomic energy following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s simultaneously futuristic and vintage, with classic looking cars that run on nuclear power (and explode spectacularly because of it). The main storyline is rich, even though the premise is all too familiar. Yet, despite its strong story, it’s hard to appreciate it when Fallout 4 gives you such a rich and engaging open world to explore. As I mentioned earlier, almost everyone I’ve spoken to has been sidetracked by missions or building their settlements as opposed to pursuing the central storyline. If you enjoy a narrative-driven game, Fallout 4 isn’t really the right fit for you. If you enjoy wandering around a barren nuclear wasteland taking out super-mutants and feral ghouls, with the occasional return to completing a central objective once every few hours, then you’ve found the perfect game!
With such a huge world to explore, one could understand a loss of graphical quality, and in some respects you can occasionally see beyond the veil to the graphical burden that such an expansive game can be. Character models aren’t as smooth as they could be, even during cutscenes. This is mainly due to the aging “Creation Engine”, which was central to building the Wasteland. While the game doesn’t graphically compete with other contemporaries on the PS4, in open-world games, content is king. Besides, the graphics aren’t awful. The lighting details throughout the wasteland help to craft a believable universe, and the character models, though lacking the polish and refinement as other titles, are still impressive. Though it doesn’t blaze a trail in terms of graphical quality, it provides solid graphics for the great, big world that it offers.
I walk over to a nearby radio and hear the classic sounds of 50s music…except there’s a slight twist in the lyrics. “Crawl out through the fallout back to me”, the voice croons over the radio, and the music is convincing. In Fallout 4 there are numerous radio stations that you can listen to playing classics from the 50s, many of them with a post-apocalyptic twist, but they’re still delightful to listen to. Turn the radio off, and you can enjoy equally satisfying music that helps to establish the feel and theme of the desolate Wasteland. The music is an excellent complement to Fallout 4, and I expect I’ll be picking up the soundtrack in the not too distant future.
Fallout 4 is a great game. What it lacks in graphical polish, it more than makes up for with sheer content and immersion in the world of the Wasteland. Combat is engaging and fun, weapon customization and settlement building will keep you busy for hours upon hours at a time, and when you do get around to the central storyline you’ll find yourself wrapped up in a well-told and rich narrative. Overall, an excellent addition for any gamer and a great item for any holiday wish-list!