(Click HERE for an analysis of the games factions. Spoilers everywhere!)
I am a Fallout fan. You might not believe it, but there are diehard fans out there who would argue that I’m really not. You see, I’ve never played Fallout 1 or 2 and I have no intention of doing so. This would cause some people to lose their minds when I say I’m a fan. These people fall into two camps; the type who hate the modern titles (3+) and those who will play them, but maintain an elitist position about the series.
I am a Fallout fan not because of what the older titles did, but because of what the newer titles are doing. Let me explain, then we will move into the review. I enjoyed classic RPG games when I was younger, but I grew tired of the constant grind for more experience and playing the stats game. I also enjoy FPS, but just running and gunning tends to bore me after a few levels. I discovered a fusion of two of my favorite types of genres in Fallout 3 many years ago and have been hooked since.
It doesn’t hurt that the story takes place in a post apocalyptic wasteland based on a future where nuclear power had become the norm, like living in a perpetual 1950’s America. I love it. And I think any claim that I’m not a real fan should be squashed immediately. Elitist be damned!
Trying to write a review for Fallout 4 is not going to be easy because I don’t even know where to start. I suppose we should address the elephant in the room; the new genre added to the game. Yeah, there is a whole new genre within this game.
Building and Crafting
FPS and RPG were already staple at this point with Fallout 3 and New Vegas leading the way, but now we have a whole new play style we can take advantage of, the crafting and building aspects made popular by Minecraft, and modern games are now capitalizing on. You can read about my concerns on this subject here. Basically, before release I was worried about the inventory management aspects in this game. It only makes sense to discuss this first as all of my fears about spending an eternity in a crafting menu were waylaid.
A settlement is an area in which you can build. There are many aspects to it, including defending it from raiders (which I’ve yet to do). All of the materials you drop into your crafting benches are accessible from anywhere in the settlement. There are no recipes to memorize. No crafting grids. No nonsense. You simply pick something you want to build and find a place to put it. I was able to build a wall around my settlement with ease. Simply put, I love the building aspects and they’ve made it soooooo easy!
In turn, collecting things around the wasteland is essential! You never know when you’ll need a ceramic mug or damaged clipboard. Pick it up! Or have your follower do it for you. Head home, unload, get back out there! It really is a lot of fun to craft and I found the hours flying by as I was perfecting my base at the Red Rocket gas station.
Weapon crafting doesn’t seem as extensive as we’ve been led to believe, but there are a lot of options. Its not just slapping pieces together, like some of the previews have shown. You unlock different parts by choosing certain perks and you can customize weapons based on those things. Armor works in a similar fashion. Its very intuitive and well incorporated. I never bothered making weapons in previous titles, but I really enjoy it here.
The Story and Setting
No story spoilers, I promise. Fallout 3 sent you on a mission to find your Dad. New Vegas wanted you to get revenge on the man who shot you in the head and left you in a hole. Believe me when I tell you that Fallout 4 ups the feel factor to over 9000. Literally, my jaw dropped. We’ve all seen the trailer where you design your character in a prewar environment, so I don’t feel like I’m ruining anything telling you that you will get some time to explore the main characters life before the bombs drop. Take advantage of this and get to know the characters. I’ll leave the rest a mystery, suffice it to say that I don’t think I’ve wanted to pursue the main story of a video game more than this one.
Emerging from the vault, as you are apt to do in these game, you find yourself in a post war Boston, which I thought was a weird choice at first, but it has grown on me. Exploring in Commonwealth is very rewarding and entertaining. I’ve accidentally discovered three vaults and I haven’t gone far from home. There is rarely a moment where traveling is boring because there is something to see around every corner. And something to kill you.
All your favorite staples are there, including some familiar songs from Billy Holiday, The Ink Spots, and Danny K. It really plays to your nostalgia. I am sorry I have to say this, but Three Dog would have been an improvement. The radio DJ is… lame. I’m not sure how such an annoying character got so far into development.
The UI and Voice Acting
The main character is voice acted! There was some allusion to this in the trailer, but I didn’t expect him to be fully voice acted. The days of focusing on the target characters face are gone. The camera will go back and forth during the conversation (they actually have conversation!) and responses are assigned to the four buttons. I rarely find myself skipping through dialogue as I did in the previous titles. I just wish I could hear every response because some of the options are really funny.
The user interface has been improved vastly. Remember when you had to open every container to search for items. Well, since this game is heavily focused on collecting things, this is no longer what you do. Here is how it works. Place the reticle over a storage container or dead body and a small menu pops up. You navigate it by using the d-pad and grabbing what you want. This does not freeze combat. You can still open containers by using the “transfer” option, but it is largely unnecessary in your explorations. No clunky menus to collect stuff! Thank you!
All the usual Pip-Boy functions are still there and you can utilize them just as your used to, but the favorites menu really helps in keeping the action going. Press the d-pad at anytime and you have three slots for each direction to assign your favorite items. I have my three best guns on the left arrow so I can swap quickly during combat (pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle; custom of course).
In all, they’ve gone through great lengths to keep you out of the menus and in the battle. It feels so fresh and smooth that it will be hard to go back to the previous games after experiencing this. Its funny because, in older titles, after browsing a storage container you would hit the cancel button to back out of it and move on. In Fallout 4, I keep hitting the cancel button only to bring up my Pip-Boy. I’m still adjusting to the new system. Games really condition us, don’t they?
I also have to mention that one of my companions refers to me as Master Rex. He says my name. He actually says my name! Can you think of any other game that does that?! Its amazing!
Companions and Death
You will want a companion. I never used them in previous games because of their bad habit of getting in front of my gun and dying. I’ve had three companions so far (you can only have one at a time) and they don’t die. They also help a ton by carrying all of the junk you will undoubtedly collect along the way. They are voice acted, have great dialogue, and I’ve even had one ask to talk to me, like he was getting stuff off his mind. It makes them feel organic and real. If they could die, I’d be sad.
Giving them commands is fantastic because it can be done without interrupting your gameplay. You can be in the middle of combat and tell your companion to loot a body without missing a beat. No clunky menus! (Seeing a trend here?)
They are also very useful in combat (depending on who is with you, of course). You will die. A lot at first. And it matters! Death will set you back to your last save point. There is a quick save option in the start menu, but forget to use it and you will lose your progress. This is so, so, so important! The only way to use “wait” is to sit in a chair and it doesn’t refill your health. No auto-regen! In an age where death doesn’t matter in games, I found myself frustrated every time a raider blew my head off or a deathclaw ripped out my spleen. It forces you to reevaluate your strategy and take a different approach, which makes you better at the game (by playing it!). When the threat of death and consequence is very real, the commonwealth becomes less of a playground and more of a survival situation. Running out of bullets can be a life or death situation.
Speaking of which, I couldn’t find an option that required eating and drinking (modders, make this a thing please). You can do both to restore health, but they aren’t required. Also, weapons don’t degrade so you won’t find yourself repairing them on the fly. Most of the weapons you pick up, you will scrap on the workbench.
Getting a Taste of Power
Some of the best games give players a taste of absolute power before taking it away and making them work for it. Fallout 4 does just that. You get the power armor and mini-gun very early on. You get to experience it for all its worth. Then your power core dies like a battery and you hang your suit on its rack until you can find another power source. You don’t get to wear the armor everywhere like previous installments and you don’t need anyone to teach you to use it. You just have to keep it powered up. It is customizable, which I haven’t gotten to do much with as the parts seem rare (or I haven’t explored enough).
When you put it on, the UI changes and you have gauges on your screen that monitor your health as well as the remaining power in the suit. Immersion! I’m looking forward to doing more with this, for sure.
The perk system works a little differently this time around, which is not a bad thing. You can actually raise your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats which is great because, going in, I wasn’t sure what to put my points into. I got a well rounded character, but there are some perks I don’t have access to. Raising those stats lets me access them.
You have a myriad of perks to choose from; some familiar, some new. And with all of the options, you know there is going to be some intense replayability in this game. I kind of want to have an adventure as an idiot with no intelligence and very high luck. The real beauty is that I can.
Commonwealth is gorgeous for a wasteland. It is incredibly detailed, as is expected. Even the settlements you build look good and fit among the environment. Nothing is out of place. The details on the armor and weapons are painstaking. Someone spent a lot of time making these things look as real as possible. All the characters and enemies got a fair treatment as well. The deathclaws are terrifying.
A lot of people said the game looks just like Fallout 3, and I can’t say they are wrong, but I can say “Who cares?” Fallout 3 was beautiful, too. Don’t be a hater. Graphics don’t make the game, anyway.
The only complaint I have in this department is with the animation of mouths. They just look off to me, but its a small oversight compared to how great everything else looks. I’ll leave all the fps talk to other reviewers, suffice it to say that the average gamer is going to see a meticulously crafted world.
One of my favorite features are the nuclear storms that blow in. Everything is fine until the sky turns brown and dark, coupled with booms, lighting, and random radiation poisoning that creates a dark environment fit for a post apocalypse.
I touched on the music a bit already. You have the standard Pip-Boy radio with a few stations that I’ve found, my favorite being “classical.” There’s just something fun about fending off a wave of ghouls to classical music. Recommend! There are also a variety of hits that really set off the theme of the game.
In addition to this, there is actually an over world soundtrack of ominous music to accompany your adventure. This isn’t music from the Pip-Boy. Personally, I turned it off because I felt like music from an unknown source ruined my immersion.
I’ve already explained how some of the controls work in the UI section, but I can tell you here that they are tight. The character does what he is supposed to. Nothing is floaty. I have had zero trouble getting my reticle onto an enemy, which can be a burden when an FPS lacks the precision of a mouse.
I haven’t had a single death that I could blame on the controller. I suppose the only change I could recommend would be to automatically close the favorites pop-up after a few seconds. Here’s why:
If I am battling a raider and bring up my favorites menu, but then don’t make a selection, the menu will stay up. It isn’t intrusive in any way, but when it is up it limits the functionality of other menus. I’ve found myself trying to loot a body on the fly only to see my favorites menu preventing me from grabbing the loot and ducking away. Remember, combat doesn’t stop.
I suppose this is more of a UI complaint, but there you go.
There are very few negative things to say about this game and any problems I might have are vastly overshadowed by the simply amazing gameplay. It is intuitive. It is immersive. It is beautiful. There are very few clunky menus to be stuck in. The voice acting is great. Most importantly, above all else, the game is FUN!
If you are on the fence about this game, don’t be. I know the hype around it is on another level, but I avoid hype like the plague. I love this game. It is an improvement to the franchise in every conceivable way. For the first time in a long time, I’ve bought a new game that I have a hard time putting down. If you are like me, a Fallout fan who enjoyed 3 and New Vegas, I am 100% positive you will enjoy this game.