Fallout 4 Review: Well Worth the Wait
Michael Mays / Nov 9th, 2015 3 Comments
War. War never changes. It just adapts to next-gen consoles and improves in almost every way.
Fans of the Fallout series have been impatiently awaiting the release of Fallout 4 since Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas dropped in 2010. Throughout the course of those five years, we all heard the rumors, got fooled by the fan-made trailers, and guessed as to what the game would finally have in store for us when Bethesda saw fit to bestow upon us the magical beauty of the next installment in the beloved series. Well, that time has come, boys and girls. And now that it has, Fallout 4 need only compete with five years of our wildest fantasies and imaginations that have run amok. Fortunately, Bethesda was up for the challenge.
The Game Shows a Lot of Character
Character creation has always been a bit of a specialty for Bethesda. Fallout 3’s character creation process allowed players to become sculptors and create the right avatar for wreaking massive amounts of destruction across the Capital Wasteland. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim went even further by adding a level of depth in character creation that really brought your Dragonborn to life. Well, Bethesda continues this trend with Fallout 4 by once again outdoing themselves.
Players could literally spend a couple of hours fine-tuning the various features of their character’s face with a level of customization usually reserved for game developers. You’re not just choosing a shape for your eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. You are adjusting the size, shape, and positioning of basically every single inch of your character’s face. It may become overwhelming for those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Once you’re adequately pretty, it’s time to consider what kind of skills you want your character to possess. Fans of the franchise are familiar with the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system; however, this time around, the amount of points you allocate to each S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attribute are of extra importance. Each attribute has its own perk tree with 10 different perks. Your ability to unlock these perks will depend on how many points you put into each S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attribute. Fear not, though. If you’re beginning your journey into the unforgiving wasteland of The Commonwealth and find that your character is a noodle-armed choir boy or a brainless brute, you can choose an attribute to add a point to each time you level up, but that means you will be forgoing adding one of the all-important perks to your character.
Now that your character is built to your exact specifications, it’s up to Bethesda to bring him or her to life. For the first time in the series, the player character is fully voiced. With so many games today featuring fully voiced protagonists, it might not seem like this is anything to write home about. Adding this feature into a Fallout game, though, is worth getting out the pen, paper, and envelopes and mailing a letter to dear old mom (chances are, your mom doesn’t care about Fallout, though).
For a franchise that prides itself on a player freedom, exploration, and the ability to create and destroy your own moral compass, having your character seem so alive adds a whole new dimension to the series and takes immersion to the next level. It adds an extra layer of tension now whenever you’re having that final conversation with someone right before the inevitable gunfight ensues. Or perhaps gunfights aren’t your thing and you’d prefer to just crack wise with vendors in hopes of charming them into lowering prices. Whatever the case, your interactions with other characters throughout greater post-apocalyptic Boston will seem more authentic than ever before thanks to the fact that the voice acting was not only performed for your character but performed well.
Speaking of other characters, as you traverse The Commonwealth, you will run into many characters that you can turn into companions if you play your cards right. You may find yourself befriending a sparky female journalist who has made a lot of enemies during her search for the truth, or a Super Mutant who has recently become obsessed with Shakespeare and implores you to help him find the “milk of human kindness.” Whoever you end up sharing the road with, you’ll notice that your actions will affect their disposition towards you. Some characters may embrace a ruthless, violent approach to conflict, while others are more likely to appreciate a diplomatic solution. Be mindful of this lest you anger your companion to the point of them turning hostile against you.
If you find yourself making all the right decisions with a certain character, there is an opportunity for romance. As of right now, I can only confirm a heterosexual romance option, but I’d be very interested to see if same sex unions are on the menu. I’d be even more interested in finding out if you can romance the Super Mutant. Maybe that’s my thing. Don’t judge me.
War Does Actually Change a Little Bit
Combat in the Fallout series is yet another aspect of the game that is constantly improving from installment to installment. In Fallout 3, players were most likely using the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.) of combat because the gunplay left quite a bit to be desired. Without PC mods, you weren’t even able to look down your iron sights when aiming your weapon at some raider or old lady. New Vegas added iron sights, but you still often felt as if you were shooting rubber bullets at your enemies. V.A.T.S. was once again the way to go. With Fallout 4, gunplay has become a boon and a source of fun as opposed to a hindrance.
Bethesda had made it clear that they wanted to place emphasis on the shooter aspect of Fallout 4 so that the combat would seem more like acclaimed shooters such as Far Cry 4 and Call of Duty. In that, the developers succeeded. Enemies often take cover and fire at you intelligently instead of running out in the open and becoming target practice. Some human enemies in previous games seemed to have Kevlar skin, but shots seem to do much more damage this time around. If a human enemy is more difficult to kill, it is usually because they are wearing some kind of heavy armor.
For fans of V.A.T.S., don’t worry — your brand of combat is still well represented. In the past, activating V.A.T.S. would pause the game while you targeted body parts on various enemies, giving you unlimited time to make your decisions. In Fallout 4, activating V.A.T.S. merely slows down time, meaning that you need to make your decisions more quickly if you don’t want to be up to your booty in feral ghoul.
Actual combat isn’t the only part of the war that has changed. Almost everything imaginable can be built, modded, repaired, and otherwise improved upon. Armor and weapons can be improved and modded in so many ways using materials that have been scavenged during your journey that you will spend hours just fantasizing about the possibilities and then searching for the materials necessary to turn those fantasies into reality.
Speaking of losing hours of your life, you can put your HGTV knowledge to good use and pretend you’re the star of a post-apocalyptic home renovation show by tearing down and building back up various communities in Fallout 4. The quality of your work along with the sufficiency of resources will help determine the level of happiness of the members within your community. This game within the game will almost certainly cause many people to lose jobs, scholarships, and possibly even relationships. Worth it.
That’s My Story…
Now that we’ve gone through most aspects of Fallout 4, it’s a good time to remind everyone that there is indeed a story involved with this game. The first thing that truly makes Fallout 4’s story unique among other Fallout games is that you actually begin the story before the bombs fall. This provides a perspective that Fallout fans have surely been clamoring about for years.
You immediately get a look into your character’s personal life: a perfect, suburban family-oriented kind of bliss; although, conversations with your spouse allude to the fact that it hasn’t always been this way. Due to your character’s service to his or her country, you get selected by Vault-Tec to take shelter in one of their vaults should a nuclear holocaust take place. Lucky you, right? The television warns of impeding doom, you run off to the vault, and the adventure begins.
Now, if you’ve played any of the other Fallout games, you know that the story often involves your character searching for something he or she has lost and then finding himself or herself caught in the middle of a conflict between at least two rivaling factions. In Fallout 3, you leave Vault 101 in search of your father and then find yourself in the middle of a war between the Brotherhood of Steel and The Enclave. In New Vegas, you go off in search of a platinum chip that was stolen from you, and then find yourself in the middle of a conflict between Caesar’s Legion and the NCR. The Fallout 4 story is very similar in this way when you look at it on the surface; however, this is not really surprising.
The Fallout tagline has always been “War. War never changes.” For war to occur, you necessarily have to have two or more entities in conflict with one another. The way Fallout 4 keeps it fresh is that instead of two equal sides battling it out against one another, you have the entire Commonwealth feeling the effects of and trying to solve the mystery of a local “Boogeyman” (as it is referred to multiple times) called The Institute, which is the remnants of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (or the Commonwealth Institute of Technology in Fallout lore). Your job, while searching for what you’ve lost, is to find out more about this mysterious entity and decide whether or not the horror stories are true. The twists and turns that follow lead to some of the finest storytelling ever seen in a Fallout game.
Fallout 4 had a lot of hype to live up to and has done so admirably. It maintains all the charm that made previous installments of the series great while building upon that by including a fully voiced protagonist, excellent combat, and a crafting system that is so good that it will ruin lives. The story provides an addicting mystery for you to solve while still rewarding exploration.
In a year where we’ve seen some absolutely phenomenal games released, Fallout 4 is certainly one of the best. With 2015 winding down, Fallout 4 firmly places itself in the game of the year discussion.
Fallout 4 was reviewed on PS4 using a copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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