War. War never changes. Although this isn’t strictly true in the case of Fallout 4, and some might even be a little controversial: in fact, a whole host of things have changed as we venture our way through Boston’s annihilated Commonwealth. For existing fans of the series, this is everything you could want from a Fallout game, with a load more thrown in for good measure. However, if Fallout games and their idiosyncrasies (bugs, odd character movement and frame rate drops) have been a barrier to you enjoying the series in the past, then Fallout 4 might still be a tough sell.
I’ll keep plot specifics to a minimum for spoiler purposes, but all you need to know is that it’s intriguing enough to compel you to crack on with it, but, at the same time, you’ll still be more than comfortable with roaming around the Commonwealth at your leisure. The most liberating of the Fallout series’ features are, of course, alive and well in Fallout 4: the freedom to go pretty much wherever you want (the strength of all sorts of malevolent beasties permitting) and construct the character and your play style in any way you want remains supremely satisfying.
If map size and hours of content are your priority then look no further than Fallout 4. The surface area of the map is larger than that of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but smaller than The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt from earlier this year. Yet, the surface area of the map isn’t important; Fallout 4 is dense in terms of activities, detail and story to get lost in. Buildings, caves and underground tunnels are full to the brim with bits to scavenge and areas to explore that are often so complex that you’ll regularly get lost. Lead Producer Jeff Gardiner admitted that he was still finding new things in the game all the time, even after 400 hours of gameplay. Maybe clear out your calendar for the next few weeks.
Buildings, caves and underground tunnels are full to the brim with bits to scavenge and areas to explore that are often so complex that you’ll regularly get lost.
But, this comes with a catch. There might be plenty of items to collect and raiders’ heads to turn into red mush, but this comes at the cost of polish. Anybody with any experience of a Bethesda game will be well aware of the bugs that abound in their open worlds. The AI is simultaneously ridiculous and frustrating at times as your companion once again struggles to climb stairs, side quests can occasionally not register that you’ve completed your objective and everyone still walks around as if they’ve done an unfortunate toilet in their trousers. The game has made the aesthetic jump to current gen consoles, and the later you choose to pick up the game, the more bugs will have been patched, but glitches can still break the immersion that’s essential for an open world to function. Things can get a little framey in particularly busy firefights on console, but the game holds up quite well elsewhere.
There are some interesting changes to the gameplay that might raise a few eyebrows among hardcore series fans. Were you the guy that practically lived in your t-45d power armour in the previous Fallout games? Then you might be in a for a shock as you will be limited in your power armour usage to the resources you have. If you haven’t been scavenging for those pesky fusion cores hidden throughout the world, then get ready to leave your legendary armour behind. Also, the karma system has seen a significant change: now, your companions and the groups you choose to knock about with will be judging you on your actions. If you lock pick an especially hard lock that impress your fellow traveller, you might eventually unlock certain perks. But, if you’ve been slipping too much Jet to ol’ Mama Murphy again, don’t count on receiving the same benefits.
But, Fallout 4 does manage to be the most personal experience in Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic catalogue. Your character is now fully voice acted, 1000 names have been recorded for NPCs to say back to you and you can even leave your mark on the Commonwealth itself. In Sims-esque style, you can now build rebuild certain portions of the wasteland to your design with junk you encounter on your travels. It’s surprisingly detailed too: you can build houses, electric power grids and defence equipment from invading raiders. The game never forces you to use this mechanic, and you can, quite freely, ignore it if its not your speed.
Fallout 4 might be the most personal game in the series, but I can’t help but think that less time could’ve been spent on the ancillary parts of the package and more on polishing the game’s bugs. On the other hand, these extra features expand on what was already a beloved experience to become the best open world game Bethesda Softworks has ever created. If I need to put up with the odd glitch to launch myself back into the wasteland, then that suits me right down to the irradiated ground.
Featured Image Credit: Gamespot