Ever since its first announcement earlier this year at E3 2015, Fallout 4 has been the game that fans have been anticipating the most the world over. After knocking out sales on November 10th and the competition — Rise of the Tomb Raider — by a tremendous margin, people are wondering whether it is as good as it’s hyped up to be. A lengthy gap of five years between the release of Fallout: New Vegas and this new iteration on the post-apocalyptic world has given Bethesda plenty of time to come up with interesting ideas to create a better experience. However, will this be the game that will have you pouring hundreds of your game hours into? Or will it simply be a prettier rehash of previous titles?
Fallout 4 begins in Boston, Massachusetts where the player resides with his/her significant other and their infant son, Shaun. After a short instance of relative calm, nuclear detonations begin to go off and lay waste to the land. Your character and their family quickly evacuate to the nearby Vault 111 in order to survive, and are frozen cryogenically for just over 200 years. After tragically watching your other half get murdered, the protagonist sets out for vengeance and to get his son back from those that kidnapped him. This is where you meet the inhabitants of the Commonwealth, learn of all the events and terms associated with this desolate world, and actively perform quests to earn friends to assist in your vendetta.
As always with Bethesda games, the depth of the in-game lore goes above and beyond anything players typically see in RPGs. The places you see reflect such a beautiful parallel to early 1900s Boston that it makes a player smile with amazement as you pass by landmarks and special venues. The story also has a lot of twists and turns with the central plot circulating around trying to find your kidnapped son, Shaun while gathering allies and resources along the way. The ultimate choice at the end of the game is as surprising as one would expect of Fallout titles, but it’s one that’s difficult to make as it tugs with your emotions. This aspect of it is what makes this a good game: that it’s told in a fantastic way and that it tugs with your emotions in different directions. With the fact that characters are fleshed out with good voice acting and solid personalities makes this an excellent choice for anyone who loves RPGs to get into.
The fact that there’s a voice actor for the protagonist was a big change from previous Fallout titles, which only had you select what they were going to say with “imaginative speech”. While at first adjusting to it, it soon became apparent that it was actually what the series needed to make it feel more fleshed out. It didn’t necessarily take away the “you feel like the character aspect”, instead it added more depth to them as you heard the emotional struggles and general tones associated with the choice in your answers. This helps the player understand exactly what choice they made after they pick it; I understood that when I chose something that sounded neutral when I read it, it was actually threatening instead. The only issue I have with watching the dialogue exchange between your character and the other is that their facial movements don’t look natural, as if it’s stuck in the past games’ animation for it.
It’s time to talk about the gameplay which, in my opinion, has such a familiarity to it yet feels reinvigorated. For those who haven’t played the previous titles, the game performs an admirable job at easing you into combat. While the plethora of different attributes and perks can be quite confusing for first time players, the game does well in explaining what each does and makes it obvious that being a jack-of-all-trades can be a downside. The mechanics encourage the player to concentrate on a few branches or a certain fighting style (such a pugilism, melee weapons, or guns). The fun part about Fallout is that you can always go through another play-through to see what it’s like to fight barehanded instead of with guns, or to simply increase your charisma and talk your way out of many situations!
Many features from previous games in the series return including V.A.T.S. and Survival Mode. Each are revamped in their own way but still remain familiar for returning players. Survival was always the name of the game for Fallout, but in this new title you’ll be scavenging like crazy to continue living in this mode. It creates a sensation of desperate struggle while looking around for resources, which makes the player feel more absorbed into the game and a part of the world. You are also able to create various foods and aids by utilizing ingredients found in the environment or off wildlife in a crafting system, as you can purify irradiated meat or water by cooking them over a campfire. Food isn’t the only thing that you’re able to create through crafting anymore, though.
The crafting system implemented into the new title requires a whole section of its own. In previous Fallout titles, junk found around the Wasteland had very little to no significance in anything, it was literally just junk. However, Fallout 4 changes this up completely by actually rewarding those of us that hoard these objects in games. By utilizing the workbench you enter into a “crafting mode”, in this crafting mode you’re able to break down different objects around the map and junk in your inventory in order to harvest material. Material is then used to craft different objects, structures, and miscellaneous items for building up a town or area. This could possibly be the best thing Bethesda has ever thought about adding to one of their titles, as the junk scattered around the the post-apocalyptic land is now useful which actually rewards the amount of hoarding that normally goes on in games like this.
The aesthetics for the environment, weapons, and creatures looks amazing. With the power of the newer consoles behind the title, it runs smoothly for the most part, only beginning to chug as soon as some powerful explosive goes by. This is something that the series suffered in the last few games as it’s trying to process the physics to everything flying or getting destroyed by the explosion, as well as the rag-doll effect on characters. This shouldn’t be a problem in the new age of gaming because of the power of the new consoles, and definitely should have been an issue that Bethesda would have fixed since New Vegas.
The Pip-Boy feels got a big update, it allows even more functionality and choices for your playing needs. You are able to look up items in a model viewer, play holo-tapes, and more which adds to the overall experience. The list in which you access and distribute points for Perks and Attributes is now all conveniently located in one place. This gives players a more organized way to choose among the large array of Perks , however, it’s also a tad bit confusing at the same time. Without any proper order to the Perks, along with the fact that it’s all spread out poster-style, it gets hard to keep track of what you invested into and what other Perks work well together. It’s as if the developers just expect the player to figure it out right away but sometimes you might put too many points into the wrong thing, wishing you had done something different because it works with another Perk.
The Pip-Boy Companion App on your phone is probably one of the most interesting extras to the game. The ease of connectivity to your console and game coupled with the response time is simply astounding. While looking around in-game, it shows my characters pointer marker on the map on the App turning along with him. It became apparent that Bethesda wanted this to be an integral addition to play style for players, but it is optional as you can simply bring up your Pip-Boy on the TV screen anyway. Anything you do in the App, however, is immediately reflected while playing; players can drop their items, use meds, turn on the radio, or even play the holo-tape video games!
As per usual, the Achievements accompanied with a Fallout title are not only enjoyable and practical to achieve, but also humorous. They task the player with performing a set of challenges that gives the player incentive to either perform another run-through (if you didn’t want to already to try different attributes/combat styles), but also some require a specific task that could involve such things as placing a grenade in someone’s pocket while stealing from them. There are also level-based Achievements to get, but they don’t feel grind-y because you’re typically leveling up whilst completing extra and optional quests along the way.
In conclusion, Fallout 4 is the ultimate sequel to the series. While New Vegas was a significant addition to the series as it introduced the Survival Mode feature, Fallout 4 encompasses the best from every game along with stellar graphics, the crafting/city-building system, and improved Pip-Boy. Additions to the game include the utilization of a Pip-Boy Companion App which is extremely responsive and easy to connect. Dialogue exchanges between your characters and NPCs feels a bit clunky, along with the fact that the frame rate drops exponentially and chugs whenever there’s a large explosion in an enclosed area. However, this pales to the positive points of the game, which tips the scales in favour of buying it and making it the game of the year to play. Welcome home.
- Graphics - 9.5/109.5/10
- Gameplay - 9.5/109.5/10
- Controls - 9.5/109.5/10
- Sound - 9.5/109.5/10
- Replay Value - 9.5/109.5/10
Fallout 4 was developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It was released for Xbox One on November 10th, 2015 and is also available for PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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