I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach than I normally would when reviewing a game – I’m going to open with the main flaws that bothered me in Fallout 4.
Some of the character’s faces in the game look atrocious. Seriously, they’re butt ugly. It’s not all of them – there are some attractive people to be found in the Wasteland. Just not many.
Often, the conversations you’ll have in the game leave you simply staring at your main character in an awkward moment of silence as you await each response. It’s odd and makes some conversations feel slightly un-natural. It doesn’t help that some of the voice work provided for lesser NPCs leaves a lot to be desired – a real shame considering the script is of a high quality.
Then, there are the bugs. Oh my, there are lots of bugs. You’ll have characters spinning out of control, environments seemingly disappearing or characters merging with the environment itself, providing new horrifying mutants for the Boston Wasteland such as the hideous ‘man-wall’ hybrid. It’s not uncommon to find these sorts of bugs in Bethesda Games though; it’s understandable with the sheer size and scope of their titles that they won’t quite be perfect. Fortunately, I never encountered anything game breaking on my play through – just odd, albeit humorous.
So there we have it – those are the things which bothered me the most with Fallout 4. Now I’ve got them out of the way, it’s time to talk about how amazing I think the game is. It’s been one of the most anticipated titles of the year and rightfully so – Fallout 4 is a blast.
The narrative opens in a stereotypically American 50s setting that is anachronistically blessed with the likes of a robot companion that looks after you and your home. You’re introduced to your main character (that can be male or female) and given the opportunity to sculpt their appearance exactly how you desire; the tools feel limitless. Will you try to perfectly re-create yourself? Will you try to create a celebrity look alike? Will you make the ugliest possible character you can imagine? The choice truly is yours.
Whilst the unfamiliar, peaceful setting of pre-nuclear disaster Boston emits joyous vibes, it’s not long until disaster strikes. Fortunately, your character and their family are privileged enough to hold a place in the safe-haven known as ‘Vault 111’ – the vault setting a familiar sight to fans of the Fallout series. Of course, it’s not all plain-sailing for your main character from there; after an unfortunate series of events, you witness the murder of your partner and the kidnapping of your son. From there, you awaken some 200 years after the initial disaster and venture into what remains of Boston.
The story takes many twists and turns – some predictable, whilst others offering quite the surprise. It’s engaging at least; you’ll be hooked onto the story, lending to the quality of the game’s script. There’s a surprisingly dark vibe to the game – whilst there are moments of humour it certainly is the most serious entry in the series.
You’re in some control of how the story unfolds too – you’ll be making choices that will determine the fate of yourself and those around you. It doesn’t hold the same narrative freedom you’ve may have encountered in the likes of Mass Effect or a Telltales adventure title, but it does at least allow you to make this your own Fallout 4 experience.
There’s a sheer abundance of side quests to complete throughout the game, each offering smaller bite-size stories featuring the unfortunate residents of the Boston Wasteland. It can feel like a mixed bag at times – whilst some side quests have an interesting premise with an exciting task to complete, some feel like boring fetch quests. You won’t be able to resist completing as many as possible though; there were countless times throughout my play through of Fallout 4 that I found myself completely distracted from the main quest, either completing the optional side quests or exploring what remains of Boston.
Whilst we’ve been used to the dark, miserable tones of previous Fallout titles, Fallout 4 actually brings primary colour to the environment. Besides the new colour bringing the world to life, there’s an abundance of detail within the environments too. Homes are littered with the skeletal remains of the citizens of a pre-apocalyptic Boston, each offering their own tragic back story if you’re willing to investigate the remnants of clues offered to you. You’ll find decorated homes, filled with items for you to collect and use for your own means – nothing is worthless this time around. The world manages to feel alive and, despite the treacherous conditions, lived in. Then there are the abandoned shops, gas stations and factories to be uncovered. There are a ton of locations for you to explore, the massive world always offering something new for you to discover each time you venture forth.
Fallout 4 isn’t a graphical masterpiece. There are the previously mentioned ugly NPCs, a few awkward animations and the occasional odd texture. That’s not to say it looks bad by any means – there are occasions when you’ll be in awe of your surroundings. It just isn’t really consistent. This isn’t the beautiful re-imagining of a Wasteland that many Fallout fans may have been expecting, despite how interesting it is to explore.
Returning Fallout 3 fans will be pleased to find that the game plays almost identically to its predecessor, offering consistently enjoyable gunplay along with the ever popular ‘V.A.T.S.’ system. ‘V.A.T.S.’ (VaultTec Assisted Targeting System) grants you the ability to slow-mo target specific body parts of an enemy, offering you a percentage that represents your likelihood of hitting the target. It can feel a little cheap, but it’s so satisfying and can get you out of some sticky situations. Plus, it’s a satisfying feeling popping the head of that Raider that’s been causing you bother – Fallout 4 is a very gory game.
Whilst your weapon may be your main form of protection on the Wasteland, a lot of attention needs to be given to your armour. You’re able to fully customise what you equip – each part of your body is allocated a separate armour piece. You’ll find plenty of different pieces of armour throughout the Wasteland, either hidden throughout the derelict remains of fallen buildings or looted from your defeated foes. Admittedly, the randomness of finding armour means you are often left with a mixture of mismatched pieces to protect you – I felt like I bore the appearance of a Wasteland clown at times. The OCD inside of you may be crying out for matching sets of armour, but you’ve got to make sacrifices to your appearance if you’re going to survive the radioactive Wasteland.
There’s a fairly in-depth weapon and armour upgrading system that allows you to adjust and improve your equipment. Whilst there are cosmetic changes to your new and improved weapons, the stat improvements are the most significant change. The customisation options are vast and allow you to make even the most basic of weaponry into dangerous weapons of destruction. It’s surprising how useful the typically useless items you find scattered throughout the wasteland are – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the contribution a broken desk fan can make towards the creation of killing tools. It certainly adds an extra value to what is typically labelled ‘junk’ in other games, but comes with the consequence of constantly becoming over-encumbered. You’ll certainly be boosting your strength stat if you want to fully take advantage of all the crafting on offer.
Leveling up and skill point allocation is very important in regards to creating the Fallout 4 experience that you want. Stat and skill bonuses are called ‘perks’, and there are an absolute ton on offer. You’re really given the freedom to mold the skill set that most suits you – you could create your character based around brute strength or you could rely on speed and endurance. You can make your character cunning and sneaky or alternatively a happy-go-luck dummy. There’s so many perks to choose from and the more you level up, the more perks that become available.
Initially the whole system felt a little intimidating; the sheer scope of the upgrading had me feeling that I’d only really be able to follow one skill set. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to level up though, with quests rewarding the adequate experience points to allow the flexibility to experiment a little with your character’s build. It takes time and commitment, but the pay-off makes it all the more worthwhile.
A completely new feature in Fallout 4 is the ability to build and manage settlements throughout the Wasteland. Using the previously mentioned ‘junk’ you find littered around, you’re able to create whole towns with a variety of structures, defensive outposts and even small patches of farming areas. I’m sure the more creative players out there will make some amazing things, but I was proud just to be able to make a fully functional radio tower.
It’s completely optional and admittedly a little cumbersome at times, but there was something about the base building that got me hooked. It’s surprising how much you are actually able to create – it’s almost like The Sims: Fallout Edition. It won’t be for everyone and doesn’t really play a huge role in the game, but its presence alone is a testament to the effort Bethesda have made in making Fallout 4 the most expansive entry in the series yet.
I made a point of mentioning what I thought were the flaws of the game at the start of this review. If you read those and thought “I can’t buy a game with flaws like this…” then don’t – Fallout 4 certainly lacks polish.
If you can look past those minor flaws though, then you’re going to have a blast with Fallout 4. Almost every gameplay aspect of the game is perfectly refined, offering the sort of depth that is typically associated with Bethesda titles. It’s a real joy exploring the surprisingly colourful remains of a post-nuclear Boston, investigating every nook and cranny whilst discovering all the secrets hidden underneath. You can build your character exactly how you please, carefully allocating skill points to make sure your character is perfectly suited for your play style. There are a plethora of enjoyable side quests to complete, keeping you coming back for more after you’ve finished the roughly 40 hour or so campaign.
Fallout 4 isn’t perfect by any means, but what it lacks in polish it makes up for in depth and freedom – the depth to create your own Fallout experience and then the freedom to play it exactly how you please. There aren’t many games that offer an experience like that, yet it seems we can always depend on Bethesda to provide it.
– Engaging story that allows you to make your own choice along the way
– The Boston Wasteland is fantastic to explore, full of secrets and plenty of areas to discover
– Enjoyable gunplay and combat mechanics
– Plenty of skills to unlock for your character
– The surprisingly addictive base building
– The graphics and animations aren’t the best
– Bugs galore
Format Reviewed: Xbox One