So we’re slightly late to the party with our coverage of Fallout 4. For what Reason? Put simply, the size of the game! Make no bones about it, this thing is enormous! If you buy Fallout 4, you might want to start writing your will because, well, R.I.P life.
Game: Fallout 4
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
(Review Copy Provided by publisher)
The internet is saturated with videos, tips, glitches, highlights and much more surrounding Fallout 4 which I a testament to the game. What you won’t have seen much of is the story line. Basically because, yikes! Which one are you supposed to talk about!? Fallout 4s story can be answered “in a nut shell”, as well as me needing to pump a dissertation out, for everything going on. The nutshell is essentially a search for your baby son (who like you has been in stasis for 200 odd years). The beauty of Fallout 4 lies in that you are by no means tied in to following a linear path through the game. At 10 hours progress I had done a host of missions without realising I wasn’t moving the main story. At 20 hours in, I still don’t know much about the main story other than my child is missing. This is because I personally have been too busy helping every other weathered soul I find on my travels. The world suffered a massive catastrophe and in its wake it became your, giant, irradiated oyster to help who you please when you please.
Backing up this multi layered story is some superb gameplay that links an attack system worthy of a JRPG with FPS combat. Vault-tech Assisted Targeting System, more commonly known as V.A.T.S allows you to essentially enter bullet time, asses your enemies, and pick exactly where you want to hit them with your attack. The HUD brings up the enemy with a percentage that shows how likely you are to hit the part of the body you are thinking about shooting at. As you make your selection, you can see how much damage you will do in the enemies in their health bar. If you make an error or decide that a good old fashioned double tap to the torso guarantees a kill rather than risking a shot to the head that could easily miss, you can press B to re-make your selection.
You may wonder why you would ever choose to aim somewhere other than the head or torso? Well when you meet a cluster of Feral Ghouls that are like those fast zombies bent on seeing your HP reach 0, you can quickly render them useless by shooting their legs out from under them. As I mentioned before, V.A.T.S doesn’t stop time completely so even though you have time to choose your shots, when you are surrounded by enemies you can still feel the heat of the gun fight. To use V.A.T.S you need Action Points (AP) but these also link to your stamina bar when you run, as well as your breath for steadying a shot with a sniper rifle, so there is a lot to think about! A nice addition to Fallout 4 is the fact that while in V.A.T.S you have a critical meter that builds up as you hit enemies. When it’s full, you can choose to unleash a critical shot that does exactly what it says on the tin.
When you are out of AP and your only choice is to fight the old fashioned way, the FPS element doesn’t falter at all. In the past your perks and stats would dictate how good you character was with certain weaponry. This meant that if you invested heavily on being able to use pistols like the folk of the Wild West, then using an assault rifle was pointless because your accuracy would mimic that of a baby left to eat its own breakfast. Now you are more levelled out, so you have some basic proficiency with all weapons. This is incredibly handy because you can switch to harder hitting implement of destruction when you are in one of many tight spots that you’ll find yourself frequenting.
At first finding the balance between using V.A.T.S and regular gun play can be overwhelming, but once you get to grips with everything, it works. Some critics will complain that using V.A.T.S is boring and repetitive, but personally, I never get tired of the slow motion kill that is your reward for using V.A.T.S! Being an RPG you gain experience for killing enemies, completing quests and performing other standard RPG tasks like crafting. Each time you level you are given a skill point to spend on your perks. Primarily you learn that you are SPECIAL (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck). Your base 7 perks. But once you see the sheer amount of extras you can invest in, the really hard decisions arise. There are so many directions to take your character in. The dilemma is that you can be aiming your build towards a specific perk, but then you really feel that you need to strengthen yourself in other areas. The battle between need and want is always there and the perk list is so vast that you could easily spend 20 minutes weighing up the options each time you ding. The new modding function that Bathesda have introduced is actually part of the reason you may find yourself sweating over which perk to spend your precious skill point on.
The pack rats out there will be pleased to know that everything that you can pick up (which is pretty much everything), can be used to modify weaponry and amour, as well as turning your settlements into a post-apocalyptic 3D Sim City. You can even scrap guns armour and buildings for their parts! I personally am not a fan of building anything more than what is necessary, but the options you have are plentiful. If you have always been the kind of person who enjoys building from the hip, rather than following instructions, you can probably lose plenty of hours simply creating something special. The guns and armour too have loads of options to tinker with. Do you feel that you want a Shot Gun version of your Laser Assault Rifle? As long as you unlock the right modification perk and have the right gear to create this mod, you can go right ahead! A word of warning though, adding a scope to something like a sub-machine gun can be a fatal floor. The animation to look down the scope is not fluid and takes a while to transition. Not what you need in the face of bullet based adversity. Throughout the world you occasionally face legendary enemies that drop legendary weapons. Your level and perks don’t hinder you from their use, but if you want to alter them, you need to think about unlocking the perk to do so… waiting longer and longer to put off a perk you want because of a perk you need becomes a horribly familiar game. These mods not only change the stats of the item, but also the appearance. This is a great touch that gives every player a really personal stamp on their play through.
Power Armour used to be a very late game acquisition. You got it knowing you had put in a hard graft and really deserved the reward. Fallout 4 has tipped this right on its head. You receive power armour very early and learn that it has become more of a power up than a reward. I currently have 3 suits! To use the armour you have to have a Fusion Core (a battery) so your time using the armour is limited to how many you have. It’s also not as vastly OP because you get varying modifications that you yourself can change. When you enter the armour against enemies of a similar level, you will be unstoppable, but unless you have kitted it out properly, you will struggle when you bump in to a horde of super mutants, 12 odd levels your senior. Once the battle is won, or you have run away with you radioactive tail between your legs, you can store the power armour at a settlement until the next time you need it. For me, this is both a gift and a curse. It’s great to have when you meander into a tricky situation that rusty metal just won’t help you with, but I sometimes get so wrapped up in a tricky fight that I forget entirely that there is a walking titan waiting just 2 fast travels away. Once to get back to the Armour then once again to return to the action. This is a ball ache in itself because you can interrupt an intense moment with 5/10 minutes of loading screens and ensuring your amour is ready for the fight.
For all of the glory found in every nook and cranny off the Fallout 4 world, it is riddled with strange bugs… Apart from all of the Radroaches and Bloat Fly’s. Character animations are weak and just don’t look as finished as they could be. Some characters also have long hair that moves oddly, with no regard for boundaries such as the face, so it just flops in and out of the cheek as it pleases. If Power Armour is so good, why did one NPC get stuck trying to walk over a bath? Enemies that are no doubt meant to jump out, frighten you half to death and then put up a fight, can sometimes suffer like a lonely dove forgotten by a failed magician. When it pops out, I’s definitely less alive than you. However strange and sadly frequent certain bugs are most of them shouldn’t ruin your pay though, or be a reason to avoid buying the game. Having said that though, rumour has it that there are 1 or 2 game breaking bugs which really is unacceptable. Added to these fails are over lapping pieces of NPC audio. If you run past one, they may start to say something to you. This doesn’t get cancelled when you talk to the character you are aiming for, so you end up with nothing short of a rowdy evening in the pub pumping through your screen. This and in-game music overshadowing certain dialogue is less than ideal, at times leaving you with no idea who is saying what.
Graphically, Fallout 4 is beautiful. Bethesda have brightened their usual greys and browns leaving you with a wasteland that looks better than some movies. Although somewhat frightening, the radiation storms that appear at times are actually something you could happily pull up a chair and watch for a while. The main HUD is not bad and a really nice touch is that it changes slightly when you step into Power Armour. The Pip Boy on the other hand, which is your main menu for navigating quests, items and the world map etc. is quite cumbersome. The Map itself feels really basic and cluttered once you start discovering more and more locations. As you adventure, you can ask certain NPC’s to come with you along the way. These companions will fight your corner, and you can use them as extra storage for all of the looting you do. The can also be given better weaponry that they will use, as long as you equip it. This is great until they pull the pin on a grenade and lob it straight in to the group of enemies you’re dealing with, thus doing more harm than good! Dogmeat… the dog, is probably one of the better companions to have around. Although he doesn’t offer a huge amount in attack, he doesn’t affect the Lone Wanderer perk, which grants you defense boosts and extra carry weight when you don’t have a companion with you. The down side is that it seems to be really tricky to actually bring up the commands list because he always tries to be 5 or 6 steps ahead of you.
It often annoys me that a game barely 6 hours long can command a shelf price of £50, however Fallout 4 will easily see you waving good bye to 50 hours of your life. Minimum. It has so many different options for gameplay, story progression, modifications, that you can easily play it for a solid sitting and barely notice that you have contributed heavily to a solid arse dent on the sofa. This is a testament to the game because you don’t get bored, or feel the need to mix it up at any point. You can argue that Bethesda have dumbed down this installment slightly in the sense that it will encourage more people to pick up a copy that wouldn’t have gone near it in the past. This is derived from taking a great title in Fallout 3 and tweaking it to be more forgiving. Don’t get me wrong, it is no walk in the park (mainly because they are all destroyed), but if you are a veteran of the wasteland, you will not be surprised if you feel as though you have come home.
There are a ton of positive points that mean Fallout 4 is worth a high score on the ratings, but it does come with a whole host of glitches. There is also a learning curve that may give you grief but the best advice I can give, is to save often and it won’t be so bad. All in all I don’t see any reason to ignore this title. If an Action RPG/FPS sounds like something awesome, you won’t fall out with Fallout 4.