It’s finally here, folks. After five years of waiting since exploring the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the last game in the series, Obsidian Entertainment’s Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4 becomes a real thing that can be a part of your life this week.
The latest entry in the franchise takes players to the location known as the Commonwealth—the Northeast area of the United States currently known in real life as Boston, Massachusetts and the Greater Boston area—after the world went to hell in the Great War of 2077, which only lasted a couple of hours but saw the nations of the world bathe each other in nuclear fire and devastation.
So has the long wait been worth it? Continue reading for my review of Fallout 4! There won’t be any story details spoiled, but I will be diving into lots of other stuff you can expect from the game.
I suppose with a game this size the best place to start is the beginning. The VERY beginning. Let’s talk about the main menu for just a moment. Menus don’t often get a lot of love because they’re just menus, but great main menu music can really get me pumped up to start playing. Bethesda games always do a great job of this, and it’s no different here. As usual, the main theme of the franchise is tweaked and updated for the newest title, and composer Inon Zur‘s Fallout 4 theme (heard in the trailer below) is just wonderful. I listen to it in full whenever I load the game up, and get chills every single time. It’s right up there with some of my favorite menu music such as Mass Effect 3, Uncharted, The Walking Dead season two, and Dragon Age: Origins (also by Zur).
Once you’re done listening to the main theme two or ten times, it’s on to making your character, which is where many fans of these games spend their first hour or so. As we saw in that first gameplay demo there’s fancy new character creation menu, and it works well. It will definitely take you a while to get your character where you want them, especially if you’re someone who likes to make yourself the character. I’m usually one of those people, but my character ended up far better looking than I am, and so I decided to shake things up a bit and make him a descendant of mine. ‘Cause *holds up sword* I have the power!
After all of that (and after you play through the story set-up, which I shan’t spoil for you) you can get out into that big and beautiful open world to explore. And it is big and beautiful…while being desolate and depressing at the same time, of course. There’s been a few complaints about the graphics of Fallout 4 based on the gameplay we’ve seen and screenshots and such, but I have to say, this boggles my mind. This is an incredible looking game. Bethesda has once again designed and built a tremendous world for us to play in. Considering what the past two games in the franchise have looked like, I was blown away with how this new game looked from the start, and that’s only increased the more I’ve played it. Previous games were decidedly gray and brown (fitting for a post-apocalyptic game), but Bethesda has introduced a great deal of color into this new world, while still maintaining that necessary bleakness. Even on an Xbox One, where I’m assuming it will run the weakest graphically, the game looks gorgeous. I can only imagine how unbelievable it’s going to look on PC at the highest settings, especially when mods start coming into play.
Personally graphics have never been a big concern for me—if they’re top of the line, great; but if not, no big deal. I don’t need my games to be 1080p/60fps to enjoy them. So long as the game works and the story and entertainment value is there, that’s all that really matters. And this game does work. One might expect a game like this to have its fair share of early bugs and glitches to find and iron out with post-release patches, and given the game’s size that would be forgivable. I went in fully expecting to encounter a couple of hiccups along the way. But, to my surprise and delight, I’ve had no major gamebreakers happen to me while playing.
Certain gameplay elements such as looting and dialogue have been streamlined in a big way. Instead of “entering” a container to see if there’s anything good in there only to find it empty, for example, simply putting your reticle/cursor over it will show you what’s inside and let you take what you want to and keep on moving. This can be a little hard to get used to—I can’t tell you how many times I’ve backed out of a container only to accidentally bring up my Pip-Boy because I was never actually in the container—but apart from that it’s great for grabbing your loot and moving on quickly. You can still go into a container if you need to dump some weight or if you want to see the weight/value/stats of something you might want to grab before actually taking it, and I find myself still doing this quite often for immersion purposes. It feels more realistic, what can I say! With dialogue sometimes the conversation will begin when you approach someone and sometimes you’ll initiate the conversation, but you don’t need to back out when done; you can simply walk away.
The biggest new feature this time around is zones in which you can actually craft various things, including freakin’ buildings. All that junk you usually ignore while out exploring or sell off to a merchant? It now has other uses, as items in the game consist of one or more materials like steel or glass or plastic that you can obtain by scrapping the item and use in crafting other items. In these designated areas you can build new living areas, generators for power, resources, defenses for any trouble that might pass through, and more. So instead of simply finding an established settlement where you can take a breather, meet new people and get new quests, and perhaps rent out a room in which to sleep and store your treasures such as Megaton in Fallout 3, in this game you get to help build the settlement. You can even set up a radio beacon that other survivors out in the wasteland looking for a safe place to settle down in might hear. If you’ve been playing Bethesda’s mobile game Fallout Shelter, it’s kind of the same idea here, only you’re not in a vault and you’re right there with the others instead of just watching over them. These crafting materials can also be used at workbenches found around the world to modify your weapons and armor, so there are tons of customization options to take advantage of in your time playing.
When we first saw this new feature revealed back in June, I thought it looked pretty cool but didn’t think I’d use it all that much because I’d be spending so much time out exploring the wasteland. But of course, when I had to craft a few items as part of a quest I ended up spending hours just scrapping everything I could find, while also cleaning up the newly budding settlement and messing around with building stuff. It’s a very addictive new element to the franchise. And now, in addition to spending a ridiculous amount of time exploring the world and completing quests and playing through the story of Fallout 4, you’ll also be spending countless hours playing what’s basically a mini Fallout-style Minecraft.
Speaking of mini-games, there’s another smaller but still brilliant new feature to enjoy as well. Your Pip-Boy, where you do everything from managing your inventory to healing yourself to checking where you are and where you’re going on the map, is capable of playing holo-tapes as usual. But this time around some of those holo-tapes are actually games, which are arcade style and modeled after classics like Donkey Kong and Missile Command. Just another little thing to help keep the game endlessly entertaining.
The Pip-Boy also includes radio stations to listen to as always if you want to mix things up from the game’s main score (which can now be purchased on iTunes, by the way—all 65 tracks of it!). Along with the station that plays old songs, such as Dion’s 1961 song “The Wanderer” that was used in that live-action trailer or Five Stars’ “Atom Bomb Baby,” there’s also a classical radio station I’m very much digging that plays songs like Wilhelm Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody Number 2,” Gustav Holst’s “The Planets Opus 32:1. Mars, the Bringer of War,” and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake Opus 20,” just to name a few. These can make for some truly epic moments while out exploring or battling various beasties, such as the adorable little deathclaw seen below or some relentless feral ghouls.
Leveling up is an adventure in its own right. There’s a ton of perks to help you mold your character, so figuring out which ones are a priority to you so you can make sure you have the right S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes is important. If you saw the poster that’s being sent out with pre-ordered copies, you know what the leveling up screen looks like.
Something else new here’s that’s not seen much in previous installments is a dynamic weather system. I won’t go into details so you can experience it for yourself when you play, but you will be dealing with some changing weather, including one storm that actually scared the sugar bombs right out of me when it first happened. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but it was terrifying.
Clearly I could go on and on and on about this game, but we’re already almost 1,700 words in and I’m taking up precious time you could be spending actually playing it instead of reading my gushing about it. Summarizing everything I’ve said prior to this: it’s really good. You should totally get it.
To wrap things up, Fallout 4 is exactly what fans hoped and wished and dreamed it would be. It’s an evolution of the franchise—still familiar in many ways, but with many additions and improvements. It’s a huge open-world post-apocalyptic adventure, with a seemingly endless amount of things to do. Whether it’s going on adventures, battling mutated creatures, and helping to build settlements that will give hope to others that humankind will ultimately survive and rebuild, or just playing a game on your Pip-Boy or listening to some classical music while watching meteors shoot across the star-peppered night sky, you’d have a damn hard time getting bored with this one.
I’m lost in the wasteland once again, and I could not be happier about it.