by Joshua Russo
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Format: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Released: November 10, 2015
Bethesda Game Studios dropped a bomb this summer when it announced Fallout 4, in all of its post-apocalyptic glory, would irradiate our lives in less than six months. A mushroom cloud of hype erupted, and the finished product – complete with an enormous, explorable wasteland, memorable companions and much improved gunplay – didn’t disappoint. But the game is also plagued with bugs, and not just the radroach kind.
Fallout 4 doesn’t take long to get going. Within minutes nukes are dropping, and you, your spouse and your infant son are hustled into local Vault-Tec Vault 111 where you’re all put on ice – cryo-stasis. Fast forward 200 years: You awake as the vault’s sole survivor and your baby has been kidnapped. Naturally you set out into the commonwealth in a blue jumpsuit in pursuit.
Upon exiting the vault, players are surrounded by the beautiful, eerie, gritty nuclear wonderland our story takes place in. That story isn’t stellar, but it’s not terrible either. Players will find themselves more emotionally invested, thanks to a protagonist with actual depth.
Fallout 4 improves on most of what was great about Fallout 3, and ditched a lot of what wasn’t. Bethesda’s attention to detail really shines, from random scene-setting weather patterns to immersive dialogue options.
The biggest game changer by far is the introduction of crafting. All of that junk strewn across the wasteland? It has a purpose now since it can be broken down into reusable components. That aluminum can? A future patch of armor. A battered clipboard? More like a much-needed gun modification. Exploring the potential of everyday items is addicting, so avoiding becoming over-encumbered is a constant battle. Fallout 4 begs to be explored to the fullest, but first you’re going to have to ditch all those antique globes.
Luckily, junk can also be used to fortify, furnish and fully power settlements across the commonwealth. Pimping out settlements offers a welcome break from the harsh wasteland. Options are aplenty for creative players who aspire to shame Megaton with their astonishing shantytowns, but building a perimeter fence and setting up a few turrets will get the job done as well.
Either way, players can stop at settlements to upgrade and modify their weapons and armor. Armor can be strengthened and improved with modifications like improved stealth or carrying capacity. Weapons modifications address range, fire rate and damage inflicted. Gunplay itself has improved exponentially. Fallout 4 feels like an actual shooter. It has improved so much that V.A.T.S feels almost useless. It still comes in handy for finding traps or analyzing an ambush, but, otherwise, it’s much more fun to take down enemies manually.
Most settlements also include a place to hang your power armor. Power armor has become serious business in Fallout 4. It’s like a wearable, bad-ass tank that can be strengthened, modified and painted. The interface is laid out like a vehicle console and the armor itself clunks around as if to say, “Don’t fuck with me!” Of course, armor that powerful can’t just be slapped on and used for the remainder of the game. It needs fusion cores to function, and they are few and far between.
The wasteland can be a lonely place – luckily it is home to more than a dozen companions that can join players on their journey. Most have their own enjoyable personalities, likes, dislikes and back stories. They also have different skills, so take that into consideration while planning excursions.
Regardless of who you travel with, they will get in the way. A lot. Small rooms, narrow stairways, tight halls and doors are all easily obstructed by your bumbling companion. It’s frustrating right off the bat, but it will become infuriating before you’re done. How do you think we know companions can’t die in combat?
If door blocking companions were the only frustration in Fallout 4, that would be great, but the game is infested with bugs, from simple texture-loading issues to straight up crashes. Some say Bethesda deserves a pass on glitches, given the scope and ambition of its games, but the frequency and manner of these issues are hard to forgive.
It speaks volumes that in spite of those issues, we are still completely addicted and captivated by this game. The beauty of Bethesda games is not just the unmatched size of the world, but the way they manage to fill every nook and cranny without overwhelming the player or making it seem like it’s unnecessary filler. There is so much to explore and check out that long after the main story quests are finished players are will still feel like they’ve only scratched the surface.
This review of Fallout 4 was played on a PlayStation 4