Wednesday, December 5

Fallout 4 Review

I played on: PS4
I paid: £30 (eBay in 2016)
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Notes: I reviewed this game in March of 2016 but since then I think I have become much better at writing and reviewing games so I wanted to go back and re-review this game. You can find my original review here.

I think the most simple explanation of Fallout 4 is that it’s no longer an RPG but instead is now a shooter. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, I’m all for diversity when exploring fictional worlds and settings. The problem is that Bethesda is too scared to fully shed the RPG skin leaving it to get tangled up in pointless features that do nothing when you really look at them.

The gameplay is similar to that of Fallout 3 and New Vegas on the surface with first and third person cameras. You can shoot in first-person but this has been massively improved with iron sights, cover and weapon customisation. This is the first time combat has been really enjoyable since the original Interplay classics. It’s fast-paced, intense and manages to keep you constantly engaged. VAT’s has been updated as well with it no longer stopping time completely and now only slowing it down. This fits in with the focus towards combat and shooting. Players who like to find a non-violent solution to conflicts, however, will be disappointed as this is now impossible. You’re forced to fight and kill, no more pacifist runs. This would not be that bad but the charisma stats and dialogue checks still exist but now they mostly only gain you extra caps to spend. In fact, the entire dialogue system has changed only allowing you 4 simple options. Most the time these will just say the same thing and at no point can you change what the story wants you to do except in one very scripted moment when you pick your faction.

This brings me to my next point, you can no longer role-play. Your character has 1 of 2 backstories and if you play as the woman it’s very obvious you should have picked the man. The male character has been in the army but has left to raise his young son along with his wife back in civilian life. This explains how he can use weapons effectively as well as knowing how to use power armour. The female character has a law degree so it makes no sense how she is able to instantly use weapons with the skill of a soldier as well as having undergone the training required for power armour. The opening narration also opens with the male character instantly isolating half of the player base. This is very obviously because Bethesda expected the player to be male and not female and it’s flat out insulting. Because you also now have a detailed history it’s impossible to have your character be gay or trans. I used to always role-play as a take on myself as a gay trans woman but now that’s impossible because I gave birth making me cis and I had a husband making me at least bisexual. Role-playing goes further out the window when you learn your character is now fully voiced meaning that they inject emotion into the dialogue changing the entire tone of how you might have wanted to say something. I don’t mind linear games, hell Metal Gear Solid 3 is linear and it’s one of my all-time favourite games. My issue here is that it pretends to give you choice when you really have none. Just do away with all the dialogue options and have cutscenes or well acted scripted conversations. That way the story would be tighter and would get rid of all the messy and useless dialogue in this game.

The story is a mess with plot holes big enough to drive a bus through. You start in the year 2077 looking after your infant son before the bombs start to drop and you run to the local vault. Fans of the series will know that Vault-Tec used these vaults as experiments on civilians. Your vault, Vault 111 is designed to test long-term cryofreezing on unsuspecting civilians. You’re frozen and then suddenly awoken by a strange man and scientists stealing your son before killing your husband or wife. Then you get refrozen and wake up to begin the mission of finding your lost child. Although not even half a day after escaping the vault you’re distracted from this mission to rebuild a group called the Minutemen. I guess finding your son can wait seemingly forever. This game goes out of its way to try and make you care about the story but then gives up. This is why a more linear experience would suit it much better. If I had a family member missing I would not stop until I found them or I was dead but here building settlements, learning about the synthetic humans and becoming a detective all come before finding your son.

That’s not even mentioning the strange continuity to the earlier games. Nothing has been rebuilt in 200 years. That’s the same time between America gaining independence and now. In real life, most modern cities were built in the last 200 years but here no ones repaired old buildings or even cleaned the streets. You’re even able to find cardboard boxes which is crazy because they should have rotted away by now. Between Fallout 1 and 2 which is 80 years the New California Republic is founded and becomes a form of government, the Brotherhood of Steel fall from grace and entire villages and towns are built. Yet here over 150 years after Fallout 1, there is no government, very few towns and the world is still in ruins. War never changes but the world around the never-ending battles is supposed to move forward. Yet Bethesda seems to forget this instead they are stuck in the same destroyed wasteland Fallout 1 presented us with. It makes no sense and limits the possibilities for world building and interesting stories around a world coming back to life.

During Fallout 1 the Master is the only person with the ability to create new super mutants but now they’re common across not just California but all of America. Fallout 2 and New Vegas handle the mutants wonderfully with them being uncommon as most of them were killed off by the Brotherhood between Fallout 1 and 2. They are suffering from prejudice and just want to be left alone but are unable to find peace due to people thinking they’re all monsters. In Fallout 3 and 4 they are all just monsters and have no subtly or nonce to them. Compare Jacobstown in New Vegas to Trinity Plaza in Fallout 4. Jacobstown is run by Supermutants and Nightkin, it’s kept clean for the most part and the residents don’t want any violence. Humans, however, are trying to attack the town due to misplaced prejudice with the mutants. The player is able to kill or peacefully persuade the other humans to leave as well as helping the Nightkin find a cure for their stealth-boy addiction. Trinity Plaza in Fallout 4 is also run by Supermutants but here it’s trashed with blood, body parts and bags of gore hanging all over the place. The Mutants scream and attack anyone who comes into contact with them and you’re unable to talk to any of the Mutants besides one at the top of the building and he is represented as a simple dumb character. This just shows the vast difference between Bethesda’s idea of mutants in the Fallout universe next to the original team’s ideas. I know which one I prefer and it’s not the type we find in Fallout 4.

This world may be a vastly more shallow one than that of Interplays original vision of the Fallout wasteland but it’s not all bad. I love the way that the environment mirrors the themes and concepts of the story. You will find loads of baby toys and cribs which reminds both the player and the character of the infant son they have lost. Mannequins litter the Commonwealth and this represents the synths as false humans. This along with the beautiful graphics and use of colours make Fallout 4 look stunning at times. The use of light blues with bright yellows is something I love and really just says “Fallout” to me. Bethesda takes the strong foundation of the original games and just builds on top of it creating this world that feels both beautiful and nightmarish at the same time. When you’re given an objective it’s marked on your compass and you just follow the marker. The issue with this is that you’re always just following the objective marker and as such you never get to freely explore this amazing world. During Fallout 1 you could ask for directions from people and they might even mark it on your map if you were lucky but most the time they would just tell you where things were and you had to find them. This allowed you to explore the world in a far more realistic and organic way than in Fallout 4. Even if you turn off your HUD or compass you can’t navigate organically because no one tells you where things are, it’s just expected that you will have the location marked on your compass. This lack of organic exploration and navigation makes the world feel smaller than classic Fallout games and it’s sorely missed for players like myself.

For the first time in Fallout history, players are allowed to build their own bases adding to the world in unique and personal ways. This base building is very clunky and rough around the edges but when you can get it to work it is fun. I enjoyed building things and adding trans-flags to all my settlements. Again it feels off that it’s been over 200 years since the bombs fell and no one has built anything but then you come along and you can build 20 farms with working electricity, purified water and automatic defences within a single year.

Do I like Fallout 4 as much as the classic Fallout games? No. Is it better than Bethesda’s last Fallout game with Fallout 3? Yes. It’s a mess that should have committed to a linear story in an open world similar to games like Far Cry 3 and the original Crysis instead of badly pretending to be an RPG. The shooting is fun however and little bits here and there really do work well. I love customising my weapons, armour and power armour and would love to see Bethesda lean into this more with their future Fallout games. Overall it’s not the worse Fallout game but it’s still miles behind anything Interplay and Obsidian have given us.

Recommendation Rating: 5 out of 10.

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