Fallout 4 Review
I waited until XMas day to get my copy of Fallout 4 and while I have struggled to get the time to play it, with all the festivities going on, I still managed 22 hours of gameplay and this accounts for only 9% of the game completed!
The main reason for this time-scale is all the brilliant side quests that you can take on, either on your own or - as per Fallout 3 - with an NPC buddy at your side!
To be honest the actually main story and production values of Fallout 4 are superb, with an opening that really per-stows upon you the events of a nuclear attack and the aftermath that follows.
Without giving too much away the game’s main objective is to locate your son, but as I said earlier the open-world is full of so many wonders that I could spend literally hours-upon-hours exploring the commonwealth (used to describe the Massachusetts area) without even touching the main story-line!
Graphically - during the day - the open-world post nuclear landscapes have never looked so good on the Xbox One version I played (with day/night cycles and weather conditions thrown in for good measure) and combat also feels a lot more responsive/fun than Fallout 3.
If memory serves the devs took a look at the combat of Destiny to tweak the gameplay here and the research has been worth it!
Explosions also look particularly meaty, though at times the up-close character animations of the cut-scenes and dialogue sequences look a little dated and I have experienced severe frame drops in places even with the latest patch. Thankfully the latter has only happened roughly once (I think one example occurred on a Minutemen mission - this will become clearer when you start to play - where I had to clean out a warehouse of Raiders), yet the overall gameplay values dominate so not to warrant any long-term concern.
Like putting on a favourite pair of slippers!
For the most part if you have played the previous Fallout titles (Fallout 3 gets bundled with the Xbox One version via its backwards compatibility mode) it will be like slipping on your favourite pair of slippers.
You start off first creating your own character by picking from a list of pre-set features – the latter does take up some time, but is fun regardless. Then you finish by adding points to your S.P.E.C.I.A.L stat system (an acronym for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck). The latter essentially governs how you interact with the world in terms of persuading character(s) to aid you in quests or part with items without resulting in conflict. Other stats help with lock picking, computer skills and so forth.
Each time you level-up you gain an additional point that you can use to improve the above, but it’s worth spending some time working out where you want the point to go as this can help you discover new places that you could not access before i.e. by opening previously inaccessible doors.
Update: When starting the game you occasionally get a fun introductory video which showcases the benefits (in a comic strip format) of each of the skills and they are certainly worth watching!
Lots of Junk!
On top of this there is a lot of inventory management because when you start to explore the vast open-world you can rummage through corpses, trach cans, filing cabinets and so forth to pick up dropped EQ.
The management of this is a little better as you have control over what you pick up when looting and the Pip-Boy you find is once again there to help organise everything and it’s been intuitively designed. However a lot of the items you find are still junk, but as you progress in the game the junk can be used to repair your Power armour or add mods to your weapons. The power armour I must admit is a lot easier to get hold of now, but has the disadvantage of requiring Fusion cells, which are harder to find!
Another area of the game that I have not played with a great deal is the Workshop building system – in one of the main missions it does teach you the basics. Most of the workshops are pre-built anyway so you can repair items, mod weapons and create new chemicals (healing and so forth). However you can create a base from scratch where you can add these benches or build defences and so forth. Thus you almost get a mini sim-based aspect within the game.
For the most part you wonder the wasteland by yourself but later in the game you can start to team-up with NPC’s and also offload items to them(though even they have a limit on what they can carry). The first NPC you get is Dogmeat which is a canine companion and he helps you in combat as well as finding items that can benefit you – such as Stimpak’s for healing or ammo for your weapons.
Dogmeat I have to admit is pretty cool (great as a tracker to), but later on you can swap Dogmeat for other NPC’s that you find i.e. by completing some of the main/side quests. So far I have had a powerful, but stupid, Super Human which gets in the way more than anything, and Nick Valentine who is a Synthetic.
What’s useful in this version of the game is that you can direct the characters to scout the environment ahead of you or in Nick’s case tap into his master lock picker and computer hacker skills. Thus even if your intelligence is low you can utilise Nick to unlock 'Master/Expert' terminals for you.
The above character is also good in a fight and if your NPC gets injured you can heal them in-battle with Stimpak’s; thus if you get a good NPC they can be really helpful. On the flip side they can also be unpredictable at times and if you get paired with a rubbish one you will find them more of a hindrance rather than anything else.
Note: Additionally you can also choose a Faction to join, such as the Brotherhood of Steel and this will provide additional resources to help you in your fight!
Travelling the World
I started off in the early parts of the game simply wondering around the areas and soaking up the atmos, but later on you realise just how big the commonwealth is and there is a lot of going backwards and forwards on certain quests; so you will want to tap into your Pip-Boy to fast travel. Though the exploration side is not hampered here because unless you have discovered a location you can’t fast travel to it. So most of the time is spent still going from A to B. What I found is that other places get discovered when you do this and I've spent hours getting side-tracked because of it.
As I said in the earlier part of the review the combat is really good and while you still have V.A.T.S (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) to target specific parts of an opponent’s body, the general combat is entertaining to the point of being on par with some of the modern FPS games!
The problem really is the lack of ammo and making sure you have adequate armour protection. However the new favourites system that you control via the Pip-Boy is helpful here as I could quickly attach weapons to the d-pad's short-cut interface and gain access to multiple choices during battle. Weapons vary from an assortment of grenades, laser projectiles, missile launchers, shotguns, pistols and the classic Fallout special of choice the ‘Fat Man which can be equipped with mini nukes doing 468 points worth of damage – literally it can take out most enemies with ease and produces a blast radius that can knock enemies backwards. Just don’t fire it in a closed environment!
Going against the Super Mutants or synthetics is certainly draining, as their energy bar at the top can sometimes be replenished if they mutate; so I did have to save my game on several fronts. The problem is that when you forget to do the latter (which is easy to do as the combat is engaging) things can get repetitive as you have to grind your way through the same scenario again.
Re-loading is also hampered a touch by long loading times, thus loading from a save or going from one location to another can take a while.
On the loading screen you do get some basic info about specific creatures or weapons to help passes the time away, but even so the loading side can dampen the experience.
Thankfully on the whole the quality of this title does offset the above and I find some of the Quests are just brilliant in terms of story, spoken dialogue and action/adventure elements. Like I keep repeating, you never go to one mission without discovering something new on the way and this really is a game you will need to sink hours-upon-hours into.
I nearly forgot to mention that you can also easily switch to a 3rd person perspective in this game or hold your finger on the toggle button to pan around your character; to take the odd in-game selfie of how cool your armour looks!
If you are fan of Fallout 3 or simply want a quality single player experience then this title will deliver. It has the odd quirk, such as longish loading times and rare frame drops, but on the whole it’s a superb game that warrants all the praise it gets! Simply put it’s brilliant!