Fallout 4 Review

Fallout 4 Review

Conquer the Commonwealth

Bethesda released the first Fallout game to the world twenty-five years ago, and in all this time, they still manage to tell original, lasting stories in their post-nuclear world. Fallout 4, the fourth main installment in the Fallout franchise, continues the long-running Fallout tradition of exploration, role-playing, and lots of combat. It’s a game that only builds upon its predecessors. It’s a story-filled experience that is so massive and immersive it will swallow you up and leave you with no time for the real world.

But Fallout 4 is far from perfect. The game is so expansive there is a feeling that developers may have forgotten a few finishing touches here and there. Like explaining how to command, locate, or assign tasks to companions, navigating the perks menu, or building a worthwhile settlement. There are plenty of mechanics the game neglects to tell you about, and all too often, players spend dozens of hours in the game before realizing a feature exists.

Looking at you, inventory management.

But even when you factor in the negligence, the learning curve, and the scripting bugs (so many bugs), the time we spent in Fallout 4 was far more enjoyable than not.

Story & concept

While Bethesda produces some blockbuster stories to drive their games right into the heart of the video game industry, what makes them so impressive are the side quests they provide. The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series are known for allowing players to make their own stories and forge their own paths. There are major beats you will find yourself bottlenecked into on specific quests, but the beauty of Fallout is that you tell the story.

That said, a central theme runs through the Commonwealth of Fallout 4. Even if you ignore the main quest and focus on exploration—maybe help out a few Minutemen—you’ll find that most NPCs will still point you towards the game’s overarching story. Or they’ll at least have peripheral information that pertains to it.

Fallout 4 — Minute Men

The beginning of Fallout 4 shows what life was like before the bombs fell and the world was forever changed. Your character, a military veteran, is living a quiet life in idyllic suburbia with your wife and son. You meet a Vault-Tec agent who informs you that your background qualifies you for placement in the nearest Vault.

Neat.

Suddenly, the sirens are wailing, and it turns out that Vault is now your only hope for survival.

Get your family over to the Vault, get into your pods, and watch as the Vault-Tec scientists lie right to your face and cryogenically freeze you for the next 200 years.

During your freeze, you’re woken up to find an armed mercenary prying open the pod with your wife and son, kidnaping your son, and murdering your wife. Then you drift back into cold slumber.

When you wake up fully, the only story beat you need is to find your son. Find Shaun.

But as you explore the Commonwealth, you quickly learn Shaun’s fate is wrapped up with that of the Institute and, to a lesser degree, the Brotherhood of Steel.

Fallout 4 — Crossing a Bridge

Like the decision to join the Imperials or the Stormcloaks in Skyrim, Fallout 4’s main story pushes players towards siding with either the technologically advanced Institute or the chivalrous knights and paladins of the Brotherhood of Steel.

But of course, you could completely ignore all that and just… explore. There are dozens of hours of gameplay, countless side quests, and more dungeons to delve into than a D&D campaign.

Instead of choosing quality or quantity, Fallout 4 chose both.

Graphics

This will depend heavily on the machine you’re using to play Fallout 4. While PC is usually seen as the better hardware for experiencing the full quality of a game, we’ve never seen it matter more than with Fallout 4. There is a noticeable difference between playing Fallout 4 on a console versus a PC.

We were nothing but disappointed in the graphics when we first played Fallout 4. Choppy, the opposite of fluid, and the game constantly lagged. We couldn’t play the game in first-person mode when we first started; it was so haltingly rough and delayed.

Fallout 4 — Walking into The Third Rail

But then we switched to a PC with a good monitor, and it was like playing a different game entirely. It was so smooth! The movement was fluid! First-person combat was as good as many first-person shooters!

We suddenly found ourselves admiring the sunsets, picking out detailed objects from across the room, and taking in the sights of the Commonwealth from the skies above.

The graphics of Fallout 4 are impressive. But the caveat is that you need hardware that brings Fallout 4 to its full potential.

Sound & atmosphere

The sounds of Fallout 4 are unique and lasting. Even the little buzz your Pip-Boy makes is original. The sound design for Fallout 4 was clearly done with care and professionalism.

Fallout 4 — Staring at the Red Rocket Ruins

The atmosphere of Fallout 4 follows in the footsteps of each Fallout game before it. There’s a retro 60s vibe throughout, with classic songs from the era playing on some radios you encounter. The old-time radio announcer, coupled with the crackly quality of musical recordings from the 60s, is hauntingly genuine. It does a wonderful job of bringing our auditory sense fully into the post-nuclear world of Fallout 4.

Gameplay

The gameplay of Fallout 4 is extensive, intricate, and absolutely overwhelming. Right off the bat, the game throws you into the thick of it, forcing players to quickly get the hang of many mechanics.

  • Exploration
  • Combat
  • Role-playing
  • Crafting
  • Lock Picking/Terminal Hacking
  • Settlements
  • Factions

Compared to Fallout 3 and New Vegas, which start the player at the relative bottom of the Wasteland hierarchy, Fallout 4 is a baptism by fire. It introduces players to factions (Minutemen) early on in the game, it dumps settlement management on your lap not long after (Sanctuary Hills), and tries to railroad you toward companions (Dogmeat, Cait).

But while the game is clearly trying to force you places, you’re walking past at least a dozen interesting markers on your map. It’s virtually impossible to go from one point to another in Fallout 4 without noticing something you haven’t discovered yet, and it’s even harder to ignore that new location. So you’re juggling a lot right off the bat in Fallout 4. But that doesn’t even cover combat, crafting, or role-playing.

Fallout 4 — Suited Up Inside a T60 Armor Suite

Everything in Fallout 4 has value. And we mean everything. Sure, that battery has apparent worth. But you probably didn’t think pencils, TV dinner trays, and typewriters would be so valuable, did you? Not only that but every weapon and piece of armor you find in the game is upgradeable, not to mention your settlement will need defenses and supplies, which all need components. So you want to loot everything you see since it will probably come in handy at some point.

The combat of Fallout 4 has a lot to unpack, with melee and ranged weapons, AP points, and the VATS system. But that was one of the few areas where we didn’t need guidance.

And on top of all of that, Fallout 4 is trying to make you care for NPCs, question morally ambiguous situations, and struggle with the nuances of complex ethical dilemmas. In short, they keep putting people in front of you and expect you to care for and empathize with them. For us, juggling everything else at the beginning of the game, we found ourselves without a care for most settlers, NPCs, or merchants we met.

We were too busy caring about ourselves.

But once we got a foothold in the Commonwealth, understood the basics, and didn’t die every few minutes from a Deathclaw, we could appreciate the subtleties of Fallout 4’s excellent role-playing.

Replay value

Fallout 4 — Fighting a Raider Survivalist

It’s not so much that Fallout 4 has replay value. It’s that Fallout 4 has extreme value. Period. It’s a world you don’t want to leave. It’s meticulously crafted and planned out, and there are so many tasks to complete and locations to explore that you never want to leave. And there’s so much content for you to enjoy. You don’t have to.

It’s not replay value that Fallout 4 claims; it’s damn good value.

Most gamers don’t want to let go of the Commonwealth. So once they’ve explored all there is to explore, they simply start a new game and do it over again. This is crazy when you think about how many hours it would take to explore the Commonwealth of Fallout 4 and that people want to do it again and again. But Bethesda is known for crafting those kinds of worlds. The ones that grab you and don’t let go.

Final thoughts on Fallout 4

Fallout 4’s random bugs and glitchy quests aren’t enough to weaken the strong case it makes. While the experience isn’t for everyone, as we’re sure some gamers see the fullness of the world as a little too full, it’s an experience that’s rich with quality story-telling, pristine mechanics, and lasting memories.

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About Victor

Writer. Gamer. Outdoorsman. Victor has written across multiple mediums, with some of his work appearing in anthologies, magazines, and websites like Nerdist.com, SFFWorld.com, and CBR.com. When not writing, he is usually gaining inspiration for writing from the library of video games he owns. If he's not indoors, Victor is outdoors climbing mountains, hiking forests, or otherwise conquering nature.

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