Five years ago, Bethesda released Fallout: New Vegas, a follow-up to 2008’s Fallout 3. Since then the company has gone on to make smash hit Skyrim, but has left the Fallout franchise alone — until recently.
Since its release on Novemver 10, Fallout 4 has dug its claws deep into enthusiasts new and old alike. Both a deviation from the previous formula and a rethinking of well-established gameplay traits, Fallout 4 is a first-person action RPG set in a retro-futuristic, post-apocalyptic future. The game’s ‘50s sci-fi aspects married to a Mad Max post-apocalyptic setting may sound like a strange combination on paper, but it has a very distinct and loveable aesthetic. There’s a solidity and depth to the Fallout universe’s design; from the culture to the enemies and technology, everything has a distinct flavour that remains consistent, creating a unique and recognizable experience. But although the aesthetic is the same, Fallout 4 has made some considerable changes to the way the game plays.
To start, the character stats have been changed so that instead of picking out your character’s traits at the beginning of the game, the player starts near the bottom with only a few points to assign, and as they level up they can assign points to one of over 70 different skill trees. While this may seem daunting at first, Fallout 4 lacks a level cap, which means eventually all of these traits can be unlocked. If you have the time, that is.
Fallout 4 has also made some distinct changes to the combat. While before the VATS system (a “targeting” system that froze the action and let you select what you wanted your character to attack, where to aim the attack, and in what order) “stopped” time, it now only slows down time to a crawl, making the system a lot more reflexive and on-the-fly. To compensate for this change, Fallout 4 has greatly improved its first-person combat. Melee attacks and gunplay both play exponentially better than in previous 3D instalments, making the real-time combat a much more viable option. With the removal of the weapon and armour quality system, there’s now no need to worry about your gear breaking down. These aren’t even the end of the changes; there are many more significant ones Bethesda has made to different aspects of the game, particularly the power armour, that change up how it plays in good and refreshing ways.
Fallout 4’s gameplay also deviates from the straightforward RPG style that previous instalments have had. While previously the game had you progress through the story linearly, Fallout 4’s gameplay is a lot more open, giving your character much more to do and much more to explore. With locations “respawning” their respective loot and enemies, Fallout 4 presents the re-playability that has been previously lacking in other instalments. Combined with the new base-building aspect of the game, management of the many settlements you can find and develop, the many rich characters (and many more voice actors!) and companions to encounter, as well as the countless locations to explore and loot, Fallout 4 has no lack of things for a player to do.
However, the game is not all sunshine and roses. While the gameplay itself has improved significantly compared to previous games, the story does not hold up quite as well. The narrative for the primary tale feels disjointed and lackluster, but luckily the plethora of side-quests and alternate activities more than make up for this.
Another issue is that Fallout 4 just doesn’t work as a PC game. The game itself is optimized and built for console play first, and overall the PC version (which I currently play) feels like a console port, from the way its menus are designed to the strange functionality of the game. Most PC users (and Xbox One players) will experience strange frame rate drops, and while some parts of the game may look gorgeous, many others feel lazy or poorly optimized. On top of this, Fallout 4 features the signature “Bethesda Jank™.” What this means is that the game frequently has strange glitches and physics quirks that can take away from the experience. While Fallout 4 is a large and ambitious project, there’s a lack of polish to the game that definitely rears its head as you play, and can be difficult to ignore.
Fallout 4, in the end, is a fantastic game. Overall, it’s a large step forward from the previous instalments, and offers plenty for a single player to experience and enjoy. With significant replayability and a deep open-world environment, Fallout 4 can be a solid choice for a good time-sink. Unfortunately, I would strongly suggest you choose the PS4 edition, unless you are highly confident in your computer’s ability.