Fallout 4 offers a revamped leveling system, an amazing story, and near endless content in post-apocalyptic Boston. The graphics may not be cutting-edge enough for some gamers, but there are plenty of other reasons to return to the wasteland for this one.
Afters years of waiting, fans of the Fallout franchise were thrilled to hear that Fallout 4 would be released just a few months after its official announcement. Expectations are incredibly high for the apocalyptic action RPG, but early gameplay footage left some fans worried that the game’s graphics would feel out of place in 2015. Although it can’t be denied that the game looks a little dated standing next to Metal Gear Solid 5 or Rise of the Tomb Raider, Fallout 4 offers more than enough amazing content to overshadow the aesthetic disadvantage.
For those who have been avoiding Fallout 4 trailers or are unfamiliar with the franchise, the game is an action RPG that puts players in control of a man or woman out of time. The protagonist survives a nuclear war thanks to a fallout shelter and emerges 200 years later to find a post-apocalyptic world that is mostly unrecognizable.
The game’s narrative requires no knowledge of prior Fallout installments and the core story is one of Fallout 4’s greatest strengths. We’ll avoid spoilers, but the early events of the game set the protagonist off on a missing person hunt and a quest for revenge. Despite the seemingly endless options for side quests and other activities in the game, the core narrative is so engaging that it is difficult to stray away from it for too long. There is plenty of Fallout’s trademark humor worked into the story as well, but there is also a lot of intense, engaging drama and mystery.
One of the major changes to the game’s narrative comes in the form of dialogue wheels. Many long time fans of the franchise were nervous about a voiced protagonist, but the mechanic is executed incredibly well. The voice acting is of the highest quality and the dialogue is all tight and well-written. Decisions made in conversations definitely carry weight as well, as player’s companions judge their conversational skills and either build additional loyalty or start to lose respect for the protagonist.
Despite being a single-player game, Fallout 4 definitely puts player’s social skills to the test with the use of companions and factions that players can become associated with. Determining which companion is best to bring along on a mission is about more than whether you want a hulking tank of a super mutant, a loyal dog that can follow a trail, or a militia soldier with marksman abilities. Players must also consider how each adventure fits in with the companion’s ethics and beliefs. Things get even more complicated as players are asked to make promises to different factions throughout the wasteland and eventually find themselves in positions where these loyalties start to conflict. Again, we’ll stay vague to avoid plot spoilers, but the fact that decisions actually felt like they carried some weight and changed the way the surrounding community viewed the protagonist is a major strength of the game.
As players make alliances and start to build loyalty with people scattered throughout the wasteland, the opportunity to explore the game’s massive crafting system becomes available. In addition to customizing weapons and armor, which is still as in-depth and interesting as it always is, players are now able to build entire communities with buildings, power, defense systems, and radio towers to send out calls and attract new citizens. Building communities is a bit complicated at first, but an early series of quests walk players through how to scavenge for materials and construct all of the essential resources that are needed to keep residents well-fed, rested, safe, and happy.
Much like weapon modding, the community building mechanic is something that players can dedicate as much or as little time to as they see fit. The feature is definitely going to be an enormous time sink for the more creative players and will be just one more reason to stay in Fallout 4’s Boston for hundreds of hours. That said, there is really no punishment for deciding that this particular part of the game isn’t for you. There are a few unskippable quests in the game’s main storyline that require players do some building, but they won’t have to check back in to keep the NPCs alive if they don’t want to.
After the initial concerns about the game’s look, it’s impossible to review Fallout 4 without addressing the graphics. The game’s character models certainly aren’t as sharp as some of what we’re seeing in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Metal Gear Solid 5, or other recently-released games, but the detail put into Boston’s landmarks and environment are still very impressive. The game may look a little too much like an Xbox 360 or PS3 game for fans who aren’t already on the Fallout hype train, but the quality of the game’s narrative and the sheer amount of content available in the wasteland definitely make up for the lack of hyper-realistic sprites.
While playing the game for days on end during the review period, we never ran into a crash or a game-ending bug. The only complaint from a technical standpoint is that the occasional NPC will glitch through a door or wall and break the sense of immersion that the game does such a fantastic job of creating. Some of the NPCs aren’t quite as smart as players may be used to and will talk to a wall next to the protagonist, rather than talk to the protagonist if the player isn’t standing where the game expects them to. Due to the size of the game, there are also more load screens than contemporary gamers may be used to. The wait after opening a door to enter or exit a building is sometimes just long enough to start getting bored.
Many returning mechanics and features help make the game feel familiar for old fans of Fallout and although there are some tweaks and upgrades, these features are very similar. The Vault-Tec Assisted Targetting System (or V.A.T.S.) returns to help players fire accurate shots, execute critical hits, and save some ammo. The major change to V.A.T.S. is that time no longer completely freezes, instead it just slows down. This is a major improvement for gamers who don’t want to feel like they are cheating and leads to some really tough decisions about how to handle combat in close quarters or when the enemy is firing at players with a very powerful and fast gun.
As we’ve outlined in the past, Fallout 4 removes the level cap from the series and makes some big changes to how fast leveling happens and how perk points are awarded in the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system. The changes succeed in offering plenty of motivation (and things to do) even after spending hundreds of hours in the game. As mobs scale up and offer more of a challenge for players who are approaching what would have been max level, it is fantastic to have so many different options available to customize your character’s skillset. Many old favorite perks are back this time around, but there are also plenty of new ones, some of which help players master the new community building side of the game.
Fallout 4 delivers on its promise to keep players busy in the wasteland for as long as they want to spend there. The insane amount, and variety, of content available in this game is going to make it an experience that players don’t want to walk away from for at least the next year. The graphics may hold it back from being the game that defines this console generation, but the unforgettable narrative and open-world experience are more than enough to make up for the slightly dated aesthetic.
Fallout 4 releases November 10th for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for this review.