By Rande Archer
It’s that time again. To kiss our loved ones good bye. To seal ourselves away, and come out when the nuclear bombs stop falling. This isn’t an emergency, this is a new Fallout. We arise from the ashes blinded by the light after sealing ourselves off for so long, and the world outside is different from what we remember, or that we had just forgotten. Bethesda has a healthy history of causing such events with gamers. Addictive gameplay and open world exploration make it easy for us to get lost, and with the latest addition to the Fallout saga, Fallout 4 brings new heights to the table as well as some new lows.
Starting off simple with bare bones equipment, the early loot grind of the first few hours of the game are basic and fun. Kill enemies, steal loot, gain EXP, level up. It’s an easy formula that Bethesda has repeated perfectly across its games, most recently with the time bank that is Skyrim. A vast environment to wander and explore are also repeated in this release, making the early push into the game a similar unfamiliar world for gamers to delve into. Military bases and bunkers, settlements and strongholds, and of course the star of the show; Boston. A sprawling post-collapse urban jungle littered with sniping vantage points and ambush corners, it is both a frightful and rewarding maze to travel through early on in the game.
Getting back to the basics, what Bethesda did this time was pretty much what you would expect from them. Solid basic foundation, the gun play this time around is solid, the melee is fun, however the RPG elements common from the previous Fallout games has been dumbed down. This opens the game up to more first person shooter orientated players who have felt in the past that the game was too technical when it came to leveling up, whereas now it’s is stripped down and simplified with its new “perks” system. This change might bring in new players, but it will also distance some fans of the older generations. The graphics in this game are superb, however the occasional visual glitch can be found such as shadows glitching out and spreading over vast distances (read, the whole map of just one dudes shadow) or a stun visual effect staying on for too long (read, until you restart the game). As with any Bethesda release the game had some horrible bugs that were game breaking, however these were quickly fixed aside from some rare instances. One rare instance involved a long boss battle that would corrupt your save files after. It is unknown if it was the items he dropped or the location where it saved.
Another complaint about the game can be found in the variety of items in the game, or lack thereof. Fallout New Vegas spoiled fans with a plethora of options, with additional modifications for each combat piece whether it was armor or weapons. Sure the number of “potential” weapons in Fallout 4 is numerous, however with its limited base amount of weapons makes these modified variants feel copied. They don’t seem unique as the weapons behave practically the same throughout. In addition some of the firearms look ridiculous, from the orgy of early 20th century machine gun designs that is the Assault Rifle to the pistol gripped base “hunting rifle” that would break a hand if fired. Visually this game feels like a remaining or reboot of Fallout, but it pulls story elements from previous games so this feeling gets shattered once a reference to Fallout 3 is made.
Complaints aside this game is addictive. Having played Fallout 1 through New Vegas with all of its DLCs, this game is alright in my books. The ret-conned visuals are mildly upsetting, the limited weapons, clothing and armor options are disheartening, and the simplified RPG elements are mildly pathetic. But this game is fun. There have been many hours I have wasted on personal adventures into the vast wasteland. The gunplay makes firefights rewarding and intense, the graphics make the exploration visceral, and the audio make the distant unknown of this radioactive waste surreal.
This game may be a decayed version of previous iterations both art direction and story wise, however the gameplay and graphics this time around make this game a solid release. It may not be the best that Bethesda has put out, but they have time to correct that with DLC and patches. All in all, you’re still going to find me bunkered down playing this game for the next few weeks.