This is the game I’ve been waiting for since the new generation of consoles released. I’ve searched for “Fallout 4” on such a regular basis that Google relinquished any effort to give me other options for the letter “F,” which is probably for the best. At E3 this year, Bethesda’s conference felt like I found out I was getting an awesome Christmas gift almost five months early…but I still had to wait the 148 days to actually hold it in my arms. Oh the humanity! Alas, I have survived, took some paid time off, and relished my first few days in post apocalyptic Boston. As you can imagine, I had very high expectations for Fallout 4. I tried to curb them, as this year has been riddled with disappointments, and I didn’t want to find out Santa was actually an obese home invader instead of the jolly gift giver I’d been expecting for more than a year. I’m happy to say, metaphorically, that Santa does exist and Fallout 4 lives up to the hype. Here is my take on the first 30+ hours with Bethesda's new gem.
Music & Sound
I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy having my character talking. If not done properly, it can ruin the immersive experience of a game. Especially an RPG like Fallout, where single player is all you have. However, right from the start I was hooked. It adds to the feeling that you’re actually a part of this desolate world. Add in the incredible soundtrack to the variety of situations and it just sucks you in. Coming out of the vault for the first time the music added to the excitement, as well as the dread of what you might face with a police baton and a crappy pistol. And the sound effects…oh my GOD the sound effects! Everything…is…incredible! If you know me you know that audio isn’t just a passion, but a career choice for me. And everything about the sound in Fallout 4 impresses. The guns are punchy and in your face exciting. The explosions are loud and full of rumble. The sound of your footsteps depending on what you’re walking or running on is precise and realistic. I mean, hell, even when Dog Meat shakes during a rain storm it sounds like he is shaking the water off his wet coat. And the sounds of the dog are incredible! You wouldn’t think this is a big deal, but when he gets injured and is whimpering, it pains me to the point that I rush to heal him as quickly as possible. And the nuclear lightening storm?! Holy shit if that doesn’t make your butt bite your underwear then you need to put some decent headphones/speakers on your holiday list.
No, the graphics are not on par with The Order: 1886. At the same time it’s a world at least a hundred times larger and nearly completely open. First the negatives; when you get right up close to objects and people you notice a lot of fine details are lacking. Okay, that’s about the only negative. Take two steps back and let the phenomenon that is a post apocalyptic world move you. The artistic ability that goes into making a Fallout or Elder Scrolls world a reality has always amazed me and now it looks better than ever. The colors look the part, from bright and shiny to drab and depressing. The fantastic lighting will make the landscapes something to truly admire. In my time I noticed zero issues with texture pop in and other graphical problems. There is the occasional glitched image on screen, where your dog is floating 8 feet in the air or you only appear above the landscape from the waist up. But for the majority of the time it plays smooth and looks fantastic.
Bethesda employed an ex-Bungie designer in order to, what I assume is, improve their gunplay. And hot damn did it pay off! The gunplay finally feels like a polished shooter. So much so that I completely forgot to use VATS for the first couple hours of the game. After including the added excitement and strategy that comes with the Vault Assisted Targeting System, in addition to the new Critical Meter, it only amplified the addictive nature of the game. The new leveling system with the perks chart is fun and well thought out. However, it’s not well explained, especially for those that have never played a Fallout game. I had one friend dumping their first few upgrades into the SPECIAL stats or the first level of perks, logically thinking that would unlock the perks below. But once you figure it out, or have a friend who helped, it’s a very fun leveling system. Creating your settlements is a lot more fun than I thought it would be. There are still some quirks to figure out with the whole system, but it’s an exciting and fun new feature added to Fallout. It’s not a necessity of the game for those of you that couldn’t give the back side of a big balled rat. But for those of us that want to really dive into the RPG element, it’s a welcome addition.
Bethesda does a great job setting the stage quickly. The feeling of helplessness can really sink in if you take a moment to stop hoarding hot plates and duct tape and take a look around you. The helplessness fades as you progress, level up and encounter different factions from the Fallout universe, in addition to the many newcomers. You’re given the choice to help people or turn your back and walk the other way. At less than 30 hours in, I already had to make a big decision on who lives and who dies. At this point Googling the different outcomes is useless, since the odds are it hasn’t been experienced yet. This just adds to the feeling of responsibility for your choices. Bethesda has never made a game lacking with things to do and Fallout 4 is no exception. You can go just about anywhere and do anything you want. You see a settlement and you don’t like their uppity attitude? Launch a mini nuke in the center of it. Be prepared to never return and say goodbye to the quests and the associated rewards from there. But hell, sometimes you just feel like being a dick. And Fallout let’s you be that dick.
Overall, Fallout 4 is an excellent gaming experience. Immersive, fun, action packed and much more. Not the graphical masterpiece we were hoping for, but it still looks great and everything else in Fallout 4 shines and exceeds expectations.