I can’t but feel like I’ve been here before. Specifically, with the inFAMOUS games. I liked the first game, I loved the second game and I wasn’t so disposed to the third game. Obviously, ‘Fallout 3’ is not the first game in the series but it’s the first one I’ve played so I’m running with it.
I think the biggest problem with ‘Fallout 4’ is the same problem with a lot of the games involved in the new (and very soon, old) console generation. Every gamer knows that there is only so much memory on a disc and fancy-pants, over the top graphics take up a lot of space so to live up to the promise of aforementioned fancy-pants over the top graphics, something needs to go and nine times out of ten, it’s gameplay. Wow, that was a long sentence.
I’m going to say right now that I don’t hate ‘Fallout 4’. I’m not even disappointed, it’s a good game and I played it right through to the end so it kept my interest and there were no moments that made me want to stop playing but my point is (and I knew this from the start) that there was no way that ‘Fallout 4’ could be as deep as ‘Fallout 3’ or ‘New Vegas’.
And it’s such a shame because the game starts out on a positive note. Well, I suppose that depends on your definition of the word ‘positive’.
The game starts and as soon as you’ve chosen and customised your character, you get a little opening section where you character is living the ideal life with their partner and baby son, Shaun. They have a nice, little house in Sanctuary Hills which is in or near Boston, Massachusetts. and even have their own robot butler, Codsworth which I suppose is a copy of ‘Wadsworth’ from ‘Fallout 3’.
Anyway, there is a knock at the door and the person knocking is a representative of ‘Vault-tech’ and is offering places in their vaults in case of sudden and cataclysmic nuclear annihilation. So far, so cheery. The protagonist or ‘Sole Survivor’ can put their families name down or not but I would recommend doing so because the date is October 23rd, 2077 otherwise known as the start of the Great War.
After checking on your baby son, the Sole Survivor and their spouse are called into the living room by Codsworth and they watch a new report which states that nuclear detonations have been reported in New York and Pennsylvania, then the TV goes to the Emergency Broadcast System. The Sole Survivor and their spouse take Shaun to Vault 111 which is luckily nearby and are lowered into the vault just as a nuclear bomb detonates nearby. The blast wave gets closer and closer and all the survivors reach safety just in time.
Everyone is given a Vault 111 jumpsuit and ordered in Cryo-pods where they are frozen. Sometime later, the Sole Survivor and their spouse are awoken by three unknown individuals. The spouse is shot dead and Shaun is taken. The Sole Survivor can only watch and is then re-frozen.
More time passes and the Sole Survivor is awoken once again, and they make their way back to Sanctuary Hills where the game begins.
Another problem I have with ‘Fallout 4’ and this is something that I mentioned in my ‘Fallout 3’ review and that is the issue of fully voiced player characters. Just in case you can’t be arsed clicking off this page and onto my ‘Fallout 3’ review, I’ll recap.
The biggest aspect of ‘Fallout 3’ was that it really immersed the player into the experience. The way the game achieved this was by having the player character (The Lone Wanderer) be a silent protagonist and dialogue trees were used to communicate with NPC’s. The point is that the lack of a voice gave the player a chance to project themselves onto the player character and be able to immerse themselves in the story. Now the characters are voiced and you’d be surprised at how much a voice can add. Like character for example? Now the player is no longer placing themselves into the story but rather controlling a character that they can still customise and choose dialogue options for but those choices are no longer given as the whole sentence that the character will ‘say’ and the NPC will reply to but rather the options are restricted to one or maybe a few words that will give a hint at what the Sole Survivor will say. It’s not so much what the character says but how they say it and deny it as much as you want but if you put a professional voice actor in front of a microphone and ask them to say their lines, they’re going to put some character into it and since there are only two voice actors (Brian T. Delaney and Courtenay Taylor) then the characters that they deliver may not be the characters that the player wants to be.
This is all fine in a character driven game like ‘The Last of Us’ or ‘Bioshock Infinite’ where the story and characters are what we turn up for but the brilliance and the enjoyment of the ‘Fallout’ universe is delivered through the world that we as the player are placed in. To use an analogy here, the player character is like a car that we are using to traverse the world. How pissed would you be if your car started talking and had an opinion of its own about the places you went or the people you talked to?
Again, my point is that ‘Fallout 4’ is a Role Playing Game and the ‘role’ that I am ‘playing’ has been decided for me.
I mentioned the world so next, let’s talk side missions.
To build up XP in the ‘Fallout’ universe and level up your character to face the challenges, the player needed to explore and find other wastelanders who would give side quests. The majority of the gameplay in ‘Fallout 3’ and ‘New Vegas’ was found in the side quests where the player character could meet interesting people, learn about their backstories and, whilst they were in the neighbourhood, solve their problems for them. Not to be nice but to earn some XP. Players of ‘Fallout 3’ and ‘New Vegas’ will remember that the side quests in those games were nicely varied with interesting characters and an array of missions. Well, the vast majority of side quests in ‘Fallout 4’ pretty much boil down to someone giving the Sole Survivor a location to go to an once they are there, kill all the things that are trying to kill them and then going back to the person for some XP.
Then, people will live in the area you’ve cleared out because that’s the new thing in ‘Fallout 4’, it’s got a town building mechanic. The player can collect raw materials from the Commonwealth and bring them back to any given town and craft new houses, amenities, weapon upgrades and armour.
Is it just me or is this game easier than the others? I’m not a fan of really hard games because all they do is piss me off but ‘Fallout 3’ had a nice difficulty curve in that it knew to throw the low level threats at the player at first and then have all the Deathclaws and Yao Gui’s have their own sections and cheekily not tell the player where those sections were until the player has blundered into them. Then the player is smashed into the dirt and re-loads with the knowledge to not go there again until they have levelled up a bit more and got some better weapons.
In ‘Fallout 4’, the player gets their own power armour and fights a Deathclaw with it very early on in the game. By the way, Deathclaws are piss easy to kill in ‘Fallout 4’. I distinctly remember killing one with a 10MM pistol in my last playthrough. If you want the Deathclaws to be no problem at all and over in a flash, I would recommend going to Vault 81 and buying the ‘Overseers Guardian’ from Alexis Combes because that gun is awesome and one of the most powerful guns in the game.
I suppose I should mention the dog. I wasn’t against the dog since Dogmeat is adorable but he’s not the most helpful in combat. Rex from ‘New Vegas’ was awesome and could take down enemies almost instantly but Dogmeat had a bad habit of running headlong into battles that he just wasn’t ready for… and never would be. Fallout is still running with the ‘companions’ thing which I’m not against because you do need some companions for the quests. Nick Valentine was my favourite of the companions since he’s a really good character but there are quite a few who could tag along.
The upgrades system is all wrong as well. Now the player doesn’t get a set number of points to add into a chosen skill slot but rather once the player levels up, they get a star. That’s it. ‘Perks’ are much more featured than the actual skill types.
Other than all the not so great stuff, I liked ‘Fallout 4’ but I can’t help but feel that the game was sacrificing a lot that made it special just to compete in the ‘current gen club’ and that’s just not in the spirit of having a long running franchise. I understand that the series needs to grown and change and I know that Bethesda won’t give a shit what I think since they’ve completely missed the point again and released ‘Fallout 76’ which totally defeats the object of a ‘Lone Wanderer’ or a ‘Sole Survivor’ by killing the ‘Lone’ and ‘Sole’ part by having the game be totally multi-player.
To be fair, the game is very pretty and actually, the Fallout team have teased a remastering of ‘Fallout: New Vegas’ using the ‘Fallout 4’ engine and I personally would love to see that happen. The video is on YouTube and honestly, that version of the Mojave Desert is one that I would like to explore.
Bethesda… make it happen.
By the way, have you seen my book yet? It’s really good and written by me.