Fallout 4 crept up on me a bit, with the sudden post-release hype motivating me to buy the slightly cheaper version on PC. My brother, who I live with, has also recently bought it on PS4 and, suffice it to say, the hours of our free time are disappearing alarmingly fast.
In a good way.
I’ll glaze over my initially negative start with the game which came after the ~40GB install. Often games of this magnitude have issues on release – let’s not forget the debacle which was the SimCity and Battlefield 4 opening weekends – but being denied access was somewhat frustrating in light of the hours it took to download. The game wasn’t able to gauge my system specs and, shortly after starting, the game would crash to desktop. I was lucky – some users are reporting blue screens and, even though updating my drivers worked for me, some players are still locked out of their £40.00 purchase.
Beyond that, Fallout 4 is a refreshing yet unique return to the post-nuclear wasteland environment that we all know and love. The introduction gives you an insight into the vastly-improved character dialogue and expressions (my brother named his character Alex, after himself, and Codsworth actually refers to him as such in dialogue) before plunging you into a nightmarish hell 200 years in the future. I won’t spoil too much, but be prepared to be chasing after something very close to you.
The post-apocalyptic RPG has been a genre which sparked many great games on Steam – Rust and DayZ pop to mind – but most played like betas which were never quite finished, forever prone to an update which fixed something and left you wondering how the prior gameplay experience ever made it to live. These games added more survival elements, particularly with building things, and Bethesda have implemented their own brand of construction-based mechanics to appease fans. In stark contrast to the previous games where the ill-assorted crap that littered the wasteland served only to accidentally clutter your inventory, tidbits such as desk fans and flip lighters are suddenly indispensable. By taking them to a workbench in any settlement, you can break them down into their core parts (gears, steel, aluminium, etc) to help build things in aid of your encampment. Two wads of pre-war money and a chair can more-or-less create a shiny new bed for you and your settlers.
It’s not exactly to scale, but by God is it addictive.
In addition to crafting walls, doors and turrets, you can also apply modification to your weaponry. With the appropriate Gun Nut perk, the more nuanced item parts (such as gears and springs) can help you add an improved scope to your 10mm, or an improved barrel to your pipe-rifle. As the game progresses, the improvements can be as impressive as a suppressor for your sniper rifle, or a drum barrel for your machine gun. Combining the former with other perks such as the Rifleman (improved damage with non-automatic rifles) and Mister Sandman (improved silenced weapon damage) means that you can unleash devastating amounts of damage without even breaking cover.
In terms of facing off outside of the stealth mechanics, I found the game slightly more taxing. Often when I’m trying to clear a settlement – most recently of angry super mutants – I’d have to pick my first target carefully, lest the falling of their corpse alert every other enemy to my position. Too frequently I’d be caught not walking while sneaking (prior to the fourth rank of Sneak) within earshot, or Dogmeat would storm out of cover, and suddenly all hell would break loose. Without the power armour that you obtain early on, you are ill-equipped to take anything beyond a light peppering in terms of gunfire – as a stealth-based character, I find it a little annoying that you’re pigeon-holed into using it to survive some of the latter game combat, unless you like the idea of spamming your stimpak hotkey into dust.
A particular grievance of mine is that every raiding party in the Commonwealth has one member who seems to be equipped with a Fat Man and an itchy trigger finger. Either that, or the suicidal super mutants have been on the cardio training, because they have a turn of pace with truly belies their immense bulk. Too many times I’ve fired the first shot in an encampment, and left my scope just in time to see a projectile whistling towards me before I ragdoll halfway across the map like overdone spaghetti. Maybe I’ve just been unlucky in terms of who I’ve encountered, but the only way I’ve managed to counteract it is with lucky shots, reloading saves and crafty grenade throws – somewhat counterproductive to the undercover nature of my character.
Personal moans aside, Fallout 4 seems an absolutely fantastic, well polished product. I’ve heard critics bemoaning the similarities between this game and it’s predecessor, but I honestly believe that to be a far-too-easy critique of a game which has proved it has a winning design time and again. The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems really apt here – Bethesda have stuck to what it’s good at and delivered a great story (or so I’m told – I haven’t managed to finish it all off yet) but met their opposition with some elements which have worked out really well. Having been slaughtered for not bringing the player-built housing/settlements into Fallout 3 or New Vegas, people can have few complaints over it now.
I’m currently stuck building up Sanctuary into an impenetrable death star, with high walls and an armada of machine gun turrets. Story missions are keeping me afloat with materials as I plunder buildings and factories, and exploring is still as fun for me as it’s always been. I’m probably speaking to an audience of people who have already bought it, but if you haven’t, I would seriously recommend jumping on the Fallout 4 bandwagon.
Viva la Commonwealth.