Fallout 4 (Xbox One) - ReviewBrandon J. Wysocki , posted on 14 November 2015 / 11,443 Views
It’s not easy to be a worthy successor to an award-winning game, or to compete as a must-own game title in a packed holiday season, but Fallout 4 manages to do both, albeit with a few blunders along the way. After playing the game for more than 80 hours, and earning two different endings, I can say confidently that Fallout 4 is a spectacular game that must be played.
I love Fallout 3. To this day, I regard it as one of the best experiences in gaming. Going into Fallout 4, I feared that my passion for the series would prevent me from seeing flaws in the follow-up, or alternatively, that it wouldn’t be able to live up to my expectations. Truthfully, despite seeing a fair amount of the flaws, the game managed to exceed my expectations and be at least as good, if not better than its predecessors.
The first thing people notice about Fallout 4 are the graphics. They are less than cutting edge, especially the textures, which are oftentimes unconvincing and stand out for all of the wrong reasons. Yet there are plenty of moments where Fallout 4 actually does impress graphically. Throughout my time playing, I was constantly witnessing beautiful sights. Maybe it’s the grandiose size and design of the game world, or the excellent use of lighting effects, but I often felt compelled to capture screenshots (some of which you see in this review).
These moments of visual beauty are compliment by strong audio design. The music sets the mood similarly to the last two Fallout entries and does a very good job of driving home your situation in the game, from danger to triumph, and everything in between. The rest of the audio is utilized terrifically to further immerse you into a remarkable game world; sound effects have weight to them, and the voice acting is good throughout.
On the gameplay front, I have found Fallout 4 to be a familiar but improved experience all-round. Most of the gameplay mechanics have transitioned over well. The combat has changed slightly, but always for the better, so that guns feel more responsive and the loot system more accessible, there are intuitive upgrades and modification systems, and legendary enemies, weapons and armor have also been added. In general, everything feels more real and impactful.
One of the most notable changes is the introduction of actual Power Armor. Whereas in previous entries Power Armor basically served as more visually appealing clothing that could be equipped like any other piece of armor, it is now a customizable, powered exoskeleton that looks, feels, and functions like an actual suit of Power Armor. You can feel the added weight in every step, and the increase in power is just as perceivable. That, of course, could be highly imbalanced, and so to even things out there is a relatively scarce fuel source for your Power Armor, which encourages more limited, judicious use of it.
The acting and writing are excellent, and the freedom to explore and effect change to the world and the story is fascinating. It’s rarely if ever clear what you can and can’t do, and the impact it might have, which meant I was constantly concerned and carefully considered my every move.
Similarly, because the writing and story are so well done, I found myself genuinely caring about many of the characters. Some characters’ stories are only uncovered in the memory of their terminals, through entertaining and sometimes gripping journal entries, whereas other characters’ stories play out right in front of you. From my companions, to at least two of the people who are likely best described as antagonists, I felt a genuine connection to and investment in a number of characters and their little universes.
Sadly, my opinion regarding the new base building feature remains nearly identical to that in my First Impressions article. I really like the concept of town building in a post-apocalyptic universe like Fallout, but the building itself is a struggle. Awkward angles, limited control, and difficulties in selecting and placing what you want, where you want, are ever-present issues. These problems manifest themselves most often when building actual structures, or when trying to place new items in or on an existing structure. It’s a shame that you have to fight the in-game interface for base building to such a large extent in order to take advantage of what would otherwise be an incredible addition to the series.
To add to that, technical issues persisted throughout my time with the game, although most of them were fortunately minor. Textures and assets disappearing, a few game crashes when fast traveling (although only ever from one specific location to another), the Pip Boy interface not appearing when attempting to use it, and even a complete set of Power Armor disappearing from my main town were just some of the technical issues I came up against. Additionally, there were plenty of times when I experienced a reduced framerate or the game would hang up, sometimes for a few extended seconds.
I even had at least one enemy continue to attack me despite it having no health. Of course, this being a Bethesda game there are also some unintentionally comedic glitches. I saw a character sit down on nothing (holding a squat like that is quite difficult), for example, and in another instance when I went to talk to a character in his office he was accompanied by a number of other NPCs, one of whom was inexplicably standing on the desk.
Despite these problems, the game experience is spectacular. I found the main story to be emotionally engaging, fun, well-written science fiction. The pacing, which you have a lot of control over, is also strong; you can opt to ignore the main story for hours, or consume it rapidly, it's up to you. At points, I smiled at some of the fun characters and dialogue, and at other times I had to fight off tears.
The rest of the vast world is rich in side-quests and accompanying stories. It’s marvellous how substantial and satisfying the game and its world are, and your ability to interact with and impact it is terrific. However, I was a bit disappointed with the restrictions that are placed on this freedom as you near the end of the main story. That is likely the sacrifice that had to be made in order to craft such a cohesive and captivating story, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my disappointment regardless.
Both of the endings that I achieved were interesting and well executed, but after so many hours of leveling up and utilizing my terminal hacking, lock picking and, above all, my charisma, I found the lack of options for the climax of the story to be underwhelming. I don’t want to risk spoilers, but essentially I was forced to make enemies with an entire group that had previously been my allies.
I spent at least an hour or two trying to figure out some way around doing this, but there seemingly wasn’t one, and so the hours I had spent up until that point carefully cultivating relationships and making specific decisions was all for naught; I had to walk down a path that had already been laid out for me.
Fallout 4 easily prevails over its technical issues and subjective design flaws. It's a never-ending stream of superb experiences that keeps you engaged and coming back for more. When I finally beat the game, the only question in my mind was whether I should continue on from that point, or go back and see if I could achieve an ending that would be more suited to what I had worked to achieve. Even with all that I’ve already done and seen in the game, I know there’s still a lot left to enjoy, and I'll continue to delight in every moment of it.
Brandon J. Wysocki is a writer for VGChartz. You're invited to contact Brandon (username SpaceLegends) in the comments below or through private messages on VGChartz, or even at his barely ever used and effectively dormant Twitter account @BrandonJWysocki.
This review is based on a retail copy of Fallout 4 for the XOne, provided by the publisher.