Fallout 4 is undoubtedly one of – if not the – most anticipated games of the year. In these days, that is no easy task. The much loved open-world action role-play game set in a post-apocalyptic Boston comes crashing in at the ever packed fourth quarter. Released early November and competing with titles such as the massive Call of Duty: Black Ops franchise, Star Wars: Battlefront and Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Bethesda’s title is in great company then, each vying equally for the glorious top spot on the gaming charts. So Kudos to Bethesda, we are excited, but can you deliver on that weight of expectation?
Post-apocalyptic Boston 2287.
I raise a calloused hand covered in scruffy oil wraps and good old dirt to block the relentless tinge of the Wasteland sun. The light is invasive, stinging my eyes as I wipe the remnants of last night’s sleep away. Well rested. Yeah right.
I’d love to tell you what day it is – it feels like a Friday – but honestly I’ve lost count. I’m just thankful that I haven’t been shanked in my sleep for my socks, which wouldn’t do anyone any good because they have more holes than Swiss cheese. Insecure? You bet. Trusting? Ha.
The Wasteland is a horrible, filthy place. Littered with reminders of what civilisation was like before the nuclear war. Empty playgrounds that squeak to life with the dusty breeze, their only companions now are rust and blood. The sorry silhouette of what just about could be Boston if you squint hard enough is the ever lurking backdrop. The world is vast, open and uninviting. Yet still, it lures you in. Fascinating, ugly and beautiful. This is Fallout 4.
This place is huge. Everywhere I look there is something interesting to be seen, some unknown feature waiting to be uncovered. My eyes dart from one side to another pointing out things that used to be. A disused garage, an old mine, a makeshift bridge. Each and every item having an important story tell. Who made the bridge? Why? Where are they now?
There is an eerie atmosphere that can only be experienced when standing in a place that should be alive and vibrant but instead is just empty. No, lonely.
The environment is run-down and hostile. Yet there is beauty to be found if you look hard enough. And boy are you going to want to look.
I find myself wandering around the buildings that remain in place, trying to figure out who and what happened in the 200 plus years that I’ve been absent. What used to be your local, family run hardware store is now a base for a group of raiders. Raiders are other, rather unsavoury survivors that prey upon people like me. This particular group tried luring me in with a lone survivor screaming for assistance. It was quite clearly a trap. Yet I followed, eager to see if there was any useful equipment inside the old hardware store.
Entering the building I was blown away by the instant stench of sweat and crap that hung heavy in the air. I looked around, searching for anything of use to me and my settlement. Copper for instance, would be great. I continued to scavenge, searching through the building ignoring the raiders below whispering to themselves. They wondered where I had gone and began to dare each other to come up and take a look. I continued searching around, ignoring their failed pleas of help.
When coming in to conflict with Raiders it is all too easy to see them as just that, a marauding party of Raiders. Not seeing them for who they really are, fellow survivors. Sure they have made some questionable decisions, but who am I to judge? They are surviving aren’t they? Even with the scum that want nothing more than to hurt you, rob you and then stick your head in the refrigerator as a keepsake, there are reminders of their humanity. A garage workers uniform, a mining hat, a tin of beans. All subtle reminders that these people are in fact people. Reiterating my thoughts that the biggest enemy in Boston isn’t Boston, nor the creatures that inhabit it. The biggest enemy to man is man. Which is why I try to steer clear.
The fire fight only lasted a matter of seconds. I was fortunate enough to scavenge a good arsenal of weaponry and munitions prior to the ambush and made easy work of their makeshift armour. Preparation is key. I’ve collected useful bits and pieces along the way that I’ve fashioned in to weaponry. I’d like to claim to be some kind of gun nut but honestly I just collected things that looked spikey or malicious and taped them to a gun.
Combat is fascinating in Fallout 4. Often I found myself exasperated by the sheer difficulty of certain sequences, only to realise that it was my naivety to blame and not the game mechanics. I need to be ducking for cover at the right times, using the right tool for the job and paying more attention to the environments. I must admit, the first-person shooting is on par to any other game out there and the abundant choice of weaponry is enough to make every fire-fight different. It doesn’t feel like I am blazing through Boston leaving a wake of dead bodies either. It feels like I am surviving. Just.
After defeating the raiders and looting everything of use (and I mean everything), I begin my journey back to my home in the aptly named, Sanctuary Hills.
The walk back is both long and tedious. Travelling around post-apocalyptic Boston alone is just asking for trouble. Thankfully there are companions that are willing to assist me with my travels. Dogmeat is my main and favourite companion. A dog, German Shepard maybe? The old phrase man’s best friend rings true here. He assists me in my battles by scouting, fetching and defending me. His fur is matted and dirty and I’ve smelled better week old corpses but his company is second to none. There isn’t a better listener in the whole of Boston.
I’ve tried working with human companions on a number of occasions but when things get heated they always seem to stand in my way, block a narrow stairwell or try to fist pump an enemy turret. Some people just aren’t cut out for combat.
Settlements are a big part of Fallout 4 as fellow n3 scribe Alex Wright points out here. Like Alex, I too have been enticed by the sheer endless possibilities of building my own Settlement. The scope of opportunity is amazing.
My home is rustic and cosy. Emphasis on the rust. Yet it works. I sleep on a soiled mattress that I share with a number of other survivors. Despite the imaginable inconvenience this would cause, the feeling of laying on a semi-warm mattress is priceless. I mentioned earlier that Boston is a lonely place – and it is – but sometimes just being close to another human is worth more than a spacious house or any number of bottle caps.
It is the perseverance of humanity that strikes me deep in the feelers. My fellow settlers that have joined me at Sanctuary Hills all have stories to tell. We share them openly. The terrible father, the minute man, the crazy. The willingness to band together and to re-civilise rings strong. We work together to make a home out of destroyed, century old homes. A rota is put in place to manage the farming, the water and the guard duties. Everyone works towards the same goal, living. It isn’t perfect but it is home.
Until I decide to rebuild anyway.
It is far too easy to lose yourself within the settlement building portion of Fallout 4. In fact you could argue that it would work as a game in its own right. It probably would. So let’s steer ourselves away from the settlement building before I get the urge to jump back in and re-wire my light setup.
Unfortunately post-apocalyptic Boston is not all good news. There are the occasional frame-rate issues with the game that completely drags me out of my survival story and leaves me bemused. How can a game that gets so many things right have such major issues with FPS drops? I’m not talking about slight stutters, I mean full-blown picture mode down to 10 fps frame-drops.
There are also strange bugs here and there. Things like bodies being stuck to your gun or floating enemies stuck in position.
Then there is the graphics, which admittedly work well within the setting but are not exactly cutting edge. Does it distract too much from the game though? Does it hell.
I’m sat here writing this review now, not because of a deadline imposed by our imperialistic editor. Not because I feel an urgency to spread the good news about Fallout 4. Not because my wife is moaning at me to get off of the computer and to have a shower. I’m sat here writing this because I have run down the batteries on all three of my PS4 controllers and need to wait for them to re-charge.
This game is seriously addictive.
I find myself walking around the real world working out what I could scrap and what components it would yield. I’ve started scrutinising my dogs and asking the question, would they defend me as honourably as Dogmeat does? No. No they wouldn’t.
Fallout 4 plays like a well-rehearsed script that has been handed down year after year. The core elements of the game work perfectly to create an open-world action role playing experience unlike any other. Almost every item can be scavenged and re-used in a number of interesting ways. The combat is fine-tuned and well scaled. Characters are memorable. There are some minor issues that can impact negatively on the experience but overall they don’t detract from the end product. Bethesda have given us an impressive game with a near endless amount of play time.
Frankly, right now, Fallout 4 is the only game you need on your shelf.
This review is based on the Playstation 4 version of Fallout 4 provided to us by Bethesda Softworks.