Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Reviewed on: PS4
Distributor: Ster-Kinekor Entertainment
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: 10 November 2015
2 days and 15 hours into Fallout 4 and I have not even begun to scratch the surface of what the game actually has to offer. Sure, it has hit a steady pace where I have every companion at my disposal, I have a steady flow of crafting materials in my Settlements, I have a pretty large pocket of bottlecaps, and I have a jam-packed quest log. This is the norm when it comes to a Bethesda title, you invest hours upon hours in the game and you grow at a steady pace. Fallout 4 may not be the best game in the history of gaming, but it is the best game in the series, and possible the best game that Bethesda has ever crafted.
Set 200 years after the nuclear war, you wake up after being cryogenically frozen in Vault 111, to the sight of your son being snatched away and your partner being murdered in front of you. Set in Boston, in all its swamp and harbour glory, this is main premises around Fallout 4, as you search for the man behind this tragedy. You soon learn that this tragic event has more to it than meets the eye as an organization called the Institute could be behind the kidnapping of your son, and other unworldly occurrences.
Like previous Fallout titles, the game puts you in an open world where you are free to do what you wish at your own pace. There is no time limit to quests, nor is there any sort of rush to complete any objectives that you get given. Boston, or the Commonwealth as it is known in the game, is breath taking. Standing on a hill taking in the landscape in front you really gives you a sense of how much there really is to accomplish ahead, and if you can see something in the distance, then you can travel there and search for its secrets it hold within. The map is also diverse in its locales. You get your swamp areas that are littered with wooden huts and Mirelurks. There is the city centre where most of the locations are found, and you get your residential area just outside of the main city where the dream of the white was certain.
As small as the map might look, it is gigantic. You start off saying to yourself that you are going to head to one area, and as you see undiscovered locations on your way, you are prone to see what they are all about. You end up spending two hours exploring one part of the map after you initially set out to head to one area. The world is a feature on its own in Fallout 4, it is alive as much as it looks dead. Storms take place as rain pours from the sky and wets the ground around you. Radiation Storms turn the sky green and cause havoc on your RAD levels, and the blissful blue sky is a change compared to the dull sky seen in Fallout 3 and Fallout 3: New Vegas. In general the game has been given much more colour, with locations, items and objects all having their own vibrant look. It suits the setting and art style as game is set during the 1960s where ladies wore bright skirts, and men drove vibrant vehicles.
Although the world might be a magical sight, the enemies and creatures that inhabit it are not so friendly. The classic radiation-induced creatures are back like the Mirelurks, MoleRats, the deadly Deathclaws, and the scorpions. They have all been given a pretty remodel and are as terrifying as ever. They inhabit the world around you and they are all exclusive to a certain set of locations. Do not expect to find a Mirelurk in the middle of the street, rather near a swamp or a harbour. Aside from the creatures, the real threat lies in the strongholds of the Synth, Super Mutants, and Raiders. These factions are all scattered around the Commonwealth and you know what area belongs to who depending on what is around you. Each time you come into contact with a certain faction, there is a different way to approach them. Super Mutants are best taken out from a distance especially those suicide ones that carry nukes on their back ready to explode. Raiders can be taken out either way, but avoid their traps. This all plays into the tactical part of Fallout 4 and how preparing for an excursion into the Commonwealth is more than just making sure you have enough Stimpacks.
For each enemy there are now legendary versions of it. These are tough to take down and if you take your time they morph into stronger versions, refilling their health at the same time. These enemies always drop legendary items which are a new addition to the series. These are stronger weapons and armour pieces that pack their own unique perk. One example was an enemy I killed dropped a 10mm pistol that had unlimited ammo, which meant I never had to reload my gun. Other stats include giving your +1 to your SPECIAL stats, and increases in defence against a certain ammo type. Weighing up your best weapons and armour again depends on your play style and how you prefer to go into combat.
Combat is as much the same as ever before, the VATS system has returned that allows you to pause time and choose specific areas on certain enemies to hit. The accuracy and damage all depends on your perks and weapon. You can also just stick to the classic “aim and shoot”, but the VATS system comes in handy at times. There is also a new quick selection menu that lets you change weapons extremely fast by assigning them to one of the 12 slots on your D-Pad. You can also use the app for iOS and Android, but as much as it is available, it makes very little sense when you are in the middle of combat about to be blown to pieces, and have to take your eyes off the screen to adjust your inventory.
The new Power Armour that has been a staple in the Fallout recipe is back, but this time you can get in it at any time and destroy anything in your path. Take a suit of Power Armour, and add in a Mini-Gun and you are a killing machine. All you need to do is to make sure you keep enough fusion cores on you. I was not that fond of exploring the world in a power armour though, I was more prone to just sticking to the legs that I was given. it was loud and slow, but it was useful when I knew I needed the defence and attack power for certain quests.
There are a few new crafting mechanics in the game that have given the traditional crafting from recipes an overhaul. Now, as long as you are the right rank in your perk list, you can modify any weapon, piece of armour, and even your power armour by adding new stats to it by improving certain aspects of the object. Weapons can be improved by crafting a new barrel, magazine, sights, and holster. Armour can be taken from its basic leather stat, to a reinforced metal casing. Legendary weapons and armour are given he biggest change when crafting as they go beyond normal weapons, but they also require much higher ranks in weaponsmith and science. As for the power armour, one of the last crafting tiers lets you craft a jet pack for it, that just goes to show the extent in which you can improve on your equipment.
The greatest addition to the game is the new Settlement feature that lets the player take control of a settlement that they either find, or seize from Raiders. Here you can build houses, wire lights, grow crops, purify water, and even create a castle of wood if you keen to do so. The way it works is that you scavenge the world for materials like steel, wood, plastic, adhesives, aluminium, you name it. These materials are then used to craft walls, floors, juke boxes, fences, crafting tables, and even your own Bobblehead display. There is really no limit to what you can create in the Settlements, and your people that you recruit make it all the better as they al get assigned a job. There are a couple of Settlements scattered around the map that you can take control of, or you can just scrap them for all their materials and focus on one at a time. I ended up with a triple story house with 25 people living in and around the settlement, with some added features like a bar and entertainment area. I had 200 water with purifiers all around the rivers, and a turrets ready to take on any Raiders that thought they could harm my people.
When you are not exploring the Commonwealth or building settlements, you are playing the main quest and the game’s entertaining side-quests, which in a nutshell make the game what it is. It offers so much variety you will constantly want to see the outcome of a quest you undertook. One specific quest saw me helping a robot pirate set sail as his ship somehow managed to crash land atop a block of flats. Another saw me re-enacting the the events from a classic TV Show, The Silver Shroud. It all extremely enjoyable and not one quest has come across rewashed and watered down. You companions that you come into contact with are really diverse too, each with their own unique personalities, like and dislikes. The game has scrapped the Karma system seen in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, and opted in for this companion system where you actions impact your friendship level. This means that if you are with someone, then keep to what they love and do not let them see what they hate. You can travel alone to avoid any issues, but each companion has their own set of abilities and weapons. Nick Valentine could hack any terminal, even if I did not have the required perk, while Piper was a aster at lock picking. Again, this is completely up to you as the companion system is not mandatory, only in certain quests.
Fallout 4 left me in awe countless times, from witnessing an extraordinary event, completely unexpected in a world of silence and death. To running for my life when a Deathclaw decided to sleep in a ditch I jumped into. There was no better feeling than getting a critical hit when you really needed it in VATS, resulting in an enemy disintegrating into dust, or firing a Fat Man into a group of unexpected Super Mutants, blowing them apart in one glorious explosion. Seldom does a game come along that takes you to a world where you never want to escape from, no matter how terrible it is. Fallout 4 is best described as a once in a generation experience. We highly recommend it.