Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
For fans of Fallout 3, the wait for its inevitable sequel has been a long one. The third main game in the long-running series was so engrossing, so exciting, and so deep, it left players crying out for more. While Fallout: New Vegas gave us a top-up of atomic-flavoured goodness back in 2010, there has still been a Super Mutant-sized gap between main entries.
Bethesda has wisely allowed anticipation to reach boiling point after more than five years, but, finally, Fallout 4 is here – and it has a lot to live up to if it’s going to meet fans’ expectations! Fallout 3 set such a high bar, its sequel needs to bring back enough beloved ingredients while still tossing a few fresh ones into the mix.
So, do Bethesda succeed?
Starting with a Bang … literally
As we all know by now, Fallout 4 starts with a glimpse of pre-atomic-war life: we get to play in the thriving near-future world of 2077, on the very day the bombs fall. It’s a refreshing way to start a Fallout game, presenting a happier time and increasing the emotional impact when we see the devastation atomic warfare is capable of.
For players eager to get into the grittier, post-apocalyptic shenanigans, though, the action abruptly jumps ahead, dumping us right into that familiar scorched landscape. When the game gets going, it’s just as fans will want it to be: deep, stunning, and filled with freedom of choice.
As before, character-customisation is key, with players able to tweak their hero’s personal appearance using a simple face-sculpting tool (based on pushing-and-pulling). However, the progression system has been updated, with skill points and traits now devoured by the perks system: characters are upgraded with an animated Vault Boy chart, which offers plenty of options to unlock.
This might be jarring for some players, but it actually works out for the best, with the distribution of points (still released in single units each level) now making more of an impact.
Build your Own Slice of Paradise
One major new element Fallout 4 introduces is the crafting system. While Fallout 3 allowed players to build a few weapons, now entire settlements can be constructed, with capabilities to grow food, establish homes, and nurture communities. Junk scattered about the wasteland finally serves a real purpose beyond decoration – you can use it as raw materials.
Protagonists in Fallout games have typically been Man with No Name types, wandering from one place to another without settling down. This new crafting element gives players the chance to create their own little sanctuary – which also means it’s yours to protect. While players can build personal weapons, they can also keep their communities safe with turrets and sirens; radio beacons will also attract friendly new residents, all of whom will need feeding from your self-planted crops.
Over time, unlockable perks allow trade-lines to be set up between settlements, which allows traders to build stores here and there. This all helps to make the world feel more real, more civilised, and creates a real sense of achievement.
It also means there’s always something to do: when the main storyline has been completed, when all side quests are finished, players can still maintain their settlements and fight off attackers. This helps to combat a flaw of even the best open-world games: at some point, the biggest open worlds will leave you with nothing more to do, so it’s nice to see Bethesda have created an ongoing cause to invest in.
Steel Yourself for War
Fallout fans will know how satisfying that first try of steel armour is, and, thankfully, the effect is just as powerful here. Nothing can beat wandering the ruins of a devastated Boston in a huge metallic shell, laying waste to Raiders and other scumbags with high-powered weaponry.
Fallout 4 takes the armour further, though, by adding visual customisation options. As awesome as the Brotherhood of Steel’s gear looked in Fallout 3, this time, players are given more than the same grey hue to look at for hours on end. The design can be chosen and tweaked to suit individual tastes: decals are available, including nifty flame-based ones for a truly badass look.
Guns of all sizes, swords, mini-nukes, and more are all available throughout the game, giving players more than enough ways to protect themselves (and others), and enemies include many of the villains from previous games, such as Super Mutants, Deathclaws, Raiders, Mirelurks, and more.
Combat is as exciting as ever (thanks to the tried-and-true V.A.T.S. system), and the sense of exploring the ruins of the old world remains just as eerie. While this is the first Fallout game on the current generation of consoles, fans can expect to enjoy the same atmosphere and tone they know & love – it just looks far more impressive than before.
So, enough of the gameplay – what of the story?
Fallout 3 gave players a sprawling epic with many hardcore sci-fi elements (robots, mutants, supercomputers, even a bit of virtual reality), and this new game is just as compelling. As before, the hero (again, male or female as per the player’s choice) exits the safety of their Vault more than two centuries after the end of the world, entering a dangerous world filled with all kinds of freaks and adventure.
Now, the quest is based around finding the hero’s kidnapped son – but, just as the Wanderer’s mission to find their father in Fallout 3 expanded into a massive story, this too blossoms. This time, synthetic beings with remarkable human-like traits have appeared, only to be quickly distrusted by everyone else; as the plot unfolds, many side quests become available, and countless characters are encountered. As always, the world feels organic, and is deep enough to become totally immersed in.
Bethesda’s games are well-known for their glitches, and while Fallout 4 has them, they do little to dampen the experience: fans of the series and newcomers alike will find there is plenty to see and do from start to finish, unhampered by a few bugs. Anyone who played Fallout 3 through again and again, squeezing every last bit of excitement from the game, will have an absolute blast delving into Fallout 4, however they choose to play it.