Monday, February 29, 2016

Fallout 4 Review - Wasteland Woes

Score: 8.75 / 10
Fallout 4
PC - Xbox One - Playstation 4
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: November 10th, 2015

  • Huge amount of content and customization to explore
  • World is alive with random encounters and varying experiences
  • The settlement builder holds huge potential and adds a personal touch to the wasteland
  • Variety of locations can be a joy to explore and feel much more diverse in appearance
  • High replay value
  • Menus are a drag to navigate
  • Majority of situations are clearing an area and moving on to the next
  • Framerate issues for console when action gets tense

Gunfire rings off in the distance as an explosion shakes the ground; a fight is surely intensifying. I wander into a local building infested with Feral Ghouls literally climbing out of the woodwork. I target their legs, and bottleneck them in a hallway as my companion finishes them off from a distance. After clearing the building, I find plenty of useful items and ammunition, including the material I have been seeking to complete a new scope on my rifle. I leave the newly scavenged location and set off toward the skirmish to put a close to the continuing battle, as a platoon of Brotherhood soldiers drop in from the sky to accomplish the same goal.

...when was the last time we showered?

This is Fallout in a nutshell; an open world of possibilities, an endless stream of dangers and loot. Newly discovered locations beg to be explored, and the precious commodities you obtain can be used for a number of crafting and building options. It is a lottery of sorts; every locked container or open bookshelf containing a possible power up or crafting material you have sought for hours. You never know what you could encounter on the way to your next objective, and it is a world filled with stories you are begging to share with fellow players.

Fallout can be whatever game you wish it to be, and that is what has made the franchise so popular. If you wish to be the stealthy rogue with a heart of gold, your perks and equipment can be tailored for that playstyle. If you wish to be the melee brute that takes joy in ignoring social interaction and mashing bandits to pieces, Fallout gives you the tools. If you simply wish to spend hours upon hours building the ultimate settlement, fulfill your dreams. Fallout 4 excels at giving the player a virtual world to explore, destroy, or follow at your leisure.

 So many bullets, so little limbs to shoot...

Despite the open nature of the world around you, the story will mostly stick to a similar script for all involved. Every player will begin by emerging from the vault in search of vengeance for their murdered spouse and the whereabouts of their son. The journey to your son is, unfortunately...dull. It is a series of errands and "you help me, I help you" bargaining. Luckily the cast of characters you meet along the way are interesting enough to motivate your continued involvement, especially Nick Valentine's slick detective persona. The turning point, however, comes late game and has you questioning your own loyalties to each faction you meet along the way. A final decision had me thinking what would be best for the world around me, and ultimately had me hesitating to pull the trigger. I would have hoped for a bit more branching in the journey to that decision, but the lore of the world and the factions you befriend will soon have you favoring sides to take.

If you have played a Bethesda game, you will know the RPG drill as little is done to change the core experience. Your character can be built up with a number of stats, making them heavy in whatever attribute you choose ranging from the charismatic conversationalist to the super strong brute. After picking a few stats, every action contributes to the experience pool in leveling. This allows you to obtain certain perks that can boost you further in certain areas; either increasing your ability in science to craft specialty items or the damage output your sneak attacks can provide. The vast amount of perks and skills offer plenty of replay value in creation of a variety of vault dwellers and adding a personal touch to the gameplay.

 Do I want to go pew, or pew pew pew? Hmm....

Combat has a few slight tweaks, but nothing of substantial impact. You still utilize the VATS system to slow down time and target specific body parts of enemies to focus your fire. Enemies are much more prone to cover this time around, and prove to be much more cautious than previous installments than just standing in the open as you plug away at their health bar. The problem lies in the failure of fluidity. The game automatically dips you into cover, but it felt clunky and unpolished as I scrambled to keep limbs from poking out. Despite the ability to aim down sights and multitude of minor polish, compared to modern shooting games the flow and nature of combat felt a tad sluggish in switching between weapons or getting to an item I wished to use on a standard controller.

When not fighting, you will be scrounging every item in the game as a glorified hoarder for materials. Everything from armor to trash can be broken down or used to craft weapon mods, armor mods, or building materials for your settlement. This is both a good and bad thing, as the multitude of items you collect are a chore to navigate, especially on consoles. The mods you create however are a nice additional touch to each gun you obtain. Throwing on desired scopes, stocks, and attachments can outfit your weapon to churn out damage however you see fit, while also giving your armor new resistances or upgrades. Homestead buildings also require materials, and soon you will find yourself scouring for parts as you throw up turrets, defense towers, and massive structures to house your settlers.

Do not get me wrong, I loved my time in Fallout 4, and still plan on returning to the game for another play through. The issue lies in a failure to really try anything different in terms of approach. Throughout the game you are tasked with going to an area, clearing said area, and returning for a reward. I found there are few branching approaches to the missions I experienced aside from the occasional negotiation outcome. Soon enough the standard clearing area and searching through containers begins to wear on you.

I still have a lot of Fallout 4 to explore, but the similar nature of approach is starting to get to me. I enjoy expanding my homestead, expanding my characters' capabilities, and becoming an unstoppable force in the wasteland. It just feels like a bit of a grind, but one where I can find little moments to get me by.

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