Fallout 4 Review

War Never Changes, but Fallout Certainly Does

Nov 13, 2015
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Fallout 4 cover art Fallout 4

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Price: $59.99
Release Date: Nov. 10, 2015

Fallout 4, the latest and much-hyped installment in the long-running franchise, certainly does its best to live up to the hype. I walked into this game having steadfastly avoided any information about its plot, mechanics, and characters. I walked in blind, and now that I’m about seven hours in, I am mostly pleased with what I’ve found. Boasting impressive graphics, a gripping story with high stakes both personal and societal, and solid, streamlined gameplay, Fallout 4 has the potential to be a fantastic addition to the series.

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Fortunately, Bethesda hasn't just made a clone of the older versions of the game: the landscape, the plot, and a new crafting system have really moved to transform this ancient series into something new. Fallout has changed, and it's time to take a look at exactly how.

Bethesda has changed up the Fallout formula for this one. Not as much as when they first got their hands on the series, mind, but there are some noticeable and intriguing differences. For one thing, it takes place on the east coast of the United States, whereas the the original games were set on the west coast. The other change that you'll probably notice a lot more is that the game is a whole lot more...green. Now we have trees, grass, and rivers of toxic, irradiated water, not to mention a whole different set of landmarks to play with. It opens up a lot of new possibilities since, one must admit, the old barren desert settings were getting a bit played out.

Another change, and one that I’m still working out my feelings toward, is the stats and leveling system. It’s similar to how it’s been, but just different enough to catch my interest. You start off with considerably fewer points to put into your stats at the beginning of the game - a bare 28, as opposed to 40 in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas . Each time you level however, you have the option of increasing a stat (as with the Intense Training perk from previous games) rather than taking on a new perk for yourself. There are no longer skill points either; everything is simply handled through the perks. Again, I’m not sure yet how I feel about this yet, because it's a double edged sword. It seems like streamlining is the name of the game here, but I can’t deny that I felt nerfed at the beginning of the adventure, and a bit stifled in my options for character growth. There is a lot of potential here, and I think we'll see where everyone really falls on the game after a few days fully immersed.

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Whaddaya mean, I don't start as a paragon of human perfection?

There’s some good, some bad, and some ugly here. Fallout 4 feels, for lack of a better word, a bit experimental. While that’s by no means a bad thing in and of itself, there have already been a lot of feathers ruffled by some of Bethesda’s choices with this latest game, and some wrinkles that still need to be ironed out.

Let's talk about the biggest problem first: frame-rate issues. Fallout 4 is, there is no denying it, a visually beautiful game. From the settings, to the weapons that people carry and the clothes that they wear, the amount of detail that went into the world is mind-blowing. However, this has led to some problems in post-release. Even with the graphics turned down as low as they would go, my laptop struggled to run the game. It ranged from a little laggy to downright unplayable. Strangely enough, there is no in-game option to adjust the resolution, which is usually the go-to fix for problems like that. What you can do is search for the file fallout4prefs.ini in your computer and edit the settings there ( warning: Do not edit this file unless you know what you are doing. Search online for instructions if you are unsure ). I had to manually drop the resolution using that method, which cleaned up the frame-rate issues but caused some minor graphical glitches. Granted, my gaming laptop is hardly top-of-the-line. More disturbing are the reports that the PS4 and XBox one versions experience similar problems, since that should be the primary benefit of buying the console version: Not needing to worry about the hardware.


The dialogue wheel. Whichever option you choose, prepare to hear it in full voice-acted splendor.

Less of an outright problem, and more of a controversy, this is the first time that a Fallout game has had a voiced protagonist. First of all, I must say that the acting is quite good. It’s a fine addition to the game, but unfortunately, it’s a real problem for modders. Anyone who wants to make their own content won’t quite be able to make it match the rest of the game, since they won’t be able to get the same person to voice the Vault Dweller. Since some of the long-term appeal of Bethesda’s games, at least on PC, comes from the nearly endless variety of fan-made mods and expansions, they might have shot themselves in the foot with that decision. There are people on both sides of this issue, some saying that it’s fantastic to have your character given his or her own voice, and others asking how they could have been so shortsighted. Personally, I think that a voiced Vault Dweller is great to see in the short term, but may hurt them in the long run.

A couple of other little surprises for me were the fact that the VATS targeting system no longer stops time - though it does slow it way down - and that critical hits aren’t random, but triggered by a critical meter that fills with each shot landed in VATS. I quite like the first thing; it makes combat a little more tense when you can’t just trigger VATS and magically have all the time in the world to plan your attack. Enemies will continue moving and shooting, albeit very slowly, forcing you to make your decisions and commit to them. The critical meter is a little weird, though it is nice to know that you can have a more powerful shot saved in case of emergency.

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Spoiler alert.

Finally, the characters and the story. This was a major change, it’s the first time that your Vault Dweller wasn’t a total blank slate at the beginning of the story. We are introduced to his spouse and their child, and we see their home and neighborhood, just in time for it all to get blown away by the war. From a storytelling perspective, it’s great to make that kind of a connection with the characters and the world. It gives us as players a reason to care what happens. From a role-playing perspective, it’s risky territory, since it’s imposing things onto your character that you might not want to be there. Did you want to be a drug-addicted homeless orphan who murders people for pocket change? Too bad, you’re a respected ex-soldier with a loving family who loses everything to the war. I think it’s great that we’ve been given personal stakes in the events of the game, but of necessity that eliminates some of our creative freedom.

Of course, all you’re given is your background. What you do with that information is up to you. Will you charge out into the Commonwealth with guns blazing to rescue your son, or will you find the sleaziest back alley of Diamond City and take up drugs and loose women? Creative freedom is one thing, but as anyone who’s done theatre or role-playing knows, a bit of structure can be invaluable in determining who you are and what you want to do.

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...What?Why is everyone staring at me?

The final thing worth noting, and this is something I haven’t even begun exploring yet, is the building function. You’re no longer restricted to purchasing a place to live or finding shelter wherever you can, you actually have the ability to construct buildings from the ground up, provided you have the materials for them. You can outfit your creations with everything from workstations to defenses, and start building your own little piece of Heaven among the Hell of the Wasteland. I think.

Like I said, I haven’t had a chance to do much with that particular feature yet.

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Pictured here: someone with a whole lot more resources than I have.

Overall, Fallout 4 is an impressive game with a ton of potential. There are, as I’ve mentioned, some issues that need to be worked out, particularly the framerate problems, but on the whole it’s been a great experience so far.

In closing, I’d like to add a more personal note to this. Fallout 4 has made some changes, and changes invariably ruffle feathers. Some concerns are quite valid, like the fact that a voiced Vault Dweller will make things harder on modders.

The thing to remember is that people get upset because they care. People love this series, and they don’t want to see it change again. More to the point, they don’t want to see those changes make this game fall short of what it could have been.

To those people, I have this to say: Fallout 4 is a great game with a ton to offer. If you’re concerned, upset, or angry about differences from the previous titles, because it’s not what you expected or what you wanted it to be, just try appreciating what Fallout 4 is. There’s nothing to gain from endless fights over what it isn’t.

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War. War never changes. But games do, and when they do, it’s our duty as fans to give them a fair try. To see what we like and what we don’t, what works and what doesn’t, and hopefully help to make the next installment even better than the last.

It’s a harsh world out there. Keep fighting the good fight, Vault Dwellers.

Care to weigh in on the fallout from Fallout? Leave a comment! To stay up to date on our articles, check our our Facebook or follow our Twitter.

Eric Henn

Head Writer