Many times it’s graphics that makes a game impress its audience. They can spring a world to life bringing about the most impressive of worlds that suck a gamer into its version of reality. Fallout 4 is not one of those games but by God it is an addicting open world experience that relies on its content over its beauty. 2015 has been a benchmark year for open world gaming. The gaming world once more seems to be embracing games requiring innovation over the junk food porn that is the present day first person shooter experience. That is not to say I for one am against FPS. However an over saturation of one thing can lead to progress becoming stagnant. The Fallout series may outwardly appear as a FPS but it is much more of an engrossing experience from within.
Most open world games can fall into the trap of boring pointless side quests that are much more of a chore to gain XP than something that further enhances its world or its characters. They can lead to overly long grind sessions merely horseshoed into the game for the sake of claiming it has content when merely its on the same level of having to perform menial task like taking out the garbage. Fortunately in Fallout’s case every quest has purpose that is not only a plus but a staple of the overall series. Fallout 4 like its predecessors takes pride in the player getting lost in other missions whether it be hired as a contract killer, grabbing an item for another character or simply building a farm the world of Fallout is filled with opportunity to build your character in a consistently fun manner.
Fallout 4 is not without its flaws however. The flaws in this game can run deep being almost comically bad considering developer Bathesda’s reputation for releasing releasing glitchy almost ugly looking products with each subsequent game. From AI compatriots running against walls or inadvertently getting you detected by the enemy to falling through the floor of the map I could feel the November deadline looming over Bethesda’s head. The inherent lack of doing almost anything remotely different from previous incarnations is an overwhelming presence in the game. Much of the Fallout 4 is spent utilizing the charming Pip Boy, a device conveniently strapped to your main character’s arm equipping you with every stat, side quest, audio logs and radio station that for some reason still uses the same recycled tracks with the exception of merely a couple new ones from previous Fallout games. Although a very lovable device through its meta 1950’s style spliced with b movie science fiction technology too much of the game is spent looking at menus on a continual basis.
For as many years as Fallout has existed the inclusion of a faster more fluid means of accessing various elements of the game could have been interwoven into the gameplay without having to pause every few seconds. The map is another outdated aspect of the game that seems to have taken a hit. Quite often I found myself wondering where to go next pausing the game to view the map on my pip boy to ensure I was heading in the right direction.
Contrary to my opening statement Fallout 4’s graphics is almost inexcusable for its jagged aged look. With various ugly textures, creepy looking character models and rough animations I quite often was wondering if I was playing my game on Playstation 4 or PS3. More so than the graphics the loading times can be downright tedious where merely riding an elevator requires a load screen. These flaws standout as various other open world games of today don’t contain the same issues. Metal Gear Solid V, The Witcher 3 and Grand Theft Auto V all have evolved each of their individual elements that Fallout seems almost reluctant to add probably due to the size of the game and the need to rush it through the door in time to meet its deadline.
It initially almost turned me off from the game completely as the game’s lack of innovation from previous incarnations appeared as borderline lazy. Oddly enough one of the vey few things in the game that has changed shouldn’t have. The speaking interface. When interacting with other characters no longer is there a vast amount of reply options that can make or break the outcome of an event. Instead the gamer is introduced to a limited amount of feedback to give to the other characters structured much like Bioware’s Mass Effect games. The player is now given a limited amount of verbal replies that more or less presents the same outcome of an interaction with no repurcussions. In Fallout games of the past the chat function would be vast and could change everything so being wise with one’s words was usually the best course of action. For me at least. This presents a streamlined approach to Fallout 4 that can sometimes be off putting when it comes to the new incarnation of the Fallout series.
From simplistic chat interaction to a large reliance on first person warfare Fallout 4 mostly succeeds in trying to reach a broader the humongous saving grace to all of Fallout 4’s flaws is just how engrossing it can be. The game feels a bit like your friend who never changes but you still love him regardless because of his value and likability. Fallout is chalk full of whimsical satire that has maintained its charm even today. There’s a remarkable sense humor that works in the game’s dystopian setting. Each character feels unique in personality where the voice acting truly shines never feeling too forced, always conciensance of how absurd the game’s script is yet the line delivery feels naturalistic. No character ever looks the same in Fallout 4. Each player has a character dressed in his or her own unique clothing that is not distracting to the narrative it’s up to you to choose whichever piece of clothing is in the environment that best suites your avatar. You can go out looking stylish in 1930s mobster gear or look like a complete lunatic running around in only in your underwear. Along with clothing there is weapon customization, base construction just about anything can be built from the ground up. If you’re a hoarder then this is your dream game. Collecting something even as insignificant as a tin can can lead to the construction of a torrent to protect your village or a new gun attachment.
The combat in Fallout 4 is improved from previous games. The VAT mode no longer completely pauses the game making combat too easy but rather slows time allowing you to hit your target efficiently. The hitting ratio during hip fire and sight aiming has also greatly improved. No longer is the hit detection an absolute nightmare. Still it can be a bit clumsy at times trying to slowly aim your rifle at an enemy while he pummels you with bullets from a a sub machine gun. Whenever approaching a battle it’s best to feel prepared. If you go charging in with no game plan you will quickly turn into grinded meat. Effective use of a comrade by your hand is almost essential for a guaranteed victory. You can go about combat solo but your odds of survival are rare. Often times my robot Butler compatriot Coddsworth would be handy early on in the game as he would slice his enemies like they were chop suey while I would catch my breath in the other room eating nasty bits of raw mutated animal meat in order to heal myself. Later I would use the synth (robots emulating humans) partner Nick Venltine, a Super Mutant (think of the incredible Hulk) some Irish knife wielding lady, an aged half zombie, a super soldier equipped with Aliens like power armor, a lone ranger type of character sporting a laser gun and a dog humorously named dog meat. Most companions have different unique abilities. Dog Meat may not be effective in combat but he can sniff things out for you. Paladin Dance (the super armor guy) can help you deal with hoards of enemies. Despite their buggy AI your travel buddies can be incredibly helpful during each firefight where quite often you’ll find yourself grinded by the teeth in order to win a skirmish.
With its continuing unique style, diverse, world, limitless customization and value that lasts far beyond the initial $60.00 you paid unlike other games (cough Star Wars Battlefront) Fallout 4 is a game that just manages to live up to its enormous hype rewarding its players with a lasting experience.
Mike Crowley is a former Intern for Ebert Presents At The Movies and current host of YouTube Movie Review show You’ll Probably Agree. You can subscribe to him on YouTube here YPA Reviews find his show’s Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/youllprobablyagree/ and follow him @ypareviews