Fallout 4 Review (PC)

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Fallout 4 – Launch Trailer

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Main Review

Review Context: I’ve played every Bethesda Fallout game, and also Fallout 2. I have been a longtime Bethesda fan, and Fallout is one of my most favorite franchises.
Date of Playthrough: November 2015

PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 10
Processor: Intel Core i5-3570K CPU @ 3.40 GHz
RAM: 16 GB
Video Card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 760
Resolution: 1920 x 1080, 60Hz

Fallout 4 is an open world, post-apocalyptic, FPS, RPG, and the fifth installment in the Fallout franchise. As “The Vault Dweller,” you must scour the ruins of Boston in search of your son who was abducted by an unknown group. Fallout 4 has taken the already beloved Fallout formula and expanded upon it greatly. From numerous quality of life enhancements and huge improvements, to existing systems. to a new building/crafting system using scrap that makes every single random piece of junk worth collecting, nearly every aspect of the game has been upgraded or revamped for the better. So grab some stimpaks and hop in some power armor because its time to explore.

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Fallout 4‘s story, without any spoilers, is very similar in structure to the other Fallouts. Go out and find a thing, then find a way to said thing, then make a choice that affects the whole game world. However, in Fallout 4 the game doesn’t end after the story reaches it’s climax, unlike Fallout: New Vegas, which ends and doesn’t let you continue playing after the battle at Hoover Dam. Fallout 4 not only lets you keep playing after the climax, but the game still gives you relevant quests to do. Depending on whose side you pick, that faction will continue their mission as if the game never ends, and not just a bunch of generated fetch quests either, though they do give you those as well. What is also nice this time around is that all of the groups or factions in the world are all more directly connected to the final climax. Instead of having five groups doing their own thing and then having two of them get into a big fight, Fallout 4 has every group tackle the big post-apocalyptic dilemma their own way for their own reasons. They really give you the opportunity to pick what you feel is the right choice, instead of simply letting you pick between black or white. If I had to say one negative thing about the story itself, its that they don’t let you name your son. Though honestly completely irrelevant to the events of the story, I feel like I would have been more attached to my son had I actually named him instead of him just being dumb old Shaun.

I constantly switched between gamepad and keyboard the whole game. Keyboard and mouse will always be better for first person shooting, but the gamepad is more convenient when building settlements and managing inventory. Fallout 4 plays like a lot like Borderlands, with non-regenerating health and standard FPS controls, while the enemies have large health pools and don’t die immediately. But Fallout has the long loved VATS targeting, or Vault-tech Assisted Targeting System, which allows the player to stop time and focus on a specific body part of an enemy, with each body part having a different percent based hit chance depending on range, gun stats, obstructions, and extraneous perks. Very useful for locating targets in front of you and also hitting targets that get too close. An action points bar determines how many shots can be taken in VATS before having to wait for those action points to regenerate. Fallout 4 actually changes it up a bit; in previous Fallout titles action points were used solely for VATS, but in Fallout 4 the action points allow you to sprint as well. This means that one cannot sprint into battle and expect to utilize VATS. Inversely, one cannot spend all their AP in VATS and then expect to make a quick get away. While not only consolidating status bars and helping to simplify the UI, this adds nice dynamic to the combat that forces the player to either use their AP wisely or find themselves without the boon of VATS, which is something not often encountered in previous Fallout titles. What is also new about VATS is the critical system. Landing hits in VATS will fill a bar that, once full, will allow the player to significantly boost the power of a single VATS attack by pressing the critical button after the command is issued. Though not vital, it can be a focus of your build and become quite powerful with increased damage, charge rate, and even a chance to refill the critical meter entirely upon kill.

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If VATS and chems aren’t enough, then you can always hop in your power armor. An exoskeleton that once entered, grants the player increased damage resistance, radiation resistance, carrying capacity, and melee damage. Power suits are comprised of a frame with six different pieces of armor attached that can all be mixed matched and modified. Each part; head, torso, left leg, right leg, left arm, and right arm, has a durability the decreases when the player takes damage while inside the power armor and can be repaired with scrap at a power armor station. Once the durability reaches zero, the part falls off the skeleton and no longer provides defense. The power armor runs on fusion cores and slowly drains them while in use. Thankfully the suit still moves when the fusion core runs out, however, it will no longer provide any benefits. Other slight changes from previous Fallouts include grenades now being tied to the melee button, instead of being another weapon that has to be equipped and switched to. Simply hold down melee attack and bombs away! Also, all weapons have a melee attack. Instead of needing a melee weapon, a “gun bash” can be performed with all the weapons, barring a few unique exceptions.

By far, Fallout 4’s biggest improvement is the scrap system. Remember all those random items you could find in a Fallout game? Desk fans, coffee mugs, typewriters, toy rockets, and all that other junk Bethesda uses to give their worlds more flavor. Well now every single piece of it is a type of scrap. Ceramic, adhesive, steel, screws, copper, stone, circuitry, nuclear material, everything in Fallout 4 is worth some type of scrap, which can be used to upgrade and customize your weapons and armor or build settlements. Not only are you plunging through the wreckage to find your son, level up, and find cool and powerful weapons, but now your picking up every roll of duct tape you see so you can strap better stuff to your guns, or light bulbs for their copper, so you can get a generator running in your settlement. What this does is it keeps the player from feeling like they didn’t get anything from a dungeon or quest. They may not have walked away with a better weapon, or an ever elusive bobblehead, but at least they found some adhesive that they desperately need, or some lead so they can make their armor more rad resistant. One of the best ways to ensure that your game is popular is to make the player always feels like they are being rewarded, or that their efforts are worthwhile. In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, after I’ve leveled a lot and I have highly upgraded weapons and armor, my only reason for dungeon diving is to learn lore and level up with no promise of desirable loot or usable upgrades, other than advancing my level, which at around 40 starts taking forever. The desire to play quickly dwindles, while the fantasy setting slowly begins to get old. Fallout 4 does have a similar progression in terms of equipment in that once you’ve fully upgraded your weapons with scrap it is unlikely that you will find a better one out in the wild, however that is not all that the scrap is used for.

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Fallout 4 is filled with locations called settlements, where the player is allowed to actively edit the area. By building structures, beds, defenses, and amenities, the player can attract settlers that will not only stay and protect these settlements, but run shops and produce food that the player can use. The real joy in this comes from the sense of rebuilding the wasteland. Taking a place that is run down, ram shackled, and covered in a junk, and turning it into a neat and thriving community feels awesome. Like making a dirty room clean, the player really feels like they are making a difference and turning each little piece of the wasteland into a little piece of home and safety. All this stuff requires scrap and a lot of it. The knowledge that all of it was built by you with scrap collected by your own two hands only serves to heighten the sense of accomplishment and attachment to these little bits of civilization. The system by which the player makes a place hospitable is rather simple and easy to understand, but the amount of creativity the system allows for is impressive. You can slap the things needed to make a settlement “functioning” in just a few minutes if you’ve got the scrap, but what ends up happening is you spend hours making the place just the way you want it. You keep building and adding, till suddenly you’re out of scrap and its time to venture out once again. Its a nice self regulating system. There is also a size meter tied to every settlement. The size of your settlement determines it’s chance of being attacked by raiders. Once full, the player is unable to place anything else in the settlement. At the time of this review, there is a glitch that works for both console and PC that can reduce the size of your settlement. The game adds to the size bar every time the player places something via the build mode, and decreases the bar every time they scrap, store, or delete something via the build mode. If the bar is full, the player can no longer place anything with build mode but that does not stop them from dropping things from their inventory. By dropping scrappable things from their inventory and then entering build mode and scraping them, the player decrease the size meter without destroying any of the structures they have built. Based on the fact that Bethesda hasn’t fixed this bug, despite their huge involvement in the community settlement sharing, says that they don’t want to limit the size of people’s creations. Either the bug will persist, or Bethesda will change the system to eliminate the size restriction, while still letting the frequency of bandit attacks be based on settlement size.

Bandits and raiders will attack periodically and if your settlements defenses aren’t up to snuff, you’ll have to come to its rescue. One thing that I somewhat dislike about the bandit attacks is that when you are out in the wastes and a settlement gets attacked, a quest is added to your list and all you’re given is a 4 second ping on the side of the screen. More than once I’ve failed to notice this prompt due to dialogue or an intense battle, and then been informed later that my settlement has sustained significant damage. There is no set penalty for failing to respond, as it is generated in real-time. If your walls are tight and your turrets are well oriented, its possible to receive minimal to no damage. But more often than not, a couple of settlers die and a few turrets have to be repaired. I have had a settlement that had no turrets or defense, because I had no scrap at the time, completely wiped out. Everyone dead, everything broken, and all the farms destroyed.

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The other major changes are the mods for weapons and armor, and the skill system. Previously, weapons could be equipped with a set number of mods that could be found and or bought, and most armor couldn’t be upgraded at all. In Fallout 4 weapons can be completely customized, from picking the type of stock and the type and caliber of the receiver, to the type of sights and the size of the clip. This allows the player to find an automatic combat rifle and turn it into a sniper rifle by changing the receiver, adding a scope, and a full stock. Armor can also be modified to increase its defense, and add a special trait, like being lighter, increasing your carry weight, reducing damage from explosions, or decreasing the AP cost for sprinting. All of which is either bought, found, or created with scrap. What this does is it eliminates the need to find multiple of the same weapon archtype. Some might say this is a detriment, similar to over leveling your gear in Skyrim, since once you customize all your weapons to their max efficacy, and your liking the odds of finding a weapon you would want to use in the wastes is less likely. Fallout 4 combats this by making some weapons have a special star, which gives them a bonus effect like, 25% more damage against humans, never needing to reload, or poisoning for 15 extra damage over time. These special effects cannot not be removed or created, so they have to be found out in the wastes. There are also tons of magazines that can be found, which give permanent incremental upgrades to certain stats and the ever elusive bobbleheads, which give larger permanent upgrades. So even if you don’t find a new weapon there are plenty of ways to be rewarded when searching the ruins of Boston. Also, since modding your equipment is tied to certain skills; Gun Nut for guns, Science for laser/plasma weapons, Armorer for armor, and Blacksmith for melee weapons, it’s not possible to too quickly over level your gear.

Now I know what your thinking, “Skyrim had the same thing but you just made iron daggers till your smith skill was maxed out.” but Fallout 4’s skill tree works a bit differently. In earlier Fallouts, upon leveling up the player would be given a choice between a few seemingly random perks based on their max level, certain prerequisites, their SPECIAL stats, and the level of their skills, and they would be given several skill points they could add to any of their minor skills. While certain perks could be taken multiple times for greater effect, and most skills that weren’t chosen were available to be chosen on the next level up, there was no real way to engineer a build path. You focused on the minor stats that interested you and then basically the player would simply wander about until they leveled and then decided there on the spot what perk they were going to take. Fallout 4 has done away with all that mysticism and instead provided us with a full skill tree, replacing the minor skills with more perks that essentially accomplish the same thing. Seven columns, one for each SPECIAL stat, and ten rows. In order to get a perk that is on the sixth row of the Strength column you have to have at least 6 strength. Not only are the perks available to you based on your SPECIAL stats, but they also have level requirements, Gun Nut’s max rank requires you to be level 41 and have at least four Intelligence. You can even spend a point to permanently increase one of your SPECIAL stats, so no perk is out of your reach. But the best thing about the new level system is that there is no level cap. Hallelujah the Bethes-deities have answered our prayers and now the biggest drive for playing any RPG, leveling up, doesn’t abruptly stop before I’ve explored everything. Not only is the prospect that our adventure might never end a blessing from above, but it has a huge influence on the leveling speed. Traditionally, leveling in Bethesda games slows to an agonizing crawl around level 35. I am currently level 57 and the rate at which I level up is still pleasantly fast. It takes about an hour of questing to level up at 57, where it could take you almost a day to go from level 44 to 45 in Skyrim.

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Finally, Fallout 4 benefits from the jump to the next-gen. One thing I really like is that to loot a body you don’t have to go into a menu and pause the game, though you can if you want to. All you have to do is look at the body and a quick menu will appear next to your reticle. A small change, but something that does a lot more than you would think. Not just speeding up looting time, but not constantly pausing the game to loot things keeps your immersion more intact. On top of that, the AI is less helpless, the load times are shorter, the game can handle more action without slowing down, and most importantly, the game looks super real. A lot of people complain that the game’s graphics are bad. They see dull colors and depressing rumble and think that its because the graphics are “bad,” but Fallout 4 is meant to be a dull looking game. Its a post-apocalyptic world, so of course its going to be bleak and drab. The next gen graphics come into play in the detail. All the grime and dust and junk looks believably real. You can really see it when there are lasers flying everywhere and suddenly a mini nuke goes off. The explosions look amazing in this game, and the way power armor pieces crush and entertainingly fly off their skeletons as you shoot them is so cool. Even the weather is impressive; fast traveling to your settlement and loading into a beautiful sunny day actually relieves some of my stress its so nice. My favorite thing is the radiation storms; all of the sudden the whole world turns sickly green and bright green lightning and harsh winds start breaking the sky. The sound of your Geiger counter going off as you absorb small amounts of radiation from the wind itself makes my hairs stand on end. The whole experience is extremely unsettling and when it happens to you in the middle of nowhere its terrifying.

Negatives I can apply to the game are few and far between. Apart from the standard Bethesda glitches that are just a natural part of any game with this kind of scope, it can be a little difficult to talk to the dog (Dogmeat) when using mouse and keyboard. You have to click the dialogue options with the mouse, or take your hand away and hit the arrow keys, so after clicking on Dogmeat you the have to move the mouse down to he desired option. If Dogmeat moves to far during this time and leaves the center of your screen, the menu will close and you’ll have to try again. Another big complaint for most people is that they changed the dialogue system for the worse. Before a character could have any number of dialogue options because you could spend ten minutes talking to someone before you learned everything they had to say. Now, in order to facilitate gamepad use, you only get four options at any given moment. People argue that people in general have less to say and that the conversation progressions are more linear as a result. This is true, however Bethesda combats this by adding more interesting and notable people into the world. In my opinion, I think it is nice because I spend less time talking and more time exploring, which is what I want. Fans of Fallout 1 and Fallout 2  would likely have a different opinion, as those games were much more dialogue focused, being isometric turn-based combat games.

All in all, Fallout 4 is the biggest and baddest installment of the series yet. No conceivable end to the game progression, a vastly improved reward system, an easy to use and creative building system, and all the dirty secrets a Fallout world has to offer. They even allow the player to access console commands so they can have fun spawning in things to play around with, like dropping a hoard of deathclaws in front of a wall of turrets and watching the fireworks. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt might have a more condensed and in-depth gaming experience, but ill be playing Fallout 4 for years to come. Not until I’ve unearthed every secret, found every bobblehead, and rebuilt the whole dang wasteland will I be satisfied.

Similar Games Liked:
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC)
Far Cry 4 (PC)
Dragon Age: Inquisition (PC)

Similar Games Disliked:
Grand Theft Auto IV (PC)
Just Cause 2 (PC)

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