Fallout 4 – Review

Fallout 4’s greatest strength is also at times its greatest weakness, which can be summed up/forgiven/excused/berated (delete as appropriate to your preference on this) as “being a Bethesda game.” Even since the initial reviews came out and having talked with many people about this, it has become a bit of a Marmite subject in that you love this or hate this. But to make such an arguably condescending phrase for the game really shadows some of the problems the game has and, equally so, hides some of the best things that Bethesda Games studio has done with this entry to the Fallout franchise.

Fallout 4 moves the action of the post-apocalyptic America to Boston, giving us a world where lots of scorched woodland areas and small satellite villages surround the massive city. It is incredibly huge and I know I missed places in my run that I’d seen in videos online, so it is entirely possible for you to miss places, no matter how dedicated you are to exploring the landscape.

It is a rather beautiful landscape, even if it is borne of destruction. There’s something about the desolation of society’s constructions, mixed with reclamation by nature, which is wonderful but hard to pull off. There are times that the scope is too much for the game and concessions are made with lower resolution textures and occasional lag in the texture streaming. This becomes a lot more evident in the built up areas but there is a lot more going on that takes your attention away from the obvious issues.

The video you see above (don’t worry, no spoilers) is the wonderful Andy Kelly of PC Gamer fame (@ultrabrilliant) and his award winning Other Places series, showing you the first area of the game and how wonderfully it highlights the sense of desperation the game evokes. This is down to a multitude of things that the Bethesda Game engine does very well. The colour palette is wonderfully vibrant and dour, capturing both the positivity of the pre-war age and the decay of the post-war world. This is apparent all throughout the world in larger historical structures or even the smaller pop-up shack communities you encounter. The grass and the ground is arid, dying but not quite dead, along with the concrete blending in with its cracked and broken roads and fallen structures. Nothing ever feels like it’s the same but it’s all disorientating enough to make you think you might have been there before, really helping with the need for exploration. The lighting doesn’t do a lot compared to other RPG visual feasts but it doesn’t need to when the morning fog rolls in, or the dark electrical storm shades the sky and your immediate vision in hues of murky brownish green.

The problem with this and the design of the world and the buildings is that it doesn’t feel very human, or it feels too tied to the more angular, broken edge feel that the last generation of Fallout games had. At times the apocalypse seems to have abandoned all curvature and the more you play, the more you feel this is down to the game design and engine rather than artistic choice. The draw distance as well, with the graphical issues of texture pop in can sometimes take you out of the fantasy and into the frustration of loading. In the actual menu screen there’s one low-resolution stretched texture, and it’s obvious and sticks out like a sore thumb.

fallout-4-hd-screenshot-2077

Once you move in to the world and explore, along with your now voiced character, you get to meet the typical people you’ve come to expect from the franchise, those being the deliciously maniacal, the weaselly, the addicted, the persevering, the cynical and the violent. These people of the Commonwealth live and die by your actions, and your assumption of responsibilities. Whether it is by building a settlement, defending one for the Minutemen or making yourself a made person in some of the bigger city communities. All of the people have interesting stories and need you to do interesting things for them that will put you in mortal danger, and at times it can feel like an over reliance on the fetch quest or clearing an area of nasty things. But it also feels, more importantly, like you aren’t really in control of your character, even when the decisions on loyalties, allegiances and betrayals come to distort your moral compass.

You might find abandoning your RPG play through of the game until you’ve done it at least once to be a good idea. For long periods of the game there is much more of a focus on the gunplay and action/adventure style than there is on interacting with the world in a unique way. One of the things that the old games were great for and has been much lauded and celebrated was the freedom in how you play and approach the world with your character, like Jake Tucker’s great piece on being a cannibal in New Vegas highlights. If anything, this game suffers from two things in the story and character interaction. Firstly, it’s entirely possibly that we’ve over eulogised the previous games and were expecting, with the voice and the better speech choice system, a new advancement to the freedom we want to have. Secondly, the story and the way the narrative is constructed really limits your choices as to what you can do, at least for the initial run.

kFaizMI

What do I mean by this? My example in Fallout 3 is that you are a young man just going out in the world looking for your Dad, a feat that you probably didn’t expect to actually complete, therefore you can do what you want. In New Vegas you were a nameless courier who is shot and has only the drive to find out who shot you and get revenge, therefore you can do what you want. In Fallout 4 there’s a central event that drives your character that is very human and informs that relation you have to your character. It’s incredibly hard to make your character do all the bad, evil, good, charitable things you might want them to do because the human instinct to resolve the game’s central plot stops you from really doing it. It’s hard to explain it without spoiling the story, but initially it isn’t the RPG you’re probably expecting.

When it comes to customisation though, I have three minor problems. There should be a higher camera when it comes to building the settlements so you get a better look at what you’re building. There should be a bit more of forgiveness for being over encumbered, especially as scavenging for junk now has a practical purpose, like allowing a fast travel to a local location or something. I also want to be able to wear armour whilst wearing any type of underclothes like a suit. That’s my only feedback for things I want, everything else is a great and welcome addition. Whilst the settlement construction options aren’t massive, they are excellent as a side distraction, compared to the side quests available before in previous games for escapism. There are some rather excellent ways to adjust your guns and armour, and all of these things require a smart and well educated use of the new levelling and perk system, which is simplified and much more succinct in its practical uses. But it’s because of these things that I am really excited for the mod function to become available for the console iterations of the game.

fallout-4-screenshots-6

The games issues don’t stop with the textures, or the story, or the ancillary questing being very focused on a simple fetch or kill target. There are big frame rate issues on the console during battles thanks to the overload of AI and particles, and occasionally in areas where the build up of buildings and items can lag the game down from a mostly consistent 30fps to a lot lower. Obviously the PC users don’t have that problem but it is rather annoying and can hopefully be worked in with various patching and optimisation.

But the more time you spend with the game, its quirks, its characters and its environment, the more you forgive it its faults. In a way this is the closest you’ll get to experience Stockholm Syndrome with a game. You’ll lose hours of your life and you’ll see something in the game design and construction that will make you think that the game hasn’t come on as much you would have hoped or expected in the eight years since Fallout 3 or the five since New Vegas. But then you’ll carry on, going to the next area, wanting to find where the hell Dogmeat has got to now, and you just can’t leave it. You shouldn’t be enjoying it, everything about you is saying you should stop, but you can’t.

The biggest problem with the game is the expectation, that we didn’t know we had until the game was announced, hasn’t really been matched once we got it in our hands. But much like the other iterations, it’s the repeat play, it’s the exploration and it’s the ability to have a new experience every time you start a new game that will forgive the technical limitations, even if you don’t feel it the first few hours that you play. You can say that all of this is what Bethesda does and that “it’s a Bethesda game,” but in truth it is both Fallout’s greatest weakness and also its greatest strength.

Summary

Fallout 4 might not be the game you’ve been expecting or hoping for. There’s a definite problem in that the scope of the game isn’t realised in the technical ability of the console, at least without further patches or optimisation. As such, the controls, the feel and the general atmosphere of the game feels like the last games and by association, last generation. But in truth, we wanted more of the same but better to look at, better to control and with more things to do, and that’s exactly what we’ve got.

Good Points

  • Amazing, large world
  • The new weapon modification and settlement building is a great addition
  • So vast that you’ll need several play throughs to fully experience it

Bad Points

  • Graphics and frame rate are disappointing
  • The game feels more action/adventure than RPG at times
  • The story can sometimes feel limiting to your role playing freedom

Why a 7.5?

The hangover from the previous games is most evident in that the graphical optimisation is pretty bad at times with texture pop-in lags and frame rate drops. Plus the experience you get from it isn’t really the same as you might have had previously, and might be a bit too action focused in places compared to previous games. But it is great and much more rewarding once you’ve got in to it and play it again the way you want to. There’s lots to learn and relearn but the story and the technical issues the console versions face can sour the experience.

 

This review is based on the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game.

 

 

Advertisements

Second Fallout 4 Cartoon Shows Off Perception Talent

fallout4ft

[divider]

More of the public service announcements from Vault-Tec yesterday as Fallout 4 gets another cartoon video. This time Bethesda is showing off the talent of Perception. Which can only mean V.A.T.S!

If you missed the first one last week, Bethesda is releasing a series of 1950s style public service cartoons to aid your knowledge about on the various attributes that you can assign to yourself when you start the game. Fallout 3 had the baby book. We’ve been over this already, you know this, let’s get to the video.

[divider]

[divider]

If you haven’t seen the E3 gameplay video of Fallout 4, assigning these talents happens very early on by a visiting salesman for Vault-Tec. He visits your house and will successfully sell you a place in the local vault in case of nuclear doom. Again… a spoiler – Nuclear doom ensues.

Bethesda, or Vault-Tec (who probably exist now somewhere), are doing a video for each of the attributes: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck… S.P.E.C.I.A.L. in case you didn’t get that. Yesterday’s video shows us how the V.A.T.S. system works. The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System is a perception based aiming tool. You can scan your enemies in advance and choose where to shoot them. The better your perception the better your chance of hitting the person. Plenty of headshots and decapitations ensue.

There’s also a lot of stealing possibilities which the video encourages. These ‘morally ambiguous’ skills should be practiced on children, the elderly and the incapacitated. In case you were in any doubt, you can totally play the game as a massive arsehole, which suits us just fine!

Fallout 4 is due out on PC, Xbox One and PS4 on November 10th 2015, and we for one cannot wait. If you’re local to the Colchester area, be sure to check out our friends at Xtreme Gaming who are doing a community event celebrating Fallout on Friday September 18th 2015. (@Xtreme_Gaming). Keep it here for all the goodies!

[author]

New Fallout 4 Cartoon Shows Off Talents – Strength

fallout4ft

[divider]

That’s right, Fallout 4 is two months away today, and this new cartoon video from Bethesda is showing off one of talents that you can assign for yourself in the games attributes – Strength.

Bethesda are always very jovial when it comes to their game’s marketing and this is no different. A series of 1950s style public service cartoons are coming to help you learn about the games various attributes that you can assign to yourself. You’ll remember in Fallout 3, you did this as a rather mobile baby who had discovered the power to read. Your baby book was there, not for eating, but for deciding upon your character.

[divider]

[divider]

In Fallout 4, this is going to be done very early on as well, by a visiting salesman for Vault-Tec. Whatever your character choice, he’ll come to your home and try to sell you a place in the local vault in case of nuclear doom. Spoiler – Nuclear doom ensues. But the old S.P.E.C.I.A.L. book has now given way to the vault registration form.

Never fear though as Bethesda are doing a video for each of the attributes: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck… S.P.E.C.I.A.L. in case you didn’t get that. This first one, released today shows us how the weapon choices benefit from the strength. The stronger you are, the more you can take that and protect from “bullies.” Although the best news is a possibility of using a paddle and ball to kill people. I mean, the video says it’s a bad idea, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it, right?

Fallout 4 is due out on PC, Xbox One and PS4 on November 10th 2015, and we for one cannot wait. If you’re local to the Colchester area, be sure to check out our friends at Xtreme Gaming who are doing a community event celebrating Fallout on Friday September 18th 2015. (@Xtreme_Gaming). Keep it here for all the goodies!

[author]

E3 2015: Bethesda Recap

e3bft

[divider]

As far as debut’s go, this is probably one that will live long in the memory for all of the right reasons. Bethesda took a giant leap to the stage at E3 (at the Dolby Theatre which hosts the Oscars, no less) with an already impressive level of hype.

Doom, whilst teased last year to select convention attendees and an extra three second clip last month, was very obviously going to be on the agenda. Fallout 4 was also going to be hotly anticipated and late on Saturday some leaks began to appear for Dishonoured 2 thanks to some tech-testing fluffs. But we had no idea (which is actually quite a thing in this day and age) of what was going to happen.

Doom was first out of the blocks and it did not disappoint at all. iD Software have been incredibly quiet since RAGE and lost their lead guru John Cormack to another reality. But that doesn’t seem to have dampened the original core concept of Doom or its successors – over the top, gory violence. It’s a simple concept really, to just kill all the things in a outlandish manner with big guns, but it’s very rarely executed well (pun intended).

e3b1

We saw some excellent melee attacks including a guy having his face smashed in by his own, still attached, broken leg. We saw some fantastically smooth gunplay and weapon selection and some fast and fluid movement. The things that made games like this and Quake excellent is the fast frenetic pace of the games that heighten the excitement, the fear and the adrenalin of the game, and Doom looks to have it in abundance. We were treated to a very well lit and molten factory level set on Mars which seems to have channeled all the tropes of horror science fiction with the cinematographic flair of more recent times, including a good Red Dwarf-esque mobile hand passkey that got a good laugh. We were then treated to Hell with demons coming at us from all sides and the final shot of a BFG volley cutting to black.

The most interesting thing in this is what looks like the first Next Generation console level editor. A simple tool to snap rooms and place objects to create your own levels and game types for multiplayer. Think of Halo’s Forge but with much easier room placement. This is Doom Snapmap and it looks excellent for the creative people and modders that have always been key to the franchise’s extended success. It’s something that will certainly breathe a lot of life in to multiplayer and is a great way to get people to stay involved. Especially on the console market as the game will be coming on PC, Xbox One and PS4 in Spring 2016.

Keeping with the online focus, Battlecry announced an upcoming beta. The online team based combat strategy game looks like a crazy cross between Team Fortress and a non-fantasy MOBA. It’ll be interesting to see but we’ll have to wait until the beta’s have come before we get more of an idea on the game.

e3b4

Next up was the team from Arkane Studios, who’s Dishonored completely took the critics and gamers by surprise a few years ago. Now it’s most definitely back with you being put in to the position of Corvo once again… Or you can play as the daughter of the Empress, Emily Kaldwin. This is what we were shown and it’s great to have a new female protagonist to play with. The steam punk setting is well and truly alive with some focus on the high flying speed running and magical abilities, in a totalitarian world of death and decay.

If you’re worried about playing Dishonored 2 because you missed the boat, never fear. Arkane are releasing a collected edition of Dishonored this winter with some new textures and all the DLC. This Definitive Edition is coming for PC, Xbox One and PS4… I’ll be honest, I’m very excited for it and of all the ideas I had for a remaster (if you can call it that) Dishonored was not the one I was expecting to hear from at this conference.

Another game I wasn’t expecting to hear anything about was the recently released Elder Scrolls Online, but we got a nice little video of some new areas coming to Tamriel Unlimited on both PC and Console and we’ve also been treated to a new card game call Elder Scrolls Legends (Presumably “Scrolls” was taken by someone else?), although we’ve seen nothing of it. I was also hoping to see or at least hear some news of the other Bethesda franchises like Quake and The Evil Within, but we just got their logos at the end. At least they’re still there and more may come in future.

e3b5

Speaking of the future, ready your Pip Boys. I could talk to you a lot about Fallout 4 but you should just watch the conference from 1 hour and 5 minutes in. Returning to the Wasteland, you will walk the area of Boston with your companion Dog and do as you’ve always done – explore, fight and customise. You’ll start your story pre-bombs which give a little tongue in cheek look at the psuedo-1950s lifestyle and create your character. This looks incredibly as the old style of sliders and templates have disappeared. Instead you just select the part of the face you want and just play away, regardless of gender (hurray!). You’ll wake up 200 years later as the sole survivor and are set free to explore. No spoilers.

e3b2

The customisation is incredible though, from very specific parts of guns to your heavy armour set, clothing and even building your own settlement, Fallout 4 looks to be far and away the best open world role-playing game in terms of player individuality. Creating a world to you, the player that you have affected seems to be one of the things that Fallout 4 is bringing out, which is something the other hinted to. But the technology is now here to make it happen.

Speaking of technology, the Pip Boy is updated to be more than just a static menu (as the developers know you’ll spend a lot of time there) and has become a lot more dynamic. You’ll also be able to interchange memory tapes for audio and even games. We’ve seen a good version of both Donkey Kong and Missile Command in the demo (the latter is increidbly appropriate) and there’s a lot more to come. Especially if you’ve got your eyes on the collectors edition that includes a working Pip Boy… Well sort of. This soon to be gold dust peripheral is a wearable phone dock that allows you (with a free app) to use the whole thing as a second screen and be your Pip Boy access. The app is coming anyway so anyone can do it, but having your own Pip Boy as you play? Well that’s just swell. We also have the Sims/XCom/Tiny Tower-esque Fallout Shelter. A fun little distracting building game where you become the overseer of your own vault, released for free last night on iOS.

Bethesda didn’t show a lot but truthfully they didn’t need to. It was a lesson in how a company can show a minimal amount of products but with a huge amount of quality. All of it coming for next generation consoles and PC. All of it absolutely captivating. Sometimes you just need to do a good job and in their debut to E3’s conference schedule, Bethesda certainly nailed it.

[divider]

[author]