The Never Ending Realm
Fallout 4 (PS4, XBOX ONE) Review By Samuel Rivera
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HIGH EXPECTATIONS


Fallout 3 is a game that I remember most fondly. At the time back in 2008, nothing felt quite like it. The game rendered Washington D.C. as a moody post apocalyptic setting perfectly, and the sense of wonder that had made Bethesda's previous games such as Oblivion and Morrowind unique experiences was ever present. Fallout 3 to me was actually the superior experience out of that trio of games, it fixed a lot of Oblivion's problems even though it was a relatively much shorter less “grandiose” experience.


Enter Skyrim, which is perhaps the greatest open world RPG ever made to this day (yes even better than The Witcher 3 in my humble opinion), Skyrim in 2011 quite late into the console cycle managed to look and play a generation ahead of Fallout 3 and Oblivion, it was a gigantic game with a world so lush and beautiful that even though it was plagued by a thousand bugs most critics including myself looked past that to rate the game a 9.5 out of 10.

So naturally Fallout 4 on newer more powerful consoles had huge shoes to fill and even bigger steps to follow. So does the game live up to the expectations?


MUNDANE NEXT GEN VISUALS


Maybe playing the Witcher 3 first ruined the Fallout 4 visual experience for me...or maybe it was playing Rage on the 360. Fallout unlike it's predecessor did not wow me in any shape or form by its gigantic post apocalyptic version of Boston. The character models are ugly, the lighting is fantastic but the textures look dated in a way it looks like a 1080p version of Fallout 3.

The game looks better, much better than FO3 but it doesn't feel like a leap and certainly most worry some is the fact that Skyrim at least to me looked, dare I say more impressive? Sure FO4 runs better, has better lighting and better textures in spots than Skyrim...but the majestic vistas are missing and there is no wow or shock factor to be found here on the visual department.

To be honest a post nuclear disaster environment is not a pretty place to look at, so FO4 has a lot going against it when compared to the Lord Of The Rings like wintry environments presented on Skyrim and the colorful Witcher. That doesn't excuse the poor texture work and animations. Rage was far more impressive back in the day and ran at 60 fps.

Even GTA5 which is a remastered last gen game manages to catch and impress the eye (the water effects in GTA5 are pratically unmatched as of yet by an open world game) more than FO4 does.


Character models have been improved somewhat from Skyrim's but they still look flat out a generation behind Witcher 3's. The game has come under fire from both critics and gamers alike on internet forums for the lack luster visuals, the developers have insisted that Fallout 4 does things that no other game does...


IMPROVED GAMEPLAY


Fallout 4 does a lot of stuff, not enough for me to justify a high score on the graphical department, but enough for me to take into account certain things. FO4 is a sharpened, refined version of FO3.

Back in the days of FO3 and New Vegas the shooting was better left to the V.A.T.S. System because shooting in realtime was an awful, inaccurate experience that would often lead to a premature death. I am happy to say that while FO4 doesn't have the shooting precision of one of the newer Call of Duties, it is quite a competent shooter. In fact I recommend shooting in realtime in just about every situation, though VATS still quite an useful tool to spot hidden enemies. Sniping is pleasure, and in the early stages of the game, sniping is a must in order to take down some of the most powerful enemies. While FO4 plays like a shooter, success will likely be determined by your character's level and the enemies level than the skill the user has as a First Person Shooting player. So yes Fallout 4 still is at its core an RPG.

Leveling up is a slow some times tedious process, even killing big time enemies doesn't yield a great amount of EXP. Completing missions is the biggest source of EXP in the Commonwealth, that and finding magazines that immediately boost your stats by a point.

The game features a new creation system, that allows the player to develop settlements and create anything from a gasoline power plant for electricity to ammunition for your weapons...to practical upgrades to said weapons.

The system is one that is relatively simple to use provided you have the proper amount of raw materials at hand. During my 50 hour play through I mostly used the system to complete some missions which required me to build certain stuff such as Radio transmitters, Power plants and such. I really didn't dwell much in it, though I have seen players over the internet do some amazing stuff with the system in the game. So props to Bethesda for adding an new component to an already great playing game.

The game still follows the mission progression system Fallout 3 had, basically you complete missions to get EXP and move the main plot forward. While the games has improved its gameplay mechanics and control, it has taken a step back specifically from Skyrim, in size, grandeur and just the overall number of Quests. FO4 is a short game in comparison to Bethesda's previous effort.

Of course in an effort to keep the game relevant for a few years, Bethesda will release the mandatory expansions, but as a stand alone title I expected much more from FO4 than what I got in the final product, especially considering Bethesda was coming off releasing their greatest game ever.

That's not to say the game isn't bigger than FO3, because it is. The map is bigger, and the game might have more missions, and yet to me it didn't match FO3's epic setting and New Vegas Scale.

The game has an assortment of bugs as it is customary of Bethesda's titles, so be prepared to apply some hefty updates. The updates range from fixing or at least stabilizing the frame rate which should on both ps4 and Xboxone hover around 30 fps, to improving the draw distance and such. For what is worth the game didn't crash in any of my play throughs, but I still recommend saving often while in the commonwealth.

Difficulty wise, you can adjust it to your convenience. In normal mode, some enemies are very deadly even after 20-30 hours of game play, I went on a murdering rampage on the Brotherhood of Steel in which I killed their leader when I was on their ship. This was a big mistake because I was chased around the commonwealth periodically by the Brotherhood on their helicopters. This is one of FO4's strengths as you have the freedom to break alliances and betray allies at will, there are consequences to your actions so think things through as you play for a more enjoyable experience.


AURALLY COMPETENT

The music does it's job but nothing to write home about, perhaps once again I am influenced by having played The Witcher 3 first. Skyrim aurally speaking is much superior, but FO4 does it's job in gun sounds and SFX. The voice acting isn't half bad, and with a game this size is tough to expect oscar winning quality voice acting.


STORY?


Now FO3 wasn't a story beast...and to be honest neither was Skyrim...but Skyrim had a soul and the Elders Scrolls lore to fall back on. In FO4 I found it hard to care about anything, including the main plot line which deals with the protagonist trying to avenge his wife and while finding his missing child.

The writers made an honest attempt at penning down a good tale, with some cool concepts including entering the memories of a dead villain, but largely failed at it. The nature of Bethesda's games so far haven't allowed for much character development. To be honest I never felt compelled to rescue the child I was compelled at first to discover who was, or more specifically where was the much talked about and maligned Institute. But other than that I wasn't really hooked on the story for the most part. FO4's allure lies in its world and on exploring it not on its story.


WORTHY BUY


In the end if you were a fan of FO3 and New Vegas you will have a good time with FO4. Don't go in expecting a superior game to New Vegas and you will be fine, FO4 features tighter shooting, an Expansive world, Bethesda's signature : “craft your own story and do whatever you want” recipe and tons of replayability. Fallout 4 could have been better but perhaps it is unfair to have to live up to Skyrim ,a game that now has been remastered for current consoles.

Gameplay: 8.0- Fallout is an RPG that plays like a FPS, and the controls are tighter than ever. Ho-hum missions and a repetitive world hurt the score. The crafting and building component is entertaining and I am sure some gamers will love it while others like me will avoid it if possible. Building settlements for some reason didn't feel as fun as it should have for me. I am a story driven gamer and to be honest Fallout 4 didnt have a lot going for it and it was tough for me to care about NPCs therefore ruining the prospect of creating settlements for said NPCs. Exploration and scavenging still are key in order to succeed in the game which is marginally more difficult than FO3.

Graphics: 7.0- Outdated is the word that came to my mind as I first played the game. Generic Character models, 30fps, and a bland world hurt the score here. In truth Bethesda created a world in which you can interact with many items on screen and yet the game was outdated upon release and games like Horizon Zero Dawn can only dig the knife deeper on FO4's visual presentation. The shooting is tighter than ever ...near CoD levels finally, so the V.A.T.S system will finally take a back seat during heated gun fire exchanges.


Music: 8.0- Sound wise as always Bethesda delivers competent Musical Scores coupled with awful voice acting. The sound effects are nice if standard fare.


Story: 6.0- At this point I have given up hope on Bethesda ever crafting a good story in one of their open world RPGs. The Main quest is ho-hum and the sidequests are also for the most part boring fare. While the ability to kill Main story NPCs is welcomed an adds some seasoning to the game, the poor story and bland characters do not allow this new found freedom to reach its full potential since killing Main characters has no emotional baggage to consider when deciding to pull the trigger or not.


Replayability: 8.5- Because of the many choices that can be made story wise, and the fact that you can kill everyone in the game, multiple play throughs will be required in order to experience all posable outcomes. Even one play through can take 30-40 hours assuming you skip some quests and locations. Easily a 100+ hour game for the true completist.

Overall: 7.5- Not a must buy for general gamers...a must buy for Fallout fans but beware that it is the weakest of the three installments. Doesn't feature the shock and awe of Washington's Fallout 3 and doesn't have the scope and just pure fun of New Vegas. My take? A great effort in the world building mechanic and half assed one in the actual game.