- + Lead character fully-voiced for the first time
- + Tons to explore and countless tasks to complete, forget about your social life
- + Meticulously detailed
- - No online co-op feels like a missed opportunity
Want to look beyond the score? Check out the full review below…
Start Replay: “Goodbye Social Life”
My house has been destroyed, my wife is dead and my son has been kidnapped. Nuclear fallout is a terrifying prospect, but Bethesda’s long-awaited fourth Fallout is filled with interesting characters and tragic stories. A post-apocalyptic Boston sets the stage and offers an engrossing adventure to anyone willing to set foot into its wasteland. Set 210 years after nuclear war in the year 2287, you’re the sole survivor of Vault 111 and it’s time you awakened from cryosleep in search of answers.
If you’re a newcomer to Fallout then be prepared for a gaming experience unlike any other. If, however, you’re a seasoned veteran, you’ll no doubt know what to expect. Fallout 4 improves on everything that has come before it, introducing a fully-voiced lead character for the first time (be that a man or a woman) and packing in over 111,000 lines of dialogue. In comparison to previous iterations, gameplay has received a major overhaul and has been refined to perfection. Whether you want to make use of the game’s lethal arsenal or not, player choice remains at the forefront and will ensure action and stealth are always an option.
It’s been stated that the game has over 400 hours of gameplay, so don’t expect to have a social life for the foreseeable future. There’s simply so much, almost too much, stuffed into Fallout 4. How about we take a look at some of its core mechanics?
This trusty device is acquired early in the game and acts as your main hub for items, quest-tracking and upgrades. Featuring a charismatic cartoon boy handling the operating system, the Pip-Boy snuggles on your arm for quick access at any moment. Should you become lost or lose track of what you were doing, one button press and you’re on your way to becoming that little bit more knowledgeable.
When faced with such a huge map it’s easy to miss important monuments or grasp a sense of direction. Accessing your location via your Pip-Boy will provide fast travel to locations you’ve already visited, ridding the need to backtrack. Additionally, should you have an iOS or Android device, you can download the Pip-Boy app and manage everything you have in-game from the comfort of your own hands. How about strapping it to your arm with tape and pretending your daily commute to work is like exploring radiated wastelands?
One of the most identifiable features in the Fallout series is the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System or V.A.T.S for short. This nifty mechanic allows you to slow down time and aim your weapon at different body parts of the enemy. For all you PlayStation 4 players out there, hitting L1 will highlight any enemies in range. It will then show a percentage for each body part which indicates the likelihood of hitting it.
You can aim at the left and right arms, left and right legs, torso and head, and each body part is easier or harder to hit based on its size. For example, aiming at the head will have a considerably lower chance of hitting than, say, the torso. But bear in mind that this depends on where the enemy is and what they are doing; if the target is hunched over then it may be easier to take a shot at the head rather than the torso, as it’ll be more visible.
The V.A.T.S can also be used with melee weapons and makes it incredibly easy to take down enemies swiftly. It also makes Fallout 4 more accessible and enjoyable to amateurs, particularly those who aren’t overly adept at shooting games. There are a number of perks which increase the usefulness and effectiveness of your V.A.T.S, some will increase the melee distance when targeting and others will give you a chance of filling your critical meter after every hit. This is a great piece of kit and if you’re not using it then you’re probably doing something wrong.
Fallout 4 has now merged its perk and skill systems into one rather large and confusing tree. This new layout is called S.P.E.C.I.A.L and stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. Upon first sight you may be blown away by the sheer number of different attributes; each one containing multiple ranks. At the beginning of the game you are given 21 points to put into any of the above perks, at this point you really need to know what kind of character you want to be playing; whether that’s a melee tank-built warrior or a stealthy sharpshooter.
For example, head down the melee route and you should be looking to boost Strength, Endurance and Luck. Putting points into these perks will open up opportunities to soak and deal more damage, run a greater distance and carry more items. Whereas if you fancy yourself as the silent type then head towards Perception, Intelligence and Agility; this will then allow you to pick locks, hack computer terminals and become harder to detect whilst sneaking.
The Luck perk line is quite a curious one and shouldn’t be completely ignored, as it can offer a multitude of handy attributes. Take the attribute “Idiot Savant”, this will randomly award you 3x XP for any action, including killing an enemy or crafting items for your base. The chance of receiving 3x XP is increased the lower your intelligence, so for dumb tank-like characters this can really boost your level in the early game stages. As mentioned previously, each attribute contains multiple ranks which will increase in effectiveness or usefulness as you progress. Not every attribute has the same number of ranks, some have only 2 whilst others may have up to 5. The higher ranks will require you to attain a certain level before they unlock.
You may have heard of the Red Rocket garage within Fallout 4, this is one of the first bases that you come across in the wasteland. What is a base I hear you say? It’s a place that you can really make your own. You can kit it out with huts and shacks, fill it with fancy furniture, give it power and fresh water, even setup defences. As you explore more of the land you’ll start to come across NPCs that offer to travel with you, you can either accept their offer or send them back to your base.
The more people you have at your base the more you need to pay attention to it; you’ll need to make sure there’s enough water and power for everyone before Raiders eventually start to attack; this is when your defences come into play. Building items in Fallout is really straight forward: simply approach the workshop and press the action button, this opens a new UI containing 8 categories; Structures, Furniture, Decorations, Power, Defence, Resources, Stores and Crafting. Each category contains sub-categories and the level of customisation is astounding, you can really make it your own.
Making the jump from Fallout 3 and its sequel, New Vegas, Dogmeat returns as your faithful companion. This pup can warn you of nearby enemies, defend you in a fight and help search for valuable items. Better yet, Dogmeat can’t be killed and will always stand by your side, regardless of how reckless your actions become.
All of the above is just a glimpse into what Fallout 4 has on offer. I spent over an hour in its character creator simply attempting to recreate my likeness in the game. Even the robot servant, Codsworth, recognised my name and added a personal touch to my experience. The biggest question most players will have on their mind is: what shall I do first? There is no correct itinerary. Explore, explore, explore.
Go into that dark corner, search every crevice and talk to those radiated lunatics. Kill raiders and pile them on top of one another. Get lost within its 1950s soundtrack and horde every mug, clipboard and spanner in sight. Face the many demons and ghouls that spring to life at night time, banishing them with your newly-acquired laser gun. Talking too much about its intricacies will only spoil things, it’s best you discover its many nuances by yourself.
Fallout’s charm doesn’t come from its look, it comes from its details. I couldn’t care less about the fact it’s not as pretty as people expected it to be. My biggest gripe is the fact that no online co-op is integrated into exploration. I can only dream about the excitement of exploring a new area with a friend, but talking over chat and sharing experiences will just have to suffice.
Fallout 4 is Bethesda’s biggest and best title to date, and for good reason. Post-apocalyptic Boston offers so much to do and explore that it’s perfectly realistic to think you won’t see it all. Say goodbye to your friends and family, and don’t forget to order a sick note from the doctor (yes order), because from now on you have Fallout flu. It’s quite contagious.
*Fallout 4 was provided to Start Replay on PS4 by Bethesda and Xbox One by Xbox