Fallout 4 is the game we bought a PS4 to play. There’s a funny symmetry about it, because back in 2008 I bought an Xbox 360 so I could play Fallout 3. I did enjoy that game, particularly the early stages, but I think at a certain point I just found its world too empty, a bit too much of an actual wasteland.
Fallout 4 promises to be very, very different.
A few hours in, and it seems that Bethesda have done a good job of giving Fallout 4’s wasteland the ‘Skyrim treatment’. This is a world full of people to meet, locations to explore, and quests to discover. The graphics and production values are sky-high, considering the scale of the game; and it is very pleasing to have a fully-voiced protagonist. I haven’t quite bonded with my character yet, but I think that’s more due to some slightly lacklustre character creation on my part, rather than the voice acting. I’m sure it will get there. One of the challenges of a game like this is deciding how you want to build your character, and getting a feel for them. There are such a wealth of options in Fallout 4–so many ways you can go with your character and play style–that it’s going to take me a while before I settle on my character’s personality. It’s fun experimenting, though.
The game’s opening does a good job of establishing the background for the game’s action and I found it really moving and sad. There are a few events and revelations in the early going that really make you stop and think–quite aside from the whole nuclear apocalypse thing. Before long, your character is free to do what he wants, and although there is a main quest to crack on with, most players will get sidetracked into one of the myriad questlines. Given the nature of the main story, this might feel a bit weird, but considering the scope and scale of the game anything else would feel like a waste.
After only a few hours, the game has introduced you to combat, weapon customization, and settlement building. Combat is good fun, with plenty of options available to you right from the outset, and the VATS system gives combat a cinematic sense of drama, as well as giving you a bit more control. Like Fallout 3, there is scope for some hilariously OTT blood and gore–especially if, like me, you take ‘Bloody Mess’ as one of your first perks. In one shootout yesterday I fired my laser rifle at an enemy in a building high above me, and then saw their severed head fall about 200 feet towards the ground, bouncing against the side of the building, before rolling to a stop on the floor, while the rest of their body remained atop the building. Only in Fallout.
It’s already evident that the variation in weaponry is absolutely insane, and enemy Raiders will often come at you with all kinds of grisly weapons, which you can of course equip yourself or customize at one of the many workbenches. Building weapons or armour requires raw materials, and you will loot almost everything you can get your hands on. Fortunately, you can give stuff to your companions to carry, as otherwise it’s easy to exceed your carrying capacity. There looks to be some great variety among your possible companions–some more entertaining than others–and they also seem to be somewhat sturdier than those in Fallout 3 or Skyrim; which is good news for careless players like me.
Another mechanic which makes use of raw materials is building settlements. This is not something I was really aware of beforehand, but it’s a well-developed system. Basically most cleared settlements can be re-built to house settlers. Not only must you build dwellings for them but also beds, supply water, food, and power, and build defensive structures in case of attack. I get the sense you can ignore it all if you don’t want to do it, but it’s good fun: T. has already done some amazing work in her game expanding and furnishing her settlements. You can also go around ‘scrapping’ ruined buildings, junk and trees for raw materials, and it is incredibly satisfying to see rubbish and mess cleared up at the click of a button. The first time I did this, I put on the in-game radio and tidied up my home town to the music of Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz. Not what I was expecting when I fired up the game but there you go. I’m telling you, it’s a good job you can only scrap stuff within settlements or I would probably go round the entire wasteland just scrapping things and not playing the game. Like I said, it’s very satisfying.
A special mention should go to the ambient soundtrack and sound design. You have access to a couple of radio stations at the beginning, but on the whole I just prefer to listen to the sounds of the wasteland and wait for the game’s soundtrack to kick in. The best way I can describe the score is like a cross between Skyrim and The Walking Dead. It’s great.
This game is going to take me absolutely ages. Last night I accepted a quest to help some settlers in Twelve Pines, and made the trip down to Lexington and the Corvega Auto Plant to clear out some Raiders. It was tougher than I expected, and with a few minor distractions (like clearing some Feral Ghouls out of a local Supa Dupa Mart) it took me two hours before I could be confident the Raiders wouldn’t bother the good people of Twelve Pines any more. That’s one side quest. I remember before the game came out, people were talking about hundreds of hours content in here, and I can believe it. I managed to sink 150 hours into my one playthrough of Skyrim and I expect this will be even longer than that. I can’t wait.