Monthly Archives: April 2016

Fallout 4 – Review

fallout-4

by Stacey Ewart

FALLOUT 4
A PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING

In the first week Fallout 4 was realised, I managed to rack up eighty hours of gameplay. This may seem both ridiculous and unhealthy, but it was made even more so by the fact that, in this time, I barely dented the actual storyline.
Do you know why, gentle reader? Settlements. One of the main changes introduced in Fallout 4 is the inclusion of settlements that the player can build and customise. A creative little extra for regular people; a curse and a plight on those of us with even slight OCD. I spent nearly eighty hours trying to make nice little neighbourhoods for ungrateful survivors of the apocalypse, before I realised that they were never going to be happy and I wasn’t getting anywhere at all.

So, after this delayed and stuttering start, I set of to explore yet another post-apocalyptic landscape; this time, set in Boston (as opposed to Fallout 3, which was set in Washington, The Capital Wasteland– close enough for a few recurring characters and references to pop up without it seeming overly contrived). Mind you, anyone with internet access over the past four or so years knew that this was exactly where it was going to be set, because a) there are unsubtle references to Boston in Fallout 3, and b) Bethesda were really not stealthy enough when they were out and about scouting the area.

To be honest, there are extremely few differences between this chapter and the last – you’ve lost a family member, so you go looking for them. You encounter Super Mutants, feral ghouls, raiders, mercenaries and the odd Deathclaw. You get Power Armour, increasingly interesting weapons and a choice of companions. 
I felt like some of the favourites from the last game made appearances a little early. Like, Bethesda were showing their hand early on, hoping the shiny new features would keep us all gripped further down the line. Power Armour is as easy to come across in the greater Boston area as matching Adidas tracksuits are in the greater Belfast area. The first Deathclaw appears so early on, and is killed so easily, that I wonder why they bothered dropping him in there in the first place.
The companions are good fun, each leading you on their own little missions and adventures, although let’s be fair – most people are going to stick with old reliable, Dogmeat. Although, I am confused. Is this the same Dogmeat? Unlikely, given the number of times I watched that mutt croak in the last game (rather happy to say that companions can no longer die – a welcome change). The new companions come with their own achievements and romance options (alas, nothing graphic), but be warned – choose carefully. I spent hours working on my relationship with Macready, just to discover he’s married with a kid. Men, huh?
The map is also crawling with cats. I’m not sure of the purpose of this, but I appreciated the addition all the same.

While the plot starts off a little similar to past jaunts, it branches out in all sorts of strange and twisting directions. Another new feature of the game is the inclusion of factions, which make it immediately apparent that, at some point during the game, you’re going to have to plead your undying loyalty to one of them and forsake or betray the others. The Brotherhood Of Steel are back in all their shiny, heavily armed glory; determined to wipe out the mysterious creators of all things robotic and terrifying, The Institute. Meanwhile, The Railroad are fighting for android rights (which seems a strange battle to pick, in a world where a Super Mutant could very quickly eat your face off) and the Minutemen are…well, the Minutemen are rumbling along in the background, doing whatever it is that they are meant to be doing.
While I like this ‘chose your side’ sort of gameplay, I derived absolutely no pleasure from doing so, mainly because, the second you approach any faction, they all smack their foreheads to the ground and beg you, a total stranger, to be their powerful and formidable leader. I mean, come on. Fallout 3 had charm, because you were mentioned occasionally as being a lone gunmen, roaming the Wasteland doing good and/or evil things. Now…you’re instantly awesome and raised to legendary status merely for being there. Speaking of the internal battle of good and evil, I hope you didn’t like the moral judgement that Fallout 3 cast on you, because that’s gone. You’re neither good nor evil. You’re just…doing stuff. Karma is no longer a bitch, ladies and gentleman. Do as you please.
On the plus side, the factions and the choices you make regarding them definitely seem to alter the ending of the game, so there are huge variations in the story line, meaning this might be infinitely re-playable. 
Furthermore, along with the loss of the morality system, there is a certain sense of loss regarding character commitment. In Fallout 3, you chose your face and your SPECIAL points at the character building stage, and you were stuck with them. Now, with the appearance of plastic surgeons and a new levelling up system, you can alter your character as the fancy strikes you. I for one think you should be stuck with the face and the characteristics you chose. Your early choices should have consequences for your gameplay, or else what is the point?

Of course, these are just niggling little things, that by no means destroyed the game for me. I’m two hundred and fifty six hours in at this point, and only just approaching something that feels like the beginning of the end of the main quest line. The side quests are, for the most part, welcome distractions and very good fun (I was very briefly a superhero), but then there’s also Preston Fucking Garvey popping up every five minutes, asking you to go do some tiny mundane job that he could probably do himself. I am the leader of the Minutemen, Garvey, perhaps you should think a little harder about who you should be delegating jobs to. Oh, what’s that? Another settlement needs my help?

The music remains, truly, one of the best things about this game, the usually chipper and upbeat sounds of the ’50’s contrasting so well with the ruined world you find yourself stumbling through. While the map lacks the sense of sheer size and scale of the previous game, there is plenty to explore and discover. Rumour has it, if you head underwater, there’s a lot to see, but I haven’t tried that just yet. I’m scared of stumbling across some half-mermaid half-Deathclaw.

By way of a final warning – yes, this is a game with faults, but it is addictive. It can’t be dipped in and out of, dabbled with or played with the TV on in the background. Do yourself a favour; take a week off, immerse yourself and enjoy the thing. Don’t get caught up in the little odds and ends. And for heaven’s sake, avoid Preston Garvey.