I’m about two hours into Fallout 4 and have just made friends with “Dogmeat,” a stray German Shepard and my first in-game companion. I’m walking along, mostly following a road, occasionally going through ruined woods, and doing a bit of scavenging. By the time I come upon a red rocket gas station, I’ve picked up a double-barrel shotgun and a pipe-rifle to go with my 10mm handgun. Dogmeat and I kill off a few nuclear mole-rats infesting the place and are quite happy to find some empty cans and a hotplate.
I lockpick a door, hack a computer, and find a journal entry. It has details on caves beneath the gas station which contain stores of smuggled goods. I take a minute to give Dogmeat some stuff to carry, tell him that he’s a good dog, and then we’re off running through cave-muck and nuclear waste in search of new guns. After what felt like a few minutes, we’ve picked the cave clean and we’re headed back to Sanctuary where we’ll store our loot. I take a quick break to check how long I’ve been playing, and am more than a little surprised to find that I’ve logged four more hours, and it’s now 2:30 a.m.
Bethesda, Fallout 4’s developer/publisher, excels at making immersive open-world games where players lose themselves in the fiction. The last Bethesda game of this type was the wildly successful Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Skyrim is considered by many to have been the best game of the last console generation, and commercially it sold over 20 million copies. Skyrim also received numerous “Game of the Year” awards from various gaming websites/publications. There were two key features which made Skyrim so successful: it had hundreds of hours’ worth of content and it provided a uniquely immersive experience to players. Skyrim gave you choices, and it made you feel like the character you were playing was an embodiment of you.
Whereas Skyrim was a first person action/adventure-fantasy title with the expected swords, arrows and magic, Fallout 4 is a first person shooter with guns, grenades, and power armor. It has melee weapons, like swords, but they’re not really good for anything; the world of Fallout 4 was destroyed around 2070 during a nuclear war between America and China, so Fallout 4 takes place in a post-apocalyptic Boston. Society in Fallout 4, before the apocalypse, parallels the 1950s, and, humorously, still does after the apocalypse. Fallout 4’s plot is dark satire, and it’s Bethesda’s most mature plot yet (there are a few points where it falls flat, but the ending, at least the one I got, was phenomenal). As far as plot goes, Fallout 4 is no Witcher 3 (Witcher 3 is top-tier), but it’s very good, and in terms of immersion, Fallout 4 is second to none. As far as content goes, expect language and as much blood and gore on par with cable television. Maybe slightly beyond that, actually, but the tone of the game makes the blood and gore almost light-hearted and not too impactful.
Going back to my adventure with Dogmeat, in previous Fallout titles a gas station would likely be a boring location. At best it might yield some bottlecaps (the currency of Fallout 4) and I want guns. Cans and a hotplate would be trash, not even worth picking up. Fallout 4, however, has introduced a new loot mechanic, all in-game. All items are made of components; those cans had aluminum, and the hotplate had steel, copper, and screws. I needed this to make a scope for my gun (I had picked up a nuka-cola bottle for the glass earlier). With this new system, all this junk littering the world which previously had no value now serves a valuable function.
Fallout 4 is not a game without flaws, though. Many feel that the graphics should look better; I think that they’re fine, and that some are being thrown off by the post-nuclear war wasteland. Glitches/bugs are a problem—it’s easy to get stuck in terrain, or have something happen in a quest that shouldn’t (be sure to save frequently). I personally see Bethesda games, like Skyrim and Fallout 4, as the most ambitious games on the market. I feel that bug issues are unavoidable in games of this scale, and Bethesda has an excellent track record of fixing them.
Going forward, Bethesda plans to release downloadable expansions (Bethesda DLC is generally excellent) and mod support. If Skyrim is anything to go off of, mod support will be a major game-changer. Modding is where users design content for a game that has been released (and mod support will make that much, much easier, when Bethesda releases it). Mods can change pretty much any feature in the game, like sound, gameplay, weapons, and graphics. I have a modded Skyrim with dynamic sounds (like birds chirping, and more soundtrack options) altered gameplay (more realistic, if shot in the head by an arrow, I die, but so do enemies), hundreds of new weapons, and vastly improved graphics. My Skyrim (a four-year old game) actually looks better than Fallout 4. Mods have the potential to vastly improve Fallout 4, which is already exceptional without them.
I’m out of space already, and I haven’t even had time to cover the excellent settlement option (which allows you to design/maintain communities in the world), power armor, equipment crafting, radio stations, faction interactions… scratch that, I don’t even have the space left to finish this list. In summary, Fallout 4, while not without flaws, does what its predecessors have successfully and adds innovative new mechanics. It’s not by any means perfect, but it also has no real competition. If you take the amount of content, the level of immersion, the quality of the story, and the gameplay together, there’s really nothing that directly competes. Far Cry 4 has better shooting and Witcher 3 has a better plot, but overall, I feel like Fallout 4, taken as a whole, is ahead of the pack. I’d give Fallout 4 a 10/10, and if I value all its aspects equally (I tend to care more about plot, personally), it would be my favorite game of the year. If you’re at all interested in this game, pick it up. Fair warning, though: play it when you’ve got free time to spare, or it’ll nuke your GPA.
IMAGE TAKEN from gamespot.com