Aaron Jean On November 9, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Fallout 4 LogoThe Bethesda Fallout games are almost beyond reproach. In the vast, flawed game that is Fallout 4, you’re probably going to be impressed by the number and scale of things, not their quality. Not to say Fallout 4 is fundamentally bad, but there are plenty of rough spots along the way. For better or worse, this is still a Bethesda game.

If you’re looking for a strong argument for how Fallout 4 improves on Fallout 3/New Vegas, I’m not sure there is one. V.A.T.S. is almost identical save for a retuned critical hit system. The new features deliver what was promised – a voiced protagonist is a nice addition, but it won’t change Bethesda’s writing, stiff and flat as it is. The creation tools seem versatile, but the time investment for all the resource gathering is daunting.

You’ll still need to scrounge for ammo and resources, so if you were hoping for a solution to the obsessive-compulsive resource scouring of the recent Fallout games, you’re out of luck. A frighteningly large fraction of your playtime will be spent glancing into containers. Great if you think it’s a good solution for natural pacing(I do, sort of), bad if you just want to jump in and shoot things.

If you’re one of those loot-obsessed people like me, be warned: the new crafting system may force you to crank those manic tendencies to 11. Every junk item can be broken down into materials used for crafting, and the types of items you might have completely ignored in Fallout 3 suddenly become very valuable if you want your weapon to have the mod you’ve got your eye on.

As for junk loot, you can take it or leave it, of course – crafting is completely optional, and there are plenty of good items dropped by enemies. Every enemy type now has a legendary variant, which is tougher to kill and can drop unique weapons and items with special status effects. Every mod adds an adjective to the item it’s equipped to, so Fallout’s loot feels just a little bit more Borderlands now – there are dozens of mods that can buff and debuff, not to mention the legendary weapon special effects. It’s easy to become swamped with more valuable weapons than you can carry, so managing that loot is inevitably a bit of a chore.

I think I’ve gotten most of the negatives out there. I don’t hate Fallout 4, in fact I will be playing it much more in the weeks to come. But there’s still a lot to annoy me here, and Fallout 4 won’t convert you if you weren’t happy with Fallout 3.

It looks incredible, and that’s mostly art design. There are a bunch of fancy new graphical effects, and the textures are more or less sharp, but it’s the finely tuned retro-futurist aesthetic that really deserves the spotlight. It’s a look we’ve seen before, but it’s still intact – the optimism of the 50s in the face of post-nuclear America. The chipped cherry-red paint, the remnants of crumbling Americana. It’s tragic yet disarming, and it’s a great atmosphere for an optimistic game about nuclear war.

The characters so far have been hit or miss – a lot of broad-stroke cliches and archetypes. The synth(think android) detective Nick Valentine, one of the first companions I met, is basically a caricature of a film noir detective, but his dry wit ever gets old. Piper the journalist is your typical spunky, suspicious undercover news reporter. The villians are pure evil, of course. Bethesda’s always dealt in cliches, and that’s no different here.

The way Bethesda layers secrets under everything is astonishing. The real treasures are not found by killing legendary super mutants, they’re found in discovering secret knowledge and locations. Early in the game, I hacked into a gas station’s terminal, where I discovered the presence of a cave underneath, where I could witness its purpose and pick up some valuable plants. These are the best moments in Fallout 4, when you forgo the plotted quests in pursuit of secret passages, a character’s house key, or a hidden audio recording.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of Fallout 4, and already I’ve seen so much. The sheer scope is staggering. I’ve joined the Brotherhood of Steel, I solved a case of murder, and I’ve helped the radio DJ find his confidence. Like Fallout 3, this is a massive game with plenty of faults, but I’m looking forward to finding more of its secrets.


Very close to Fallout 3, but the gunplay actually feels good now, and power armor is ridiculously fun to play with. Too much emphasis on tedious looting.


Very picturesque, almost photorealistic sometimes. It’s not a giant leap for graphics quality, but the art direction more than makes up for any shortcomings.


Curiously, some songs have been reused from Fallout 3. Power armor and radiation storms sound awe-inspiring.


It’s so ridiculously large that you can avoid much of what annoys you, but there are plenty of great moments to be had, regardless of what your favourite part of Fallout is.

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