Fallout 4 Review – A S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Kind Of Game
The most anticipated release of the year builds on one of the most beloved franchises of all time. One hell of a pedigree but can Bethesda’s latest addition to the post-apocalyptic wonders of Fallout reach the incredible heights people expect or should you be happy you didn’t make it to the Vault on time?
As a relatively new player with minimal experience in the Fallout universe I began my journey into the post-apocalyptic Boston with mixed expectations. I was a little concerned I’d be thrown into a story rich game world with heavy connections to prior Fallout titles, much in the way I felt completely lost jumping into Assassin’s Creed 4 games late. But I’m happy to report that while Ubisoft struggle to connect new players to an already established universe, Bethesda pass with flying colors. That’s not to say there’s not obvious throwbacks and mentions for Fallout veterans but if you’ve never touched a single Fallout title, you can still expect an emotional storyline that keeps you connected and in touch with the characters you encounter and the world you explore.
Our story coverage in our reviews here at Gamers Heroes is always minimal, wanting to avoid detailed spoilers even weeks after release but I will say that the story aspects of the game don’t fail to deliver. The protagonist fights through the wasteland in an attempt to rescue his son, meeting several unique factions and characters along the way, each with their own distinct vision of how the Commonwealth should evolve. There are plenty of huge choices that have a drastic impact on the outcome of the story, each offering an emotionally driven experience with plot twists, thoughtful characters and momentous scenarios.
Let’s get real here for a second. Bethesda have always been at the forefront of storytelling in the video-game medium but even that takes a backseat to the hugely impressive playgrounds they feature in their top titles. Fallout 4 is no exception and although the actual playing space may not be as big as games of recent years, the clear quality over quantity approach pays off at practically every opportunity.
Simply pick a direction. Begin anywhere on the map, point and run. Whatever direction you take, whatever path you choose, hidden gems are never more than a couple of minutes away. Whether you’re exploring a huge underground complex, a scrapyard filled with memories of yesteryear or a sprawling city with more interiors than you care to investigate, each location you explore is home to valuable items, challenging enemies and occasionally surprisingly detailed side stories hidden away in journals, terminals and object interactions.
Thankfully Bethesda ensured exploration, discovery and the bravery to face the unknown is heavily rewarded with a great combat system and detailed character progression feature. Staple elements of the Fallout experience, such as the ability to slow combat and deliver deadly shots with the V.A.T.S system make a return, while melee combat has seen some minor improvements and tweaks. The near limitless perk system also makes a return, giving players hugely influential abilities and changes as they level up and unlock perks of their choosing. By the time my journey came to an end I was approaching level 50 and hadn’t touched hardly any of the perks. Whether you’re the kind of player to invest hundreds of hours into a single play-through, or someone that likes to re-roll with different potential builds and play-styles, the expansive options available cater to players of all desires.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the entire Fallout 4 experience is the dated inventory system. The iconic Pip-Boy makes a popular return but sadly the entire system hinders practically every element of the game. With the Settlements feature, lack of Bottle Caps (cash) and huge variety of equipment and weapons you can find, looting practically everything in sight is highly encouraged and filling your inventory is a regular occurrence. Filling the inventory is fine, and even fun at times, it’s what follows that got boring really fast.
Call me old fashioned but I don’t really enjoy spending an hour sifting through a ton of irrelevant crap just to find a single item that I want to store or sell. It’s something I could overlook at the beginning of my journey through Fallout 4 but towards the end of my experience, I found myself avoiding the looting process entirely. Purely because it became so irritating to sift through the items and store the valuables. Couple this with 90% of stores only having the funds to sell a single item, the bartering process often saw me trading a valuable item for a bunch of ammo I hardly used and a tiny amount of cash.
One slight saving grace is the option to pass heavier or more valuable items to your companions – characters you encounter that you can recruit to help with your cause. This can help when trying to organize the inventory but it comes with problems of its own. I’m not sure if Bethesda just forgot to include the “I” in the A.I or if the companions I used had been exposed to too much radiation, they were about as useful as a fork when eating soup. They get in the way, attack enemies you’re not even focusing on or walk into a minefield and bring your current venture to a sudden stop.
Typically the inventory system and companion A.I in this sort of game is of massive importance for the entire experience. However, despite the tedious nature of Fallout 4’s inventory and lackluster companions, I still found the game to be absolutely incredible – and the fact the rest of the game almost offsets that negative entirely, is credit to Bethesda’s great efforts.
The problems with the inventory system is a byproduct of the games newest and arguably most anticipated feature, building Settlements. There are hundreds of items you can collect that can be scrapped for materials used while building Settlements, and it’s these that occupy most of your inventory weight limit. Once again the flaws are hidden underneath a fantastic feature with huge potential and near limitless applications in future Bethesda games. A humble abode with storage for your items, magazines and bobble-heads to a huge complex with heavy defense turrets, armed settlers and resource production, you can do it all.
Fallout 4 is not perfect. It’s plagued with minor annoyances and even a few game-breaking exploits but that doesn’t take away from what Bethesda have created in what should easily scoop up Game of the Year across the board. Fallout 4 is a very S.P.E.C.I.A.L. kind of game and one every fan of the open-world RPG should experience.