Fallout 4 Review

War. War never changes, and Fallout 4 desperately wants you to know that. You would hope that given the number of times you hear the signature line at the most cliché of times that they’d do a pretty good job of walking you through why that’s a line worth repeating. Fallout 4 chooses instead to awkwardly, drunkenly stumble back and forth across the line of comedic and serious narrative much the way they drunkenly stumble across the gameplay finish line. Thankfully the core gameplay is still strong enough to keep most people happy, but Fallout 4 left me feeling like Bethesda doesn’t really know which direction they want to go in with their franchise, or that they even care.

Fallout 4 actually starts on a really strong note. The opening screen sets a very serious and determined tone with the title track and follows that up with a powerful cutscene giving some context to the world pre-war and the events leading up to the fallout. I was honestly a bit surprised by this and it excited me in that it set my expectations for a more thought provoking, adult stab at the post-apocalyptic world. That continued through most of the opening sequence with good feels cranked up to maximize the bad feels after the bomb drops. All the way up to the point in which you finally get your hands on your first weapon and set out on your journey, things were handled really well aside from some painfully obvious plot points. Past that, however, is where the drunken stumble quickly takes over.

Let’s talk about the gameplay. If you played Fallout 3 then you know what to expect from Fallout 4 with relative accuracy. There are definitely some changes, many for the better, and some changes that will please some and displease others. Combat is identical aside from VATS no longer freezing everything in time. Instead it simply slows things down drastically to some sort of Michael Bay level action sequence. I actually enjoy this change and it keeps the game feeling fluid when you do choose to rely on VATS which is likely to be often. Of course I can’t not mention the Fallout fanboy life-ending, erection inducing Power Armor, though it might have been made too powerful for its own good. I will say that VATS felt somehow gimped in comparison to Fallout 3. I have absolutely no really conclusive evidence for you, I just felt that no matter the perks or the situation, my percentages were often confusingly low. I could be not three feet from a Super Mutant while wielding a shotgun, and sure I could just aim and shoot but I want that Michael Bay explosion of blood and gore as I separate its head from its body. Much to my surprise, despite holding the gun mere inches from its head (which is the size of a small vehicle) I have a 35% chance of hitting him. I proceed to miss both shots only to simply shoot him out of VATS and end the fight in a far less impressive fashion. Incredible.

Fallout 4 also introduces a fairly large and new crafting system as well as a settlement building system. You can now, with the help of perks, upgrade weapons and armor (including your power armor) as well as craft food items to aid you in any number of combat scenarios or otherwise. You can also role-play Bryan Cranston and cook wasteland meth and other drugs just in case you need an edge in battle or in case you need to stay up for a week straight building defenses and planting fields of tato plants for your settlers.

Other great improvements, though I almost say that with my tongue in cheek, are the visuals and the audio. I was and still am a pretty huge fan of the Fallout 3 soundtrack, more specifically the Galaxy News Radio soundtrack. The selection of music suited the wasteland perfectly and so when I heard that Fallout 4 was being treated to a multitude of new radio hits, I was pretty stoked. Similarly, I was excited when I found out that we’d be getting a real lighting system this time around. In case you forgot, Fallout 3 didn’t actually have shadows, as crazy as that sounds. What little shadows the game had were actually just drawn in to the textures and nothing more. Outside of the new lighting system (which is questionable depending on what you have God Rays set to) you’re going to be looking at a pretty average game at best. Textures are incredibly low res by and large, and animations are classic Bethesda fair which is to say they’re horrendous. In fact, Fallout 4 is one of the best examples of Bethesda just not bothering to improve in any truly appreciable way.

Other great improvements, though I almost say that with my tongue in cheek, are the visuals and the audio. I was and still am a pretty huge fan of the Fallout 3 soundtrack, more specifically the Galaxy News Radio soundtrack. The selection of music suited the wasteland perfectly and so when I heard that Fallout 4 was being treated to a multitude of new radio hits, I was pretty stoked. Similarly, I was excited when I found out that we’d be getting a real lighting system this time around. In case you forgot, Fallout 3 didn’t actually have shadows, as crazy as that sounds. What little shadows the game had were actually just drawn in to the textures and nothing more. Outside of the new lighting system (which is questionable depending on what you have God Rays set to) you’re going to be looking at a pretty average game at best. Textures are incredibly low res by and large, and animations are classic Bethesda fair which is to say they’re horrendous. In fact, Fallout 4 is one of the best examples of Bethesda just not bothering to improve in any truly appreciable way.

Other great improvements, though I almost say that with my tongue in cheek, are the visuals and the audio. I was and still am a pretty huge fan of the Fallout 3 soundtrack, more specifically the Galaxy News Radio soundtrack. The selection of music suited the wasteland perfectly and so when I heard that Fallout 4 was being treated to a multitude of new radio hits, I was pretty stoked. Similarly, I was excited when I found out that we’d be getting a real lighting system this time around. In case you forgot, Fallout 3 didn’t actually have shadows, as crazy as that sounds. What little shadows the game had were actually just drawn in to the textures and nothing more. Outside of the new lighting system (which is questionable depending on what you have God Rays set to) you’re going to be looking at a pretty average game at best. Textures are incredibly low res by and large, and animations are classic Bethesda fair which is to say they’re horrendous. In fact, Fallout 4 is one of the best examples of Bethesda just not bothering to improve in any truly appreciable way.

It’s time for some honest, unfiltered words. Why after 13 years are we still subject to the dead horse that is the Gamebryo engine? No, the “Creation” engine isn’t new, it’s just a rebadge. This is the engine that was in charge of driving Morrowind. Just let that sink in. Sure, it looks decent but the endless bugs that we’ve experienced for over a decade are still there and even on my very high end rig can’t always push 60fps at 1080p (much like Skryim). There’s virtually no excuse to be getting the same bugs in Fallout 4 that we got in Morrowind all those years ago but yet there they are. On top of that I don’t understand why the animations still have to look like Terrance and Phillip. When I watched the E3 trailer reveal on my live stream I told everyone to just wait for a salesman and wait for him to look like a talking trash can. Low and behold, Bethesda delivered. I mean I’m a Canadian, but please.

It’s time for some honest, unfiltered words. Why after 13 years are we still subject to the dead horse that is the Gamebryo engine? No, the “Creation” engine isn’t new, it’s just a rebadge. This is the engine that was in charge of driving Morrowind. Just let that sink in. Sure, it looks decent but the endless bugs that we’ve experienced for over a decade are still there and even on my very high end rig can’t always push 60fps at 1080p (much like Skryim). There’s virtually no excuse to be getting the same bugs in Fallout 4 that we got in Morrowind all those years ago but yet there they are. On top of that I don’t understand why the animations still have to look like Terrance and Phillip. When I watched the E3 trailer reveal on my live stream I told everyone to just wait for a salesman and wait for him to look like a talking trash can. Low and behold, Bethesda delivered. I mean I’m a Canadian, but please.

I don’t care how big the game is, because honestly Bethesda isn’t alone at this level of scope anymore – not even on consoles. Any excuse the behemoth that is Bethesda could conjure up in response to criticism could simply be quelled with the words, “But The Witcher III…” The real answer is that they know that their fan base looks at their games now and when they see how broken they are, largely laugh it off and say “Oh Bethesda, that’s just a feature!” They have managed to find immunity in their mediocrity and it saddens me as someone who has so much love for their older games. They know that the modding community will fix most of it for them too, and now that mods can come to consoles they have even less to worry about. It’s absolute madness. Honestly, if people weren’t so interested in my opinion of Fallout 4 I’d have not bought it. Not because I don’t like the franchise, but because I’m watching Bethesda crap all over their fans and their fans just soaking it up.

I think that despite the many oddities of gameplay and design choices I still would have enjoyed Fallout 4 more if there were more intriguing characters. After the 80+ hours I spent in the game I came across maybe two or three characters that were remotely interesting or made me feel invested. Of that small group only one was a main character and the others barely had any dialogue. It wasn’t that many characters were completely awful, it was more that they simply didn’t stand out or worse yet just didn’t have much to say. It definitely felt that Bethesda attempted to simply hit a lot of the usual character archetypes and left it there. That by itself is pretty damaging to my experience with the game given the rest of the offering was also thin. I feel as though my view of how Fallout 4 pushes itself along is perhaps too deeply rooted in my want for a far more serious tone, but between the gameplay and the characters you’ll meet along the way I couldn’t take any of the major plot points seriously – they were too encompassed by light-hearted faux 50’s comedic relief and often weak delivery. It’s difficult to tell you exactly what I mean without spoiling, though people who watched my live streams of my play through will know, and those who have already played the game will likely understand. All I can say is that when Bethesda wanted me to take something seriously, I was hard pressed to given everything else, gameplay and story both.

I think that despite the many oddities of gameplay and design choices I still would have enjoyed Fallout 4 more if there were more intriguing characters. After the 80+ hours I spent in the game I came across maybe two or three characters that were remotely interesting or made me feel invested. Of that small group only one was a main character and the others barely had any dialogue. It wasn’t that many characters were completely awful, it was more that they simply didn’t stand out or worse yet just didn’t have much to say. It definitely felt that Bethesda attempted to simply hit a lot of the usual character archetypes and left it there. That by itself is pretty damaging to my experience with the game given the rest of the offering was also thin. I feel as though my view of how Fallout 4 pushes itself along is perhaps too deeply rooted in my want for a far more serious tone, but between the gameplay and the characters you’ll meet along the way I couldn’t take any of the major plot points seriously – they were too encompassed by light-hearted faux 50’s comedic relief and often weak delivery. It’s difficult to tell you exactly what I mean without spoiling, though people who watched my live streams of my play through will know, and those who have already played the game will likely understand. All I can say is that when Bethesda wanted me to take something seriously, I was hard pressed to given everything else, gameplay and story both.

There are of course good things to say as well, they just unfortunately don’t stack up to the bad. Bethesda has a great eye for hiding Easter eggs throughout the Commonwealth that will get a laugh or make you think. I thought it was particularly clever that the fallout happened on Halloween and so you will see Halloween decorations on your travels in stores and the like which helps in no insignificant way frame the interruption of a way of life and the instantaneous nature of it all. If you are partial to the comedic side of the game then you’ll likely appreciate some of the truly eccentric characters you can come across that aren’t part of the main quest line, and perhaps enjoy offing a few with the satisfying weapons you will get your hands on along the way. The limited cutscenes are also really well done, despite some cheese, though their wonderfully warranted, serious tone, fights with the 50’s comedy shtick as I’ve mentioned before.

There are of course good things to say as well, they just unfortunately don’t stack up to the bad. Bethesda has a great eye for hiding Easter eggs throughout the Commonwealth that will get a laugh or make you think. I thought it was particularly clever that the fallout happened on Halloween and so you will see Halloween decorations on your travels in stores and the like which helps in no insignificant way frame the interruption of a way of life and the instantaneous nature of it all. If you are partial to the comedic side of the game then you’ll likely appreciate some of the truly eccentric characters you can come across that aren’t part of the main quest line, and perhaps enjoy offing a few with the satisfying weapons you will get your hands on along the way. The limited cutscenes are also really well done, despite some cheese, though their wonderfully warranted, serious tone, fights with the 50’s comedy shtick as I’ve mentioned before.

Buried under miles of nonsense and unimaginable mediocrity still lies a franchise that should be great. As with Skyrim, and Fallout 3 before it, modders will take an extraordinarily average game and make it truly worth playing. As it stands, Fallout 4 is a game that will mostly be enjoyed by fans, and tolerated by the rest. I wouldn’t recommend paying full price for it unless you are incredibly interested as there are far better games available today. It hurts me to say that about a Bethesda game as I’ve put thousands of hours in to their franchises but it’s the truth. I wanted so badly to love Bethesda games again but unfortunately Fallout 4 is the first true example that, “Bethesda. Bethesda never changes.”

Buried under miles of nonsense and unimaginable mediocrity still lies a franchise that should be great. As with Skyrim, and Fallout 3 before it, modders will take an extraordinarily average game and make it truly worth playing. As it stands, Fallout 4 is a game that will mostly be enjoyed by fans, and tolerated by the rest. I wouldn’t recommend paying full price for it unless you are incredibly interested as there are far better games available today. It hurts me to say that about a Bethesda game as I’ve put thousands of hours in to their franchises but it’s the truth. I wanted so badly to love Bethesda games again but unfortunately Fallout 4 is the first true example that, “Bethesda. Bethesda never changes.”

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Adam Morehouse

Adam Morehouse

I play games and write stuff about them! Blessed with an amazing online community for many years now. One half of the LAGTV duo.

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