There’s a lot going on with me; there are a lot of things I need to get around to and a lot of personal priorities that are waiting on me. Because of this, I’ve decided to seriously delegate when it comes to time for play. My play-time consists of movies and video games mainly, and nowadays I always think twice before diving into play-time. I think things like, is this a good use of my time? What am I going to be gaining from this? How will this effect me long term? Etc. So approaching the new Fallout, I knew I wanted to test drive it at least a tad. I like to develop my own opinion on all popular games, because I admire and care about the overall craft of video games and would like to keep current on it. But still it was very low on my priority list since I disliked the previous Fallout and its expansion. And I certainly didn’t want to throw sixty dollars at it. So I decided to hit it hard and fast, arrive at my opinion and be done with it, with the lowest use of money and time possible. I rented it on release day and spent the whole night with it after work.
I am a moderate fan of the Elder Scrolls series. Oblivion was wonderful, and Skryim proved to be a pretty good follow up. I spent a lot of time with both of those games, even though I’m not a fan of high-fantasy. The world and concept of the Fallout series seems much more intriguing to me: a post-apocalyptic future land. But in my experience with Fallout 3 and New Vegas, I thought Bethesda’s style just did not adapt well to futuristic weaponry. Bethesda gives this really kind of awkward player movement feeling — like the player can float and glide around sideways and backwards without a sense of weight or groundedness — and that’s the one thing, more than anything else, that I’ve held against their games over the years. I think it tends to work, in its own weird way, for shield-and-sword mechanics. But Fallout focuses on guns. And firing guns just feels totally icky in that classic Bethesda body. So that’s why I wasn’t able to enjoy the previous Fallouts. But the newest one still looked pretty good from the announcements and interviews, so I wanted to give Fallout another chance…
I’m so glad I did. Fallout is such an improvement over the previous ones, I’m actually amazed. The world is not just a big barren wasteland with the occasional saloon towns and underground bunkers. The previous Fallout, to me, just felt like the map was a medium for leveling up and fighting rather than promoting exploration. That world was never meant to be visually special. But the environment crafted for Fallout 4 is beautiful! Who would have thought a post-nuclear explosion land could be? The level design artists clearly wanted to boost the creativity of the landscape in this game to add to the overall aesthetic and experience. The way it shows the post-nuclear vegetation rotting and warping around decaying buildings and cars is surprisingly visually pleasant. It’s not just a dead tree… it’s a tree specifically designed to look like the remains a nuclear explosion, and it shows in the model design. And far less of the map is actually wasteland. Most of it is a sprawling, dense city. Something I appreciate so much about this new map design is how dense it is. In any previous Bethesda game, it seems like points of interest are separated by long spurts of land, unless you were within the walls of one of the several cities. But in Fallout 4’s downtown, there are interesting locations literally piled on top of each other. Exploring the downtown area is so exciting, because there are interesting visuals, locations, and items to see every step of the way — each with a model and concept that fits believably into this retro-futuristic lore. The concept art in this game is truly something marvel at.
But there’s still that problem of the Bethesda mechanics, right?… While I admit, remnants of its predecessors are still apparent in the player movement, the character-control have been greatly improved for the purpose of aiming and firing weaponry. The game actually does pass as a first-person shooter, and not only that, but the combat is really fun! (when you are in situation where the enemies are evenly matched). Classically, in Bethesda games, when you are unleashed upon the open world for the first time, you go exploring only to find yourself up against a swarm of impossibly difficult and enemies and get clobbered. And it’s discouraging and frustrating. Because they make no promises to guide you through the beginning of your character. The open world is the open world… and the hard enemies are where they are. If you found them too early, then that’s your fault! It’s only once you get more used to your character and your own way of routing situations (and start leveling up) that it gets easier. Bethesda games are never as difficult as they first start out. Fallout 4 definitely has that aspect, as well as the going into a random house or cave to “clear” all the bad guys and loot all the special stuff. If you’ve played any Elder Scrolls or Fallout, then you know the story. Kill people, pick up junk, stash your junk, level up, that’s all there is to it. I don’t even usually pay attention to the story, because that’s not what makes these games good. But anyway, yeah the shooting is actually decent in this game; it’s not as good as say Call of Duty or anything, but it’s better than it was. It’s kind of on a Medal of Honor: Airborne level, if you are familiar… And the player movement in terms of groundedness feels much improved as well. I always though 3rd person in a Bethesda game was super awkward, but in Fallout 4, it’s almost on a Mass Effect level. The character does seem to have more of a connection to the world. This is apparent in specific things like: when you are looking 90 degrees left or right of the direction you are running, the character’s body stays true to the direction while only the head adjusts left or right, which is more realistic than Skyrim’s look of the feet not matching what the ground is doing. This kind of stuff is important to me because I like to look at my character, and I like to make things as cinematic as possible. It’s clear that Fallout 4 developers were going for something a bit more cinematic than previous games. They’ve even adopted a Mass Effect-ish style of conversation — hiring voice actors for the player character and breaking into three-quarter angles during conversations. This is soooo much better than the crummy conversation display of the Elder Scrolls games that never leaves first person and fixes your view straight into the person’s noseholes.
I was so very pleased with Fallout 4, that I kept it a second night. Redbox got an extra three dollars from me, and I got seven extra hours of awesome game ;) I did not think I was going to be saying this, but I think I would actually like to buy this eventually. I had a blast with it, and would like to give more of my precious time to it, which is a huge compliment.
There are still things I did not get to experience. I just barely got started with crafting; I never got to build defenses; I only experienced the toxic storm once, and I had only just begun to kick ass with my latest abilities and latest weapons. But I was able to level like fifteen times… So I will definitely want to play more down the line. Plus, I’m emotionally attached to my character! haha. I spent about 40 minutes designing my character’s face. Good use of time huh? Yeah, but I love that kind of stuff. And by the way, I think this game has the best face builder I’ve ever experienced. It gives you ALL the tools, organized in a brilliant way, to make your character look exactly how you want. I loved it.
Overall, this game is not just a great improvement over previous Fallouts, but a great improvement over everything else in Bethesda’s catalog! I hope some of these changes carry over to the next Elder Scrolls game. I’d like to see that fantasy world be elevated the way this one was.
My rating for 2015’s Fallout 4 for PS4 based on my two days with it is…