Post-apocalyptic shooters can be intense to say the least and while Fallout 4 isn’t anywhere near as fright-heavy as Zombi U or as tangible as The Last Of Us, it’s overwhelming size, tightly wound gameplay and dynamic storyline make it a unique proposition. It’s our first foray into the Fallout series, so this is definitely more a review for fellow newbies, rather than seasoned scorched earth veterans, but either way you’ll probably find lashings of radioactive excitement coursing through the very life blood of the game.
The most important thing to take into account is that it’s a slow burn of an intro and you probably won’t really appreciate the unadulterated entertainment at your fingertips until you’re a good few hours into the story. Try not to be put off by the graphics either. They’re not strictly speaking entirely “next-gen” from our point of view, but they take little away from the experience and in fact later on in the game there are occasional wonder moments to look out for.
It’s not particularly well presented visually, but the story behind Fallout 4 doesn’t really take very long to draw you in initially, in fact it’ll be all that keeps you going when you’re stumbling around your vault, not quite sure what you’re supposed to be doing. You start out with your wife and son in pre-apocalypse suburbia in a place called Concord as you’re badgered into joining the Vault Tec programme. It doesn’t come a moment too soon either, conveniently enough, as the World War 3 nuclear holocaust happens not too long after you sign on the dotted line. However, after you’ve piled into the Vault you all get cryogenically frozen and things take a turn for the worse from that point on.
It’s not necessarily the most exciting intro to be a part of, certainly not anywhere near the realms of the hospital opener of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but it does enough to make you buy into it emotionally. The big hook for this is the fact that you wake up part way through your 210-year deep sleep to see your wife killed and your baby son kidnapped by a bald and scarred bruiser and his hazard-suited accomplice.
In this simple scene the game is set up for revenge and a mission to find your son, Shaun, when you finally wake up in 2087, not knowing anything at all about the new world you’ve found yourself in. What follows is a mammoth story of discovery as you slowly get up to speed with all of the potential friends, many foes and hidden dangers of the Commonwealth that survived the nuclear winter than followed the war.
In addition to the core story, there is a massive abundance of side arcs to discover along the way in Fallout 4, and each of these are fun and fascinating in equal measure. There’s more than enough plot to keep you entertained for many hours and you’ll become increasingly absorbed into the rich, vibrant and daunting world that Bethesda has created. The only real criticisms to the story are that it doesn’t play out with cinematic excellence, so it doesn’t impress or impact as much as it could do, and it lacks a little serious intent, which is a part of its charm, but still makes it a little less gripping than it could have been.
Story review: 3.9/5
This is definitively the crucial element to the success of the latest Fallout release, as it is hear that the game finds its feet, giving you the freedom to cover a hell of a lot of ground in whatever way you want to. It’s far from perfect, as there are many little things we’d suggest changing to improve the overall quality of the experience, but on the whole it’s an exhilarating ride of epic proportions.
We love the concept of having a companion along for the ride, which allows you to choose who to take out into the field with you, but they’re not always as responsive as they could be, or as authentic as they should be. They’ll get in your way and won’t get out of your way effectively, just at the wrong moment, so you end up missing your chance of getting the perfect shot off. If that isn’t skin-grating enough, they also have a clumsy approach to combat, which sees them standing in open spaces, slowly getting mown down by baddies, only to spring back to life a little later. A little more time and effort on the AI that sits behind them and how they respond to situation could have resulted in something that feels a lot more real and meaningful. Don’t get us wrong, we’re very glad of their company when we’re out in the wilds, but if only they were a little more credible the experience would feel much more authentic.
That leads on to the fight system, which is pretty good on the whole as you can free shoot comfortably as well as use the slow-mo enemy analysis and aiming system that is V.A.T.S, provided by the technology of your excellent Pip Boy arm gadget. It’s provides a truly arcade-like gaming experience that will see you relishing the prospect of a gun fight, but you’ll need to be pretty smart in almost every situation if you don’t want to bite the dust.
A big part of the this is that the game has an initial low tolerance for failure, so if you get stuck in the wrong place and get hit a few times, you’re out. As such, you’ll need to use everything in your arsenal and within your immediate environment to minimise taking hits and maximise the damage to enemies if you’re going to subdue them quickly enough to avoid being left with a low health bar ahead of the next dog fight, which is often just around the corner.
It makes the strategy, preparation and resource management an important factor in any battle situation, because if you head out without the right weapons, kit or aid and don’t use shelter effectively you literally won’t stand a chance. Stocking up on provisions before heading out on a quest and topping them up with scavenging as you go are integral ingredients to success and all of this results in deeply engrossing gameplay.
If that’s not enough to get your tiny little mind spinning, there’s also a lot of different types of weapons to get to grips with and with the weapons workbench you can mod and upgrade these to make some pretty messed up weapons. It’s a similar case with the Power Armour suits you can roam around in. Your first foray is pretty short lived, but pretty soon you’ll be stomping, blasting and raining down fire and brimstone all over the Commonwealth.
The land you have at your feet is a vast and sprawling open world landscape of dilapidated settlements, wasteland and radiation affected wilds. It’s a scary world out there, so you’ll need to watch where you’re going to steer clear of the mutated beasts that roam around before you’ve got the firepower and wherewithal to beat them. There’s also a fair amount to explore underground with more Vaults and metro stations to creep around in, making for one hell of a mother Deathclaw’s love sack full of gaming excellence to wade through.
Gameplay review: 4.2/5
This is easily the games lowest denominator, as Bethesda has sacrificed a little in the way of graphical detail to allow them to deliver such a big and rich gaming experience. If we’re honest, it’s probably a fair trade off, but we would definitely have liked a bit more in the way of next generation eye candy to really make the game stand out. It’s not that it’s bad as such, it’s just not as crisp and convincing as it could be.
It’s not without its good moments though and when they do come around they’re all the more memorable because graphics really isn’t one of the big selling points. Getting chomped by a Deathclaw, for example, is almost worth it to see the closeup of its face, which looks pretty cool, and every once in a while the scenery and conditions combine to make for a stunning setting to get down to post-apocalyptic anarchy in.
It’s a hot topic when it comes to perception for Fallout 4 and it’s easy to get sucked into the debate around the graphics of the game, but honestly, you’re probably better off ignoring it and immersing yourself in another hour of total immersion into the game, which is what every fire up of it gives you.
Graphics review: 3.4/5
Overall we’re loving playing this game and will probably still be going back for more carnage for months, if not years to come. It’s coiled tight and unleashed with reel fury when it all comes to a head, which you can’t help but love it for. There’s a lot crunched under its surface and while graphics aren’t it’s strong point, we’ve still got a lot to thank Bethesda for. Check out the Fallout 4 trailer to see it in action.
Fallout 4 review: 4/5