Run, run, run you fools, it’s the end of the world…again. Lately though, I feel that if the apocalypse came tomorrow I would have absolutely no issues in surviving. I’ve played many a game, read many a book, watched many a film and TV series – all of which will see me able to survive quite comfortably should the worst happen. I would craft make-shift weapons out of toilet rolls, build a car out of a lawnmower and wear trendy end of the world clothing from Gap or Diesel. I feel the real end of the world is going to be a bit of a disappointment and it will hurt…a lot.
The Fallout franchise though is the granddaddy of apocalyptic gaming. Ever since the 90’s it’s been taking us through a post nuclear holocaust America, bringing about a world of adventure and role-play. So how does the ever-reliable Bethesda Studios take us forward onto the new generation? Is it everything we hoped it would be? Does it give an old format a brand new gleam? The answers – very well, yes and….um, maybe.
The moment the game loads up and you get a brilliant Pip Boy animation, you know this is a classy title. The opening cinematic is heartwarming and emotive before you have one of the best ‘design your character” screens ever. That is swiftly followed by you and your spouse running in fear to a vault while looking across the skyline as the first of the nuclear bombs lands and the explosion aftermath rushes towards you. Exciting? That’s just the beginning.
The main story follows your emergence from a nuclear fallout shelter (the vault) after 200 years of being in frozen animation. After a horrific event you journey to find your missing son, Shaun, traveling up through the abandoned vault in a tutorial, killing large cockroaches and rooting through long rotten skeletons, until the doors unseal and you arrive in a new world. Bethesda do this reveal moment in all their games, and they do it really well. It never tires. That first look at the imagined world with the initial excitement and the seemingly endless horizon.
Firstly lets talk about how the game looks in this new generation. The last Fallout game, however critically acclaimed, was always damned for its brown/grey colour palette across the world. Not this time though, there are blue skies, stunning vistas and glorious wildlife laying in brilliant contrast to the rubble of the broken world. Building interiors have a very nice mixture of 50’s culture with steampunk furniture and objects. The inhabitants range from humans to mutants to deformed wildlife and are all well drawn, reminding me of the Bioshock style of character animation. Sometimes they have a tendency to look dead behind the eyes and the occasional bug does something very bizarre to the features. I was having a nice chat with a fallout shelter salesman when suddenly – and rather bizarrely – his eyes were replaced with just skin. I haven’t slept in weeks since.
The cities, busted freeways and robots all add a beautiful texture to this massive world. It really doesn’t remind you of Fallout games from the past, but it does remind you of Skyrim. It will be interesting when Bethesda do their next game as to whether they update the engine at all. However good it is and it is very good, it feels like sometimes it’s bulging at the edges and ready to burst.
If you played Fallout before you will know the drill and everything will seem familiar. If you haven’t though, it’s very easy to pick up and quite simple to play. You can play in first person or third and in true RPG style you level your character up as you progress. Brute strength or sneaky stealth? Charmer or warmonger? It’s up to you how you play. There are hundreds of missions out there, from the main story arc or of course a load of tempting side missions. All these missions are strong, deftly scripted and acted. The combat is very good, the shooting mechanics seems to have improved greatly since the last game and it now feels much more fun to play. The VATS system is back, where you can slow time and target a certain part of the body with a percentage chance of you shooting your choice. I’ve always found this a brilliant device and it never grows old for me. Ammo is very limited though, so you have to fight smart and plan your attacks well; this is where the stealth factor works well. You have some power amour that you get in the early missions which is great against large foes or huge numbers of enemies at once. However, this needs to be repaired constantly with resources and it only works on a certain type of battery that is definitely not plentiful to find.
You will be gathering all sorts of resources throughout your journey based in America’s Boston region. From bits of scrap metal to different weapons, every piece seems important and you find yourself contently juggling your inventory around. You can craft away and develop your weapons and armor to perfection. I instantly get bored when doing this because it just feels like housekeeping, but other people out there love polishing their weapons so who am I to judge. If you like that kind of thing, then you’ll be more than happy.
As you progress through Fallout 4 you make settlements in certain areas around the map and it’s up to you make sure that community has everything it needs to survive. That means new beds, water pumps, crops, security and some Ikea sofas. These can be crafted, by you, at workshop benches using some of the items you’ve gathered. Certain items are really rare and you find yourself getting obsessed with finding a piece of something to build that next new thing. This is a really nice feature and adds to the game, even though before you know it, you’ve spent four hours messing around and not even dented the main campaign.
You’re not alone on your wanderings, oh no. From an early stage you’ll always have one companion with you to combat the harsh situations. You start with a German Shepard called Dogmeat and then meet a number of alternatives as the game progresses. You can even build romances with some of these companions (not the dog I hasten to add). They fight alongside you well enough, even though they aren’t the best when you’re trying to be stealthy. There are times when you’ll need to have the coldest heart in the world to send Dogmeat away when you want a new companion.
At all times, you have attached to your arm your Pipboy. It’s like a massive heavy Apple watch but a ton more fun. On this you have your inventory, map, stats and the ability to play mini games like a Gameboy. These are brilliant fun and copy such games like Donkey Kong, causing you to spend even more hours on this time eating game.
Then you have the amazing radio stations themselves which brings us neatly to the soundtrack. The radio music is all 40’s and 50’s swing with mainly an atomic theme. The actual game soundtrack itself is brilliant on its own and makes you excited every time you turn on the game. The voice-over work is solid even with some occasional lip-syncing problems, and the foley work is great. Guns, explosion and grunts are all working well within Fallout 4.
The world itself is huge. You can spend hundred of hours partaking in missions, side-missions or just wandering around for the fun of it – in fact, four hundred hours if you believe Bethesda! It’s a brilliantly crafted masterpiece that will appeal if you love a bit of RPG, whilst Fallout 3 fans will be in utter heaven.
Fallout 4 is a little bit buggy and a smidge tired however, but that said, if the end of world is this good I will the first in line for that Fallout shelter.