Fallout 4 was released just yesterday; I am around 5 hours into this game, and my immediate reaction is: so much has changed, but really nothing has changed at all. While that might sound like a bad thing (and also slightly confusing), my hopes for this game were exactly that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’ve been a fan of Bethesda’s Fallout games (and Elder Scrolls games) since Fallout 3, and even got my hands on Fallout 1 & 2 recently in anticipation of the newest entry in the series. They are extremely punishing, by the way, but distinctly Fallout. That’s what I love most about the franchise. That Fallout – Fallout never changes. The 50’s music and atmosphere, the tongue-in-cheek black humour, even the bugs. These are all traits distinctive to the series, and I would never see them changed.
Let’s tackle the story first off, of which I can only really discuss the premise. I love the idea that your character this time around is not a child of the Vault, it gives a new emotional depth to your protagonist. You aren’t a little Neeson-ite (Fallout 3) or a wastelander born-and-bred (New Vegas), you’re a scared pre-war human being who is thrust into a completely new world, and from the opening exchanges with your lingering Mr. Handy Codsworth, you get the sense that your character is struggling to grasp the change. This is where the newly added voice for your avatar makes a huge difference. His reactions are more human and organic, making for a better story, if trading off slightly on immersion.
Mechanically, Fallout 4 has been tinkered with brilliantly. There are some simple improvements like not having an animation for opening desk drawers etc., having been replaced by a hovering over of the container in question, make the looting process smoother and more intuitive. Graphically, the game is obviously a huge improvement over all others before it. It’s quite beautiful at times, and although I wouldn’t say it’s pushing the boundaries of consoles in terms of detail, I would say it’s doing a hell of a job for a game this size. The biggest change of all, or at least my favourite, is to the gun-play. Shooting has been improved dramatically, almost to the level of a modern first-person shooter, and this is a welcome departure from the stale and silly combat of Fallout 3 & (to a lesser extent) New Vegas. V.A.T.S. has also been altered so that it now doesn’t completely stop time, merely slowing it. I’m undecided on whether this is an improvement or not. Fallout 4 definitely feels more difficult than the last two entries, I’ve died over 10 times in a very short time roaming post-apocalyptic Boston, and I only play on ‘normal’ difficulty.
Another big new feature for Fallout 4 is the crafting/building. I’ve tested the waters in terms of crafting, mildly improving some weapons, equipping a scope to my Laser Musket and so on. This actually feels great, adding a more personal touch to weapons makes them seem less like fixed quantities. In general, I would say that Bethesda, with features like this, have drawn upon the success of another major RPG franchise: Borderlands. While I’m not a fan of the series myself, Fallout 4 makes good use of their approach to weapon variety. I’m yet to explore the building feature, and probably won’t touch that until much later on.