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    Here's What We Think About "Fallout 4"

    War never changes. But they never said anything about V.A.T.S.

    by , ,
    Bethesda Softworks

    The Story

    Bethesda Softworks

    Andrew: Over the course of the last week, I set out primarily to beat the main story. I succeeded, but only at finishing one version of it. I wouldn't even be able to tell you how many different paths there are to be taken considering I spent a good portion of it plagued by indecision — there were more than a few in-game choices that I actually had to sleep on. My takeaway: Fallout 4 has a pretty damn amazing central narrative, and the intro alone will give you chills. I believe it's the best story told in this universe yet. I look forward to my second play-through so I can see the consequences of decisions I didn't make the first time around.

    Jean-Luc: From what I've seen of the story thus far, it's been very entertaining and delightfully malleable. My biggest kudos is how Fallout 4 uses the setting of the Boston metropolitan area, and how important the space, its landmarks, and its history are to so many missions and moments in the game. I'm admittedly biased, since I grew up in the Boston area, but being able to walk alongside the very same highway I took into the city as a kid, with the added bonus of feral ghouls, gave me goosebumps.

    The Combat

    Bethesda Softworks

    Andrew: Much improved! Everything from better sneaking to improved shooting mechanics make Fallout 4 worlds better than its predecessors. As someone who's comfortable with first-person shooters, I prefer to just aim down the barrel and fire. For those who aren't, V.A.T.S. mode is back with some minor improvements. And a wide variety of weapons, mods, and companions ensure that you're able to approach a battle just about any way imaginable.

    Jean-Luc: I'm a V.A.T.S. addict, and I really enjoy what they've done to improve it in Fallout 4. Activating V.A.T.S. no longer freezes time, but merely slows it down, so if you're slow at decision-making there's (rightfully) a consequence. This is battle, and the stakes should be high. And I'm hard-pressed to name anything cooler than a slow-mo Deathclaw running past slow-mo bullets.

    The other combat feature I've come to love is the added bonus of melee attacks with weapons. You can now use a certain amount of Action Points to strike an enemy with the butt of your pistol, the side of your rifle, or whatever it is you have on hand. Surprisingly useful, since so many of the game's creatures get up close and personal.

    Ahmed: I basically put down Fallout 3 on the PS3 because I didn’t enjoy the combat at all. This game is definitely more enjoyable. The overall experience is streamlined, V.A.T.S. is slightly less janky, and the weapon customization options are pretty great.

    The Dialogue

    Bethesda Softworks.

    Jean-Luc: My biggest qualms with this game stem from issues of dialogue. Dialogue is a fundamental aspect of the Fallout series, necessary to complete missions, acquire goods, move through spaces, understand your character's personality, etc. But unfortunately, dialogue unnecessarily becomes more of a chore than anything in Fallout 4, muddied rather than aided by the addition of the protagonist's voice, clunky animation, and truncated speech options. The new dialogue mechanics, which on paper seem an improvement over the text-heavy, classic-RPG style of Fallout 3 and New Vegas, are often boring and sometimes cyclical to the point of confusing. Worse for me is that Fallout 4's protagonist (the player) speaks out your dialogue, with no control over the type of voice for your character versus simply male or female. Whereas previous Fallout games allowed you to see exactly what your character was going to say before, now you must choose single words or short phrases and watch along with the other characters to see if the full dialogue is close to what you imagined. All this serves to take you out of the driver's seat of your character and makes you play audience to a protagonist you cannot fully embody.

    Andrew: The dialogue in Fallout 4 is indeed a bit of a step back. Initially, I was excited about the addition of a speaking protagonist. However, having watched three different people create three totally different characters (not to mention creating a unique character of my own), all with variously distributed stats ranging from highly intelligent to not intelligent at all, it was somewhat of a let down seeing them act and speak identically in social scenarios; the addition of a voiced character has been surprisingly restrictive.

    The Weapons and Equipment

    Bethesda Softworks

    Andrew: We were promised extensive options in weapon customization and they most certainly delivered. While I wish there were more types of armor, I'm still expecting to find more. And if I learned anything from playing the Skyrim DLCs, it's that there are probably plenty more weapons and armors on the way. Oh, and it appears your weapons don't break? That's something I'm quite honestly relieved about.

    Jean-Luc: There are lots of interesting weapons to choose from, even from very early on in the game, and the designs on each one are excellent. Gamers who are big on data and strategy will appreciate the sheer number of options and information to sort through in their inventory. Many non-weapon items have also been tweaked, and many are differently priced than in previous games because they've taken on a new priority. I appreciate the increased difficulty in acquiring goods, both because of scarcity and cost. It made me appreciate each new find. (I'm speaking mostly from my personal experience with RadAway, which I needed desperately and which, I soon found out, costs a lot more than I expected. Supply and demand has a long half-life, apparently.)

    The Graphics

    Bethesda Softworks

    Andrew: I've seen the criticism but I can't say I agree with it. The game looks pretty damn good to me. I mean, I get it: It's the first Bethesda RPG to come out on this generation of consoles. The expectations were (and still are) quite high — probably too high. But all things considered, the game is gigantic and that's what I came here for.

    Jean-Luc: I went into Fallout 4 with low expectations for graphics, considering the sheer size of this game and what I was used to from previous Fallout installments. But for the most part, the graphics in Fallout 4 are exactly what you'd hope they'd be. Scenery and sunsets are photograph-lovely when they ought to be lovely; ghouls and Super Mutants are freakin' scary when they ought to be freakin' scary. In particular, graphic design on things such as weaponry, the Pip-Boy, and the inside and outside of the Power Armor are superb. The only obvious graphic issues in the game arise during dialogue, which has a tendency to glitch and disrupt the fantasy.

    Ahmed: I was pretty unimpressed by the graphics. I just came off the sublime high of playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, where every little animation was polished and even the glitches seemed due to complex interactions. While there are some truly beautiful animations — the Feral Ghouls and the moment where you first get the Pip-Boy are standouts — there is a bunch of clipping and the fog obscures a lot. The design of the game is fantastic — the retro-future aesthetic appeals to me more than the little I played of Fallout 4 — but the actual engine seems pretty rough.

    The Characterization

    Bethesda Softworks

    Andrew: While I have yet to meet anyone as memorable as, say, Allistair Tenpenny or even Butch from Vault 101, I don't feel as if there's anything missing from Fallout 4 in the way of characterization. There's no shortage of quirky and interesting people to talk to in the Wasteland. And despite having completed the main story, I still feel like I haven't even met a quarter of them.

    Jean-Luc: This may be a result of simply not playing for long enough, but thus far I've yet to meet a character I truly love. But that isn't to say that the characters I've met are boring — far from it. Most characters, major and minor, have been colorful and complicated, and (most importantly of all) sporting post-apocalyptic Boston accents. I was honestly more disappointed with the game's self-characterization mechanics. In general, I found that different S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stat combinations did very little to change my protagonist's personality. Increased luck will bring about higher chances to find items, and strength still allows you to carry more, but one of my characters had 1 for Intelligence and 1 for Charisma and it didn't feel any different than my other games. If I'm going to run around like a big, dumb jerk, I'd like to see more consequences.

    Ahmed: I’m new to the series, so I can’t really compare to characters earlier in the series, but I was pretty impressed by the number of characters you can interact with. In one sequence, I walked into a town and waxed poetic with a random NPC about finding love in unusual places. I came back later to find that the character was getting married! I was truly not ready for that. I was, however, not that compelled by the main character, which I guess is kind of key. Maybe by the end of the game I'll have changed my mind.

    The Humor

    Bethesda Softworks

    Andrew: I'm not laughing as much as I have in games past, and this is primarily due to the overhaul of the traditional dialogue options. That's not to say, however, that there's not any humor at all. The Diamond City radio host in particular is pretty great, so be sure to tune in.

    Jean-Luc: One of the true markers of the Fallout series, and I'd argue one of the reasons for its incredible success, has been its embrace of humor. Each Fallout game has successfully captured the horror and desperation of a post-apocalyptic society while simultaneously using it as the foundation for subtle and surprising humor. And since so much of Fallout's humor arises from the juxtaposition of a ravaged, post-apocalyptic world with the 1950s-esque happy-go-lucky aesthetic of pre-apocalyptic artifacts, propaganda, technology, and mentalities, Fallout 4 benefits by beginning the game in a pre-apocalyptic setting. Not only does it serve to eventually heighten the horror of what's to come, it also allows players the chance to notice more oddities in the way the old and the new mix. Although I miss some of the more laugh-out-loud gags of games past, Fallout 4 contains plenty of the off-to-the-side humor found in previous games (tucked away in journals, on posters, in shacks in the middle of the woods, in dialogue options), as well the occasional Odd Couple relationships that develop between your character and his/her companions.

    The Soundtrack

    Bethesda Softworks

    Andrew: The game has an A+ soundtrack. My favorite part about it: It's more or less like the soundtrack to every other Fallout game. It's icing on the cake for a strong setting designed to immerse you. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    Jean-Luc: Fans of the series will recognize a number of recycled favorites, but the incidental "wandering" music has definitely improved. It really added to the flavor of running through irridiated woods. And don't worry, there's plenty of quality radio to choose from.

    The General Mechanics

    Bethesda Softworks

    Andrew: One of the biggest concerns fans have had is regarding the general bugginess of the game. I'm pleased to report that I didn't encounter any memorable issues — and what I mean by "memorable" is that nothing prevented me from playing the game or required me to restart my PlayStation. Preston Garvey standing in a bed (pictured above) is about as bad as it gets. Oh, and Trashcan Carla's Brahmin also tend to be a bit buggy. Otherwise, everything runs pretty smoothly.

    One more thing: the NPCs are pretty damn stupid. Even if you've been spotted and kill all but one of a group of Raiders, you'll only need to hide for about 20 seconds before they mutter to themselves, "must've been my imagination," as they step over the body of their comrade who was alive only moments ago.

    Jean-Luc: For the most part I love the game's tweaks to mechanics — better jump, added sprint, smoother lockpick. I was especially impressed with how Fallout 4 reimagined the balance between HP and Rads, with the latter having a much weightier presence than in previous games. In general, things feel a bit smoother than in games past, especially actions as common as searching containers for items.


    Bethesda Softworks

    Andrew: Fallout 4 might well be the best game I've ever played. Although I love both, I've always preferred the setting in Fallout to that of Elder Scrolls. That being said, I can honestly say that I've been waiting for this game for a half decade. My lofty expectations going in were indeed met. There aren't many games out there where, after finishing the central story, you can honestly say, "I'm just getting started." But with Fallout, that happens to be the case. I'm just getting started and I can't wait to see what else is waiting for me out there in the Wasteland.

    Jean-Luc: Fallout 4 was a little overwhelming right off the bat. There's a lot going on, and a lot to learn. But that's also its biggest appeal to me. While I can't say I've loved every single aspect of gameplay, I appreciate its vastness, its detail, and what feels like a general increase in difficulty, trade-offs, flexibility, and decision-making. I'm honestly excited to play Fallout 4 for years, because that's how long it will take to explore and read all the incredible material scattered across the Wasteland. And although character creation could be a little more dynamic, I'm still looking forward to building different protagonists whose adventures are uniquely their own.

    Ahmed: Still making my way through the game, but I am having a blast with it. After giving up hope on Fallout 3 due to overall clunkiness,I’m pretty pleased with Fallout 4. It’s still kiiiinda clunky in terms of bugs and graphics, but I love the customization, world-building, and the gameplay. It actually makes me want to give Fallout 3 and New Vegas a chance again.

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