I don’t often revisit games from my younger years. I often avoid them for a reason. It is not unlikely that in all of the years that have gone by I have become influenced by a wider-eyed version of me who found the years of 2007-2010 the most interesting in all of gaming. One of the gems from that era was ‘Fallout 3’, a massive sprawling open-world RPG set in and around Washington D.C. It’s successor, ‘Fallout: New Vegas’, would also be amongst the games that define that era. Although it was a similar game to ‘Fallout 3’, Obsidian developed a different sense of style of ‘Fallout’ for all of us to enjoy. Where as those games revolutionized the way I look at console-gaming, ‘Fallout 4’ took a proverbial dump on my good will and spit in my face for daring to hope that this could even compare to those games.
I am largely one of the most irrationally angry people I know when it comes to judging video games. I tend to jump all over the place from moment-to-moment. But ‘Fallout 4’ is a wholly unambitious and uninspired open-world game. I say open-world game for a reason. This is hardly an RPG anymore. Yes, you level up and upgrade abilities, but you are not role-playing at all. In fact, the game practically tries to trick you into thinking you have some kind of control over what is happening to you even though in reality it’s often just balking and giving you one decision to make.
Bethesda often makes games with a nameless and faceless character who you come to embody and guide on a path to become champion of the galaxy. This is also one of the elements of their games that are often maligned, but also precisely what made them fantastic at being role-playing games. The stories that you created were so deeply yours. In New Vegas, which does the best of creating an environment to role play in out of the three games, I played as a cannabalistic smooth-talking two-timing gambler who betrayed every faction so he could eat their leader because he mistakenly thought it would give him superpowers. Based on this, I was seen as a sort of devil of the wasteland. The world bent and reacted to my depravity. However, in ‘Fallout 4’, as hard as I tried, I was unable to truly make a name for myself across the Wasteland. My fate was set in stone.
To make matters worse, multiple times during my jauntily uninspired run through ‘Fallout 4’ I had the most infuriating speech checks ever. At one point, in a pivotal conversation, I was trying to convince someone not to be violent. I passed each speech check due to my super-massive charisma (which is legendary amongst the ghoul ladies) and still there were no craps given. It was like I was in an argument in real life where I made every proper point and the other party did not care even a bit. At the end of the conversation the person even said something along the lines of “Too bad, I said you have to do this”. Well how’s that for a new level of choice in video games. Stat yourself up to max and deliver a speech worthy of winning the Bull-Moose Party nomination so that you can take a stand against violence and have the computer say “Nope, this is very important for the writer’s to make their point so we’ve decided any amount of ownership you had in this world is gone. Like right now.”
So, naturally, I responded by saying “OKAY. Guess I’m a corporate patsy now at the whim of all beings!!!!” Then I took a break and decided to just finish the darn thing. And I had no trouble going back to it, because at its core ‘Fallout 4’ still has the hooks of a Fallout game. It’s massive with tons of locations to explore, they added in a few worthwhile features, and they made junk matter, which was a neat idea. Most of all, I was into weapon modding, which allowed me to personalize my guns. Unfortunately, as is the case with most games, I should have ignored this if I was thinking about beating the game and beating the game alone.
I would say I played most of the game using four weapons and no power armor with the occasional romp into some heavier weapons for bigger foes. My 10MM Pistol and my superpower .45 caliber assault rifle were my main two weapons. So in the end the modding did not make my weapons that much more powerful, although it did make the shooting more enjoyable. Plus, if you just use the weapons you find in the Commonwealth everything will be just fine.
On that note, the shooting is much better than previous game. You can finally aim down the sights and actually manage to hit what you’re aiming at. VATS remains the same old reliable game mechanic it’s always been. I found it less necessary in this game, but just as useful, which is a good sign the game has progressed significantly on the end of shooting the baddies. I still cannot recommend this as a shooter though, because there are other games which handle picking up a gun and making everything bleed significantly better than ‘Fallout 4’.
Let’s not forget to talk about the glitches. I won’t tell any specific stories, because it is largely uninteresting to read, but I had two glitches occur where if I had not had an additional earlier save I would have been stuck backtracking significantly. Save early and often friendos. It took me 30 minutes to figure out how to wiggle my way out of one cycle of death. I spent a good bit of time contemplating my relationship with the television and whether I would enact my vengeance upon its being before I decided to calm down. The sad thing most of my anger was coming from having to repeat one of the missions because it was so incredibly boring.
I bet you’re now saying to yourself “Hey, Pete, due to the prior paragraphs involving your increased appreciation for the Fallout shooting, and your past grudges with the stilted story telling of the Fallout series, what makes this game so much more boring than ‘Fallout 3’ or ‘New Vegas’.” Well, Johnny, if that’s your name, but don’t correct me because I don’t care, ‘Fallout 4’ never gives a satisfying conclusion to your efforts, the writing is far worse than it was in ‘New Vegas’, and they have pretty much copy and pasted the entire motivational drives of ‘Fallout 3’ into a new game. I don’t want to spoil things, but my jaw dropped near the end at the depth of the lack originality and blatant pandering to the fans that Bethesda spewed out of their mouths like a disgusting warm blanket to remind everyone that the good times still exist and the good times are back in 2008.
If only ‘Fallout 4’ could’ve been fresh in my mind. If only I hadn’t played either of the other ‘Fallout’ games. Then, and only then, would ‘Fallout 4’ feel remotely new and fresh. But since 2008, other games have existed, other games have evolved, and some brilliant experiences have eclipsed the achievements that ‘Fallout 3’ made. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Fallout 4’ is nowhere near bad and I enjoyed plenty of aspects of it, but it’s inability to even try to be remotely ambitious is largely the crux of ‘Fallout 4’s failures. This is not a sequel in the traditional sense. This is Bethesda as Activision releasing their annualized ‘Call of Duty’ game dressing it up in a cute little outfit so you’re happy to take it to the prom the second year running. Unfortunately, this is the prom date you went to the prom with seven years ago and now she has plastic surgery and has been twice divorced. The night may end in a bit of fun, but you’re older and she hasn’t changed much and I’m too exhausted for this analogy to ever work.
Pete played around 55 hours of ‘Fallout 4’, finishing the game at level 34. He barely used the base-building mechanics and did not experiment with power armor. His favorite perk was Lone Wanderer as it is also his favorite perk in life.