Fallout 4 (2017) Review

Title: Fallout 4
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Released For: PC (Windows 7+) Xbox One, PS4
Reviewing: PC (Windows 10)
DRM Versions Available
Released On: Nov 10, 2015
MSRP: $59.99 Steam Link With Season Pass: $109.98
Copy purchased

 

If there’s any game that I was more disappointed of in 2015, it’s Fallout 4. Originally reviewed on December 23rd, 2015, I gave it an astounding ‘meh’. After the initial review was lost, I decided to review the game in a new, 2017 edition review of the game. I originally praised the game for satisfying combat and well-made tunes, and hammered the game for diet-sims city building, and bugs and glitches that, at many points, broke major quest lines. Has Fallout 4 been improved since its initial release?

Well, considering I’m playing and reviewing the game with the Unofficial Fallout 4 Patch on just to get a certain glitch to stop breaking the game, no, no it hasn’t.

In Fallout 4, you play either as a lawyer, or a retired US soldier. After going through cringe-inducing dialogue that only a someone in their 50s could have possibly written, along with the character creation menu, it’s off to find our mechanical baby, because Bethesda can’t model babies after two separate attempts to save their lives, take care of said baby for all of a few moments, and then run off to a Vault after threats of nuclear bombs goes off. After finding out that your mechanical baby is stolen and your husband or wife killed, because apparently a poorly-animated Sally Secrets dolls are quite valuable in the future, it’s up to your hideous lawyer or soldier to go and rescue him on this not-really-that-fallout, fallout adventure in the good ol’ Commonwealth of Boston. You have a variety of mostly terrible weapons, a variety of mostly terrible armors, a variety of soulless quests, all of two memorable characters, customization options for those said terrible weapons and armor, shallow city-building, glitches galore, and there’s one other thing. Seems to be caught on the tip of my tongue.

Oh yah, the game broke half way through for me. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Fallout 4 starts off rather abruptly in all honesty. Sure, it has the ‘war never changes’ niche, and the intro gameplay bit, the ‘create-a-character’ bit, and the unceremoniously slow-going intro, but it all feels rather abrupt. We get maybe a minute, two if the player is a clod, to relate to either the husband, your robot butler Codsworth, or the baby itself. It’s not uncommon for story-tellers to just shove the reader or player into some scenario where they’re a father or mother. But there’s one giant problem with that idea, which is that, especially in games, simply inserting a baby into a story, doesn’t suddenly mean the player will care more. It’s the escort mission of bad story telling.

Worse off, at least in Fallout 3, it’s slow-going because it’s introducing the player to not only the base mechanics of the game, but introducing us to all the characters of the vault. Sure, it’s cheesy, but at least I can point out just why it’s slow.

The game is broken up into mediocre quests, solid combat, mediocre customization, etc.

The main quest is terrible. Essentially, like in Fallout 3 (I’m noticing a pattern here Bethesda) you have to go and find someone who’s left and or been taken from your home vault, with the only difference being a role-reversal. Along the way, the game attempts to introduce you to each primary faction of the game. There’s just one problem, which is that they’re all unlikeable pricks.

The Brotherhood of Steel are now the discount Enclave, The Institute are also just the discount Enclave, The Minutemen are basically the National Guard if the National Guard were run by boy scouts, and The Railroad are a discount faction in general. They shouldn’t be a faction. They only have one goal, and they don’t plan to do anything beyond helping synths. Thus, you’re encouraged to choose either the Brotherhood, or The Institute, but they’re both just discount versions of the Enclave, complete with being entirely unlikeable.

Remember how in Fallout: New Vegas, aiding different factions changed the ending cutscene? Remember how you had some choice in who you aided, and you slaughtered, and that would contribute to the final battle at Hoover Dam? You don’t get that in Fallout 4 either. Once you choose a faction, the player has to follow that faction’s choices, and the amount of choice after is the equivalent of choosing between an oatmeal or raisin cookie, when all you really want is some Skittles. The game is filled with thinly-vailed decisions that masquerade as player choice, when the player isn’t playing his or her way, but Bethesda’s way.

For the sake of review, I chose The Minutemen, mostly because their rules and morals are so vague, they might as well just be the stock b-movie heroes. But, unless you happen to choose the Institute, all the faction endings have the same result. They might go a separate way, but they all end the same, and while it does change who patrols the Commonwealth, that’s about all it changes.

There’s also more plot holes in the main quest, that just make it laughably silly. For example, the first Brotherhood of Steel quest still acts as though it’s the first time you’ve seen The Brotherhood, although vertibirds are now flying everywhere. They’ll legitimately talk to the Vault Dweller as though he’s never seen the 100s of veribirds flying through the sky.

Quests have also seemingly taken a nosedive in terms of just raw lists of choices. Limiting dialogue options to four, means there can never be any more, or any less than four options for any conversation. While the intention to possibly clean up the clunky UI of Fallout 3’s dialogue system was dually noted, the result on Bethesda’s part gives the player less choice, less freedom, and rather ironically, forces more restrictions on the developers, rather than less. Well they did clean up the dialogue UI, they did it at the cost of making there always be four choices, which means that whoever wrote the script, had to come up with four dialogue choices for everything, even if it’s detrimental or doesn’t make sense for the conversation. More often than not, the fourth conversation button is just a ‘sarcastic’ button, but because the dialogue choices only show up as a few words, they don’t actually say what the character will state. Thus, causing even more confusing. What’s “sarcastic” supposed to mean? Bad sarcasm? Mean sarcasm? Jokingly sarcastic?

The answer is none of the above. The “sarcastic” option, is generally just the nice way version of being a jerk. If the character isn’t being just a generally unlikable person, the sole survivor can generally be found turning dark humor, to a cheeky comedy hour with a layer of fallout covered over it.

Beyond that, most of the side quests are downright dull. Most come and go, and the ones that don’t, simply linger in annoyance. The most memorable quests come from a location called Diamond City. However, they feel almost like quests from Borderlands, over any Fallout game I’ve played, which is all of them. Whether it’s dealing with a doctor who remakes people’s faces, to helping a radio announcer get some courage, to getting a can of green paint. These quests don’t feel like they belong in Fallout. When Fallout 4 isn’t lingering in mediocrity, it’s lingering in polarizing behavior. The few things that Fallout 4 does well, makes it feel as though they’re done so well, that they’re from other games entirely.

This doesn’t exclude the fact that, while there are seemingly far more quests than Fallout 3, it seems that just as many dull, uninteresting, and underdeveloped quests have been added. I have the memory of a squirrel, but even I remember more than a few memorable locations and quests from Fallout 3. From the quest dealing with suedo-vampires, to going to the Washington to steal the Declaration of Independence from a botched robot who thinks that he’s one of the founding fathers. My memory may be potatoes, but it still remembers large chunks of Fallout 3, even though it’s been more than three years since I last touched it. I can’t say the same for Fallout 4. Even when I do remember interesting locations and quests, it’s only because they were so stupid or so well done, that they felt like they were from a different game entirely. Fallout 4’s zig-zagging quality standards when it comes to just about everything, is visible practically the moment the player starts the game. It’s not mediocrity, it’s zig-zagging mediocrity that makes me hate at points to not like the game. In fact, you can’t even not-do most of the quests. Unless you fail them (somehow), there’s almost never a dialogue option to simply say “no”. The most you can ever do is taking a quest while being slightly sarcastic.

And don’t go expecting the unexpected from Fallout 4 either. When something is unexpected, it’s not because it was clever or original, but because it was so polarizing and stupid, that it seemed out-of-place or from another world. When the unexpected is genuinely unexpected, it then gets slammed back into the ground into stupidity, mediocrity, or a combination of the two.

Nick Valentine for example, who’s one of the best companions in the game, is also one of the most disappointing. He’s a broke-down synth who gets tossed by The Institute after being given an identity of a previously brain-scanned detective. Thus, so too does Nick Valentine become a detective, and after traveling with the player for a while, he’ll admit that he doesn’t really think that he’s as alive as he makes it out to believe. Nick Valentine is one of the most out-of-place characters in the entire game, because he’s the only one given any real depth and that isn’t simply telling the character his emotions. After talking more, he’ll eventually talk about an old case from the real Nick Valentine, and that he can’t really sleep until the murderer of the real Nick Valentine’s lover is killed. So, Nick Valentine and the Vault Dweller go on a quest to hunt him down. After finding all the tapes to unlock the secret bunker door to the murder’s hideout, Nick Valentine is left only to find a dead, rotting corpse of the murderer, dying from the initial nuclear blast. While there, he discovers a holotype, finding out that the murder was an accident, and that he tried to save the girl. Moreover, he finds out that the real Nick Valentine discovered this, and it’s why in the end, he gave up the chase of finding the supposed murderer, and that the synth Nick Valentine didn’t remember this because of when the brain scan happened. Without his revenge, and distraught from what he hears, Nick Valentine realizes that it didn’t matter who the real Nick Valentine was. That he was different, but he was alive, and if the Commonwealth needed help, he’d help them, real or not, finally being able to leave the ghosts of a deadman’s past behind for good.

Nope, just kidding. Nick Valentine tracks the murderer to his secret bunker, still somehow alive, and blows his head off, eyes and guts spewing everywhere. And that, somehow, makes the detective happy, despite it being completely out-of-character.

See what I mean? I literally just made up a better ending while writing this review, than a team of a dozen writers could come with. Sure, I do tell stories for a living, so it’s my job to come up with the better ones, but I shouldn’t be able to literally make something up while writing this that manages to be more compelling than Bethesda’s offering.

The rest of the companions and characters are so mechanical and inhuman, both in animation and voice acting, that they feel like a waste of potential. The ones that are well-animated, don’t really have a lot of interesting backstory or dialogue to them. And, the ones that do, often get left to the wayside. There’s more interesting backstory behind a toy maker from a random settlement, than nearly every single companion in the game. And this kind of disappointment and zig-zagging level of quality, isn’t some exception to the rule of decreasing returns. It is the rule, and all the exceptions seem to get slammed right back into mediocre territory as soon as they’re found by the player. I can’t tell characters “no” to a quest, but I can be sarcastic to them. I can’t pick up certain items, even though I’m supposed to be able to pick them up, but I can pick up a fork off a table. I can’t play quests how I want to beyond ‘Do I want to sneakily or unsneakily shoot someone or loot something’, but I can bring different companions to different events to have them give completely different commentary.

Combat thankfully, is not only improved from Fallout 3, but I’d say that it’s quite competent, something Skyrim and Oblivion never figured out. The combat is solid, and it’s the first Bethesda 3D game, where I wanted to genuinely play as a drug-crazed raider, who clubs people with a barbed wire baseball bat. Animations are pretty good as well, and combat genuinely felt like I was deciding the fate of the character, rather than a random dice roll of VATS. Sure, the assisted targeting is still in the game, but thanks to improved combat, is doesn’t feel nearly as necessary as in Fallout 3. Drugs actually have a real use in Fallout 4, and because you can craft drugs, and drug crafting is momentously easier, it means that the player can really use a lot of what the combat offers. The AI (when it’s working) is even improved. They’ll genuinely toss grenades well, and more than once would try to swarm the player from different sides of the cover he or she was hiding behind.

Unfortunately, this is still a Bethesda game, meaning that for all the improvements the combat did make, it’s still barred by the same inane idiocy that Skyrim suffered from. The enemies don’t become smarter when you turn up the difficulty, and the only real difference between ‘very hard’ and ‘survival’ is how long it takes for the player to either ‘get frustrated’ ‘break the game’ ‘find a ledge that enemies can’t get to’ or ‘become a god’. The only change is that the player deals less damage, while the enemy dishes out more. That’s not difficulty progression, that’s annoyance.

And as for the crafting system, it’s mediocre. Dominant Strategy is king of all Bethesda games, and despite seemingly trying to change that rule by having a fixed perk system, it goes right back down by only ever having one good customization option. You see, in a game with well-executed crafting systems, the player should be torn on which upgrade path to go on. But, the problem with that is assuming that every perk or top-tier customization option is good, which they aren’t. There’s only ever one or two good top-tier upgrades, meaning that it’s pointless to even have an upgrade system ‘because’ there’s no point in not picking the best thing, when there’s only one of those best things. If I have a double shot .44 pistol that does 270 damage at a fire rate of six, it’s still worse than the Overseer’s Guardian that does 150 damage with a fire rate of 133, and you can get the Overseer’s Guardian close to the beginning of the game. The armor upgrades are largely the same.

The game also introduces the Legendary System, which is a system where certain ‘legendary’ enemies will spawn with a special weapon, like certain weapon bonuses of Borderlands weapons. There’s just one slight problem with it, which is that unlike the Borderlands system, where too powerful guns are barred from the player until they’re at a certain level, Fallout 4 doesn’t have that. In the same level that I found a double-shot combat shotgun, I also found a freezing pipe, at level 60+. Because the game doesn’t have level requirements or skill requirements for weapons ala Fallout 3, it means that once you get a good weapon, it doesn’t matter what other weapons you find, because there’s only a handful of good weapons in the game. The player can’t even scrap legendary weapons, meaning that they’ll either stay in a container, or be sold immediately.

This would all be fine, but the crafting system directly relates to the settlement system, where you can recruit, build up, and defend settlements across the wasteland. It’s terribly flawed and barely working, but it’s also the most addicting thing about Fallout 4. It’s all optional content, but it doesn’t feel like it. You’ll never find god weapons or fat stacks of cash, which means all that junk, despite being optional, suddenly doesn’t feel optional because it is the economy of literally every ‘other’ optional thing in the game, from side quests to the crafting system. But the settlement system creates a meta-like experience that, while barely working, was immensely satisfying to use, even with all the glitches.

And, for everything the combat and gameplay does right, it seems to only do things right when the game feels like it. That smart AI I was talking about, only seemed to actually work a 10th of the time, and during the rest of the time, enemies and characters did the exact same stupid things that they did in previous Bethesda titles.

At least 15 hours into the game, one character in one of the vaults the player finds will comment on the Vault Suit that you’re wearing. You know, the one that the player gets at the beginning of the game?

‘What’s that? You’re not wearing the Vault Suit? Sorry, didn’t catch that.’ So farts out Bethesda.

While that may seem like a small-time bug, Fallout 4 might as well be an ant hill. For all the problems with Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, I’ve never had to say that a game was worse for me ‘after’ a slew of patches and updates. Even with the Unofficial Fallout 4 Patch, the game still crashed every other hour for me. But there was one straw that broke the camel’s back, which was that the game stopped my progression because of a bug with a completely unrelated character.

Dogmeat, one of the companions in the game, started to randomly attack certain settlers at my settlements. It eventually got to a point, that I had to dismiss him, and send him off to an uninhabited settlement. Why? Well, certain settlers aren’t immortal, and Dogmeat at one point had killed the Vault-Tec Rep that I ran across. Worse, if one settler gets attacked, they all consider the attacker the enemy, so Dogmeat was chased around by and had attacked settlers for hours before I gave up. This would be fine, except for the fact that one of the quests ‘requires’ Dogmeat. And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s the main quest. At one point, you need to give Dogmeat a cigar in order to track down the thief or your mechanical Sally Secrets doll, but as soon as Nick Valentine and I required him, and he appeared in the city, Diamond City Security would start attacking him and vice versa. I couldn’t lead him to continue the quest, I couldn’t give Dogmeat the cigar, and I couldn’t just console command the quest to skip it and trigger the next one.

The game literally broke. I couldn’t complete it, and what’s worse, is that quest is required in order for the Far Harbor DLC to start, meaning that not only had the game broken, but it had taken 2/3rd of my main quest, and $25 of DLC with it. And that’s where this review should end. Why? Because while I did manage to get the quest working by entering the building, and then toggling collision off in order to get float through walls to find a certain trigger I needed to pass through for the quest to continue, console players can’t use console commands, and that was exactly what was needed in order to actually fix the game. The game actually broke, and that’s where this review should end. Luckily, I’m a bit more kind than that. Just a bit.

The audio for example, is great, when it cares to be. The orchestra-style background tracks are great, even when they loop, and the licensed songs on the radio are solid hitters. But, that’s where my praise for the audio ends. Voice acting goes from amazing, to atrocious, and it’s purely random when and to whom it happens to. The main female Vault Dweller, voiced by the same voice actress of Serina from Halo Wars, somehow manages to pull off both amazing, and terrible dialogue. When she’s talking to Codsworth, she genuinely sounds convincing, but those moments are too few and too far between for them to matter. When she confronts Kellog, the kidnapper of the Vault Dweller’s baby, she sounds as though she’s never done voice acting in her life, making her voice come off as both whiny, and amateurish. And she has experience in voice acting. She’s not some new voice actress who just did this one-off gig. She has lent her voice to 50+ different roles, so why did this one come off as so terrible? My guess is bad voice direction, which would make sense given other mediocre voice performances by other acclaimed voice actors for the game, but why is it that Fallout 4 shows that off? Skyrim has a range of ‘whoever was at a grocery store at the time’ list of voice actors, but they all at least sounded competent. In here, it’s almost as if no one’s ever spoken into a microphone in their lives.

And the visuals aren’t exactly making up for Fallout 4’s poor voice acting. The visuals are mixed bag of great Fallout-looking worldscapes, combined with texture quality that looks, at certain points, worse than even in Fallout 3. And what textures are worse is almost random as well. Even with the 50GB texture pack, a lot of the textures still haven’t been improved. The controls also aren’t great. If you didn’t like Fallout 3’s control scheme, you’re not going to like this one.

Performance isn’t exactly Steller either. Sure, if you turn down shadow distance and shadow quality, you’ll hit a solid frame rate, but it’s not exactly coming first to bat either. If you play on ultra, like any sane person with a GTX 1080 and 6700k would do, you’ll see frame drops everywhere. Even turning those shadows down, I still saw frame drops. But, not just frame drops, but frametimes changing drastically. In areas where I wasn’t getting frame drops, at the mixed rate that those frames were being delivered, I honestly would have just preferred them dropping entirely. And this isn’t on 4K. It’s just on a standard 1080p monitor. Sure, the times where the frame rate actually dropped below 60 were rare, but it shouldn’t be dropping below 60 at all, not when it looks worse than other games I’ve played at least, and most certainly not (with the season pass price) for the cost of $110. The settings are also barebones, and a near copy-paste of Fallout 3 and Skyrim’s settings list. There’s also still no FOV slider (without console commands), or way to disable head-bobbing, so have fun with that.

I’m not going to bother reviewing the DLC here, but I’ll leave it by saying Far Harbor was the best in the lot, if it being heavily inspired from Point Lookout is your thing, Nuka World has one single good idea and nothing else, Automatron was somewhat-but-not-really passable, and the other DLC are a waste of money. I’ll review them each in-depth if asked, but this review isn’t exactly short as-is, and I somehow doubt the amount of people who started reading this review will be the exact same number by the end of this review. It’s 4000 words long after all. But I don’t want the Cult of Bethesda to come assaulting my channel because I didn’t like Fallout 4. I’ve quite rather had enough people like Mr. MattyPlays asking rhetorical questions like “Why do people love to hate on Fallout 4?”.

To address him and those like him, I don’t like to hate Fallout 4. What on this planet would make you think I like to waste a hundred plus dollars of my money? I make pennies, and I run Yourwolfsdengaming for fun. What makes you people think I like to dislike things I own and spent money on? That’s illogical. But, for old times’ sake, here you go Mr. MattyPlays, a literal four-thousand plus word review, literally listing as to why I didn’t like Fallout 4. You’re welcome.

There’s other bugs and glitches I came across as well, from audio being mastered differently from the same character, to dialogue skipping entirely, to getting stuck in terrain, to weird visual cluster****s, Fallout 4 is the only Bethesda title I can say broke ‘more’ after numerous patches and updates. And that’s what really kills the experience. For every positive thing I can say was improved, two to three negative things replaced it. For all the times the AI worked and worked well, there’s double or triple the amount of times that it didn’t. For all the interesting and intriguing moments, ten inane ones replaced them. For all the reactive moments, twenty unreactive moments take they’re places.

Everything about Fallout 4, bar the combat itself, is exceptionally slow to get going, even though it’s probably going faster than a bullet. In the first few hours, the player will find power Armor and a minigun, but on the flipside, you’ll then be building chairs for drug-induced plot devices, and literally going through the same dialogue bits multiple times. Out of the 30 different ‘settlements’ in the game, I had the exact same dialogue repeat for unique quests at least three separate times. it all feels like it’s an amusement ride or a roller coaster that’s run out of themes, so it’s recycling and combining old ones. Despite everything moving so quickly, it all feels slow because of how everything is paced out. There’s some sights to see and some things to do, but it all feels hideously scripted, more so than both Fallout 3 and New Vegas. But the problem with it isn’t that it’s hideously scripted, but that the game always assumes the player is playing is one particular way, and that’s it. All the glitches, bugs, and issues just make Fallout 4 feel weak, and that’s comparing it to the already-weak cousin of Fallout 3. There’s a lot to Fallout 4 as a game, but as I really got into certain modes and fell into the rabbit hole, just like every other rabbit hole, it stops being interesting. Either it stops being interesting because it has nothing else to show, or it stops being interesting because it stops meaning anything at a certain point. Eventually, after the game’s charms start to fade, you start to notice Fallout 4’s charms are all coincidently all hiding mounds and mounds of bugs and glitches that would damn any other developer. Fallout 4 was a disappointment, not because of my own expectations of quality, but because Bethesda couldn’t even so much as keep the bar level for their own expectation of quality, and that’s unacceptable. The game isn’t terrible, but the game’s inability to stay on to even it’s own level of quality, makes me wonder what a more-polished Fallout 4 would’ve looked like. This isn’t just a game that I’d suggest mods for, but it’s a game that needs mods in order for it to really stay interesting. Combat is fun when it works, and the settlement building, despite its shallow depths, is still enjoyable. If you’re interested in Fallout 4, you probably already have it. But if not, my recommendation is to just wait until there are more mods that add some more developed quests and land spaces to explore.

Good
• Amount of weapons and ‘things to do’
• Good music
• Visual style is interesting

Meh

• The lack of any real challenges
• The lack of any real difficulty progression
• Lack of ‘good’ unique characters
• Texture quality (with the high definition texture pack) still looks like a game from 2011
• Most of Fallout 4 is undesirably shallow

Bad
• Glitches, many of whom were game breaking
• Inconsistent AI
• Boring quests and boring main quest
• Lackluster customization options
• Lackluster locations

 

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Lack of “‘good’ unique characters”?
Undesireably shallow?

Was this meant to be seen by real people?

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