Fallout 4 – The Verdict – Spoilers Here

I’ve realised the first few words you add to your post get replicated on Facebook and Twitter so I’ve started with this so I don’t accidentally spoil the game for anyone!

 

161 hours. That’s how long I played Fallout 4 for before sitting my character in a camping chair on my in-game porch waiting patiently for some DLC to come along.

I completed the main game after around 90 hours, the rest have been spent systematically visiting every building and object I could find in every square on the map.

So what’s the verdict?

Well, I never found the dog after forgetting where I sent it and still have 11 bobble heads to find so I’ve bloody well missed some places despite my best efforts. Perhaps Bethesda could have put something into the game to let me keep track of where I have and have not been. You’d think with a game designed in the year 2015 that might be possible but it turns out to be just one of a plethora of complaints I have about this game because Fallout 4 is broken. Broken to its core:

The Instructions:

There are no instructions for anything except a page of useless text which you won’t even notice is there until 20 hours in, well I didn’t. Fundamental parts of the game just have no help and are totally unintuitive. Take for instance the building system. The game expects you to think to use the arrow keys to navigate through the menus. When was the last time you pressed an arrow key in a game on PC? Until you work out by sheer fluke that you are to use the arrow keys you are completely stuck and cannot progress through certain parts of the game. The reviews of the game I read said that building things was optional so this shouldn’t matter, well, they lied.

Even something simple, like pressing “enter”, is a problem. Almost every interaction tells you to press the “enter” key. That’s fine but after a very short while I got fed up with either lifting my hand off the mouse to press it or move my left hand off WASD to press it. It turns out that you can press “E” instead which is much more convenient but you have to guess it.

The perk system is absolutely key to your character’s progression, yet is it explained? No. I assumed that I had to fill every level of a perk before I could move to the next perk and there’s no explanation to say otherwise. Yet what actually happens is that every point put into a base perk opens up another perk that can be chosen. Meaning I wasted a good number of my early game perks that I would probably have used for lock picking and terminal hacking to open up more of the map. Perhaps I would not have struggled so hard early on if this critical game mechanic had some instruction with it.

The Pip-Boy:

Perhaps the most important part of the game yet is there any explanation about what half of the things on it mean? No, not that I could work out anyway. What the hell does a line next to an arm mean?

In Fallout 3 it was new and charming but even in that game after about 5 minutes the flickery graphics became tedious. Why have they persisted in having a flickery effect green screen piece of annoying shit for the main interface into the game?

The lay out is dire, constantly having to flick through screens just to find basic information like how much weight you have left that you can carry. You can’t even have a map that follows you around so you spend half your time flicking into the Pip-Boy just to see where the hell you are. There is absolutely no point to the close-up map view either, it’s just a mess. There is plenty of real estate on the screen so surely a basic world map would not have been beyond the capabilities of a company like Bethesda, let’s face it, every other game in existence has it.

There has simply been no effort put into making anything like a decent update to this central mechanism in the game. It’s just lazy and I do not buy the argument that it’s to maintain the feeling of Fallout 3. This is Fallout 4 and the world has much more powerful hardware, even the console fanboys, so there is no reason to stick with archaic crap like this.

The graphics:

Let’s skip the part where I played the first 30+ hours with juddery graphics because you can read about that in my last post. But what about the randomly spawning enemies that just materialise out of nowhere? What about being in a lake watching Synths drop out of the sky and go for a swim when according to the map I should have been on dry land? Around every corner is a new and unique graphical feature, you know the kind of thing: objects floating in the middle of nowhere; objects embedded in other objects; cars randomly falling out of the sky and bouncing around; characters twitching like they are in a Harlem Shake video. It’s all good random fun in the Wasteland. This is 2015 for crying out loud, I just don’t expect this nonsense.

The getting stuck:

I can’t count the number of times I got stuck and had to re-load my last save. I often got stuck in-between objects and when entering terminals even more. For some reason, when I pressed “E”, the graphics just bounced around in front of the terminal and I was stuck. So I ended up saving the game immediately before every terminal because I had no confidence that the game would carry on running.

The inconsistency:

Sometimes you press escape to exit a dialogue, sometimes it’s tab, sometimes it’s enter, meaning I often navigated to the wrong places. It’s just frustrating and unnecessary.

The companions:

I lost the dog, which is good because I hated it anyway. The companions form a part of the gameplay and can be interesting to use, I took {Eady} MacReady because he didn’t mind the odd spot of random murder, but they always get in the way. They have the full environment to walk around so why do they choose to stand in the doorway of the door you are trying to walk through?

When you call them over to trade, a set of options are displayed in the centre of the screen. The characters often shuffle about so when you try to pick the option to trade the option disappears just as you select it and you end up shooting them instead. Over and over again it happens and I cannot believe that play testers did not pick this up. Just more and more frustration to deal with.

The main quest story:

In Fallout 3 I made some huge game changing decisions, like whether or not to nuke Megaton but there were more besides. In New Vegas there were far fewer large choices and in this game there are none. NONE. The choices I made seemed pointless and hardly affected my game at all. It’s very disappointing for me because this is the part of Fallout 3 that I loved so much.

The actual story itself is drivel, or should I say the Brotherhood of Steel path was drivel. The ending is almost identical to the DLC for Fallout 3 (at least I think it was Fallout 3) with the big robot. I did not pay for a AAA game that had the same ending as its predecessor. This is absolutely awful.

I could go on but what’s the point? I think what’s most annoying is Bethesda’s absolute lack of respect for my gaming time.

So why did I play for so long I hear you ask?

The world you inhabit and the way it lives and breathes around you is utterly breath-taking. Although the main story is dross, a lot of the side quests are not. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t have characters as crazy as those in New Vegas, nor the depth of decision making as in Fallout 3, but there’s enough in the game to keep you entertained almost indefinitely. It’s littered with those “little moments”. Like, for instance, finding a boy that had been trapped in a fridge for 200 years and wanted returning to his mum and dad. Just think about that – trapped in a fridge for 200 years! How many people walked by and left him in there? The Wasteland is brutal.

You never know what’s around the next corner, on top of the next hill or in the next valley and the uncertainty pulls you along. What you think is irrelevant unwinds into a sprawling story and what you think must me immense turns out to be insignificant.

How about walking into a cemetery and finding an altar with headless chickens all around it and then as you walk through the graveyard you find a dead body with a chicken head next to near a headstone? WTF is that all about?

Fancy helping a bunch of robot pirates get to the sea? Have at it!

Let’s not forget to mention SWAN, holy crap that made me turn tail and run like I’d never played a video game before.

Stories span the entire game so it pays to read and listen to everything. One NPC talked about her friend and how she’d been kidnapped and forced to write ransom notes that demanded food be sent to the captor. The NPC was constantly sending food in the hope to eventually rescue her friend. Then I read later that the captor had killed her friend by accident and the ransom notes were all faked.

The story telling hits you in multiple ways and how much of it you engross yourself in it is the difference between this game being a mess or being genius. I advise everyone to look at the bones of the dead characters that litter the Wasteland and imagine how they got that way. Read the text in the terminals and on the various notes you find. Listen to the distress signals and garbled messages. Interact with all the NPCs. Delve into the smaller parts of the game and you will find the beauty of the experience.

The game is fundamentally broken in unacceptable ways and it, coupled with Skyrim, has severely jarred my faith in Bethesda. It feels more like a Fallout New Vegas update to me rather than a AAA game made for 2015 technology. The main story is weak, obvious and ultimately devastatingly disappointing. The side quests and exploration are by far the best parts of the game and make it worth the asking price and 150 hours playing time.

There is a complete lack of respect for gamers’ time from Bethesda and I am left with a lack of respect for them. I will not be pre-ordering Fallout 5, that’s for sure.

 

 

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