Review: 'Fallout 4' drops a bomb on the gaming industry

It’s a beautiful day in post-apocalyptic Boston. Classical music plays as I wander through a forest, the leaves brown and orange, though whether that’s due to the season or the radiation, I can’t say. Then a pack of super mutants comes around the corner, and I’m pulled back into the reality of Bethesda’s “Fallout 4.”

“War. War never changes.” The iconic, cold tones welcome the player when they first start the game. “Fallout” most certainly has changed, though, as Bethesda has added a staggering amount of content and things to do in the latest game. For all the exciting things to do, however, the game wisely begins with a slow boil. 

Once I made my character, using extensive facial customization options to make him look almost exactly like me, I sat down to watch some television. Then I met with a door-to-door salesman. I played with my infant son, and I started to wonder just how long this paradise would go on. Not long was the answer, because the air raid sirens accompanied a news report about the destruction of Washington, D.C. moments later. 

The “SPECIAL” traits, which include attributes like intelligence and strength, have been redone slightly, as there are no longer any skill points, replaced with dozens of perks with different ranks. There aren’t as many points to invest, so players will start with either a few glowing weaknesses or mediocrity across the board. With that, the character is cryogenically frozen, and we awaken in the 23rd century, 210 years after the war and 10 years after the events of “Fallout 3.”

Exiting Vault 111 isn’t quite as big a deal as leaving Vault 101, mostly because there’s almost nothing to stop you. All that stands between the player and the exit are a few roaches. There is some poetry to it, in a way, because while players escaped the vault to look for their father in “Fallout 3,” the player is leaving to find their baby in “Fallout 4.” 

As soon as you exit the vault, the player is given access to the two main radio stations, the classical music channel and the more traditional, ‘50s music channel. All of the new music is fantastic, blending energetic songs and sad pieces bemoaning the loss of humanity. That’s why it’s a little strange that so many songs from “Fallout 3” are re-used here. I would have rather had more new songs than have to listen to “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” by the Ink Spots again.

As I mentioned, the leveling system is very simplified and doesn’t allow for quite as much diversity early on. In previous games, I could be a smooth-talking genius who could pull out the grenades when negotiations broke down, but now I’m limited to one or the other for the first few levels.

As with most Bethesda games, glitches are an issue in “Fallout 4.” Although I only encountered one game-ending bug, there are a litany of other issues. At one point, a group of enemies that might have proven difficult to defeat were handled easily because they got stuck on each other and couldn’t move. In another mission, a character that I was supposed to follow glitched through the ceiling, leaving me to find my own way through a path of enemies that I was presumably supposed to defeat with the help of a heavily armed friend.

In the opening to this review, I talked about wandering through the countryside, and it really is a remarkable experience. It feels like the player is in a nature documentary. However, the developers pull the same stunt from “Fallout New Vegas” where the direct path to the main city is very difficult for low-level characters, meaning that you’re almost forced to hike around the countryside where you start or else skirt around the entire map to find a safe path.

The biggest addition is the workshop and settlement system. The player can clear out certain locations and establish small settlements, which provide things like food, a safe place to sleep and even backup if the player is close enough to call for help. Other locations also grow naturally and evolve. Clear out a raider camp and it can become a home for wildlife. Drain a quarry for a shifty individual and you might return to find a raider camp has been established. It’s great because it makes the world feel real.

Voice acting is solid on all fronts, with the bizarre exception of the DJ for the main radio station. Past games have featured fun personalities like Three Dog and Mr. New Vegas, but the new guy is a cowardly loser who operates out of a shack. He’s only endearing in a pitying way, though most of his segments are mercifully short. Facial animations and lip-syncing also leave a lot to be desired, but it’s not as bad as, say, “Life is Strange,” which was on dubbed anime levels of bad.

The best thing about “Fallout 4,” though, is that you feel that hours of creativity and care went into each and every location, from Fenway Park to Walden Pond and even random caves. I encourage players to explore each and every nook and cranny, because every single one contains something interesting to see. 

I had a whole lot of fun with “Fallout 4,” and I think most gamers will also have a blast. There’s a lot to love and, while there are issues with the game, “Fallout 4” is already a very strong game of the year contender. Beyond that, “Fallout 4” is making a case for being the best game to come out of the new console generation thus far.


Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.pankowski@uconn.edu.