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A different person in a next-generation world

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    Fallout 4

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    A different person in a next-generation world

    Fallout 3 remains one of my absolute favorite games of the last generation. Because of this, one can probably imagine that my hype for Fallout 4 was fairly significant. The game blew me away when it was first revealed earlier this year, as it did many others in the gaming community, and after having spent a significant amount of time with the game, I have to say that Fallout 4 is easily one of the best gaming experiences of the entire year.

    Anyone that has played Fallout 3 will be instantly familiar with the core elements of Fallout 4. The games are largely in the same in many regards, to the exploration, the combat, and the way that players interact with the environment. In fact, that is probably the biggest weakness of Fallout 4, that it is simply too similar to its predecessor in many different ways. This makes it feel less special than Fallout 3, and I probably won’t play Fallout 4 as much as I have the third game in the series, but even so, Fallout 4 is an incredible game.

    While the core gameplay of exploring, looting, fighting enemies, and questing is very similar to what it was like in Fallout 3, there are many elements to Fallout 4 that help it stand apart as well. For example, companions are now a much bigger focus in this game, with more companions than ever for players to recruit. The companions are all diverse and have great character development, with quests specific to them. These companions never hinder players in battle, and are a constant source of aid throughout the game, which makes traveling with them and learning about them a genuinely rewarding experience.

    Fallout 4 also differs from Fallout 3 by bringing to the table a vastly improved combat system. VATs returns, but instead of completely stopping time, which was abused to make combat easier before, it simply slows down time. This gives enemies time to duck behind objects to avoid getting shot, so players can’t simply rely on VATs all the time to get them out of sticky situations. Critical strikes are also relegated to a bar that can be stored and used at the players discretion, which adds an interesting wrinkle to the combat.

    Combat is much less frustrating in general when it comes to Fallout 4, as Bethesda has made an effort to make every weapon feel satisfying and useful. There are a wide variety of weapons in the game, much more than was in the previous game, and they are supplemented by the addition of Legendary-tier weapons as well. These Legendary items have unique names, abilities, and boosted stats, making them worth seeking out.

    Legendary weapons are joined by Legendary enemies, which are always a challenge as well. Overall, there are more enemy types to deal with in Fallout 4, all requiring different strategies and weapons to be most effective at defeating them. And speaking of that, Fallout 4’s combat is probably the most balanced combat in a Bethesda game to date, and never felt too difficult or too easy. It’s a consistently challenging experience and is better for it.

    The autosaves could have been more generous, however, especially in the longer "dungeons." There are some cheap deaths that can make dying a lot more annoying than it needs to be, which forces players to save constantly. The quicksave feature makes this less of a headache, but I can imagine more casual players that don’t think about saving all the time becoming very annoyed with Fallout 4 and ultimately giving up on the game.

    Another way that Fallout 4 differs from Fallout 3 is that it makes all the loot matter. The junk items and the like in the game world are now all used for crafting, a mechanic that was almost completely absent in Fallout 3. Players can craft a wide range of items, and can use crafting materials to add a ridiculous amount of mods to their weapons.

    This crafting bleeds into the management of settlements, which is another major gameplay addition to Fallout 4. Players can now choose to build and maintain settlements in the wasteland, which requires one to gather supplies, and use those supplies to provide settlements with food, water, defense, and more. This feels like a vastly improved version of the house-building system that was introduced in a Skyrim expansion pack, with Bethesda taking the concept to the next level in a big way.

    So for the most part, Fallout 4’s gameplay is an improvement over Fallout 3, even though it hits many familiar beats. But what about other aspects of the game, such as the story? Well, Fallout 4 definitely trumps Fallout 3’s story, and that’s thanks to Bethesda giving the Fallout 4 protagonist more personality than any of their previous protagonists.

    There’s a new dialogue system that has been inspired by Mass Effect, with players able to choose from four different choices that give a vague idea of how the player character will react. A cinematic camera is used to give conversations and other scenes a bit more flash. By giving the player character a voice actor, Bethesda is able to flesh them out a lot more – other characters in the world also feel more developed than they really ever have before in any Bethesda game in prior.

    The game actually starts before the bombs dropped, and then after a series of events, players are free to explore the aftermath of the nuclear explosions that have ravaged the world. Entering post-apocalyptic Boston doesn’t have quite the same "wow" factor as exiting the vault for the first time in the previous game, but the game world in Fallout 4 definitely feels more alive overall. The plight of the player character and the characters encountered during the adventure is more interesting than the conflict from the previous game (though also similar in some regards), though there is a point near the end that somewhat disrupts the flow of the game. I can’t go into details as I must avoid spoilers, but I am left wondering what Bethesda was thinking with some of the end of story choices.

    Others may be left wondering what Bethesda was thinking with the graphics. Fallout 4 may not use the full power of the Xbox One and PS4, but the game is still gorgeous. It’s just that Bethesda chose scope over highly detailed visuals, and considering the game has been in development in some form since 2008, it makes sense that its visuals are not quite up to eighth generation standards. That being said, the game is easily the best-looking Fallout game to date, with some incredible lighting effects and highly detailed characters. The game world is much more visually interesting than the one found in Fallout 3, with a lot more color to enjoy. Unfortunately, the game suffers from one of the problems of Fallout 3, which is that a lot of the areas look a little too similar, and navigation can sometimes get confusing as a result.

    The audio is mostly superb as well, though is not without its problems as well. A lot of the songs on the radio stations are the same as ones from Fallout 3, which is pretty disappointing. The voice acting is great and the music is great as well, though there the game has a tendency to bug out during dialogue at times, leaving characters just staring at each other without saying a word until the player mashes buttons to move on to the next line of dialogue, possibly skipping important pieces of dialogue in the process.

    Fallout 4 will take about 30 hours to complete the main quest and most of the side quests, on average, but there’s still plenty of content that will keep players coming back. Many quests have alternate endings that may convince players to go back through, and the challenge of building successful settlements is also pretty addicting. Completing the game 100% will take quite awhile, so Fallout 4 offers some fairly significant bang for the buck.

    Fallout 4 was perhaps the most hyped game of 2015 ever since its reveal near last year’s E3 event. It is a triumph in many ways, though is somewhat shy of being a masterpiece. Fallout 4 probably won’t have the same lasting impact on the gaming community as Fallout 3, but Fallout 4 is nonetheless a superb game that is worth every penny and then some.

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