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Time to rebuild the wasteland!

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    Fallout 4: Game of the Year Edition

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    Time to rebuild the wasteland!

    The Fallout series of games has had an interesting development; from being the type of games that felt like they could only be played on computers in the early installments of the late 90’s, the Black Isle developed IP started cracking when the development of the Fallout 3 prototype Van Buren was cancelled in late 2003. Apart from the console tryout Brotherhood of Steel (which was met with mixed receptions) the Fallout series was quiet for almost five years. In 2008 however, Fallout 3 launched not only for PC but for the then-actual consoles of PS3 and Xbox 360 which really made the game a much wider hit than the earlier installments. After the mid-sequel New Vegas for the same formats the wait for Fallout 4 started. Then it was released in 2015. Then the new wait started; the one for a brand sparkly Game of the Year/Complete/Ultimate Edition – whatever they chose to call it, the one edition where all DLC (these Bethesda RPGs are pretty known for their big DLC packs) is included and in late 2017 they settled to call it Game of the Year Edition – it did win quite a few prizes after all – and release it.

    Now there’s one thing that might be a dealbreaker to many people, so let’s get it out of the way this early so you’ll get to decide if you’ll even find it worth reading on – the DLC comes on vouchers instead of being included on the disc. Why it’s that way is anybody’s guess; the previous Bethesda games with DLC included (Fallout 3 GotY, Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate, Skyrim Legendary) has all come on disc, so to see this change now is surprising and feels like a downgrade. For whatever reason, for the customer to have it on the disc instead of vouchers is more desireable; no matter if it’s because of a slow or capped internet connection or just pure collector’s principle, there are multiple reasons as to why one might prefer to have it on disc, and also this makes it so that you won’t be able to get the complete game used in the future. It’s a surefire drawback for the package as a whole though of course it won’t affect the gameplay, but it should be mentioned in case it’s a severe dealbreaker for you. But now on to the game itself.

    Graphics

    One of the biggest problems Fallout 3 had was the looks of the environments. Not so much the technical capabilities of them since they pushed the PS3 pretty far but just because of the looks of it all. Since the games takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland there’s bound to be a lot of grey and brown colors, but somehow Fallout 4 has really improved. It’s still a wasteland but somehow they’ve managed to make it look a lot less bland; there is a lot more vegetation now – it’s not green but rather brown but still it really helps to make it feel like more than dirt – and there are also weather effects that varies quite a bit; sometimes the sky is blue and nice and sometimes huge radioactive storms blow in which’ll not only expose you to the radiation but also severely limit how far you can see. It really helps to liven up the otherwise barren wasteland, and together with the removed green tint that was always present in Fallout 3 it makes for a much more colorful experience which really makes the game a lot easier to play for longer stretches of time. Also, the characters are really interesting; they have a strange look somewhere between realistic and uncanny smooth; it’s really hard to describe it but it looks really really neat.

    Other than that the graphics are also good. The animations work good most of the time and and even though it’s still preferable to play in the first-person perspective the player character movements in third person at least look a heap lot better than they did in Fallout 3. The amount of variation in both NPCs and enemies is also really good, and lip movements and body language also work fine. Overall it’s a nice work of craftsmanship that’s gone into the world and its inhabitants, which makes it a place that’s really interesting to be in and to explore.

    Sound effects and music

    Since the environments in the game are rather dystopian, much of the background music is working to enhance that feeling; it’s very mellow, most of the time being just a little chain of piano low notes. The thing is how well it works, as it really gives off the feeling of loneliness at the same time as it makes you feel that something could appear and kill you at any moment. However, in addition to the ambient music there are also some radio stations for you to tune in to, just like in earlier games in the series. The radio works in an interesting way since it can both be used to listen to short-range broadcasts which often are stuff like distress calls and similar, but there are also a couple of radio stations that broadcast music and other programs. First of these are Classical Radio which broadcasts – as you might’ve guessed – classical music like Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Bach. Then there’s Radio Freedom which you has to help set up with a sidequest, which will broadcast messages of settlements that need your help and in between that you’ll get to listen to some great violin compositions reminding of 19’th century soldier songs; they’re most likely original compositions for the game, but that doesn’t matter since they sound really good. But then there’s the biggest station in the game – Diamond City Radio. This is the one reminding most of Galaxy News Radio from Fallout 3, and the music on this one is a mixture of real world licensed pop, jazz, big band and even some rockabilly from the 30’s to the 60’s. What’s interesting is that while games like GTA rarely tends to have repeats of songs between games here there are a lot of songs returning from Fallout 3, and it actually works good to keep the games feeling connected, and it makes sense story-wise since it’s possible that not many records survived the war. So no matter if you really want to embrace the loneliness or if you want to use the radio as your only friend on your travels, there’s definitely an option that’ll fit your style.

    When it comes to voice acting, Fallout 4 has changed one big thing from the previous games; the main character is now voiced. For some people it might break out a bit from the immersion when it makes the main character feel a bit like a character of his or her own and not you yourself, but for others it might add to the immersion that the character actually can take part in a conversation. However one thing that might misfire a bit is that unlike in the earlier games where you could see your entire reply when selecting a dialouge option here you often just get quick choices – "Ask for details", "Sarcastic", "Positive", "Negative" – and when you pick which one you want your character might say something that totally wasn’t what you had on your mind. Sometimes it’s just a bit annoying for you as the player, but sometimes it can lead to characters in-game disliking you for something you said when that certainly wasn’t your intention. So it has both positive and negative sides to it. The overall quality of the voice acting – both the one of the main character and other people you meet in the game – is good and it certainly feels like they’ve upped their game from Fallout 3, but maybe more on how the voices sound together with how the characters look rather than by sound alone. Sound effects also work nicely with big explosions and nice gunfire sounds so there’s nothing to complain about there.

    Story

    The story of Fallout 4 begins in 2077. People who has played a Fallout game before will know that is the year when the nuclear war broke out that destroyed the US, so it might feel like an odd place to start, but that’s what you do – beginning with a regular start of the day where you and your significant other stands at the mirror deciding what you’ll look like. Literally; it’s not a part of the story but it’s here you decide what your character will look like. After a small introduction in the house where you take care of your baby and talking to a Vault-Tec salesman confirming your free spot (because you’re ex-army) in a nearby nuclear shelter vault the unthinkable happens; the alarm goes off that there’s a nuclear attack incoming. You, your family and neighbours quickly runs to the vault and gets on the elevator down just as the blast is about to hit. Once inside you are directed to the decontamination pods which instead turns out to be cryopods – unbeknownst to the inhabitants the Vault-tec corporation wanted to use the vault to experiment on the effect of cryostasis on humans – and are frozen solid opposite to your significant other. After a while you wake up when somebody initiates the thawing process, and can only watch as somebody opens the door to the opposite cryopod, shoots your partner and kidnaps your baby, then you’re frozen again. After a while you wake up again, this time able to open the cryopod. After making your way outside and down to your old neighbourhood – now a completely desolate and ragged ghost town apart from your old robot butler – you find out that it’s now year 2287.

    From here on, the main quest of the game is to find out what happened to your son, and who kidnapped him and shot your partner. There are quite a few twists and turns down this story, however if your only goal with the game is to rush through the main quest then your experience with it will be very short. This isn’t the kind of RPG with a really long main story and then just some sidequests tacked onto the end, but instead the whole world, the people in it, their story and the stuff you can do for them – that’s the story of the game, that’s YOUR story. While the main quest is pretty similar no matter who plays it (there are a few branches in the main quest, but all choices except one leads to very similar events), the point of a Fallout game is to build your own character and form their, your, story based on what actions you choose to do. It might sound sloppy, but it isn’t the same kind of make-your-own story like in Minecraft or such a game, but rather that there are a LOT of small stories in the game, and you can choose which ones to complete and how to complete them. Which makes for a really good opportunity to make this a real grand adventure, but if you don’t take that opportunity it’ll instead feel extremely barebones.

    Controls

    As mentioned Fallout used to be pretty much a computer-only game until relatively recently, which of course means that originally it was meant to be played with a keyboard and a mouse. Still, it does seem that they’ve found a way which works good with the PS4 controller too; with the left and right stick you control your character’s movement and view direction respectively, and with a press of R3 you can also enter and exit sneak mode. The directional pad buttons are only used as a shortcut for items and it works really well to quickly heal up or equip a weapon. The face buttons are used to a pretty various degree; with Square you can ready or reload your weapon if you tap it, and if you hold it down you’ll holster it. With Triangle you’ll jump which isn’t used too often but can be good if you come across a rock or fence while exploring. The most used of these is probably X since it’s used to talk to people or pick stuff up, or other interactions with the surrounding evironment. A press of Circle will bring up your Pip-Boy; this is a pretty big wrist-computer you’re wearing that keeps track of your current status and missions, and from here you can use and equip items, look at the map and choose which quest you want to set as active. The Pip-Boy will let you handle most character-relevant functions of the game like healing or equipping, while a press of the Options button will bring up more player-relevant functions like saving, loading and bringing up the options menu.

    The most complex of the controls though are probably the shoulder buttons; while there also are melee weapons available in the game the firearms are without a doubt the most common type of weapon so that’s what we’ll go through. With R2 your fire off the gun, but if you hold down L2 you’ll aim the weapon to get greater accuracy. How R1 is used depends a bit on what you’ve got equipped; you can use it to bash an intrusive enemy with your gun or if you’ve got a throwing weapon like grenade or molotov cocktail equipped (you can have those equipped at the same time as a regular gun) you’ll throw one with a press of this button. With L1 you’ll enter VATS which is where the RPG part of the game shines through; in addition to having your crosshairs over an enemy you’ll also have a hit or miss chance when targeting something based on your stats. In VATS you’ll get to visualize this with being able to slow down time (older games stopped it entirely, but this is better as it lets you wait for an enemy to run into view) and target specific limbs, with the hit percentage clearly shown. You have a set number of Action Points and depending on which weapon you use you can mark a various amount of targets, then just fire away, then you need to wait for the Action Points to replenish before you can use VATS again.

    Overall, the controls work fine and are responsive. Most of them should feel natural to players who are returning from other console versions of Bethesda games, and the only thing with the controls that might take some getting used to are the shoulder buttons layout, especially remembering when you’ve got an throwing weapon equipped so you can’t bash enemies but instead accidentally blow yourself up. But most of the time it works really fine, and as long as you aren’t a diehard PC gamer it won’t be apparent that the game was designed for a mouse and keyboard initially.

    Gameplay

    As mentioned the main goal of the game is to find your kidnapped son, and in order to do that you basically just need to conduct your own investigation. So what you do once you’ve finished the introduction quest is just to go out in the world and do what you want; most of the game except in some dialogue scenes (which can be turned on/off in settings) will have you going around (preferrably in a first-person view), and what you do is as said very fuzzy. You’ve got a radar at the bottom of the screen that’ll usually point you towards the objective of your current quest, but you can also go out and explore on your own. The map size of the game is a little bit smaller than New Vegas and Fallout 3, and it’s a lot smaller than games like GTA5, but considering how you won’t be able to ride a car or helicopter to quickly get from A to B (though you can fast-travel once you’ve discovered a location) it won’t feel that small. One thing that’s a bit interesting, if we stay at the GTA games for comparison, is also how real this world feels; while that one had a lot more people in it due to NOT being nuked to oblivion, they were props without any real function and while they crowded the streets it was hard to feel that they lived anywhere in the world. In Fallout most of the people feels like they’re part of the game world; citizens in cities and settlements have houses or at least beds, and when you run into enemies you can see that they were at a camp, which strangely makes this dead world seem pretty alive and real.

    So as you explore you might run into dangerous wildlife or hostile people, and you have to defeat them. The most efficient way to do so is to use a weapon, and as mentioned you can either use the VATS targeting system or do it by free-hand, but the stats and skills you’ve got of course matters a lot in how efficient you’ll be in battle. Unlike the leveling system from Fallout 3 where you got to upgrade your skills with a certain amount of points for each level (depending on your intelligence stat) and then pick a perk here it’s all mashed up so that the perks are the only thing left (though many of them still works to increase your skills). While this feels a bit like it’s dumbening the whole level process down, it makes it a bit harder to make a totally overpowered character and also makes it so that it’s easier than earlier to make a build with odd skills that’s still possible to play with.

    A few other things that has been added to the game that wasn’t there in Fallout 3 are weapon upgrades and settlements. Weapon upgrades is the possibility to customize your weapons with things like a larger magazine size, silencers or long-range sights, and it comes at the trade-off that weapons and armor no longer breaks. It’s interesting how they seems to have aimed for a Borderlands-esque "X many weapons in this game" and at the same time manages to both dumb down the system and make it more complicated; for Fallout 3 it was great when a weapon you used started falling apart and you had to find alternatives or replacement weapons for parts. It added a sense of "should I use this weapon now?" that’s lacking here, sure it might be a good idea to conserve ammunition, but it’s really not on the same level. However, at the same time it’s complicating the system since you need to find parts to make the mods to your weapon; sure sometimes you find great weapons out in the wild but the whole weapons modding makes it feel LESS rewarding when you pick up something rare and powerful, as many times you could’ve built it yourself. Then there are the settlements; there are a lot of areas in the game which you can use as settlements, and for some reason you get to be the one to run them all. This almost feels like a sim game in its own right where you need to build housing for settlers, make sure they’ve got a food production running and a water supply going, plus they need generators for electricity and of course once you’ve got food and water there’ll also be enemies coming to take it so you need to build defenses too. This one can be a fun little minigame, except that the game isn’t really great at explaining all that needs to be done and how to do it, so prepare for some looking at wikis to be able to grasp it fully. Also, while it can be fun for the sake of it sadly it doesn’t feel like it’s paying off the way it should, and it can be annoying when you’re away doing something else and the message "Settlement X needs your help to defend itself" pops up so you have to hurry over there.

    One thing that the settlements and modifications brings with them though is that it’s a lot more worthwhile to ransack places you come across for resources now; the Fallout games has a weight limit on what you can pick up and carry, and in earlier games it felt like most junk could just be left since weapons usually sold for more, here you always have use for stuff like coffee cups or aluminum cans since they can be disassemblied at a settlement workbench to be used as materials when you build stuff. In additions to weapons, armor and junk you can also carry around various edibles and medicine; these are items that’ll heal you, make you more damage resistant and many food items also comes with additional benefits of also restoring AP for use in VATS or give you some extra carrying weight, or for stuff that’s been left in the open give you some radiation poisoning. Just as with other stuff radiation has been a bit dumbed-down for this release; while in Fallout 3 you got a lot of various side effects depending on how badly radiated you were, the only thing radiation does here is that it "pushes down" your health bar.

    In addition to the main quest and side quests, there are also many faction quests and radiant quests you can partake in. While you’ll most likely become a bit aquainted with the four factions in the game when you play through the main quest, each faction also has their own questline and who you choose to partner up with will have an impact on the game as they don’t really get along too well with each other. The radiant quests are pretty annoying for a completionist, as they’re just small missions that are mostly along the lines of "go to X and kill Y"; with X being a location and Y being a type of enemy; these can be repeated as many times as you wish so it’s a bit hard since you can never feel like you’re done with them, but on the other hand they’re both great for gaining some experience points to level up and it helps the area feel "alive" even after you’ve completed all other quests.

    So basically and simply that’s what you do in the game; do quests, kill stuff, explore, help settlements. Of course there’s a heap lot more small stuff that can be done, but those are the key points of the game and what you’ll spend most time doing. One thing, that needs to be mentioned and that’ll come as a huge surprise if you’ve played an earlier Bethesda game on PS3, is how comparatively few glitches there are. In Fallout 3 once you got the save file up in size (the contents of various boxes and such are saved as you discover them, so the more you explore the more your save file will grow) the game had really big problems with freezing and stuttering. While Fallout 4 has a few glitches, it’s still apparent that – at least if you download the latest patches (which ALSO aren’t on disc) – it’s a lot more stable than the entires on the previous generation of consoles.

    DLC

    When it comes to the DLCs there are six different ones available, and unlike in Fallout 3 where each DLC introduced a new area with a unique questline, here the scope of each one differs quite a bit. Two out of the six are just really basic additions to the workshop mode in settlements, where you gain some extra items like cages for trapping animals and monsters or one that adds stuff like weapon racks and factory-like production lines. While it’s always nice to have options, if this wasn’t the GotY version they couldn’t really be recommended since they’re not worth the money as it’s bordering to microtransaction-like items for a mid-price DLC, but as part of the GotY version they work.

    There’s the Automatron DLC that, while having some new settlement construction objects, focuses more on a story still set in the area of the main game with some areas having been repurposed, and then there’s the Vault-Tec Workshop that’s also a bit like that but the story missions in it has quite a bit of settlement building in it so it’s kind of a mix between the previous ones. Then there’s the two last DLCs which are quite similar to the Fallout 3 ones – whole new areas for you to explore and full questlines for you to finish. First of these we have Far Harbor, which does a very good job of evoking the feeling of Point Lookout from Fallout 3 – a dark and gloomy island setting that just works wonders in the Fallout universe. While it’s not a carbon copy or rehash the similarities are certainly there, and it’s really not a bad thing when it fits so well. The other "big" DLC is a bit more surprising; a theme park. Containing raiders. It’s a pretty interesting take on the whole thing since while other Fallout games has had karma meters (this one does away with that and instead lets you affect your relationship with certain individuals – what’s good according to one follower might be hated by another) to set you as good or evil, it’s never been possible to join a band of raiders and just go out there wreaking havoc. Until now. It’s definitely a bit strange, but also provides an interesting change of viewpoint.

    Overall, had all of these not already been included with the game, then the only ones really worth the money would be Far Harbor and Nuka-World, but as it is now they all do add at least a few things to the game without feeling like they’ve cost you too much. So while they’re not as strong as the five-pack-punch of Fallout 3, they still work well enough to warrant the existence of the GotY version.

    Total

    Overall, the most interesting thing with Fallout 4 is how different it is from the earlier games in the series; scrapping the leveling system from Fallout 3 in terms of a more perk-based one. Giving the player character a voice. Adding weapon customization and base building. While the environment feels like it used to, the game itself is vastly different. One of the best – and definitely one-sidedly good – things is that the glitches are way fewer for this installment, as it makes it much easier to play the game. Having the game and DLC as one package is also really good value for your money; the problem comes from that it’s on vouchers rather than disc but since that’s more of a collector’s view of things and not something impacting the gameplay experience itself it’s nothing that’ll have an impact on the score.

    So in total, Fallout 4 with its included DLC on this Game of the Year version gets an 8 out of 10. Fallout 4 is definitely a good game, with an interesting setting that’s also a bit more varied and colorful than earlier games in the series. Some things kinda even out; there are less glitches in this one compared to the PS3 games but the weapon mod system is annoying, but it’s way easier to overlook a game feature that you don’t really have to use compared to something that freezes the game every 10 minutes of playtime. So even though a few things has been dumbed down, as a gameplay experience this is more enjoyable than Fallout 3 and if you like the FP-RPG genre it’s definitely a good game to check out, and with the GotY edition you’ll get most for your money.

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