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Did Fallout 4 meet our expectations?

Fallout 4 was released last month, and I’ve been playing it feverishly ever since.

Last night, I finished the main storyline, after just under four days of total play time. That would be 96 hours worth of playing time, rather than just a couple of hours every day for four days, by the way.

Fallout 4 is so good, and there’s so much to see and do, that it’s a worthy addition to any gamer’s library. For fans, it’s a must-buy.

So after spending all that time in this new wasteland, I have plumbed enough of Fallout 4’s depths to be in a position to tell you all whether it met, exceeded or fell short of what I wanted to see in a new Fallout game, as outlined in an article I wrote back in June when the game was announced.

Fallout 4: Not an MMO

Happily, Bethesda stuck with what made Fallout great, and so there’s no multiplayer whatsoever. The closest it gets is the watercooler conversations it inspires, as players share stories of amazing things that happened to them in their previous evening’s explorations as opposed to being in the game with each other as they happen. Our office has been full of stories on a near-daily basis since the game came out of cool/bizarre/annoying things that happened to us as we all wandered the wastes of Commonwealth Boston.

Fallout 4: Not a mobile game

Thank the flying spaghetti monster, Bethesda didn’t take Fallout 4 mobile. They did release a mobile game called Fallout Shelter a few months prior to Fallout 4’s release, but it wasn’t meant as the next instalment in the franchise; it was a free-to-play (with micro-transactions) Vault-management mini-game for phones and tablets.

There is a companion app, but it’s meant for phones that are inserted into the real-world Pip Boys that Bethesda sent out with the Collector’s Edition of the game, that shows you in real life what you see on your Pip Boy in the game.

Fallout 4: Consequences

Ah. Consequences. Here, Fallout 4 falls surprisingly short, because while it forces you to ally with one of three major factions in the game (and the plot twists and turns and the way your actions inter-mingle between the three is rather well done), once the main storyline wraps up there is little in the way of consequences that I’ve seen.

Life goes on elsewhere in the wasteland, the headquarters of your chosen faction remains the same, and the most notable consequence I was able to see is the scene of the final battle remains a bloody battlefield, but that’s about it.

It’s a bummer because you’re told all the way through the game that you’re fighting for the future of the wasteland, and once you’ve achieved all of your goals, the wasteland’s present looks very much like what its past did.

Fallout 4: A new game engine

This one isn’t a black or white answer, because while Bethesda didn’t use the exact same engine they did for 2011’s Skyrim, they used a highly-modified version of it. This is all well and good because it let the team focus on creating content for the game rather than losing time to building a brand-new engine from scratch, but it also meant leftovers from those previous games were still present.

Among them were the janky physics from Skyrim/New Vegas/Fallout 3 in which bodies rag-dolled weirdly on occasion, the lousy draw distance which led to cities looking like they were made of blocks of wood, and of course, the animation doesn’t appear to have received a significant overhaul as many of Fallout’s characters looked, well, dated.

Yeah, that’s not meant to happy.

These are minor gripes, of course, and Bethesda still did a wonderful job on the game overall, but as it’s 2015 and we’re into a new generation of consoles (not to mention that gaming PCs are more powerful than ever), and it ends up being disappointing that Fallout 4’s graphics don’t look as good as they could.

Fallout 4: An improved V.A.T.S.

Here, Bethesda did an amazing job. V.A.T.S. – or the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System – is better than ever. Instead of pausing time as happened in Fallout 3 and New Vegas, Fallout 4’s VATS implementation slows it down, but doesn’t completely stop enemies from moving, which forces tactical decisions from the player in ways those previous games didn’t.

It added tremendously to moments of low health, being surrounded by enemies and having to attempt three headshots in a row as enemies closed in, and proved immensely satisfying when everything came together in my favour. A definite improvement.

Fallout 4: New Perks

I am very happy to say that yes, Bethesda absolutely nailed one item on my wishlist with Fallout 4’s new perk system. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they exceeded my expectations.

You can choose a new perk every time you level up, and there is no level cap. But perks are deeper than before, with multiple levels to each that hide better and better abilities. I spent a lot of time simply staring at the perks chart, investigating its nooks and crannies to see if I had maybe missed an ability that could possibly come in handy in future, and then plotting a course around what else I needed to unlock first before my chosen ability became available.

Over the course of my game, I reached level 56, and I’m still not done.

Fallout 4: Achievements/Trophies

Sadly, I was disappointed with the selection of included achievements/trophies as there was nothing there that inspired me to play the game differently. We’ve seen some of these before; there’s an achievement for planting a live grenade in someone’s inventory and allowing them to explode, there are achievements for completing story quests, ones for picking X number of locks and so on.

The new achievements were linked to the game’s crafting system – which is itself a brand-new addition to the Fallout series – but they were also somewhat lame; craft X number of weapon mods, or 100 items, or build X workshop items. Wow, Bethesda… really? What a snorefest.

About the most interesting achievement I found was one that required me to run over the four bases scattered around one of the settlements, which was itself built atop an iconic Boston baseball stadium. While it was sort of fun, it was but one highlight in an otherwise dull set of achievements.

Hopefully the inevitable DLC will have better ones.

Fallout 4: Meaningful endings

If you read my synopsis of the game’s consequences, you’ll likely have guessed that no, a lack of consequences meant the endings weren’t particularly meaningful either.  Or at least, the ending I saw wasn’t but- full disclosure – I have not yet gone back and tried finishing the game with the other two factions.

Pictured: A consequence.

Fallout 4: Better thievery

Nope. Get caught stealing one thing and bam, the entire town knows you did it. Still. C’mon, Bethesda.

Fallout 4: Bigger, badder sticks

The sticks, guns, unarmed combat enhancers, rocket launchers and futuristic energy weapons in Fallout 4 are spectacular. You’re no longer limited to just using what you find, as you have the option to upgrade any weapon you find (as long as you have unlocked the necessary perks first, of course). Upgrading is incredibly satisfying, as they have a direct impact on how effective you are in combat.

A very big stick indeed.

Let me just say, this: ‘handheld cannon for the win’.

Fallout 4: CARS!

Yes and no. You can’t drive a car across the Boston wasteland, but you develop a much closer relationship with your Power Armor (sic) in Fallout 4 (plus you get it quite early on), and it behaves at least somewhat like a vehicle as you can upgrade it with better abilities, and it makes things like walking underwater a little easier.

Fallout 4: Mods

I played the game on my Xbox One, so mods were not an option, but I’ve seen plenty of videos and internet posts by PC players who have modified their games.

Players have done things like build ridiculously complex settlements and structures, expanded the dialogue options so that you actually see what your character is about to say rather than just a general overview, changed how your character holds his/her weapon so that it’s not always pointing straight when it’s not being fired and more.

There’s no official support quite yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before Valve adds a Steam Workshop for the game, like they did for Skyrim.

Fallout 4: Conclusion

Fallout 4 is, in a lot of ways, a much better game than its predecessors while in others it isn’t much of a leap forward. It’s certainly more colourful than previous games, and the deeper perk system and the lack of a level cap are welcome additions, but the lack of meaningful story-related consequences once the main story concludes and the still-broken theft system remain annoying holdovers from the other games, whose DNA is still all over this one.

Overall, though, Fallout 4 has not disappointed. If you were undecided, you should totally go and get it – it’ll definitely keep you entertained over the Christmas break.

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