Article first published as Xbox One Review: ‘Fallout 4′ on Blogcritics.
If you’re looking for just one game to occupy all of your free time for the next couple of months, Fallout 4 certainly fits the bill. The highly anticipated, open world, post-apocalyptic role playing game is easily the most content filled piece of software to hit the current generation of video game consoles. If that isn’t enough for you, Bethesda has included the 2008 Xbox 360 release of Fallout 3 for Xbox One owners. As of 12 November, 2015, the older title is playable on the Xbox One, as part of the initial rollout of the Xbox One’s Xbox 360 backwards compatibility update.
Fallout 4 is actually the seventh Fallout video game for consoles and the personal computer, where the series made its debut. However, the massive, first-person, open-world gameplay formula we now know, was introduced by the long-time Elder Scrolls developer, Bethesda, when they took over the franchise in 2004. While the newer Fallout games technically can also be played in third-person point of view, it does make character control significantly more awkward. Fallout 4 does make some progress on this front, but it’s still an inferior format. Luckily Fallout does have the V.A.T.S. system which slows down combat to more manageable pace.
Except for the slight improvement of the third-person view mechanics and a significant visual upgrade, there’s not much that’s really made better in Fallout 4. Don’t get me wrong, Fallout 4 is the best Fallout game yet. It’s just that there’s still plenty of room for the franchise to grow, and I’m not really sure that I’m a fan of everything that Bethesda changed this time around. While some of the additions make sense on paper, there are some issues with the actual execution. Of course, some credit has to be given for attempting new things.
Fallout 4 does manage to explain the setting a little better than recent Fallout iterations, but the new character creation system is more complicated than it needs to be. I’m all for being able to make the main character of an RPG exactly the way I want, but the new system actually makes that more difficult, and less clear. Using the controller to point at various aspects of the face you’d like to change, and then having a generic menu, at the bottom of the screen, can make face sculpting more trouble than it’s worth.
This is particularly confusing when parts of the face are included in multiple selections. It’s not all bad, though. Putting the main characters in front of a bathroom mirror while chatting is great way to integrate the character creation into the actual game. By adding a voice to the main character, Bethesda has also made the world in Fallout 4 a little less desolate. Maybe in a future Fallout game, the voices will actually be customizable. Considering how much more voicework Fallout 4 does include, it wouldn’t be fair to ding them for that, at least this time around.
Of course the biggest change in Fallout 4 is the new expanded crafting system. Now, every little piece of junk you find in the wasteland can be broken down into its individual parts. Luckily, the game automates things like pulling screws out of a pair of handcuffs to converting old toilets into usable ceramic. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to remember what components make up each item. All of this new stuff goes into making your own chemicals, weapons, armor, and now settlements. Yes, in Fallout 4 you can make your own outposts.
It’s not like you can just go to some mountaintop and start building in Fallout 4. The settlements are all predetermined. Once you do have a settlement with a workshop, you can build it up as much as you want, within that area’s allotted space. You can plant crops, build generators, wells, and workshops, and even stores. These settlements do need people, and they need beds, food, and most importantly protection. Despite being able to build fortifications and turrets, you will still occasionally need to go help the settlers fight off various attacks.
Despite all of the comparatively new content, the hidden mini-games, the companion app, and the integrated character creation, Fallout 4’s take on Boston does feel like a lonely place, at least initially. There are four main factions, but depending on your path it can take a while to meet them all. On my playthrough, 30 hours in, I had only met with The Minutemen, and the ever present Brotherhood of Steel. While I could have found the other groups sooner, it wasn’t part of the path I had chosen to take. There are over a dozen companions to help keep you company, and some of them can actually be quite chatty.
For the most part, Fallout 4 is really just more of the same. It looks better, sounds better, and can suck up more of your time, but really it’s the same game you either love or hate. Yes, there are some gamers that hate Fallout. It’s bleak, often times depressing, and even Fallout 4’s narrative could be stronger. Of course the ever-present Bethesda technical problems are always skirting the line of making the game unplayable, reportedly more so on Xbox One. Despite the starkness of the post-apocalypse, Fallout 4 can also be terribly immersive, in an emergent way of course. Bethesda has come quite a way, giving players even more reasons to spend time with Fallout 4, and despite its shortcomings, it really is an impressive game.