Review: Fallout 4 (PS4)

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Title: Fallout 4
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (32.63 GB)
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Fallout 4 is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

DLC Review(s) For This Game:
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It has been seven years since Fallout 3’s release and the demands from the fan base for a new iteration have finally been heard by Bethesda. Fallout 4 is here.

Fallout 4 takes place in the New England area two hundred years after the world was devastated by nuclear war. You play as either a male or female vault dweller who awakens from a cryogenic chamber only to discover something has happened to their spouse and child.

After equipping a Pip Boy, your vault dweller heads out of the vault and into the Commonwealth in search of their family. There is a lot of story to go through, as well as side quests with branching tangential paths, so in order to keep from spoiling anything I’ll just stick to mechanics from here on out.

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Gameplay:
Let us begin with the world in Fallout 4, also known as the Commonwealth. It’s a mixture of Boston and other parts of the New England area and it’s a large world to explore with a ton of buildings to search and creatures to interact with. The world map might not be the largest in comparison to other recent open world games, but the amount of buildings and facilities you come across make up for that.

There are factories, vaults, and large buildings with multiple levels inside and it is very easy to spend a large amount of time exploring an individual building, either combing a building for items or battling enemies.

Navigation is displayed on your HUD via a compass which is a simple tool that sometimes can look confusing as it is filled with quest markers and locations of interest. The confusion is manageable as long as you do not keep a lot of quests marked on your map, but sometimes it can become easily cluttered and confusing if too many locations are marked.

The main quest, without going into spoiler territory, is an interesting story, and on your way to completing it you will meet other characters that need help. With that, the side quests begin to consume you. There are so many side quests and a majority of them end up being interesting and help to create a living, breathing world.

… V.A.T.S. never really gets old …
I often found myself completely distracted from the main story quest for many hours because I was chaining from side quest to side quest only to remember I had a bigger quest to tackle. It is really easy to see how someone could end up playing this game for dozens and dozens of hours barely touching the main quest. And the crazy part is that there is a lot more to distract players that does not involve any quests at all.

Most of the interactions to be had in Fallout 4 will end in combat. The combat in the Fallout series – while it has never been the best – has always been fun thanks to the V.A.T.S. system. V.A.T.S. allows you to slow down time and aim at specific limbs for a more cinematic shot. With each shot being a dice roll influenced by your abilities and stats, V.A.T.S. never really gets old and in intense situations comes in very handy.

Character stats can be upgraded, which will help you become stronger in combat or better at persuasion every time you gain a level. When you level up, one “Perk” point is given and can be used to increase a stat or gain a new ability, such as taking more damage, becoming more resistant to radiation, or being a better hacker.

There are a lot of options on how to use these points to spec your character and the system allows you to build on your strengths or protect your weaknesses. It’s well designed and leveling up is done pretty easily through the main quest where points are plentiful.

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On your quests you will run across many characters, some of which you will be able to have tag along with you as a companion. You are limited to one companion at a time, but you can rotate them as you please. Rotating them comes in handy as some are better suited for certain situations. These companions will react to your actions and, based on what you are doing, it can affect your relationship.

For example, one of them will comment on your hoarding habits when they should mind their own business. Others will be more accepting of your collecting and you can flirt with them to build a stronger relationship. I kept things pretty business oriented so I did not engage in flirting, instead using the companions for walking storage closets and bullet sponges.

… there is so much more that trash can do …
The biggest distraction in the game is the loot – there is so much of it. Everywhere you turn there is an item you can find value in, either for currency or for scraps. In previous Fallout games you would collect junk and mostly sell that junk to fund your armor and weapon needs.

In Fallout 4 though, there is so much more that trash can do thanks to the weapon, armor, and base building. For example, when you pick up a random teddy bear it is not just a stuffed animal you can sell for a couple of caps, it is leather you can use to craft better armor.

This means if you have OCD tendencies you will want to collect everything you see because it might be usable later for something important. Now there is more reason than ever to explore an abandoned building or check random boxes laying in the street.

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Armor and weapon mods are done through workbenches found in cities and settlements in a simple process. Any gun or piece of armor in your inventory usually can be modified in some form. A weapon can have its clip extended or its sights improved, while clothing can be strengthened, painted, or have pockets added.

When you are at a bench you choose the item you want to modify and from there you are given options on how to modify it and what materials you need. This is where the junk you have collected comes in handy because the materials you need are components in the junk. So if you need three pieces of leather, it will be stripped from whatever piece of junk has leather as a component.

If you are short on supplies you can mark the component needed for search and next time you come across an item there will be an icon to tell you it has the component you need. The customization options are pretty extensive which in turn gives motivation to explore the wasteland even more.

… base building is an interesting aspect of the game …
As you explore the Commonwealth you will come across settlements, and you will be asked to help establish and protect them. This is when the base building element comes into play. The base building is an interesting part of the game and for the most part felt optional outside of its introduction.

This aspect of the game is surprisingly fun and another time sink – as if Fallout 4 did not have enough reasons to keep players engaged. In a settlement, you are tasked with providing the people with shelter, food, power, and defense. To provide this, the workbench mechanics are used again, but on a slightly larger scale.

In each settlement there are supplies already available to build some basic needs, but it is up to the player to make it liveable for the people there. This entails building more complex structures than a bed in a shack, instead building actual houses and generators, or turret and defense units.

… a beautifully depressing place to explore …
Overall, the acquiring of materials is pretty simple as you are able to scrap whole buildings in a settlement or go around the world and finding items to scrap. That part is fun for the pack rats and collectors. What is sort of annoying is the actual building. The mechanics to build are clunky to say the least. I sometimes found myself fighting the game’s auto-snapping of items.

Once I was able to work around some of the shortcomings of the building tools though, I found a great deal of fun with the base building – it can be quite addictive. If you are fond of resource management games, this feature will speak to you.

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Visuals:
Bethesda’s RPGs on the PlayStation 3 were generally troubled ports, but luckily Fallout 4 in my experience ran pretty well especially in comparison to how their games usually run on consoles.

The wasteland is a beautifully depressing place to explore and the detailed environment gives the land personality. The world is big with a lot to explore and, despite its post apocalyptic setting, it has charm and plenty of beauty to find. Settlements and landmarks have a distinct look and feel that bring life to the world.

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Character models are improved over previous games too, having a greater depth of detail and animations to give a more realistic performance. There are still the occasional thousand-mile stares from NPCs, but for the most part they have more facial and body animations to help bring the player into the story.

One issue with NPCs and the visual presentation was something buggy I came across with subtitles. From time to time the subtitles for an NPC would not change from their first sentence until another character spoke. This is not a huge issue and is likely fixable via a patch, but if you rely on subtitles you might want to keep that in mind. The issue did not pop up a lot but when it did, it was annoying.

Bethesda knows how to build a world and Fallout 4 is no exception. Most complaints against their games were the sub-par technical performances on consoles and luckily there is not a lot to complain about with the PlayStation 4 version of Fallout 4. The game held up well with only a few small frame-rate dips during intense battles.

… a back-and-forth flow to the dialogue …
Audio:
Old music from the 1930s and 40s have always been a staple for the franchise, which continues to work well in Fallout 4. Something about Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby fits the atmosphere of the world. Why music stopped evolving after the nuclear bombs destroyed the world is odd, but in this world I am glad it did. The music blasting from a tiny radio in a pile of rubble in an abandoned town never stops being creepy.

The score does the rest of the work and it builds the atmosphere. Musical queues are helpful when wandering the wasteland because it intensifies as danger approaches – and there is a lot of danger out there waiting. Many times I was able to figure out early enough that trouble was ahead based on the musical score, which made the audio so important to survival.

Fallout 4’s voice acting is superb and, when combined with the improved animations, makes for an improved storytelling experience. In Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas the protagonist was of the silent nature and that changes here. The protagonist speaks and both the male and female version do a nice job delivering the lines with passion.

Having the player character speaking in a Fallout game on the PlayStation is a new sensation, but a good tool in adding to the immersion of the story. No longer will the NPCs reply to silence, there will be a back-and-forth flow to the dialogue and it is an appreciated addition to the franchise. There are a lot of NPCs too and surprisingly not a noticeable number of reused actors for the many characters, which is something games of this scale can suffer from.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Fallout 4 is everything fans wanted from Bethesda and more. It is the engaging story and living world we have come to expect from the studio and it takes the Fallout series to the next level.

The core game is fun and new additions – such as the weapon and armor modifications, or base building – are addictive and provide more reasons to spend time in the wasteland. This game is a time sink that demands your attention and with dozens of hours of content, it earns your time.

If you are new to the franchise, this one is welcoming since it does not require knowledge of the previous games to enjoy, but returning players will appreciate more pieces of the Fallout world being added. With the competition for Game of the Year looking strong in 2015, there is no doubt Fallout 4 will be in contention.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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