After seven long years of waiting, “Fallout 4” was finally released on Tuesday, marking the latest installment of Bethesda Softworks’ atom-punk retro-futuristic universe of “Fallout.” For those who haven’t played the previous games, “Fallout 4” is not a direct sequel, and is as good a place as any to get into the series.
“Fallout 4” takes you on a journey through “The Commonwealth,” the post-apocalyptic version of a part of Massachusetts, which is home to a shadowy organization known as “The Institute.” Throughout the game, you’ll hunt down The Institute through a devastated Boston and its surrounding areas, 200 years after nuclear war has annihilated the world. Yet as is necessary for good science fiction, this world is incredibly compelling.
You’ll find yourself running through abandoned cities “I Am Legend” style, with feral ghouls coming out of crawlspaces and Deathclaws emerging from the sewers. Bethesda Softworks fully understands the anxiety of travel, with danger lurking around every corner. Outside of the city is no different. Everything received a visual redesign, making familiar creatures more intimidating and new creatures packed with their own sets of challenges.
Furthermore, the dynamic weather really helps add to the atmosphere. You can be following your quest marker when a radiation storm suddenly blows through, or a fog falls upon the city that you’re traveling through, blinding you from the dangers ahead.
The balance of play has been shifted, leaving you with significantly less health than in previous games. The trade-off is that well aimed attacks will do much more damage than before. You’re constantly trying to hedge your radiation exposure, because prolonged radiation starts to significantly impact your health. Head-shots kill, radiation hurts and laser beams leave unarmored opponents in appropriately animated heaps of ash. On the whole, everything seems much more vulnerable to death and destruction.
When Bethesda Softworks first announced that “Fallout 4” would feature a voiced protagonist, many people began to fear the worst. Bethesda Softworks games have always emphasized player freedom, and a voiced protagonist seemed like an infringement of this freedom. However, in application, it’s hard to imagine playing the game in a different way. The way the protagonist interacts with the world, voicing out concerns and intrigue, provides some levity to ridiculous moments and humanity to tender ones. The voice acting has also seen a considerable improvement compared to the previous games as conversation now flows and sounds like actual human dialogue.
“Fallout” has always been about player customization. Throughout the game, you’ll uncover settlements which you’re contracted to help rebuild. While it isn’t as easy as one would hope, it adds a custom element to the game that lets you play a more direct role in constructing your world. Along with this, the new armor system allows you to create a unique character appearance. The new perk map also streamlines the leveling process, making it easier to give your character the abilities you want them to have earlier on in the game.
“Fallout 4” is not a perfect game, but it’s a great game. It’s an experience that emulates the essence of survival, tells stories of life post-apocalypse and questions what it means to be human. Along the way, you’ll make tough decisions, meet interesting characters and feel an obligation to help the world around you get back on its feet. Never short of things to do and explore, “Fallout 4” is a game that will keep you enjoyably busy for months on end.