Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
Big Ross returns from wandering the wastes to gush about the latest edition of the Fallout franchise.
Old-school Fallout purists may not like what Bethesda Softworks has done to the Fallout franchise since buying the rights and making it their own with the release of Fallout 3 in 2008. I can’t say I agree, as I fell madly in love with that game and the larger Fallout mythos in general. Even the follow-up, Fallout New Vegas (developed by Obsidian) was excellent and innovative. Now we finally have a true sequel to Fallout 3 with the release of Fallout 4 on 11/10/15. I’ve been playing as much as I can and loving every minute of it. I haven’t spent enough time with the game to write a proper review, but I did want to highlight some of my favorite things about Fallout 4.
10) The Graphics and Color Palette
Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas both suffered from rather drab, almost monochrome color palettes. Coupled with them being run on some rather dated (even when they were new) graphics engines, and with some few exceptions neither is what you would call a pretty game. So it’s refreshing that with Fallout 4, Bethesda has not only updated the graphics, but completely overhauled the look of the fallout world with a varied and vibrant color palette.
09) The Weather System
Fallout 3 had a day/night cycle, and that was pretty much it. Night was uniformly dark as much as day was uniformly bright. It’s revelatory that Fallout 4 features not only a more dynamic day/night cycle, but weather patterns too! And the thing I love the most is that there seem to be “normal” rain and thunderstorms, and then there are “radstorms” (my term, nailed it) – thunderstorms that subject you to brief exposures to radiation anytime lightning flashes. It’s awesome.
08) Feral Ghouls are Properly Terrifying
Feral ghouls are essentially radiation-induced zombies of the Fallout world. In Fallout 3 they were little more than cannon fodder. These melee-exclusive enemies were easily spotted from a distance, and just as easily dispatched. Fallout 4 changes everything, by taking a page from Left 4 Dead to make feral ghouls much more interesting and challenging. They’re better at hiding and ambushing you, faster, have better AI, a tendency to swarm, and a revamped look that all combine to make them some of the scariest enemies I’ve encountered so far. I hate feral ghouls, but I love them too.
07) The New Radiation Mechanic
Speaking of radiation, I’m incredibly happy and intimated at the same time by the new rad system. In Fallout 3 radiation came from the environment, and your exposure was cumulative. If your Rad Level got too high you’d suffer from Radiation Sickness, which would worsen the higher your exposure level got. You would suffer penalties to your Endurance and overall hit points. Great in theory, but the problem was that drugs to prevent or remove Rads were so abundant, you literally never had to worry about Rad exposure.
In Fallout 4, the Rad System has been completely changed. You now take Radiation Damage, which reduces your max level of hit points concurrent to exposure. This makes radiation a constant and imminent threat. It heightens the tension, and makes you much more wary of your surroundings. And I’m happy (and a little worried) to say that at least in the early game, Rad-X and Rad-Away are quite scarce.
06) Changes to V.A.T.S. and Critical Hits
The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.) made sense in the turn-based combat of the original game. I thought it was cool in Fallout 3, but it was more “necessary tactic” than “neat option” what with the weapon spread and lack of true iron sights. These two deficits were rectified in Fallout New Vegas, and I found myself using V.A.T.S. significantly less in that game. Thankfully, V.A.T.S. (and combat in general) has been updated in Fallout 4.
Weapon spread seems to be largely gone, true iron sights exist, and V.A.T.S. is fun and cool. It doesn’t completely freeze the game (like in Fallout 3) but slows it down (a sort of bullet-time), which keeps combat more fluid and dynamic. And critical hits have been changed and incorporated into V.A.T.S. In the past critical hits had a “chance to hit,” which you could increase with perks and clothing and such. They weren’t random per se, but you had no control over when they happened. In Fallout 4 you have a Critical Meter, and each hit you score in V.A.T.S. partially fills it. Once full, you activate a critical hit in V.A.T.S., which aside from doing bonus damage is a guaranteed hit. It’s awesome and makes using V.A.T.S. not only fun but valuable.
05) The New Perks System
In previous Fallout games, when you leveled up you would get to select a perk. There were a ton of these, and they did all sorts of things to affect your character and gameplay from simply giving you more hitpoints or damage resistance; a bonus to damage output with particular classes of weapons; or additional dialogue options with members of the opposite sex. One of the problems I always found was that these were organized in any way, and it was hard to see how different perks could work together. I’m happy to see that the perks system is another area that went back to the drawing board in Fallout 4. Now everything is laid out in a chart, and perks are associated with your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes. I really like the change.
04) The New Dialogue System
A lot of people seem to dislike the new dialogue system, which like so much else in Fallout 4 has been completely overhauled from previous games. But consider me an apologist of it. I really like the new system. It reminds me a lot of the dialogue in the Mass Effect games, and while Bioware may have done it better, the effort Bethesda puts forth here is worlds better than the dialogue in Fallout 3. A single-view, one-way “conversation” with a talking head while the rest of the world is “paused” is not fun. I’ll take the Fallout 4 system any day.
03) The In-Game World
Bethesda has been great at creating big, open worlds to explore. Some of the best parts of Fallout 3 had nothing to do with the main quests and missions, but happened when you were just out exploring on your own. Fallout 4 takes that idea and injects it full of PsychoJet. Gone are the single-street towns and monotonous landscapes of the Capital Wasteland. The Commonwealth is diverse, vibrant, and alive (while being long-since dead at the same time). The towns and cities feel like big, proper urban environments. There aren’t loading screens standing between you and most of the buildings, making exploration feel more fluid and natural.
The other big difference is the sense of verticality in Fallout 4. In Fallout 3, if you managed to find a tall building, which was rare, you had to go through a loading zone to enter it. Once inside, the building essentially functioned as an isolated space, cut off from the outside world. If there were windows, they were opaque. You couldn’t see outside. You were completely disconnected from the rest of the world. It was the same in Fallout New Vegas, and a major missed opportunity in the design of the Lucky 38. In Fallout 4, there are multi-story buildings and proper skyscrapers that you can ascend without passing through a loading screen. They exist as part of the world. It may seem a minor difference, but it is essential in keeping you present in the moment. It also adds a new, interesting wrinkle to combat.
02) Power Armor
Power armor has completely changed, and only for the better. In older games, you didn’t get access to power armor until late in the game, and then it basically was little more than a re-skinning of your character. It didn’t behave any differently than other armor in the game, just had better damage resistance and maybe a strength bonus.
In Fallout 4, everything has changed. You not only get your first suit of power armor VERY early in the game, it feels and acts like an Iron Man-style exosuit you wear. Your HUD and interface are different, movement feels and sounds very different, and you can mod and upgrade it too! The way the game gets around you spending all of your time in power armor is by introducing a new mechanic: fusion cores. You’ll need one to power a suit of power armor, and the more you do in a suit, the faster you’ll use it up. You’ll find more throughout the wasteland, but it still makes power armor feel special. You’ll find yourself weighing your options for when to go to it, saving it for big raids or missions you think will be combat intensive. It’s a great touch, and I absolutely love it.
01) The New Crafting System
Fallout 3 was a world full of junk, debris, and refuse from the old world. Nearly all of it was useless, worthless, and not worth collecting. Fallout 4 changes that with the new crafting system. Now guns and armor can be modified and customized using all the junk you find out in the world. This not only makes looting an entirely different ballgame, adhesive and aluminum almost always take precedence, but also revamps your arsenal. Fallout 3 had very little variety in the guns available, and many of what was available became obsolete fairly quickly due to low damage output. My impressions of Fallout 4 so far are that there are not only more guns available, but they are more viable late game. I absolutely love the new weapon and armor crafting systems.
There is also a new settlement crafting system introduced into Fallout 4. In general, I like it, though the interface as clunky and not very user-friendly. But while not perfect, I think it adds a whole other level to the game that is fun and interesting. I have spent a lot of time with it, but I think it does nothing but add value to the game.