Fallout 4 – Expanalysis

This article gives our impressions on the Xbox One Version of Fallout 4. Based on the most recent patch as of December 9th 2015

The sky has turned a menacing shade of green and a nuclear storm has started to bear down on me. I should be looking for cover, but instead I decide to join a skeleton sat underneath a shredded parasol and gaze upon the far-reaching polluted sea. We’re both watching the tide to and fro between an old ship – rusted and ruined – and a carelessly littered beach full of burned out cars and scraps of metal.  In the distance, I can make out one of many possible future locations, a huge synthetic factory, filled with aggressive and smart artificial intelligence, all equipped with laser pistols. Up above, I see the new home for the Brotherhood of Steel, the Prydwen, a massive blimp filled with revolutionary technology and some of the greatest minds in the Commonwealth.

And to my side, Piper, the love of my life. The intrepid and inquisitive reporter has her pistol at the ready, eager to make the next move.

Fallout 4 is full of details, both minor and major, and the above paragraph doesn’t come close to scratching the surface of how deep, engrossing and enriching this world really is. On that merit alone, the game deserves all the credit in the world because there is so much to see, do and discover.

It’s certainly a larger game than the last numbered Fallout title. The side-missions alone could keep you busy for hundreds of hours. And that’s not to mention the all-new base building/preservation mechanics or the detailed character creation screen which really lets players put their own stamp on this post-apocalyptic universe.

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Boston is a dark and brooding place

The great thing about Fallout 4 is that will be immediately familiar to those who’ve already enjoyed 3 or New Vegas. Bethesda have very much adopted a ‘if it’s not broke’ mentality to developing the game. For instance, the V.A.T.S combat system, which lets you choose a body part to attack and see how likely you are to hit it is as seamless and as satisfying as it has ever been. Unlike Fallout 3 however, it slows the time of combat, rather than stopping it altogether, though this works very well within the fast-paced nature of the game. Other changes also include the ability to remove queued actions within V.A.T.S and a new critical strike bar which charges up after every successful shot. All very logical and welcome changes that actually improve and enhance the existing system.

In addition, things like lock-picking and hacking terminals remain similar, as is map discovery and traversing. The levelling up system, however, has received a bit of an upgrade. For starters, there is no set level cap. Whereas Fallout 3 only allowed you to reach level 20 before its expansions, you can theoretically keep levelling up in Fallout 4 for as long as you like because the game doesn’t finish once the campaign is over. Although, some users have suggested that the game crashes if you try to exceed level 65535…

What this does mean though is that, if you’re committed enough, you can max out all the perks in the game. And there are plenty of them. The Vault-Tec Perk chart starts you off with the foundation skills: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. Each core skill then has a series of levels attached to it. Strength, for example, begins with an Iron Fist perk that increases the damage of punching, and ends with a stagger perk for characters wearing Power Armor.

Players will have to invest in these foundation skills to further develop the associated attributes. Again, this really moulds the character to the player’s style as perhaps never before.

Another big difference is the use of Power Armour. There are some battles in the game that will require an extra level of protection. One Super Mutant stronghold, in particular, springs to mind. So with an Energy Core in hand, players can charge up a suit of armour famously worn by the Brotherhood of Steel and charge into battle, enduring a ridiculous hail of bullets provided they’ve fix themselves up properly. By using Power Stations, players can modify and add to their suits, increasing their effectiveness, colour scheme, any additional attributes it can give your player and more. As you might expect, wearing the suit can make you feel like a total bad-ass when you just want to go in guns blazing and declare your supremacy over the wasteland.

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Sometimes trustworthy. Always faithful.

Character interactions are another big change in Fallout 4, as well as the Companion system as a whole. For starters, any companion you choose to take along with you cannot die, they simply enter a downed state, similar to that found in Gears of War. You can simply bring them back into the fight by jabbing them with one of your Stimpacks. Of course, doing that will deplete your stock, so use them wisely.

Also, your actions in the Commonwealth will directly affect your relationship with each character. Piper, for instance, loves it when you pick locks and generally act like a decent human being when interacting with others. Strong, on the other hand, considers that a weakness and starts to feel detached from you.

Some companions have unique missions for you to undertake, others are just along for the ride, but each will have some form of backstory to tell you. Except Dogmeat of course, he just likes to bark.

Then there’s base-building. Perhaps the biggest new development in Fallout 4 is the ability to establish various outposts throughout the Commonwealth and develop their security defences, boost happiness levels of the inhabitants, and nourish community spirit. This can be done by scrapping all the junk in a nearby area, then converting it into anything from Machine Gun Turrets, to Trader Stores and even Radio Stations.

Any of your companions can be assigned to these outposts to help with their defence, or to keep their morale high and make them feel useful if they’ve been particularly neglected or overlooked. Though it is important to make sure that you’ve set up proper food and water supplies, otherwise people will grow angry and weary, reducing the overall rating of a particular outpost.

You’ll also need to keep your eye on your creations quite often as Raiders and Bandits will regularly try their luck and attempt to overthrow each outpost. If you don’t get there in time, or you’ve not put sufficient defences in place, it’ll be overrun and you’ll have to try and claim it back.

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Join various movements

So, yes, Fallout 4 is great. Excellent, in fact. If you enjoy Bethesda games or you want a massive game to throw yourself into, this is easily one of the finest experiences on current-gen and PC right now.

That being said, the game is swamped with bugs that vary from minor, insignificant details to something completely game breaking. One major example for me actually came during a quest. I had to break a man out of jail in order to help me with a major heist. I was told to use a console in the back in order to create a distraction, but my hacking skill was way too low. So I left with the intention of coming back to do it later.

Except when I exited back out into the Commonwealth, I had a pop up tell me that i’d successfully freed the captive and could continue the mission. Sure enough, he was waiting for me in our agreed spot. So unless i’d suddenly taken a detour to Hogwarts during the loading screen and learned some of Mr Potter’s finest tricks in those brief few seconds, this is a pretty clear indication that the game can do some weird shit in the background.

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So much to see!

Other issues include some graphical disruption and break-up when the camera is left to rove, or when you’re turning a corner and face-planting yourself into a wall. Sometimes characters, even NPCs, will get stuck and you’ll need to come back at a later point and hope they’ve reset themselves. There’s also some pathing and AI issues in the bad-guys that can make life difficult or exceptionally easy, depending how lucky you are.

Despite the issues, Fallout 4 is incredibly beautiful to look at. The environments are sublime, the effect of naked trees, broken signposting and barren landscapes really capture a sense of emptiness and despair, but equally there’s a tenderness in the tranquility.

Even the orchestrated score for Fallout 4 has improved, to the point that I’ve found myself wandering around without the radio on just to listen to it. This is quite a big change for me, considering I was using it almost exclusively in Fallout 3. However, the repetition of existing songs coupled with my personal fatigue of listening to them and my dislike of the new host on the main station, mean I scarcely put it on, save for potential mission updates.

Future Developments for Fallout 4

The introduction of mods has already been massively successful on PC, and is certain to be a real game-changer for console releases as well. Fans have already developed cel-shaded mods, as well as rampaging Thomas the Tank Engine effects and craftable ammo. This has all been done with an unofficial modding package, but Bethesda will soon be releasing something official for all platform users to enjoy.

We also know that the first Fallout 4 DLC will release in early 2016 and there have been some suggestions that it could be underwater focused

Despite a huge base package, one thing is certain, there are PLENTY more amazing things to come from Fallout 4 and we’ll be keeping up with it throughout 2016 and beyond.

The Good Stuff

  • Great updates to existing mechanics and successful implementation of new ones.
  • Always engaging narrative direction
  • Deep, rewarding and will keep you busy for weeks, months, maybe even years with mods.
  • Beautiful graphics and well orchestrated original score.

The Bad Stuff

  • Some pathing and AI issues
  • Break up and distortions in graphics
  • An occasionally volatile engine

Final Analysis

Awesome Award

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Fallout 4 is one of the greatest games of 2015 and is a revolution in open world design. Niggles and issues aside, it stands proudly as Bethesda’s finest hour. 

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,