Fallout 4 sticks to what works

From Washington to Las Vegas, the Fallout series has brought gamers to post-apocalyptic wasteland around the United States, and the fourth instalment of this role-playing game finds itself in harsh, radioactive Boston.

Fallout 4, developed by Bethesda Game Studios, is easily one of this year's most anticipated games. The moment I learnt about its release date, I knew I had to take some time off to properly immerse myself in the game.

You play as the Sole Survivor of Vault 111, kept safe from the nuclear attacks which semi-ended the world by being cryogenically frozen in an underground vault.

You wake up 200 years after the bombs fell. Awaiting you is a rude surprise. A scarred man has kidnapped your baby son, which starts off your revenge quest as you try to save him. Along the way, you will make contact with the shadowy Institute, an organisation mentioned and referred to in the previous games.

This time round, you get up close and personal with this secretive collection of scientists and makers of humanoid robots known as Synths. You also learn about their disquieting habit of kidnapping people and replacing them with identical android replicas.

But the storyline takes a back seat. Instead, the focus is on the twin appeal of exploration and character-building that has defined the Fallout series.

Post-apocalyptic Boston is eerily beautiful in its devastation. The game is faithful in its rendition of the city. And it is imaginative in its interpretation of a post-nuclear disaster, from the ruins of the city square to the deadly radioactive epicentre of the nuclear strikes known as the Glowing Sea.

The game world is not huge - it is smaller than that of Bethesda's previous game, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - but it is more densely packed, with many points of interest to explore and loot.

It makes exploration less of a carefree stroll through ruined highways and harsh deserts, and more of popping into every hut and building you see to ensure no legendary weapon eludes your trigger-happy paws.

This actually makes the world feel larger than it really is.

The Boston wasteland is obviously not a safe place to be. Luckily, you have absolute freedom to pick the best weapons and level your character in any way you want to navigate this dangerous new world.

There are weapons aplenty in Fallout 4. Increasing the difficulty of the game also improves the chances of getting legendary weapons, which are significantly more powerful than regular ones.

One of the best new features in the game is the ability to modify your weapons and armour. Seeing your favourite gun evolve before your eyes - and seeing it rack up the damage count - is beautiful. It leaves you wanting more.

The levelling system has been streamlined to the point of almost ridiculous simplicity.

The only choice you make when you level up is which perk you want. Gone is the option of adding points to the skills you want to specialise in, such as sneak, melee or using big guns. This is a shame, as I enjoyed the strategic element of doing so in previous Fallout games.

True to the free-form nature of the series, Fallout 4 expanded its open-world gameplay to include the building of your own settlements.

The freedom to create a tiny village of small wooden huts, or a sprawling metropolis of steel and power lines, makes the game so much more immersive.

With Fallout 4, Bethesda has proven once again that its mix of exploration, character-building and oodles of sidequests is what works and what the fans want.

With the sheer amount of content and exploration to be done, it is a game that gamers can, and will, spend tens, or even hundreds, of hours on.

RATING: 9/10
PRICE: $69.90 (PC); $84.90 (PS4); $84.90 (Xbox One); $214 (Pip-Boy Edition, PC); $229 (Pip-Boy Edition, PS4 and Xbox One)
GENRE: Role-playing game

This article was first published on November 26, 2015.
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