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Fallout 4

Score: 98%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ RPG/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

As one of the most anticipated games of 2015, Bethesda Softworks has delivered the apocalyptic Action RPG Fallout 4 to the masses and, like the nuke that inspired it, the game is welcomed with a thundering bang. While there are reports of the game running at lower framerates on consoles (and presumably on minimum-requirement PCs), the game looks absolutely gorgeous and runs perfectly with Ultra settings on the PC. The environment detail is, in a word, epic. After the world becomes a nuclear wasteland, you’d expect things to be desolate and in disarray, and the visuals don’t disappoint. Sure, gamers who have played Fallout 3 will see a lot of similarities, but the amount of detail in this sequel should please even the most critical of gamers.

The destruction that is present, along with the variety of locations throughout the Fallout 4 game zone – referred to as the Commonwealth (formerly Boston) – represent the amount of detail that went into the construction and thought of the world’s creation. Sure, there are TONS of reused assets throughout both the exteriors and interior of the game, but even when a feeling of déjà vu strikes, uniqueness presents itself in the form of subtle variations (and sometimes randomness/random encounters).

Attention to detail doesn’t stop with the environments either. In fact, the weaponry of Fallout 4 is top notch as well. With the sheer variety of guns and other assault items available for customization, the visuals keep on going. Characters generally impress as well. Although they certainly don’t attain the detail achieved in some other titles of this gaming generation, the vastness of the world and polygons that get pushed in Fallout 4 warrant a bit of a downgrade in honor of performance. Still, you’ll be able to customize your character at the beginning of the game, and get another opportunity to make adjustments just before leaving your underground vault. (Although I haven’t come across it yet, I’ve read that it’s also possible to make adjustments by talking with NPCs in the world, like a plastic surgeon or barber, for example. Character attributes begin in the vault, but are gained as Experience Points (XP) is gained (more detail below).

Characters, both playable and non-playable (NPCs), are also a major factor in Fallout 4 because they drive all of the storylines. Fortunately, most of the voice acting is outstanding as well, which allows players to become totally immersed in the experience. This includes your own character as well, which is a grand improvement for the franchise. Add to that the environmental sounds and NPC/enemy dialogues and you have the makings of a near-perfect overall audio-visual experience. Even the incredibly contrary happy-go-lucky 1950's music and other more subtle audio choices and sound effects blend perfectly to drive the key ingredient of Fallout 4, the gameplay.


Without its quest-based stories, Fallout 4 would be nothing more than an entertaining shooter, but because the game has the ability to suck you into the storyline and never let go, be prepared for entertaining and addictive gameplay. Those familiar with its predecessor will be well aware of the vast landscapes that can be traversed and the oodles of quests that can be unlocked, only this time you'll focus on the the US’s Northeast area. While the game does follow a main storyline, around every turn there are side missions that can help you loot, kill, and become allies with the inhabitants of the Fallout universe.

Taking place across generations and beginning with the Great War of 2077, Fallout 4 follows the story of a survivor of Vault 111 in search of a missing baby. The game begins before judgement day, with a mad scramble for a nuclear bunker just before the bombs go off. Fast-forward to present day, and your character awakens and emerges from underground only to find a barren wasteland full of survivors, mutants, and lowlife scum that have a different take on what this new civilization should look like.

Initially equipped with only what can be scavenged, your character begins a mission of not only search and rescue, but of sheer survival. Along the way, a variety of weapons, armor (including Power Suits), health, and anti-radiation meds are available. Of course, so is the handy PIP Boy arm attachment where you’ll be able to access unlocked quests, adjust inventory, use the map, and track stats and progress (there is also a handy companion app downloadable from your favorite app store). From the beginning, players are introduced to different aspects of the game, but the reality is that in a way fitting of the surroundings, they are also just thrown into the fire. Talking to friendlies is how things begin and quests surface. The game contains a number of typical "go fetch" type missions, but also a number where the sole objective is to clear out an area and secure it for allies. Depending on your difficulty level and experience with the series, this can be relatively easy on up to downright exhaustive.

The real charm of Fallout 4 goes well beyond these missions, however. Quests often directly or indirectly relate to general involvement within the game world too. Because this is essentially an action shooter that combines with elements of the RPG genre, Fallout 4 allows for weapon and armor crafting and also asks that you help rebuild the settlements around the Commonwealth game world by erecting buildings and helping settlers with agriculture and defense. Many of the environment’s props are interactive in this title as well, which allows for a lot of "junk" to be picked up, in addition to weapons, armor, and other useful items. What is great though is that everything can be repurposed into the creation and modification aspects of the game, causing players to really not want to leave a single stone unturned.

Additionally, XP from kills and completing quests, among others, turns into leveling up, and leveling up allows for additional Character Perks to be awarded in any order of your choosing. Building a unique character is at the hands of players and depending on their goals and play style, can uniquely benefit or hurt future interactions and opportunities. This is the real hook for what makes Fallout 4 addictive… its RPG elements and leveling up system. There are a lot of categories that make up the "S.P.E.C.I.A.L." Perk System that really do make a difference in which types of abilities you progress. Character development really comes down to personal preference, which again, is a major component of the role playing portion of the game. Equally engaging, however, are the weapon mods and armor forging that happen as a result of the scraps found throughout the world. Here, making choices can directly affect the quality of your artillery and defense, including balancing speed and firepower with weight, as characters (including companions like your trusty canine, Dogmeat) are stymied by a limiting weight factor.

As great as Fallout 4 is… and it is GREAT… the game does not come without a few issues. While most of the bugs that I’ve come across so far have been minor, at best, there are reports of those that crash the game and can end things quicker than an atomic bomb. It is advised that players do walk the fine line of researching known issues without actually coming across spoilers until Bethesda releases patches to address these issues.

That said, the gameplay as a whole is top-notch, allowing for players to take control in either a first or third person point of view while exploring the aftermath of nuclear annihilation. Keep in mind, however, that the game plays better with the FPS perspective, and was likely designed around this as there are subtle nuances associated with controlling from the third person that aren’t quite as good. Additionally, a huge part of the game’s combat revolves heavily around the VATS system that essentially puts the game into slow motion while it allows players to select the body parts of enemies to attack. Each part has a percentage-based success rate that goes up or down based on your character and weapon attributes, as well as environmental conditions, and is limited by the number of Action Points (AP) that your character has available (they replenish based on time). The benefit here is that the game all but pauses, giving players time to react, but it does come at the expense of accuracy. However, the option to use typical real-time shooter strategies while dodging baddies works great as well -- much better than Fallout 3 -- and can often result in a higher hit percentage. This, along with many other aspects of the game, contributes to what feels like a real emphasis on balance in the gameplay.

The game really does take things an extra mile with subtle wins that help make Fallout 4 unbeatable as a whole. Nuances have been put into the game that range from the overt to Easter eggs that will go unmentioned here. For example, providing that you’ve named your character something from this Names List, your robotic companion, Codsworth (voiced by John Cleese), will actually speak your name. There are also wedding rings in your possession from the start that may spark curiosity among gamers. Sometimes other encounters (personal and electronic) may spark something inside. All told, there is something intricate about Fallout 4 that hits at the subconscious level and shows just how much detail went into this game’s creation.


Fallout 4 has a number of difficulty levels, so I first played on the default "Normal" for the majority of my time in the game, banking on most players doing the same. It’s always good to see what the developers of a title feel a solid, yet average difficulty would be. Almost from the onset of the game, players are shown just how unforgiving the Fallout universe can be, especially if they don’t take advantage of the resources presented. It is easy to die, and death will come knocking frequently… sometimes when least expected. Fortunately, the game allows for a save anywhere type of system, so it is convenient (almost too much so) to fall back on this technique for both reassurance and resurrection.

That said, "using your resources" can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To some, this means pillaging for weaponry, health, and radiation boosts. To all, this will also mean customizing and improving weapons and armor, as well as strategic arrangements when building out settlements. Yet to others, this may mean saving every two minutes to not lose progress or to backtrack in the event of an unexpected explosion or ambush. The latter is one of the downsides of Fallout 4’s difficulty because it (along with a few other unmentioned "tricks") allows for more reckless abandonment without consequence. This is the one area where a bit more balance would have been a welcome addition.

Even still, Fallout 4's balance between leveling up of character versus that of your enemies is done well even on the default settings. Even though this title is very non-linear, there tends to be a more linear enemy progression as your character progresses through the Commonwealth. Seasoned gamers, however, will want an adrenaline boost and max out and move up to the "Survival" setting. When tested out, "Survival" lives up to its name. Raiders and other unpleasant enemies pack a lot of power in their attacks, giving the feeling that players will constantly have one foot in the coffin. It is here where utilizing your resources, despite how authentic you feel about that, is a grave matter… one way or another. What this returns to the player is a true sense of accomplishment, however, and that is well worth reloading as many times as it takes.

Game Mechanics:

Aside from the standard FPS keyboard controls (WASD and the like), Fallout 4 has additional technical aspects to it. Being that this review covers the PC version of Fallout 4, it needs to be mentioned that the default keyboard/mouse controls are generally pretty good, although there are what feel to be a lot of buttons to press and can take some time to get used to. One of the benefits of this control, however, is more precision using mouse control than what console gamers can get, although the VATS system’s auto-lock on targets somewhat negates that anyway.

That said, an Xbox One or 360 controller can also be used for a more living room experience. Both the keyboard/mouse and controller configurations can be customized per-button, giving complete freedom to the player. Thankfully this is the case, because one of the main gripes (albeit fixable) I have about Fallout 4 is its default controller scheme because it just doesn’t feel natural at all. One potential issue is shared buttons, however. While this didn’t happen often, it is pretty easy to accidentally turn on your PIP Boy’s light or drop/throw a grenade when attempting to show the PIP Boy or melee a close enemy, respectively. Changing controls also runs the risk of not being able to jump while creating settlements or having multiple controls for picking up items.

As mentioned, Fallout 4 isn’t without its flaws, mind you, as there are a few bugs out there that potentially can detract from the overall experience. Save for some of those, Fallout 4 is a near-perfect game that has certainly lived up to the hype. This is one of those games that anyone with interest in it should just pick it up and invest the extensive number of hours for the pure enjoyment that it will offer. I highly recommend playing on PC if your system can keep the visuals looking great while keeping the framerate up, but also highly recommend a controller experience. At the launch of the game, Fallout 4 is also available at Redbox for the Xbox One and PS4 to try before you buy. Any way you choose it, however, you’ll quickly realize just how hard it is to flip the power switch off once engaged in the Fallout 4 universe, and it both revives and sets a new standard for story and quest-driven gameplay.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:

Intel Core i5-2300 2.8 GHz/AMD Phenom II X4 945 3.0 GHz or equivalent; 8GB RAM; NVIDIA GTX 550 Ti 2GB/AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB or equivalent; Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit OS required); 30 GB free HDD space

Test System:

Windows 10 Pro 64-bit; Intel Core i7-5930K CPU @ 3.50GHz (12 CPUs); 32GB RAM; nVidia GeForce GTX 980; Xbox One Controller

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