If you haven’t heard of the Fallout franchise you might be living under a rock.
The latest installment of this action RPG series by Bethesda Studios was released Nov. 10th, 2015 and generated nearly 1 billion dollars of revenue in the first 24 hours it was launched.
And fans and critics both agree Fallout 4 is a masterpiece. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to serious gamers.
Although relatively unheard of and un-championed, Fallout 1 was released way back in 1997 – back before video games were cool. Fallout instantly set itself apart from the other games with its post-apocalyptic, retro-futuristic setting and story line. To make a movie comparison, just think Mad Max or the Book of Eli-meets-American Graffiti.
You play the survivor of a devastating nuclear war that lives amongst an irradiated earth. Often faced with moral dilemmas, your hero can decide to help or harm the inhabitants of the Fallout world. The open-ended story line is like reading a “Choose your own adventure” book and the choices you made directly affect the final outcome to the game.
All of the Fallout games employ the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system. When you create your character you assign skill points into 7 different categories: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. And this brings up another reason why the Fallout series has been so darn successful – there are so many different ways to play.
You can choose to fight hand to hand, with melee weapons such as bats or knives, or good ol’ fashioned guns all with powerful damage and unique bonuses. Or, you can choose to not fight at all. Kyle Hinckley of The Weirdist YouTube channel made news by beating Fallout 4 without fighting anybody – the ultimate pacifist.
The S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system forces you to make a decision. There are only a limited amount of skill points and you can assign them equally or skew yourself in any single direction. Perhaps you’d like to be a sniper that sneaks around and scores headshots from afar, so you max your perception, luck and agility skills – but in order to do this you must trade off strength and charisma which makes you a physically weak, yet lucky anti-social character.
Or you assign your points into charisma, endurance and intelligence skills to avoid confrontation altogether by talking your way out of danger. You can also use your brain power to computer hack through locked doors and get to new areas. And because your endurance is maxed you can run away for a few miles when all else fails.
Alternatively, some players go the jack of all trades route and become terrible at everything.
Regardless of how you play, all of these combined freedoms give Fallout almost unlimited replay-ability. Players can beat the game once as a morally good, brute-force strength type of character but play through the entire game again as a frail evil genius. It is quite a remarkable system.
And so Fallout 4 carries on this legacy by tastefully revamping the features of the old games and integrating FPS elements borrowed from popular shooters. Bethesda went beyond the call of duty to implement a dynamic dialogue system that boasts over 111,000 lines of beautifully recorded speech.
This release is also the first to have an advanced crafting system that allows you to upgrade your guns with customized scopes, bayonets, and other modifications. You can even build and populate your own town which is a nice touch for all the budding mayors out there.
No review would be complete without mentioning the jaw-dropping 43 square mile play area of Fallout 4. Imagine downtown Boston with surrounding country side accurately modelled in 3D glory down to the smallest detail. There are so many encounters, areas, and secrets it’s like a giant Easter egg hunt every time you play.
Fallout 4 does have its drawbacks. Some are critical of the “weak” ending to the storyline but the company most definitely wrote the story with an expansion game in mind. Parents be warned this game is rated M for mature and it is intended for adult audiences, so beware. Also, there is no multiplayer settings – this game is a single player experience. But what a great experience it is.