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Fallout 4 review: Won't set the world on fire, but might start a (tiny) flame in your heart

Hayden Dingman | Nov. 10, 2015
For nigh-on fifteen years, Bethesda’s games have stood as my benchmark for the open-world genre—from Morrowind’s opening “Wake up, we’re here” all the way through the last minute I played of Skyrim. Even Oblivion’s obvious missteps mattered little to me at the time, given the scale of the game.

Fallout 4

These implied narratives are often more interesting than the game’s actual story beats. You’re basically playing post-apocalyptic archaeologist and piecing together an idea of who must’ve lived there, before the bombs fell, while Bing Crosby croons at you in the background.

I don’t want to set the world on fire

Fallout 4 is so diluted, though. This is a much bigger game than Fallout 3, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that makes it better.

Conventional wisdom says Fallout 3 was Oblivion, but with guns. And on the surface, yes—Fallout 3 definitely had more in common with Oblivion than it did with Interplay’s isometric CRPGs.

But Fallout 3 was actually fairly radical, as far as Bethesda’s games are concerned. There are only 150ish named locations in the entire game, most separated by expanses of wilderness. And nearly every location (minus the subways) existed for some reason, be it a quest or a unique piece of loot.

Fallout 4

Fallout 4 is actually much closer to Oblivion with guns—a vast map, littered with icons, each ostensibly representing a place for players to delve into. But only maybe half of the locales in Fallout 4 actually feel useful or special or have some sort of interesting facet to them. The rest are repetitive combat arenas and glorified post-apocalyptic spelunking.

It makes exploration feel somewhat like a chore. You come upon a factory—say, the Poseidon Reservoir or Wattz Consumer Electronics—and you have to make a snap judgment. “Is it going to be worth my time to go in here?” And all-too-often in Fallout 4, the answer is no.

I could direct blame at a number of new features. I mean, the size of the game obviously. It’s big and padded with “Content,” meaning a lot of locations seem to exist just to exist—to let you shoot a few more ghouls and pick up some more bobby pins or whatever.

Fallout 4

But that points to another issue: The lack of unique loot. There are very few unique weapons in Fallout 4—in nearly a hundred hours, I’ve found a grand total of...five. Even boss enemies, who you’d expect to have a unique weapon or unique armor, often reward you with trash items.

This was done, I suppose, to convince players to use the new Crafting system. Found a totally boring, generic 10mm pistol? Now you can break down all the trash items in the game into components, which allows you to add a scope or a larger magazine or what-have-you onto basic weapons! And then you can name it and make your own custom weapon!

 

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