Reviews

Retro Review | Fallout 4 (2021)

Nuclear Fun for the Whole Family

This game was reviewed on Xbox Series X

A Wicked Deadly Fyootcha Dude

Set in a Dystopian Massachusetts a few hundred years in the future, Fallout 4 was originally released on November 10th of 2015 to mostly positive coverage. The narrative, gameplay, and soundtrack were praised for their high level of quality. On console though it became apparent that the game was a bit of a mess. The framerate was inconsistent, rarely sticking to the 30fps target. There were numerous bugs that led to a wide variety of issues. How have the last 5 plus years of patches and community modding work helped shape this title, and how does it run on the new generation of Xbox consoles?

War Finally Changes

The years, and massive increase to power, have been incredibly kind to Fallout 4. I played through the main story and quite a large amount of the side content on an Xbox Series X using both the newly introduced FPS Boost mode and with a “4k 60fps Ultra PC Settings” mod. Of the two I ended up sacrificing my achievements and using the mod. The drop to 1080p with the boost mode enabled was too much for me, and the extra graphical settings of the modded version along with various texture packs made the game a legit stunner at times. There is an enormous modding community around the game, one that is far bigger on PC as there is a size limit for mods on the console version, and I highly recommend it to anyone that is going to try this game for the first time now that it has joined Xbox Game Pass. I played the game at launch, and the combat at 30 fps felt floaty and downright terrible. 60 frames per second is an enormous help, and while it is still not a great feeling it’s a massive improvement. The RPG systems here are tried and true, and if you played Fallout 3 you know what to expect. I ended up pushing a build that focused on hacking, charisma and hitting hard with single-shot rifles and I loved it. The V.A.T.S. automatic aiming system is back but at 60fps I found myself barely ever using it. Occasionally the capability of forcing a critical hit through it was tempting enough to hit the left bumper, but with the input lag being severely reduced at the higher framerate I did not use it often compared to my launch playthrough.

Follow the Freedom Trail

Fallout 4 begins with a solid character creator. I am generally terrible at these, so I hit the randomize button on my husband-and-wife combo until I felt satisfied. My 2015 playthrough was as a female, so this time I went with the male character and was happy to find that his voice acting was decent. Overall I’d say the voice acting is slightly better than The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim but is still a notch below the best in the industry. There is one synthetic exception I’ll touch upon shortly. A strong opening has you making a mad dash to get into your Fallout shelter vault as Nuclear War is starting to destroy America. After just making it in time you’re frozen in a cryo-pod. Nefarious goings on lead to you not exiting the pod for a very, very long time as you awaken to a beautiful but desolate version of future Massachusetts. As you start on your path to the main quest you’ll visit various landmarks which as someone born and raised in the state I found it to be odd and exciting. This smashed together version of future “around Boston” Massachusetts is the main star of the game for me. Most of the characters are ok, though many do come off as one-dimensional. The real star is the “synth” robot detective who goes by the name of Nick Valentine.

Nick comes from one of the potential big-bads (depending on your choices) called “The Institute”. He’s straight out of a 1940’s American detective movie, and his storyline as one of your potential companions was fantastic. The voice acting and writing were my favorite in the game, and I found myself making the choices I felt would make him happy as I grew attached to having him around. There are multiple companions you can bring with you, the first being a trusty K-9 companion named Dog Meat. I admit I used a mod so that I could always have dog-meat with me alongside Nick or one of the other potential recruits you meet along the way. It was one of the many times I felt that fans had taken what was a solid base and turned it into something even better through the modding system.

Thankfully, the narrative is excellent. Main and side-story alike are generally well written, with excellent world-building, and your choices help craft a genuinely emotional journey. The ending hit me hard, and I felt proud that my choices had led me to stay friendly with the various factions I had interacted with.

The Beautiful Sites and Sounds of the Wasteland

The creation engine saw a nice improvement here overall versus Skyrim, though animations were still severely lacking. A new workshop system was introduced that allowed you to strip down and build up the various settlements you could find around the map. These were home bases you could recruit people to, but for them to be happy and safe you would need to build them shelters, provide beds, food, water, and defensive systems. Getting the items needed for this meant looting, and the weight encumbrance system meant you couldn’t just quickly grab everything you found. There was a balance of looting vs. storing that was a massive pain to deal with on the Xbox One generation. Fast traveling was never actually fast before, but thanks to the SSD available with the Series X it finally is. Most of the times I traveled around it took me no more than 8 seconds with most of them taking 4 or 5. As you locate areas on the map most of them become fast travel spots. This is a huge quality of life improvement over my launch playthrough, and it made the game much more enjoyable.

The soundtrack for the game is excellent. I found myself humming the piano chords of the main theme repeatedly throughout my time, and the combat music help get your heart racing while a group of feral ghouls is trying to gnaw your face off. Sounds effects are solid though the guns sounded a bit flat at times in comparison to more modern titles like Battlefield V.

How About Them Bugs Though?

Unfortunately with or without mods I still ran into a lot of bugs during my 30 hours or so. Most were not major, mostly clipping through items or having to reposition myself in just the right way to get an interaction prompt. Some though were completely game breaking and forced me to reload. Numerous times I had the last NPC in an encounters show up on my compass but they had fallen through the world so I simply could not kill them to get the game to move me on to the next point of the mission. Thankfully the save system is easy enough to use that I rarely lost more than 5 or 10 minutes of progress but a few times I lost almost 30 minutes, as I had forgotten to manually save.

In Conclusion

Fallout 4 is a damned good video game. It has its fair share of problems, and the engine really does feel dated now, but with a robust modding community and a compelling narrative it’s an easy recommendation through Xbox Game Pass. Without the ability to mod away many of the issues I wouldn’t be as quick to recommend it, and if you care more about achievements then you may want to hold off. Overall though I loved my time with game, and I’m incredibly excited to see what they do next with Starfield.

Fallout 4 is available on Xbox One, Xbox Series consoles, Windows PC, and through Cloud Streaming on Xbox Game Pass.

Fallout 4

8.3

Awesome

8.3/10

Pros

  • Solid Narrative
  • Modding Tools Help Immensely
  • Fantastic Music

Cons

  • Subpar Voice Acting at Times
  • Stiff Animations
  • Gameplay is Terrible at 30fps

Jesse 'Doncabesa' Norris

Proud father of two, lucky to have a wife far too good for me. I write a ton of reviews, am a host on the You Had Me At Halo podcast, and help fill out anywhere I can for our site.

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