When I watched Terminator 2 as a kid, I was haunted for years of my childhood. Not by the burning red-eyed endoskeletons or the shapeshifting and unstoppable T-1000, I was haunted by the scene at the beginning of the film, where Sarah Conor rests against a chain link fence just in time to see a nuclear blast ignite. The cataclysm was followed by the explosion’s shockwave ripping apart the city while it stripped people of their skin, leaving them a charred skeleton. It stayed with me for years, I was perpetually terrified that it would happen one day. Fallout 4 re-ignited that fear for me as an adult. This time it came with a brand new appreciation for that devastation, the aftermath and what is one of the most immersive games I have played in decades.
The Beginning of the End
Like most games, creating your character is an obsessive compulsive’s worst nightmare and greatest gift. Fallout 4 found a really natural way to introduce you to your characters and customize their gender and features at the same time. You begin with your character staring into a mirror with your significant other standing by your side. Depending on which gender you select, either the husband or wife will step up to the mirror. When they do, you are free to customize body type, facial features and so on. I spent a little over an hour trying to customize my character into the best version of me that he could be (the one that doesn’t eat tacos and pizza). The process is both grueling and rewarding.
The intro to Fallout 4 does a great job of brining back my childhood fears of nuclear war. The panic in the air is palpable and real. The desperation of people fleeing like chickens with their heads cut off gave me anxiety. The fear that the game aims to create in the first few minutes succeeds on every level that it shoots for. After you and your family are forced underground and into Vault 111, what you are told is a decontamination pod, actually ends up being cryostasis pod. The “shelter” you were told you would be given actually ends up being an experiment that you didn’t sign up for. When you eventually escape the pod you discover that your newborn son has been taken and that the world has become a very different place.
You Can Never Go Home Again
You emerge from your vault to discover that humanity has been decimated. When you travel to your old home in Boston you find it in shambles, the empty dilapidated crib still sits in your sons room. All is lost. The atmosphere is bleak. The only thing that keeps your character going is the drive to find your son.
Boston is a wasteland, with only a few recognizable landmarks sticking protruding through the rubble. The open world sprawls out for miles. This is your new home and the place that you, the gamer, will be spending a million hours of your life.
War Never Changes
Fallout 4 brings back the same combat system that we had seen in Fallout 3. The RPG elements are pretty much untouched and just as good as you remember with a few tweaks here and there. The two big changes that I noticed, was the customization system and the magnitude of the open world. The customization is a part of literally everything in the game. You can customize your armor and weapons in the same way but this also allows you to customize and build towns for survivors to settled down in.
The customization ranges from defense items to furniture. One of the coolest parts of building your town has to be setting up your very own electrical grid. This takes some tinkering but before you know it you will have a town complete with pylons, generator and power couplets.
Boston is a huge area to cover. I got fifty hours in and still have only explored half of the vast map. Each town you visit gives you new opportunities and side missions. My favorite pastime in Fallout 4 has become exploring and looting hospitals and grocery stores. The solitude of those moments and the rewards that they bring are my new zen. When you fully realize that the outside map is only half of the magnitude that lies within certain structures, is when you realize what a humongous world that Fallout 4 has given you to play around in.
The world is savage and unforgiving. No, seriously. If you are a low-level and dare to venture into a part of the map that you think looks interesting, well you better watch out what you run into. There is no combat balance system, so if you run into a a high level scorpion, a pack of blood suckers and ghouls, kiss your ass goodbye because all the first-person-shooter experience in the world is not going to get you out of it alive. I am not complaining, I actually enjoy the fact that you need to watch out for yourself. It creates a real sense of being in this world and adds even more horrifyingly immersive pieces to the puzzle.
Friends, Enemies and More Enemies
Decisions will play a part in who you get along with and who tries to kill you. Different factions have asked me to join or lead their group. These are huge undertakings and big decisions considering that they can either open or close opportunities later in the game. For example a military sect, called Brotherhood of Steel, offered me the chance to be part of their group. The downside for me was that I would have to take orders from the head honcho. And that after I accepted the position, that I would not be able to help any of the other groups. The temptation lay in the fact that you would be given top of the line armor and weaponry. While it sounded good, I didn’t accept the position because I wanted to keep my options open. My ex girlfriend would say I have commitment issues.
Companions are a very welcome return to the game. So far I have found a few who have joined my team. My favorite at this point still has to be Codsworth, your robotic servant. He is the most fun to be around in the field, so far. He seems to have a gone a little mad from being alone in the wasteland for so long and I can appreciate that. He is psychotic and at times goes after targets strictly based on the fact that they disgust him. I find that hilarious. Your dog (aptly named Dogmeat) is a great and adorable addition, but at this point is a little bit too glitchy to work with at times. He sniffs out hidden treasures and bad guys but sometimes gets you into more trouble that it is worth, due to getting stuck in small glitches. I’m sure that Bethesda will patch some of these up and since there are other companions it isn’t something that will hinder your gameplay.
The End is The Beginning
With the time I have put into it, I already know that this has a very special place in my gamer heart of hearts. There is nothing about it that I do not at least like, if not love. This is up there for a game of the year contender in my opinion. It gives us more of the same stuff we loved and only tweaks and streamlines a few aspects of the perks system while offering a bigger wasteland to play in and more missions to work on. It takes a special game to make me rush home from work and stay up till all hours of the night, only to do the same thing the next day, we will all be a little sleep deprived and a little more reclusive but this is the Fallout that we love, so it is worth the sacrifice. Welcome home.