Fallout 4 - Brutal Backlog

September 13, 2021
Also on: PS4, Xbox One
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Curse Bethesda and their damn sales. Every time the publisher makes their games available for cheaper than a six pack, I end up wasting money on games that inevitably just get added to my backlog. Recently I snagged Fallout 3, which I’m yet to touch, and before that I picked up Skyrim’s DLCs, Fallout: New Vegas’ DLCs and even the first DOOM reboot, but I’m yet to properly play any of them. However, just like I buy liquor that I’ll never drink (seriously, does anyone actually enjoy Southern Comfort?), Fallout 4’s expansions recently went on sale and I snagged them just in time to add them to my long list of games that I’ll probably never get around to playing.

That last bit is a bit of a lie, actually. This time, I’m going to make a conscious effort to at least try and play my newly-purchased DLCs. The last time I played Fallout 4 was when I was still in middle school and completely unburdened by the harsh realities of being a freelance journalist. It’s about time for me to replay the game anyway, so it’s time to delve into a much cooler version of the end of the world than the one we’re all living through.

Two Hours In

In true Bethesda game fashion, the first two hours of my “playthrough” have been spent browsing the Nexus for ways to enhance my experience. For the sake of this review, I’ve tried to keep my mods fairly limited: I’ve installed a few weapon mods, a couple of new clothing options, the mod that gets rid of the base game’s horrendous dialogue system and a couple of small patches to fix bugs I remember being a problem when I played the game originally. 

Miraculously, the mods didn’t crash my game on launch, either. Thanks to the handy Vortex Mod Manager (which I still think is a dumber name than the Nexus Mod Manager), the game boots up normally and doesn’t crash to desktop. With any luck, my mods will work flawlessly and I’ll actually get around to finishing the expansive game without my save game getting corrupted this time around.

Four Hours In

I’ll be honest, in the five years that’ve passed since I last played Fallout 4, it’s amazing that I forgot just how different this game is compared to New Vegas. The protagonist speaks in this entry, there’s a much more traditional leveling up system for me to enjoy, and for some reason, the gunplay actually feels good.

One thing I’m already in love with is Dogmeat. He’s such a good boi.

If you took away the incredibly drab setting and the terrible music, from what I’ve played, Fallout 4 feels a lot like Far Cry 4, which is a compliment to say the least. Although I’m not quite sold on the story yet, which this time focuses on the protagonist trying to find his son shortly after nuclear bombs wipe away the world, I'm really digging the gameplay. It seems like Fallout 4 is basically a good shooter set in an interesting enough world, and I’m absolutely loving it. There’s a distinct lack of solid open world shooters on the market, so assuming nothing changes in the next few hours, I may actually get around to beating the game and its DLCs.

Eight Hours In

I’m a bit further into the game now, and I’m starting to understand why this game isn’t heralded as being one of the best Fallouts of all time. I still absolutely love the gameplay, which has only gotten better as I’ve started to dig into the game’s weapon modding mechanic, but the problem is that the story is incredibly dull.

I’ll admit, I’m not super far into the main campaign — only about a quarter of the way through if I had to guess — but I’ve already started to fall asleep during cutscenes. The story centres around finding the main character’s son, but truth be told, I couldn’t care less about the little twerp because he only appeared in about five minutes of gameplay during what will presumably be a game that takes me 30-odd hours to complete. The people I’ve interacted with along the way seem to be interesting enough — the grizzled robot detective Nick Valentine is particularly noteworthy — but they’re part of a plot that I just cannot be bothered to care about.

This is officially the lamest bachelor pad I’ve ever seen. Where’s the Lego?!

It doesn’t help that, in my brief adventures outside of the main story, there’s not a lot to do. The obligatory military faction has already made its appearance and offered me a questline, and there’s the weird quasi-Sims building mode that was in all of the trailers for the game before launch, but neither those nor the plethora of locations available have interested me. I’m not exactly sure why, but in my admittedly short time with the game, it just seems like the side content isn’t worth engaging with. But who knows, maybe that will change as the game progresses.

Sixteen Hours In

Unfortunately, it seems like the side content in Fallout 4 still isn’t worth bothering with. I’m still trying to figure out why I’m not invested in the incredibly large world that the game offers, something that I have plenty of time to do while running between objective markers, but until I do, I honestly can’t say I’m having a great time with the game.

I’ll be honest, half the reason I’m still playing the game is because I installed a lightsaber mod

To be clear, I still absolutely love the gameplay. The third-person shooting is on par with some of my favourite shooters of the past decade, level ups always provide meaningful perks and the weapon variety is great thanks to the game’s weapon modding mechanics. I’ve also started to make use of the power armour that plays a central role in the game, and I dig being able to add random bits of armour to my otherwise ordinary clothing.

But the problem is that, in between shooting people, I just cannot find the energy to care about anything that the game has to offer. The main storyline is still super dull, I’ve only had one interaction off the beaten path that was enjoyable, and the obligatory major side quests just feel lame. I’m having a hard time caring about anything that isn’t combat-related, which legitimately sucks because Fallout 4 has so many great quality-of-life features in its dialogue system.

I’ll be honest though, I’m starting to get bored of the game, and at some point I’m going to have to go back to my day job, so I’m just going to plough through the remaining third of the story now, hope it gets better, and decide what to do from there.

Twenty-Five Hours In

After effectively speedrunning the last third of the main campaign and making liberal use of console commands, I can’t say that Fallout 4’s story actually gets any better. I’ve just beaten the main quest, and all I could think about at the end of it was how bloody boring it was. Without spoiling anything, I can safely say that Fallout 4 doesn’t do anything interesting narrative-wise. It’s just a typical open world game story that’s complete with its own secret society, mass extinction event and typical ending. Occasionally it makes interesting points about slavery and the influence of technology on society, but those points fell on ears deafened by how mind-numbing the rest of the experience was.

I’m on an airboat and it’s not really going fast and...

I’m glad I’m done with the game, even though I thoroughly enjoyed some of its missions. The final sequence of missions in particular is really enjoyable from a gameplay perspective, and the side characters involved in that set of missions have some great dialogue, but it was hard to enjoy it when I knew it would all end and I’d have to return to a main storyline that I just couldn’t care about. It sucks considering the time investment I’ve made, but that’s games journalism, I guess.

That said, I am going to stick around the Commonwealth for a bit longer. I need to nab some screenshots for this article and at least try out one of the DLCs, but right now, I can’t say I’m dreading uninstalling the game.

Final Verdict

After playing through Fallout 4’s main quest, a handful of side missions and a bit of one of its DLCs, I now understand why fans don’t hold this game in high regard. Although its gameplay is easily the best in the franchise, the story is so incredibly stupid that it’s hard to get invested or immersed in the overall experience. It’s a decent enough way to kill a week of gaming thanks to the game’s solid core gameplay, but considering that Fallout: New Vegas is cheaper and overall a much better game (if fan reviews on Metacritic and my experiences are anything to go by), it’s hard to really recommend this fourth instalment.

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Worth playing? NO - it's unlikely to be worth your time.
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.