Open wasteland, a dead wife, a missing kid, and a stereotypical English robot butler named Codsworth. What more do you want from Bethesda’s new open world RPG?

Fallout 4 starts off in the 2070 suburbia, with a guy staring at himself in the mirror. This is the character building stage where customisation options seem to be infinite. You can choose which micro parts of the face to mould into shape, change your hair colour and style, eye colour, give yourself some scars from the war you’ve just returned from, the options are endless. If you fancy playing as a woman, this can be done too. The tutorial part is short, making you walk around, watch the TV, interact with your kid until a salesman type figure comes to the door offering you a chance to go to the vault once the bombs start dropping, which they do, soon after he leaves. Convenient huh?

So as the sirens start whirring, you leg it through what looks like a peaceful neighbourhood with your wife and kid, Shaun to the vault. Detail and character interaction is superb, even at this stage, five minutes into the opening sequence. A highlight is a man and woman arguing about the luggage that has been spilled over the road. The dialogue is beautiful and adds a real sense of placement. Once inside the vault you’re frozen in a chamber, only to be awoken 300 years later by raiders who shoot your wife and steal Shaun away from you. This is where Fallout 4 kicks off.

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Bethesda used their cliché adjusting to light as you come out of the vault to feast your eyes on the horizon for the first time which works. I first saw that in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion years ago, and it still feels fresh. A simple transition to let you know that from here on out, you’re on your own. However, it also gives me a sense that I’ve been here before. It’s a confusing feeling.

Making your way  back to your home town, you’re met with your robot butler again and engage in conversation. Conversation flows so much better in this game than Bethesda’s previous titles. They’ve given the player’s character a voice, and selecting answers feels much cleaner, very similar to The Old Republic style options wheel.

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The levelling system is also very much alive, but with a difference. To me, there doesn’t seem to be as many options to choose from, instead opting for different stages of each perk. Fallout 3 had a long, long list of things to invest your levelling points into.

VATs is back, but does anyone really use it? I’ve never really managed to get my head around it, and opt for a real-time shootout instead. There’s something I don’t quite like about stopping the action to select which body parts to aim at. It takes away tension.

Storyline and character development is by far Bethesda’s strongest asset. They just know how to get it right. Fallout 4 requires you to help out citizens of the Commonwealth by providing shelter, food, electricity and water to their villages. In turn they will join you to fight in dire circumstances. It’s a nice distraction from the main story and works very well.

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Fallout 4 is great, there is no question about that, but I can’t help thinking that I’ve done everything before. The additions to the game such as building the villages is a nice touch, and having your dog follow you around as a companion is nice, but at the same time, much of it feels stale. Saying this I will definitely be continuing to play it again, and again, and probably again too.

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Stef Murphy

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