I jumped firmly aboard the hype train on Fallout 4 release day. I mean I bought my first class ticket, put my feet up and helped myself to a chilled lemonade as that train pulled out of the station. I let myself get washed away in the excitement as it was one of those rare occasions when gaming culture seeped into wider popular culture: Fallout advertising was everywhere, the internet was abuzz and even Conon O’Brian did a little Fallout skit on his talkshow.
I’m a bit of a non-conformist and will sometimes obstinately not do something because it’s so popular (ie watch Game of Thrones) but just this once it was fun to be part of the hype. So with my Pip-boy edition waiting for me at home here are my impressions of launch day and to be honest it was a bit of a mixed bag.
The ugly side of gaming once again reared its ugly head on the internet
Tuesday the 10th of November should have been a joyous day all round as not only was Fallout 4 released but Xbox timed exclusive Tomb Raider was revealed to be an absolute stonker with reviewers awarding it high scores across the board. Instead of celebrating the advent of two excellent games, a boon to the industry as a whole, some choose to use the opportunity to dish out hate in the ridiculous ‘console war’. Xbox players spewed bile across the comment boards of the internet self-congratulating themselves in the knowledge that they get to play Tomb Raider first and that Fallout seemingly plays better on Microsoft’s machine. The Sony faithful countered by yet again trotting out sales numbers and nonchalantly pretended they didn’t care that they don’t get to play the excellent Tomb Raider till this time next year.
I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to gently rib the other side of the aisle on occasion as long as it’s done in good humour but from what I read yesterday there’s a lot of actual hate going around and it’s just sad. This sort of division stokes the fire of massive divides in the gaming industry and puts the advent of an agnostic console that everyone can enjoy further down the line. Very sad indeed.
The Pip-Boy edition of the game was a good purchase – a VERY GOOD PURCHASE
When Fallout 4 was announced at E3 this year, if you were lucky enough to get in early and had £100 to spare, you could have purchased the Pip-Boy edition of the game which came with, you guessed it, a wearable Pip-Boy (the little personal computer the protagonist of Fallout games wears on his or her arm). I’m definitely not one for collectors editions as I feel most of the stuff they come with is just tat, and there’s an argument that the Pip-Boy is just that; but if it is tat, it’s the very best tat available and i wasn’t going to pass it up. The edition came complete with a carry case, a fun, well written manual and ofcourse the Pip-Boy itself which was of surprisingly good build quality. Now the Pip-Boy is just a glorified phone case that houses your smartphone as it runs the Fallout companion app and it’s here that the true joy of the Fallout experience is realised.
When the next-gen consoles were released two years ago, one of the key promises that came with them was second screen gaming and assurances were made of games being released with well thought out, useful companion apps that would enhance the experience.
Twenty Four months later, Fallout 4 is the first game that makes this promise a reality and the Fallout app is pretty essential to get full enjoyment from the game proper. You can control all menu functions typical to an RPG from the ‘Fallout’ app including inventory management, quest management, a gander at your map and your general status. As you manipulate the menus on the app it updates in real time on your Playstation meaning you don’t have to pause the game to manage your character. This functionality is an absolute game-changer and really made the whole experience much more engrossing for me. I wondered the virtual wasteland with a Pip-Boy on my real life arm and had a bit stupid grin on my face the whole time. Other developers have to take notice quickly and implement similar functionality with their titles. This is the future of gaming people.
The start of the game had its ups and downs
So after lovingly unpacking my Pip-Boy edition I settled down with the game and managed two and a half hours or so before having to turn in for the night. The beginning of the game was of a very high standard and I had a lot of fun but that’s not to say it was perfect.
*Spoilers ahead**Spoilers ahead**Spoilers ahead**Spoilers ahead**Spoilers ahead**Spoilers ahead*
You begin the game in the moments before the big nuclear attack that forces you and your family into the Vault 111 and it’s here that Fallout struggled to get my attention. A Vault-Tec employee arrives at your idyllic suburban house to sign you and your family up for a spot in the Vault and soon after filling out his questionnaire the air-raid siren sounds. Obviously it’s a traumatic moment as your family rushes to safety with the bombs inbound but the whole thing seemed too rushed for me to get properly emotionally engaged. It was neither devastatingly tragic not injected with the dark humour that ‘Fallout’ games are famous for and so the whole sequence left me feeling a little cold. It wasn’t particularly bad it’s just other games have done similar things better.
As the story continues, you and your family are cryogenically frozen for the next 200 years and your character only wakes up briefly in that time to witness his wife getting shot and child kidnapped before drifting off again into his long slumber. Again, I hadn’t spent enough time with my family beforehand for this to be properly emotional for me and I felt the game had missed an opportunity to tug at my heart strings. For a title that is famous for it’s slow pace, this needless rush is a disappointment.
Fortunately, when you finally exit The Vault and the game opens up the fun really kicks in as your wasteland playground sits there waiting for your character to explore. This is obviously where ‘Fallout’ excels and the sheer opportunity the environment presents you is tantalising to say the least. Having the pressing need to find your missing son hanging in the background adds a nice layer of urgency to your questing which previous games lacked. It wasn’t long before I was snooping in buildings, rescuing survivors from marauding raiders and swatting mutated creatures left right and center. By the end of my two hour or so play through I was ALL IN and as I sit here typing during my lunch-break at work, I just can’t wait to get stuck back to the wasteland.
Bethesda RPGs are always a difficult prospect for me personally as a gamer because they’re SO big and there’s SO much to do that after about 15 – 20 hours I get overwhelmed and just give up. Fallout 4 however is incredibly engaging and I hope it bucks my trend with Bethesda and I actually finish this one. From an objective point of view I can’t help but realise it’s an awesome game and even if it’s not your cup of tea, it’s nice to see the world get as excited for a game as it does for a Blockbuster film.