Xbox One

  All Features


  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One


Fallout 4

Score: 100%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:

I hope you’ve done everything you needed to have finished by the end of 2015, because Fallout 4 is here to claim your time and attention for the foreseeable future. And that time and attention will be well-spent: Fallout 4 is Bethesda Softworks’ best game to date, handily setting the benchmark for the next-generation of open-world role playing games.

Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas sure do a lot with the colors green, brown, and yellow. But as great as those games are, they aren’t particularly stunning. Fallout 4 depicts a post-apocalypse Boston as more than just a ruined metropolis. In fact, it goes a very long way to make this world seem livable. Every spectrum of the color palette is put to incredible use by the game’s outstanding art design. And Fallout 4 manages to be technically impressive, too. While many of Bethesda’s open-world games (particularly on the PlayStation 3) are infamous for their numerous bugs, Fallout 4 is remarkably stable. The game did crash on me a few times, and the frame rate definitely dropped during some of the more hectic combat sequences, but these are minor blemishes on what is otherwise an extraordinary-looking game.

Fallout is known for its comedic juxtaposition of extreme violence against a backdrop of golden oldies and the American Dream, and while there’s a lot of that in Fallout 4, I found myself more taken with Inon Zur’s original soundtrack, which does a fantastic job of capturing this world, which seems to exist on a razor’s edge between despair and hope. It’s a difficult thing to capture in words, much less in music. But as always, your Pip-Boy is capable of tuning into radio stations, so if you want to engage in head-exploding, limb-ripping carnage to the tune of the Ink Spots' "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire," you can. That being said, I didn't notice much new in the way of licensed music; much of what I heard was in either Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas.

Voice acting is universally incredible. It's a massive step up from most of Bethesda's previous efforts, and a lot of that is helped by the fact that your character has a speaking role. Some may view this as a double-edged sword, as there's only two voice actors playing the lead -- one male, one female. But this makes the narrative effort airtight; silent protagonists rarely work these days, especially after games like Mass Effect and The Witcher. Dialogue also feels a good deal more natural; people will begin talking to you as you approach, instead of obviously waiting for you to press a button. On top of all that, you're in for a real treat if your name is reasonably common.


Fallout 4 features a stronger, more intensely personal narrative than any previous games in the series. It casts you as a spouse and a parent in your idyllic home in Boston. You spend about ten minutes living peacefully in your lovely white picket fenced neighborhood. And then the bombs fall. Through a stroke of amazing fortune, you've been chosen as a candidate for Vault 111 and are spirited underground just before your neighborhood is presumably consumed by a nuclear blast. But it doesn't take long to notice that something is decidedly off about this Vault, and it takes even less time for tragedy to strike. Your child is abducted by a group of mysterious figures, and you ultimately do what any good parent would do: you give chase. Your journey introduces you to a wild cast of excellent, memorable characters: from a certain German Shepherd to your trusty robot butler Codsworth to a private eye that sounds ripped out of film noir, but could not look more different. And naturally, it takes you on a grand, epic adventure across every corner of the ruined Commonwealth.

If you've played a Bethesda Softworks role-playing game in the last ten years, you have a pretty good idea of what you're getting into with Fallout 4. You leave Vault 111 with only the vaguest idea of where to go and can proceed from there to do whatever you want. Boston may be a ruined cityscape, but it's full of life, both friendly and hostile. Factions and settlements work towards their individual goals, and you can help or hinder them; it's your story, and the game will accommodate whatever you want to make of it.

When you do start to build a list of contacts, the quest log on your Pip-Boy will start filling up. Quest lines vary in type, scope, and reward. Some of them advance the central story, while others deal almost exclusively with a certain faction or a key individual. But most of these revolve around killing hostiles, finding specific quest items, or rescuing individuals. And thanks to the excellent level design and exciting combat and loot systems, it's all a joy to play.

Fallout 4 further commits to its premise with the idea of building and assisting settlements. Think about it: if we were survivors of a nuclear apocalypse, how many of us would really be going on these borderline suicidal missions? No, I think most of us would instead be assisting with the rebuilding effort. The primary problems of these people almost exclusively deal with survival. While defense is certainly an issue, food, shelter, and power are more pressing issues. And Fallout 4 grants you carte blanche on how to approach this. By liberating special areas, certain areas become livable. And if the playstyle suits you, you can take a break from all the killing and looting to take a more hands-on approach to town layout, decoration, and defense. It's a strange pastiche of SimCity and Minecraft that works pretty wonderfully.


Bethesda may insist that there's no "right" way to play Fallout 4, but regardless of your playstyle, there's one thing you'll need to do if you want to facilitate that playstyle. Make money. The Commonwealth is riddled with all sorts of garbage. Though you probably remember what they say about one man's trash being another man's treasure, that only goes so far in Fallout 4. If you want to stay alive, you need to remain well stocked on supplies. That's primarily ammunition and health-related consumables like Stimpaks and RadAway. Bought in bulk, these survival staples are expensive -- so it's best to loot until you're almost overburdened and sell it all at any nearby market. The best weapons and armor are generally dropped as loot, rather than sold. Take it or leave it, it's my personal recipe for success.

Fallout 4's difficulty level is variable, and on its default setting, it's rather easy. This is doubly true if your income of bottlecaps and experience continues to grow at a steady clip. After about 30 hours of playing, I was almost unkillable, and the only enemies who even stood the slightest bit of a chance were the series mainstay "sh*t-your-pants-and-run" monsters known as Deathclaws and the vicious, agile, laser-eyed Assaultrons. But if you crank up the difficulty, you'll get a more demanding challenge -- and a higher chance at quality loot.

Game Mechanics:

If you're a longtime fan of the last two Fallout games, Fallout 4 does the unthinkable: it makes its real-time first person shooting wonderfully viable. Make no mistake: you'll still rely heavily on the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.), but you'll have to get twitchy when you're mobbed by a pack of quick-moving Feral Ghouls or set upon by a Super Mutant Behemoth. Whether you're precision sniping or spraying shotgun shells in a general direction, the gunplay is much more fluid and satisfying than it's ever been.

Bethesda Softworks is famous for developing massive open-world games that feature an intense attention to detail. And for the longest time, this included populating the world with all sorts of items. And while most of them were utterly useless to the player character, they absolutely belonged in these worlds. Fallout 4 changes this by essentially redefining the word "junk." Nothing you pick up in the Commonwealth is useless; there's a way to make use of every bit of collectible detritus, if you've got the right facilities and the right resources. Taking a note from Skyrim's assorted crafting stations, Fallout 4 features special spots where you can bring out your inner cook, chemist, weaponsmith, and armorer. If you find Stimpaks too expensive, just find some antiseptic, steel, and blood. Such can be derived from cleaning supplies, discarded kitchen utensils, and blood packs found in random first aid kits. This goes for just about every possible consumable resource. And with the process of looting streamlined and sped up (you need only look at a nearby container to see what's in it), it constitutes a mindblowing step towards making you feel like a true wasteland survivor.

Character growth has been fundamentally changed. While some may rejoice at the streamlining of what has been perhaps the most hardcore element of the Fallout franchise, this stands a good chance of alienating those who have been with the series since the beginning. Upon leveling up, you are given a single point to invest somewhere in a seven-column perk tree. It's a brilliantly-designed tree; each column represents one of the iconic "S.P.E.C.I.A.L." attributes, and perks falling under each one requires a certain level and attribute strength. Fallout 4 has no level cap, though, which means that you will eventually literally have it all if you're willing to put in the time. Ultimately, this makes the game feel a bit more like its own beast and even less like a traditional Fallout game than ever.

Another element that has seen its share of streamlining is dialogue. While this is the best-written Fallout game by far, it doesn't offer you anywhere near the breadth and complexity of dialogue choices as in, say, Fallout: New Vegas. You'll get four options each time you're prompted to respond to a character, and options requiring Charisma checks are colored yellow to red, depending on the boldness of the option. While I anticipate this possibly alienating fans, it doesn't even come close to harming the game as a whole.

Fallout 4 is a class act from just about every perspective, and will probably collect its share of Game of the Year nominations and awards. Be prepared to see this game occupying several slots on your friends list for the foreseeable future -- that's where it belongs. And the chances are high that it also belongs in your household. If you want a satisfying open-world role playing game, a unique vision of post-apocalypse America, a fantastic sci-fi yarn, or anything in between, Fallout 4 is it.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:

Microsoft Xbox One Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition Sony PlayStation4 Fallout 4

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated