I have long been fascinated with the romanticism of exploring a ruined and dilapidated city all by myself. A survivor of the apocalypse, a lone and hapless detainee of the modern world suddenly set free to drink in a wanton amount of interpersonal absence. There IS something enticing about digging through the rubble of the world as you once knew it. It’s a natural habitat in gaming for overt historical references to the former circumstances of the game’s setting; a vehicular bullet train for environmental storytelling.
When Fallout 3 was first announced in 2004 (yeah) I was all ears. About 90% ears and 10% thumbs of the up variety. When the screens were released, and we edged closer to its launch some four years later, I was well and truly sold. A tortured, post-apocalyptic world I could explore and live and breath in at my own behest; a virtual dream. Euphorically purchasing both special editions on release, the game’s desaturated hues and violent, broken landscapes into which you were born anew enraptured me like few others had managed. Like so many, coming out of Vault 101 for the first time and seeing the wasteland sprawl and stretch out before me was one of those bar-setting gaming moments that forces me to scale other experiences against it. Momentous.
So. New generation. New technology. Seven years. Fallout 4.
The excitement consumed us like a viral infection in a small, air conditioned office where people insist on coming to work even when they clearly can’t breathe. I toyed with the idea of the Pip Boy Edition, reigniting my days as an ardent Needless Crap collector. I looked into that special edition Fallout Loot Crate. I perused the range of garish merchandise with a tentative glee. In the end I bought the download code ‘cause it was cheap, and I’m old. The billboards and the advertisements on the buses and the surprisingly ubiquitous nature of the game’s bottomless promotional budget, all looked upon me with saintly eyes as I rushed home to play it.
And yet even now, I’m one hour into it. A single hour. Some 20 days after release. This isn’t a review folks, it’s a cry for help. I can’t play Fallout 4 and I don’t know why.
Is it the bugs? I’ve ran into a couple of peculiar circumstances already, but nothing game-breaking. Predominantly, the game feels flimsy. Like I’m playing something made of sellotape and well-wishes. It has the demeanour of a game in a cow costume where the back half is drunk and front half is an actual dismembered cow. Or something. But ultimately, I’m used to bugs. I typically take them to be the character-enhancing ‘quirks’ all the series’ die-hard fans will furiously claim them to be in review comments sections.
Is it the visuals? Perhaps I’ve been spoilt. Off the back of playing Witcher 3, followed by Metal Gear Solid V, the character models in Fallout look utterly archaic. Still, I’ve always been an environment sort of guy; the ruined cities, collapsed and abandoned buildings, the sweeping vistas of desolation. The environments at the start of Fallout are, well, passable. The brighter colours, contrary to the series’ characteristic diminished gun-metal greys, while a refreshing change have this bizarre and jarring effect that’s actually kind of reductive, I found. Even so, I’ve never really been all about the visuals in my games. The graphics can go hang if the gameplay and story are good.
Flimsy nature aside, I was a huge fan of Fallout 3’s gameplay. My sole gripe was that I found almost any conflict to involve:
- Entering VATs
- VATs invariably failing to kill critter/enemy/charging madman
- Skipping wildly backwards taking pot shots at chasing enemy while praying VATs refills in time
- Repeat until everyone and everything is dead
It made for strenuous and not wholly enjoyable combat if I’m honest. My fight with the first Deathclaw in FO4 which comes very early on, only really served to embed the idea that this hasn’t really changed. The free shooting aspect seems polished, but not revolutionary. Like they took the old one and made it a bit better, as opposed to entirely reworking it, which, 7 years on and a generation leap forward, isn’t too much to expect I wouldn’t have thought.
While the opening of the narrative was enjoyable, it wasn’t especially gripping. The 200 year reveal was impressive, as you’re breadcrumbed to it through the environment as you escape the Vault. But it wasn’t enough to keep me playing with the voracity I’d expected.
I WANT to want to love this game. I truly want to want to keep playing it. But with so much other stuff strewn about the place left unfinished and vying for my ever-shortening gaming attention, I just can’t give Fallout 4 the reverence it told me it deserves.
I’ve been warned of the thinly veiled multiple story-strands too, and with game-altering bugs an omnipresent, leering possibility at all times, it just feels almost like too risky an investment. 35-40 hours sunk into something that will gleefully tear all that up in one quest-marker-disappearance debacle, just doesn’t sound inviting.
So, I’m sorry Fallout 4. I hope I will find the grit to come back to you and give you the time and attention such an endearing and sentimental concept deserves. Until then, I just finished having a lovely time with Grow Home. Also, here’s a picture of my current Fallout Special Editions to prove to you how much I love the series and don’t just ‘hate Fallout so my opinion is invalid..’ Or something. Look what you’ve driven me to… seeking your approval; you judgemental bureaucratic shit.