Death of the Critic

Let's Talk About Fallout 4

Written by: Tom Blaich

Let’s talk about Fallout 4. I’m a pretty big fan of the franchise, and while it might be sacrilege to some to mention, my favorite game of all time is Fallout 3. It really made me love games like none other, and it got me into this whole criticism thing. It’s the first game I ever marathoned, playing it for seven hours straight the first day I had it, as a weird thirteen-year-old sitting in my basement in front of my TV.
So when I heard that a sequel was coming out, I was a little bit excited, to say the least. From the announcement to the release I could barely contain myself, and when the day came I kicked my friends off of my TV so I could play my preloaded copy. And as I first dove into the game it was amazing. It controlled so much better, and I didn’t have to rely on the crutch of V.A.T.S to make my way through encounters anymore.
I thought the town building element was weird, but after I dumped 25 beds onto a concrete square and filled every single available plot of land with generators, water pumps, and food, I basically left it alone for the rest of the game and ran off into the world to explore. I didn’t want to fast travel, because I didn’t mind the encounters anymore.
But as I put more and more hours into the game, my excitement started to wane and I started to realize something. I wasn’t really enjoying myself as much.

Fallout 4 is an objectively good game. The story is competent, if a little bit predictable and contrived, but they do attempt to do some interesting things. There are good characters, and interesting places that you can find within the world. It’s a good game.
It just didn’t feel right to me. I loved the story in
Fallout 3. More so than anyone really has a right to, and I’ve looked at the symbolism contained within for hours. I’ve analyzed that game more than I probably should, and I kept finding interesting things within.  Fallout 4 on the other hand…
It suffers from a similar problem to another game that I enjoyed.
Mass Effect 3. By attempting to make the game reach a broader audience and giving it better controls and handling, it seemed to shift the very direction of the game. Now it seemed like every single thing I was doing in the game was simply an excuse to pull out my gun and use the improved mechanics to blast away at something. I never felt in any particular danger after the first few hours because I knew that with a background in first person shooters, this game was incredibly easy. I could mow down enemies with the gun that I received in the first ten minutes of the game, forty hours later.
The crafting system was cool, as it took the modifications system from New Vegas and allowed it to be expanded and modified into a more fully featured system, but along the way they removed a crucial element of weapon and armor condition. It gave me no incentive to switch up what I was using or to pick up anything. My combat rifle would always work the exact same way. I would never have to worry about repairing it or running into a situation where it would jam. I didn’t need to swap out my pistol for a better one or repairing it because there were less options for me to choose from. On my quick select I have 9 weapons. I haven’t changed those out in easily 15 hours. And I only find myself really using three of them. Because they work in every situation.
I don’t have to worry about using an assault rifle for DPS, because I can just shoot my gun faster. I can snipe with any weapon, they all seem like they have no real downsides to them once you have put any amount of time into the game, and it was really disappointing to me.
In previous
Fallout titles I would have to worry about the condition of my weapons and armor before I went into battle. Was it going to jam? Was my armor going to break? What weapon to use for what situation. What if there is a deathclaw? Should I use this or that?
But now I simply pull out my combat rifle and shoot 15 rounds and anything dies. My role in the world feels closer to a god than a human being at this point.  At the beginning of the game, the difficulty with which you find healing items gives extra challenge, and desperately searching for that upgraded version of a weapon gives you a sense of satisfaction.
But what am I supposed to do after I find them? After I have thousands of caps to spend, thousands of rounds of ammo, fully upgraded weapons. All before I got more than three or four quests deep into the main story line.
It left me in a situation where I found myself not wanting to play the game anymore. Which I didn’t like. I desperately wanted to love the game, and maybe I’m being overly critical because of my love for the franchise, but it feels to me like we had the amazing, if fundamentally broken Fallout: New Vegas which did awesome things with its story, and then we had this, which lets me run through towns shooting a submachine gun that launches grenades while no one bats an eye. It’s a game experienced at the end of a gun and it suffers for it.
Maybe this feeling will pass. Maybe I’m looking over some of the great things from the game, like the expanded crafting system and a use for all of the junk that you find within the world. The companions are great, even if I never change away from my loyal Dogmeat. But as I wander through the world, I just wish there was more.


Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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