It was reviewed by IB Times and they broke the embargo (probably by accident from someone that set the wrong date and time on their CMS). They’ve since taken it down but it’s still available via Google Cache right now. I’m going to mirror it here in case it goes down for some reason.
“Fallout 4” is the most anticipated game of the year, although you probably didn’t have to be told that. Odds are, you’ve heard of the game through its ubiquitous marketing (including the mobile game “Fallout Shelter” that’s been teasing eager players for months) and you’ve got more than a passing interest in getting your hands on Bethesda Softworks’ latest post-apocalyptic adventure. You may want to take a seat, however.
Here’s the setup: In 2077, humanity is heavily reliant on nuclear energy. As a result, the world stands on the brink of war – and, as you might guess, somebody detonates a few atomic bombs on U.S. soil. You and your family are evacuated to the nearby Vault 111, run by the seemingly benevolent Vault-Tec, to wait out the bombs’ effects. Instead, everybody is cryogenically frozen. More than 200 years later, somebody defrosts you, kills your partner and kidnaps your infant son. So you must venture out into the world you used to know to find your son – and to fix the broken mess the world has become while you’re at it.
You’ll probably want to stock up on Nuka Cola. Like other open-world games released this year, “Fallout 4” doesn’t respect your time – it will consume weeks of your life. There’s so much content here that it’ll probably take you 100 or more hours to truly finish the game.
If you’re new to the franchise, be warned that the wastelands are not a forgiving place. “Fallout 4” poses a challenge, and it will slap you down any chance it gets. It’s purposefully difficult – there’s limited ammunition and most of the guns aren’t that powerful at first.
That’s where the definitive feature of “Fallout 4” comes in – the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, aka VATS. With the press of a button, time slows and the game allows you to shoot at specific parts of your enemies. There’s something incredibly satisfying about blowing an enemy away with a shotgun in slow motion. To new players, this may feel a bit like cheating at first – but the wastelands are stacked so highly against you that you’ll need to use VATS at every possible chance to stay alive. At least until you build an arsenal of superweapons.
You won’t be doing that for a while, though. This is the post-apocalypse after all, so you’ll have to wander far and wide to find materials and people to help you survive. Through all that exploration, you’ll see just how broken nuclear war has left this once-proud section of Massachusetts, dubbed the Commonwealth.
The wastelands are more often than not some mix of gray and brown, and it’s easy to get bogged down in that – although that’s kind of the point the game is attempting to make. There are remnants of the old world, but they’ve lost their vibrancy. The new world feels hopeless. Until you look up: You’ll see the brightest, clearest skies that humanity has viewed in a long time. The evening sunset is positively gorgeous, and there’s really nothing that touches the brilliance of the Commonwealth’s star-studded night sky. Too bad humanity had to bring itself near extinction for anybody to pay attention, a metaphor “Fallout 4” conveys subtly.
As I was picking my way through an abandoned brewery somewhere in the wastelands about 10 hours into the game, I blurted out, “When is something interesting supposed to happen?” I was bored, even after running through a few of the main story quests. “This is the hill I’m going to die on,” I thought then. “Fallout 4” has very dedicated fans, and I imagine the reaction to these statements won’t be particularly positive.
To be fair, I praised the sheer number of activities and quests available in “Dragon Age: Inquisition,” a game similar to “Fallout 4.” However, “Dragon Age” had a decently captivating plot and, more important, charismatic characters to invest you in their world, make you laugh and pull the story along. “Fallout 4” doesn’t have either of those things. It’s not that the game doesn’t give you things to do – it gives you far more than anybody could reasonably expect – it’s that it doesn’t really supply a consistent set of reasons to want to do those things.
The story itself isn’t the problem: It’s the pacing. “Fallout 4” is a very, very slow game. And I’m not exaggerating this point for effect: The first five to 10 hours after you leave Vault 111 is mostly spent trying not to die at the hands of a random mole rat and on farming side quests to gain enough strength to push through main ones. But the side quests often involving boring nonplayable characters (NPCs) you’ll never interact with after the quest is done. There’s never really a reason to care about what’s going on, even as some quests have you defending struggling settlements.
The main characters don’t really help matters, either. Some of your companions are mildly interesting, but for the most part there’s not much to talk about. Conversations are usually bland and boring, aside from the sarcastic lines your character can spit out assuming you’re so inclined. Nobody grabbed my attention right away, and nobody will stick in my memory (with the possible exception of Codsworth the robot). After 20 or so hours, when you’ve got a nice set of perks and a decent arsenal to complete some of the bigger quests with, the story does get a bit more interesting, but I’m not confident saying that the payoff is worth the investment.
“Fallout 4” is by no means a bad game, but, past the veneer of ruined Americana, I’m having a difficult time believing it’s going to live up to the hype preceding it. The pacing ruins an otherwise interesting character motivation. But there is a staggering amount to do, places to find and Deathclaws to challenge. If you’re a “Fallout” fanatic, “Fallout 4” will be more of what you love – I’m just not seeing what’s really in it for newcomers.