Fallout 4 PlayStation 4 Review: Brilliant, Maddening, and Wholly Memorable

Fallout 4 PlayStation 4 Review: Brilliant, Maddening, and Wholly Memorable

Yes, Fallout 4 is indeed a Bethesda RPG, with all that entails.

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In the early game, though, Fallout 4 is a world of low percentage hit chances and declining ammo, which gets to be a bit of a drag in the early dungeons. To their credit, Bethesda takes steps to mitigate this issue by almost immediately giving you a laser musket, a suit of Power Amor, and a minigun - powerful early game weapons balanced by a relatively limited pool of ammo and energy. If you're struggling with one of the early dungeons, they will do in a pinch until you get some more reliable weapons.

The dungeons themselves should be familiar to Fallout veterans, comprising the usual mix of abandoned buildings, subways, and fields. Believe it or not, there are actually some pretty good setpieces to be found in Fallout 4 - always a tricky proposition given its freeform structure. There's one battle toward the end of the game that falls pretty flat - and suffers from some pretty gnarly framerate issues besides - but most of the bigger moments work. There's nothing as breathtaking as one of Skyrim's dragons in this game, but Deathclaws come pretty damn close, announcing their presence with a bloodcurdling roar as they try to rip you right out of your Power Armor.

As always, my favorite battles are the ones fought with words rather than weapons. One of my favorite moments came when I suited up in my Power Armor, replenished my ammo, and marched in convinced I was about to embark on a massive battle, only to find myself in a tense and emotional but ultimately non-violent conversation. I wish there were more such moments in Fallout 4. It may be my fault, but I can't think of many opportunities to truly think out of the box and play mind games in Fallout 4, which is to its detriment. That said, Fallout 4 has its share of cloak and dagger moments, particularly toward the end of the story. It also has plenty of inspired quest lines, including a darkly funny but unsettling dungeon in which the original inhabitants were driven to madness from working too much overtime (truth in fiction, Bethesda?), and a series of missions where you get to play a Batman-like superhero named the Silver Shroud. Fallout 4 also has its share of filler - I was asked by settlers to clear out ghouls more times than I can count - but the opportunity to uncover the real gems makes exploration worth it.

In all honesty, I could probably nitpick Fallout 4 to death. It's glitchy, the framerate drops noticeably at times, and the combat can sometimes feel repetitive. But its inherent structure and the sheer craft that goes into the creation of its world also makes it more than the sum of its parts. At its best, it gives you the feeling that you're carving out your own place in the world and that your decisions carry real weight. It's one of the few single-player games where I find myself going in just to hang out.

One thing that stands out in particular about Fallout 4 is how well Bethesda walks the line between giving you control over your fate and exercising some control over the narrative. One of Skyrim's big failings was that it forced you to commit to one of two factions warring for control, which was a bit of a drag if you didn't like either one of them. Factions play a role in Fallout 4, too, but they're considerably more forgiving; and if you play it right, you can remain in everyone's good graces for quite a long time. It helps that the Minutemen are introduced as a kind of neutral faction - non-aligned settlers who can help advance the story without the burden of any particular ideology.

Sometimes Fallout's freeform nature can be poignant. Having spent so much time with one faction before turning on them, I was legitimately sad to have to gun down a quest giver that I recognized and liked. Other times it can be silly, as when I concluded a heartrending death scene with a character I liked by stripping their corpse of their armor, which I had been coveting for ages. They were left to rot in their underwear while I made off with an admittedly really sweet-looking piece of loot.

Ridiculous as such moments can be, I'm willing to accept them as the price of Bethesda's scope and ambition. You can always find more polished games, but none that offer quite the same sense of immersion as Fallout. As always, it remains brilliant, maddening, and wholly memorable, and I expect to be playing it for many more hours to come.

Interface
Menus and quests are loaded with little Vault Boy animations, which add to the overall flavor while being attractive to the eye.

Lasting appeal
The hardest part of reviewing Fallout 4 is that I basically devoured a Thanksgiving meal in five minutes. Even now, there's still so much left to explore. It really is a massive game.

Sound
A selection of radio stations have some fun classic and old-time pop music, while the rest of the soundtrack blends neatly into the background. The voice acting is strong, further buoying the story.

Visuals
Fallout focuses on creating stunning environments at the expense of character models, which animate awkwardly and at times lack detail. As with every Bethesda RPG, the visuals are enhanced by the sheer scope of it all. It's hard not to be impressed given just how big it all is.

If you've played a Bethesda RPG, you should have a pretty good idea of what you're in for. Bethesda plays it surprisingly safe with the formula, but they also do a much better job with the story this time around, serving to elevate the game as a whole. While there's no denying that it can be a bit ridiculous at times, its sheer scope speaks for itself. Bethesda has succeeded in crafting yet another fascinating open-world RPG.

4.5/5

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Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

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