Some moderate gameplay/mechanic spoilers follow. This is a piece for those who are on the fence on buying Fallout 4.

WHAT WORKS

Combat has been tightened quite considerably in this entry into the series. The method of overusing V.A.T.S. is kind of a thing of the past. Not to say I don’t like its current iteration, but I tend to use it a whole lot less than I do in this game.

On any difficulty, enemies are really smart. The best example I can come up with are feral ghouls. You still have the threatening snarl which, if you’re not facing one, can be tremendously startling in the right setting. That said, more than one occasion have I opened fire on a ghoul, only for them to pivot, dodging bullets in an instant and lunging at me at lightning speed. It’s unnerving as hell to see it happen, but it’s also really cool. In 3, it’d only take a quick spray to kill these guys, and their overall fodder-like status remains, but it can lead to a scramble to survive if you have 3 or 4 of them overwhelming you, just like with any decent pseudo-zombie enemy.

Nick Valentine is probably the biggest and best surprise in the game I’ve experienced so far.

Power Armor finally feels like Power Armor. While it’s a bit of a mixed bag (searching for Fusion Cores can be a massive pain, and they’re expensive to boot), I feel like they really nailed Power Armor. I haven’t come across a hell of a lot of Armor pieces so far, but the few that I have adds to the overall custom motif that really makes the game shine. However...

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WHAT DIDN’T

You gain access to Power Armor wayyyy too early in the game. Think within 1-2 hours in. Sure, it’s the defining thing in the series, it’s been on all the box art, but I still think that it should be saved until you earn it. 4’s a great game for giving you a sense of accomplishment, but at the same time, they just give you this almost immediately out of the vault.

The main story feels like it’s going to be shorter than it ought to be. As of this writing, I’ve gotten about 22 hours in. And it feels like I’m right on the brink of beating the main campaign. Not saying there’s plenty to do here, but I’ve inadvertently fallen ass-backward into what feels like a speedy climax into the ending. I hope i’m wrong, but it seems like a game with this much clout and hype should have a longer main story.

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The music. Both on and off radio. Off radio, you get a lot of instrumental ambient music. This is nice, and for any other game, it’d be a solid addition. But not for Fallout. one of the best uses of music of 3 was an inherent lack of music if you didn’t have the radio on. It was eerily quiet. It made it feel lonesome, which is what you’d expect of a wasteland. every once in a while you’d get a few random fleeting guitar plucks, but yes. That’s what had you turn on the radio until you got tired of listening to the radio. That’s another problem. The radio. I turned it on, got some new tracks, which felt great. Then “Butcher Pete” came on. Then “Bongo-bongo-bongo”. Then “World on fire” (!) It really feels like a slap in the face when 90% of the tracks are reused from the previous iteration. There’s plenty of weird music from the 50s that could’ve been used here, and there are some new gems, but I’d like a completely new list of songs with maybe one or two old tracks to round it out.

Choosing to have a voiced protagonist. This one, also kind of a mixed bag, but I’m saying that compared to having a silent one, it doesn’t feel as immersive plot-wise. I like seeing a character I meticulously worked on having some screen time, but on the other hand, it’s a little heavy-handed. Any time you have a dialogue, the camera shifts and pans to face whoever’s carrying out their line. I’d prefer to keep it in first person, to be honest. Sure, you can say it’s an art choice, it’s the popular choice these days, but from an immersion standpoint, it’s a little distracting.

WHAT’S IN-BETWEEN

There’s a few things that I mentioned as mixed bags, but these are the things that I didn’t really feel was a strong point or a complete negative.

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The Graphics. It’s not overly realistic, but not totally cartoon-y. Some things look absolutely gorgeous and fitting (The ghouls look the way that radioactive humans would, in my estimation would look, the Mr. Handy’s are shiny, round and overly sci-fi) but seriously, there’s a rather irritating almost disney-esque look to the humans. Some of them. Piper’s a prime example. Me not being a fan of that art style, or disney in general, this kind of pisses me off. buildings are fine, if a little similarly designed, a fault that 4’s predecessor fell into. You get the idea that they grew tired of the yellows/browns of 3, but that was kind of a plus in my book.

Deathclaws are kind of nerfed in this entry. I’ve only encountered two vanilla ‘claws, but they both seemed a bit wimpy compared to the “OH-SHIT! OH-FUCK! GONNA DIE, GONNA DIE” of New Vegas. These are monsters. They shouldn’t die this easy.

The dialogue picks are super simplified. I want my 4-5 lines back dammit.

Repairs on equipment are almost gone. Almost everything lasts forever, save power armor parts. Not a big deal, but it makes it easier to play through. I don’t really know how I feel about that.

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Speaking of, A lot of this game seems to cater to those who don’t want to put a whole lot of effort into a playthrough. Not entirely a bad thing, but it does make me a little scared on direction as the series progresses.