Fallout 4 Review

Screenshot from Fallout 4
War. War never changes.

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Release Date:10 Nov 2015
  • Time played: 54 hours

What is it

Fallout 4 is the fourth title in the post-apocalyptic RPG series called Fallout. The first title in the series was released in 1997 and was followed up with a sequel in 1998. Both of these games were developed by Black Isle Studios and are set on the West Coast of the United States in a fictional alternate future where a nuclear war in 2077 results in most of America becoming a barren, radioactive wasteland. These games were similar in style to many CRPGs of the late 90s and it wouldn't be much later in 2008 that the game would become more like an action RPG thanks to the release of Fallout 3 by Bethesda Softworks. With the critical success of Fallout 3, it was only a matter of time before the release of Fallout 4 in 2015 which plays very similarly to Fallout 3 but is set in Massachusetts instead of the "Capital Wasteland" of Washington D.C.

In Fallout 4 you play the role of an ex-soldier who manages to escape to the nearest vault (Vault 111) with your spouse and son just before atomic bombs obliterate the United States. Your family is kept in stasis but you're awakened at some point only to see your spouse tragically murdered and your son kidnapped before being put back into stasis. You awaken 210 years later due to system malfunctions and escape the vault to find out what happened to your son and to avenge the death of your spouse.

The game plays similarly to Fallout 3 and is basically an open world first-person shooter with RPG elements. When it was released in 2015, the game was a commercial success, selling 1.2 million copies on Steam and 12 million units to retailers in the first 24 hours. The game was critically acclaimed too, winning several awards and has a Metascore of 84 and a Steam rating of "Mostly Positive" due to 79% of the 145,610 Steam user reviews being positive.

Critics praised the sheer scale of the game, its number of side quests, engaging story and interesting characters. However, there were some criticisms made about the game being too similar to previous open world offerings by Bethesda, its tedious UI and the fact it was very buggy on release.

How I got it

I added Fallout 4 to my Steam account on the 13th October 2019 but I acquired a physical copy of Fallout 4 much earlier. In fact I used a gift card to acquire it from EB Games back in December 2015. So I'm pretty sure Fallout 4 is a gift from someone but unfortunately I can't remember who out of my family and friends helped subsidise my purchase! Anyway, whoever you are, thank you!

Fallout 4 is a perfect example of why I need to focus on going through my Pile of Shame: firstly, some of the games I have are so old I still have them on DVD (and a lot of PCs nowadays don't come with optical drives by default). Secondly, many of these games were purchased long ago as gifts and I feel somewhat guilty not playing them despite having such generous family and friends.

Anyway, it's for these reasons that I decided to try out Fallout 4. I've been meaning to get around to it for a while but I did have some trepidation because it's an open world game and these sorts of games usually take a long time to complete if you want to at least experience most of what the game has to offer. It took me 54 hours to complete the game and this was over the span of 11 months (October 2019 to September 2020).

Screenshot of Codsworth the robot in Fallout 4
Codsworth can surprisingly voice hundreds of names

What I like:

Based on actual places

It's pretty normal for the Fallout series but I love how the game is set in an alternate universe version of the United States. As mentioned earlier, in this Fallout you get to visit the city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts. This means you'll get to visit places such as Fenway Park (home of the Red Sox), Fort Independence, and Bunker Hill, to name a few. It also always fascinates me to see how the denizens of the post-apocalyptic Commonwealth have adapted these landmarks to their new way of life.

References to previous Fallout games

It makes sense but thankfully there are plenty of references to previous Fallout games to satisfy the veterans of the series including the addition of the Brotherhood of Steel faction (since, let's face it, it wouldn't be a proper Fallout game without them). But they're not just any chapter of the Brotherhood of Steel and are in fact the same ones from the Capital Wasteland in Fallout 3! Bonus! The game even makes reference to the New California Republic which featured in the original Interplay Fallout games and Fallout: New Vegas.


I like games that give you the opportunity to learn more about your companions and followers by chatting to them once you build a rapport with them, similar to Knights of the Old Republic. If you have a good enough relationship with your companions they'll eventually spill the beans on their past lives and you can even romance some of them. In fact, if you manage to start a relationship with one of your companions, sleeping with them in the game temporarily gives you the "Lover's Embrace" perk which grants you the ability to generate slightly more XP. Boom chikka wow wow indeed...

Plot twist

I love plot twists in computer games and if you've been reading my Pile of Shame Sunday posts (or just followed anything to do with Fallout 4, the game is 6 years old after all) you probably know there is a big plot twist in the game and it really makes you question who really are the good guys.

Cool FMV intro

The FMV intro in Fallout 4 is one of the best I've ever seen in a computer game and recaps the history of the Fallout universe in a splendid way.

More advanced character customisation

Character customisation in this game is more advanced when compared to Fallout 3 and you'd expect that considering Fallout 4 was released 7 years after its predecessor.

Voice acting talent

The game has a plethora of veteran video game voice actors but it also has some famous TV actors such as Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman), Dwight Schulz (The A-Team, Star Trek: The Next Generation), Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager) and Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager).

Robot butler can (sometimes) say your name

It's only a minor thing but I noticed that the robot butler Codsworth that you encounter at the beginning of the game is often able to say your name provided it's one on the list of (apparently) over 900 names! I was a bit surprised when he started referring to me as "Mark".


As usual the licensed music, that generally spans the 1930s to the 1950s, are a perfect accompaniment to the game but so is Inon Zur's exceptional soundtrack with a particular favourite of mine being the theme for the Minutemen faction called "Liberty Lives".

Crafting Settlements

I'm not a huge fan of the need to craft things in RPGs. However, Fallout 4 has managed to find my weakness and it's the fact I love city builder games. Not only are you able to craft the usual stuff (e.g. weapons, armour, etc.) but you can also craft things to grow settlements! You can even spend time building power infrastructure so residents are not left without electricity :).

Subtle consequences

I like how little things you do can have subtle consequences. I say "subtle" because they don't really do anything meaningful but they do change the world in more subtle ways. For example, there's a quest where you can help the Diamond City Radio host Travis become more confident. Once you successfully complete this quest, if you tune in to the radio you'll notice Travis actually does sound more confident.

NPCs in the game do take notice of your deeds and accomplishments too. For example, if you meet The Railroad, a group of synth abolitionists last, one of their members will vouch for you by mentioning how respected you are in the other factions in the game (i.e. the Minutemen and Brotherhood of Steel). You can even pick a codename or moniker to go by once you join the Railroad and people will continue to use it for the rest of the game.

Ethical dilemmas

It wouldn't be a good RPG without some ethical dilemmas. While not all quests are created equal there is the overarching theme in this Fallout of what do you define as a synthetic lifeform? How intelligent does a piece of electronics have to be before you consider it sentient? Would you consider a computer terminal or a turret a synthetic lifeform? All good sci-fi should continue to ask these kinds of questions.

Artillery Strikes

Each faction is able to gain a similar ability to the Minutemen's artillery strikes: the Brotherhood of Steel can call in vertibird strikes and the Railroad can spawn synth reinforcements with a synth relay grenade. While I never really took advantage of these abilities (maybe I should've) it's pretty cool when you activate them.

Screenshot of the radio transmitter at Fort Independence in Fallout 4
Crafting can sometimes be fun but it introduces a lot of grind

What I dislike:

Only two endings

In reality there are only two endings to the game: there are four factions all up and three of them are against the other one, so the endings reflect this dichotomy.

Dated graphics

The animations are rather wooden and the graphics already looked dated when the game was originally released 6 years ago, so you can imagine they don't look terribly impressive now.

Audio issues

I encountered an annoying glitch in the game where a loud gunfire sample kept looping despite the battle already being over. Fortunately, reloading the game fixed it, but that also meant I lost a bit of my progress.

Another issue that annoys me is the fact that when you're passing by NPCs that talk to you, you'll be able to see subtitles but when you actually start talking to them using conversation trees, the subtitles disappear and their voice is usually too soft compared to other sound effects in the background. I'm constantly having to turn the volume knob up on my speakers in order to figure out what each NPC is saying.

Carrying junk across the wasteland

Another reason I hate crafting is having to carry a whole bunch of junk around just on the off-chance you actually need the stuff. I've been over encumbered so many times in this game and while this was somewhat alleviated when I discovered you can transfer resources to workbenches (provided they're in a friendly settlement) or companions, you still need to carry a whole bunch of things like weapons for example, since you'll find yourself always running out of ammo. Speaking of running out of ammo...

Always running low on ammo

You can craft lots of things in this game but you can't craft ammunition. When you go up against tougher enemies (like Super Mutants, Deathclaws, etc.) or elites you'll notice that you burn through a lot of ammo. Generally you have to find ammo lying around or buy them from ammo vendors. This often means doing easier quests purely for the sake of accumulating wealth in order to purchase more ammo. Of course, you'll end up using some ammo but it'll be less than you would when going up against tougher opposition.

Quests for the sake of quests (aka Radiant Quests)

I only discovered this out later but apparently Fallout 4, like Skyrim, contains "radiant quests". Radiant quests are apparently quests that can be offered to you forever and in the case of Fallout 4, they're a means of encouraging you to explore the map and/or find new settlements.

While adding these radiant quests to the game will definitely keep you busy, it very much seems a case of quantity over quality. In fact, this is the main issue I have with open world games like Fallout 4 in that I eventually get so bored doing menial, unsatisfying side quests, that I end up rushing through the main campaign at some point or another. While I have no problems performing quests that add to the story, I tend to dislike simple "fetch quests" to grind more resources or XP. It would've been nice if the quest UI was revamped to categorise the quests by faction or whether they're repeatable or not since when you've got 30+ quests in your quest log, it can be a pain determining which quests are worthwhile and which ones are not.

Main story mission requires crafting

I don't mind it when crafting is a side activity where you can modify your weapons for example to give you a bit of an edge during a firefight but I don't particularly like it when you have to construct several power generators in order to progress the main story. It's basically introducing hurdles to the main story that can only be overcome by grinding the necessary resources.

UI isn't intuitive

The UI isn't terribly intuitive at times, especially for someone who played the game infrequently like I did (i.e. about once every week or two). I always could never remember how to exit power armour and the game controls never actually list how to do it, which meant I (I'm embarrassed to admit) had to Google the answer a few times.

Main campaign objectives are sometimes unclear

There was one time in the game where I had no main storyline quests in my quest log and I was a bit confused as to what to do next. I had to end up reading online what the go was and it turns out I had to actually level my character's reputation with a faction more before a new mission could come up. It would've been nice if just a little bit more information was provided to the player since games nowadays tend to hold your hand for just about everything else anyway (Fallout 4 is no exception).

Similar to Fallout 3

While the game does try a few slightly new ideas, ultimately it still feels like a higher-res Fallout 3 set in New England. The game doesn't really innovate that much but this isn't entirely surprising since it seems that Bethesda follows the maxim "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" when it comes to gameplay.

Score – 8/10 (Recommended)

Fallout 4 takes the formula started by Fallout 3 and expands upon it offering things such as better character customisation and the ability to literally build new settlements. The game also brings the usual hallmarks of the franchise such as plot twists galore, charming companions and many ethical dilemmas to contend with, all brought to life thanks to a sensational soundtrack by Inon Zur and excellent voice acting.

The game has its flaws though: the game might be not an innovative enough leap for some and the dated graphics, audio bugs and a crummy UI don’t help. The game is also very grindy thanks to radiant quests, the constant need for ammo and an overreliance on crafting.

Overall though, if you’re a fan of the world of Fallout and you enjoyed Fallout 3 there’s a good chance you’ll like this one too. There’s definitely a lot to do and a lot to like about this game which is why I'm recommending it if you want a post-apocalyptic RPG fix.

Is the game worth $44.95 AUD?: Yes. And I only played the game for about 50 hours. There are heaps more to do in the game especially if you start applying mods to the base game as well.

If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Fallout 4 Official Website ]


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