Fallout 4 preview: here’s where Bethesda’s latest title could win and lose

Gaming’s worst kept secret is nearly here. It’s officially Fallout 4 month, and that means counting down the days until gamers everywhere will be enjoying that post-apocalyptic Boston landscape like they would a stroll through a local park.

While the hype is steadily building and has been since June, Bethesda is trying all that it possibly can to mull leaks of the title before release. Admirable in thought but sloppy in execution, it seems that there’s just no way to stop this train, or the Power Armor, smashing down your news feed this week.

But with Fallout 4 just eight days away now, and some in the gaming industry having second thoughts about their NDAs, we have a look at where Bethesda’s latest title could cream the competition, and where it could possibly fall flat on its face.

Game information:

Launch date: Worldwide, 10 November (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Engine: Creation Engine, specially modified for Fallout 4
Resolution/Frame rate: PlayStation 4 and Xbox One: 1080p at 30fps; PC: unconstrained
Playthrough time: Claimed over 400 hours

Background

There were murmurs as early as 2013 that Bethesda was looking to follow up the blockbuster that was Fallout 3 with a game set in Boston. The company took a damn long time to unveil it though, first teasing the title to an avid audience back in June 2015. It was Bethesda’s first live press conference at E3 2015, and it was a big one. The title, we would learn, would be called Fallout 4. The first video cameo featured in the same breath, and was easily the biggest announcement of the Expo.

The title would not arrive on previous-generation consoles, Bethesda confirmed shortly after the announcement.

Read more: Bethesda confirms Fallout 4 and here’s the trailer to prove it

Of course, this will be the first Fallout title since Fallout: New Vegas (2010) and the first major game in the series since the award-winning Fallout 3 (2008) set in Washington D.C..

Setting and general complaints

Unlike its two predecessors, Fallout 4 is set in a decidedly decrepit but rather charming Boston around the year 2277, or about 200 years after humans done goofed and ruined the planet with a more major than minor nuclear war. As the trailer above suggests, the world is pretty depressing but rife with looting opportunities, a wholly interactive world and well, lots of things to shoot. And for anyone who has played Fallout 3, this premise will sound very familiar.

The similarities between Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 will always be apparent and will likely be one of the major hurdles the sequel needs to overcome. Back in August, VG247’s Matt Martin at Gamescom 2015 called Fallout 4 “instantly familiar”, “encouraging, reassuring and disappointing in equal measure.”

It’s entirely understandable however that Bethesda doesn’t want to deviate from a formula that has clearly worked incredibly well before.

Bethesda’s Todd Howard highlighted this at E3 2015, suggesting that the story and focus on gameplay plays into the memory of the previous titles:

Not just the graphics, but memory is important to us. How much memory it has. If we make a world that has, not just more details, but more dynamic details that we can keep track of and stream in and load quicker, all of that suspends your disbelief that this is a real world.

We’ll get onto the issue of graphics shortly.

While there is a main story, with what seems like a fair number of trophies available to earn, the game won’t cease after the story mode completes. This ultimately means that there’s over 400 hours of, well, stuff to do. We’ve seen some large games this year in the form of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, both clocking over 60 hours of gameplay, but it seems Fallout 4 is much more of a calendar investment than these two.

But that’s, uh, quite a large investment, isn’t it? Forbes’ Dave Thier describes this issue best:

400 hours could be too much, or it could be not enough, or it could be the right suggestion of the infinite. The real key is that each one of those hours needs to feel exciting, and, in at least some way, new, in order for that to actually be enough.

Read more: Fallout 4 will feature 51 trophies, some sound like hilarious fun

Where’s my AAA graphics, Bethesda?

The game has also been criticised for its sub-par graphics and unpolished textures, especially after the gameplay demo at E3 2015, but Pete Hines, Bethesda’s marketing exec, suggests that Fallout 4 is all about balance.

“We could make the best looking game possible, but we dial some of that back in order to allow for all of these other things,” he mentions in an interview with GameSpot.

Earlier this week though, uncompressed screens of Fallout 4 reaches the wide-open web, which really allayed these fears. It looks a peach of a title from first glance.

fallout 4 screen 1

Balance is definitely an interesting word to use when referring to AAA titles. There’ll need to be a balance between the open world element and a sense of purpose. It’s no use having a large environment for gamers to gallivant through without so much as a defined objective. It’s what hurt Metal Gear Solid V for us, and could possibly make Fallout 4 more of a testament to great game design than a great game to play.

There’s also no point in having a gorgeous jewel of a title like The Order: 1886, to be let down by god-awful, uninspiring gameplay.

Read more: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain review: does Big Boss deserve his title?

Speaking of playing, the gameplay seems to largely continues where Fallout: New Vegas left off, even though the two titles use different engines.

The Power Armor makes its return, but early leaks suggest that it’s simply an in-game perk, requiring a limited energy core to run in bursts and sprints. The V.A.T.S. system also returns, allowing for more intricate combat mechanics. And of course, there’s a furry friend met in the first scene of the game that you can either shun or befriend. Chances are you’d probably want to do the latter (especially if you don’t quite enjoy running from dogs in games, or real life).

Decision is another word that seems to always feature in a Fallout title. There’s over 110 000 dynamic lines delivered by voice actors, which does hint at a massively interactive and interconnected title. Bethesda allows players to customise their protagonist too, from skin tone to gender to voice and beyond. It’s fairly extensive, and the mechanics of this alone, it seems, could keep one busy for a good while.

Merch, merch and more merch

Beyond that, Bethesda has been sure to milk Fallout 4 for all it’s worth even before the game arrives. Merchandise available to purchase includes the actual Pip-Boy available alongside the Collector’s Edition, Fallout Beer made in partnership with Carlsberg, and even Nuke Cola.

Fallout 4 Pip-Boy

Read more: Bethesda, Carlsberg team up for zesty ‘Fallout Beer’

Even if you’re aren’t insane enough to get the actual Pip-Boy, Bethesda is also readying a companion app for Android and iOS gamers can exercise during gameplay.

What kind of PC do I need to play it?

Here are the recommended PC specs:

  • OS: Windows 7 64-bit or later
  • CPU: Intel Core-i7 4790 or AMD FX 9590
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: At least 30GB of free space
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB or AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB

 

Not too bad then. For minimum specs, have a look at our previous article highlighting this here.

What about the leaks?

While there are a number of leaks floating about, most notably today’s latest wad of images dumped on Imgur, gameplay videos uploaded to Vidme, and finally the godfather of all spoiler leaks featuring in-game tidbits, the game is still fairly unscratched. Hell, we really doubt that a few minutes of footage begins to shed light on the title itself.

Closing thoughts

Nevertheless, we’re definitely reserving judgement until the title’s in our hands, in our console, and an impression forms in our minds.

For the most part, based on Bethesda’s talk and the excitement of the gaming community in the wake of its release, Fallout 4 has a lot to live up to. Arguably more than any other game this year and perhaps even this decade.

With that said, consumers will get their first taste of the latest post-apocalyptic RPG on current-gen consoles and PCs from 10 November.

As always, let us know exactly what you think Fallout 4 will be in the comments section below the article, or in our poll below.

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