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In the wake of the TV series, is it worth playing Fallout 4 again?
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In the wake of the TV series, is it worth playing Fallout 4 again?

Last month, developer Bethesda released a hefty update for 2015’s Fallout 4, probably timed to welcome new fans eager to learn more about the inspiration behind Amazon’s hit TV adaptation. The base game and its expansions offered hundreds of hours of gameplay already, and this update expands Fallout 4 even further with new quests, experiential upgrades and in-game goodies to collect. Fallout 4 is nearly a decade old, but there’s never been a better time to jump into its nuclear wasteland.

The biggest addition is the most visible: new performance and quality modes boost the ageing game up to 4K resolution, running at 60 frames-per-second. The patch also provides widescreen support and Steam Deck compatibility, so you can play it on the go. These are welcome additions that sharpen the visuals, adding new detail to everything from rust to radscorpions, but it also highlights an uglier reality: Fallout 4 looks dated. This was arguably true even in 2015, but it’s undeniably so now.

Fallout 4.View image in fullscreen

The discrepancy between what’s possible now on modern video game consoles and what Fallout 4 provides is especially evident whenever the player starts up a conversation. Enhanced textures don’t help the game’s unsettling humans, who give wooden performances with blank stares. Worse, during my playtime, long-standing issues such as stuttering and sudden graphical pop-ins were still abundant. The additions feel slight compared with other recent major revamps, such as Cyberpunk 2077.

The update comes packed with new quests that are flagged as soon as your character takes their first steps into the Commonwealth. These are tied to item packs that grant the player everything from new power armour to fun weapons, such as the baseball launcher. While it may be tempting to jump straight into this content after leaving the vault, playing through it made it obvious that it isn’t meant for new players. The Enclave quest line, for example, immediately pits you against dudes in power armour, and later pulls you into an area near the Glowing Sea, one of the toughest areas in the entire game. By the end, the quest includes ultra-tough enemies that are designed to rip the player apart.

All the new quests focus entirely on combat, which may be disappointing to anyone coming via the TV show, packed as it is with juicy new narrative and characters. Comparing the TV show with Fallout 4 really emphasises what the games have lost over time. The first two Fallout games from the 1990s were much like the show, in that they explore the failings of capitalism and the American dream. These are heady ideas that, while arguably present in Bethesda’s versions, are overshadowed by the humour and slo-mo gore.

Bethesda is a strong presence in the DNA of the TV show, of course. Amazon’s Fallout is just as comically violent, and captures the enjoyable irreverence of Bethesda’s Fallout. Lucy’s go-getter attitude and high moral standards are emphasised not to flatten her as a character, as a Bethesda game might, but rather to draw a baseline for how much the world has changed – and the humanity we choose to preserve in the face of impossible odds. The show is so good, in other words, that it makes coming back to Fallout 4 and its stripped-down dialogue and combat-heavy scenarios a bummer.

Fallout 4/View image in fullscreen

Fallout 4’s creation club boasts all manner of game-altering player-made modifications. Of particular note for returning players is a counterfeit caps mod, which enriches the player in a way that makes the opening hours a breeze. Just be warned: in typical Bethesda fashion, none of this is as sturdy as it could be. Some players are reporting glitched quests that impede progress. Some of these mods also cost real-world money, something that could turn gamers off completely. On PC, it might be best to hold off using mods at all: players are reporting serious compatibility issues after the new update.

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What’s most evident from Fallout 4’s new updates is that Bethesda has rebuilt it to have the same kind of longevity as Skyrim: despite the hitches, Fallout 4 is once again topping sales charts. Then again, much like Skyrim, Fallout fans don’t have a lot of choice. The first two games from the 1990s are only playable on PC, and it’s a hassle to get them running on modern hardware; 2008’s Fallout 3 and 2010’s New Vegas, meanwhile, have been left to languish. For new players wanting to try out this series, it’s really between this and the online multiplayer Fallout 76.

It will probably be a long time before Bethesda gives players something entirely new in this series: development on a new Fallout game isn’t expected to begin until after the long gestation of the next Elder Scrolls. Until then, at least we’ve got a second season of the surprisingly optimistic TV show to look forward to.

Source: theguardian.com