short circuit

'Fallout 4' is More 'Fallout' for People Who Love 'Fallout'

Fans of Bethesda's open world, post-apocalyptic role-playing series will find themselves right at home with 'Fallout 4,' for better or worse.

Image: Bethesda Softworks

Fallout 4, one of the most highly anticipated games of the year, comes out tomorrow for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Bethesda, the game's publisher, provided Motherboard with three review copies about a week ago so Emanuel (PC), Clinton (Xbox One), and myself (PS4) could collect our thoughts ahead of its release. What follows is a lightly edited (primarily for clarity) reproduction of the email chain and Slack chat room wherein we discussed what we liked and disliked about the game—spoiler, if you liked any of the previous generation's Fallout titles then you will enjoy Fallout 4 quite a bit!—and mused about topics such as dog ownership and kids today and their so-called "social media." -Nicholas, Short Circuit Editor here at Motherboard

Image: Nicholas Deleon

From: Emanuel Maiberg

To: Nicholas Deleon, Clinton Nguyen

Sent: Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015 at 5:02 PM ET

I'll admit right away that I wasn't frothing for Fallout 4 like some other people. I love the original 2D games, I think Fallout 3 and New Vegas are very good, but as soon as we saw the first trailer, I kind of knew what to expect out of Fallout 4, which is to say, a better looking Fallout 3 with maybe one or two wrinkles. I feel like that's exactly what I got. Don't get me wrong. It's great, I'm having fun with it, but it's just so predictable.

I can resolve disputes between survivors in the wasteland that was once Boston by climbing up and down dialogue trees or just shoot my least favorite person in the face. I'm picking locks, hacking terminals, and collecting any items that seem useful like a post-apocalyptic episode of hoarders.

The fact that I can now use that trash to build and customize my own little towns is that new wrinkle I was talking about. It's not a huge addition but I like it. It's pretty easy to put down structures in first person, and you have to set up defenses and food source, so I actually felt like I was making something and making the wasteland a little better. It's kind of like a super depressing Minecraft.

Aside from that, it's the same old thing. Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 were so crazy and different than anything else at the time, the transition to first-person in Fallout 3 was super exciting, but what am I supposed to get super pumped about this time? Am I being downer? Are you guys having more fun than me?

From: Clinton Nguyen

To: Emanuel Maiberg, Nicholas Deleon

Sent: Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015 at 2:48 PM ET


I'm on day three here. I poured like five hours in last night. It's like college again, I have no conception of time or fatigue and I just spent 10 minutes crouching in a weird corner of a factory knocking down a dozen raiders like I'm some kind of homicidal maniac who loves to camp and headshot randos.

BASICALLY it's like I'm doing the same things I did in Fallout 3 but like seven years later!!

I'm enjoying the heck out of this Emanuel, but only because I really do align with Bethesda's idea of an East Coast post-apocalypse. The washed out industrial faux-Americana shtick gets my cylinders firing. But the greatest appeal for me from Fallout 3, BioShock, etc, isn't so much the main story at all, it's the weird rush of going inside haunted houses and dreaming up stories or trying to figure out why a level's laid out the way it is.

For instance, there's this one hotel bedroom in Lexington, a town a half mile from where you start, where some sad skeleton got stabbed in the chest, and there's a bunch of mannequins arranged all around him. Something like that tells me Bethesda still loves their details, but they're still really, really at ironing technical stuff down. I'm still down with the whole game, though. Wabi-sabi and all that.

From: Clinton Nguyen

To: Emanuel Maiberg, Nicholas Deleon

Sent: Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015 at 2:51 PM ET

ALSO can we talk about this cat?!!

Holy moly so many animal friends in this game.

Image: Clinton Nguyen

From: Nicholas Deleon

To: Clinton Nguyen, Emanuel Maiberg

Sent: Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015 at 3:43 PM ET

Hey guys,

I completely understand where you're coming from, Emanuel, but I also think a lot of people are going to say, "More Fallout? Sign me up!" See also: Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, and all the other tent pole franchises floating around out there. And Clinton, I wish I had the same kind of free time that you have. My advice for you: don't get old and don't accrue responsibilities.

My approach to Fallout 4 was pretty simple: avoid all media coverage whatsoever ahead of its release in order to allow myself to experience the game with the freshest set of eyes possible. Once it was officially announced at E3 in June, I said to myself, "OK, that's enough info for me, thanks." Part of me was also a little disappointed that the game wasn't being developed by Obsidian Entertainment, the team behind Fallout: New Vegas, which I personally thought was better than Fallout 3. Don't hate me, internet! (Actually, go ahead and hate me. I don't really mind.)

The overriding feeling I had in the early part of the game was one of anxiety. That's because pretty early on in the game you come across a dog named Dogmeat who serves as your companion. Speaking as a dog owner, every time Dogmeat came under fire, yelping in agony, I became very uncomfortable. I don't want my little friend to get hurt, I kept saying to myself.

Image: Nicholas Deleon

I'm a grown man (technically, at least), and Bethesda actually got me to have feelings for a video game dog.

And completely unlike you, Clinton, I'm really not one to fiddle about with sidequests, at least not on my first play-through. I much prefer zooming through the main quests, then returning to the game to explore after having beaten it once. I play the Grand Theft Auto games the same way, which, for the record, which officially makes me a weirdo.

One other point I wanted to bring up here at the outset: does the world look sufficiently "dead" to you guys? I'm not sure if it's the color palette this time around but the whole world seems more shiny and plastic to me than the previous two games did.

Image: Bethesda Softworks

From: Clinton Nguyen

To: Nicholas Deleon, Emanuel Maiberg

Sent: Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015 at 4:04 PM ET

I also have strange feelings for Dogmeat. It's just crazy that you get him in like 20 minutes--it's almost like the game's giving you a Rin Tin Tin-like therapy dog after getting out of a cryostatic nightmare. But this particular therapy dog can take like 50 bullets, no problem. I'm assuming this is a horrifying position to be put in if you own a real dog.

From: Nicholas Deleon

To: Clinton Nguyen, Emanuel Maiberg

Sent: Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015 at 4:20 PM ET

I'm torn there as well. Like, I don't want Dogmeat to die, but he's such a bullet sponge (at least on the default difficulty level that I'm playing at) that it kinda takes you out of the "this is a bleak wasteland, it's kill or be killed" environment. I accidentally activated a land mine last night and the resulting blast absolutely should have killed him, but no, he was fine.

Image: Nicholas Deleon

This gets me thinking: can you shoot children this time around? I know you couldn't in Fallout 3 and it briefly became a "thing." I mean, I'm not advocating this of course, I'm just interested from a mechanics perspective.

And then that also gets me thinking, too. Social media as it currently exists wasn't really around in 2008 when Fallout 3 came out, so I'm curious to see how the online discussion plays out surrounding the game. YouTube and Facebook were around of course, but they weren't nearly as pervasive as they are today.

From: Emanuel Maiberg

To: Nicholas Deleon, Clinton Nguyen

Sent: Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015 at 4:45 PM ET

I agree with both of you that the animals in this game are cool. All games could use more animals.

What Nicholas is saying about the world is one of my biggest issues. The game looks much better because it has higher resolution textures and higher polygon counts, but it's also more colorful. Sometimes I'm standing over a blue lake, looking at the clouds rolling over the hills, and I think, this post-apocalypse looks a little nicer than Brooklyn.

I don't know what this business about doing all the story missions first is, Nicholas. That's like eating your pizza starting from the crust.

There's also a size issue. The world itself feels smaller compared to the desert of Fallout: New Vegas, which I agree with Nicholas is much better than Fallout 3. I never feel isolated in Fallout 4 because the next town is always just a few steps away, and I never thought the dog was going to die because he's built like an M1 Abrams tank.

It's fun enough, sure, but I want some The Road-type desperation! In many ways it feels like Fallout 4 doesn't engage with all these ideas about a post-apocalyptic society as much as it's a slightly tweaked version of Bethesda's other huge role-playing game series, The Elder Scrolls. It's getting harder to tell them apart in any meaningful way.

I'm pretty far in now and I'll keep playing it until it's done. I want to see more side stories and stuff like that weird hotel bedroom in Lexington Clinton mentioned. But my feeling that this is a little bit of a letdown persists. Bethesda have been working on this game for a long time, it's the first Fallout on the new generation of consoles, and it just doesn't feel like a leap forward. The world is still super buggy, characters animate awkwardly, and I'm doing the same stuff I did in the last two games, seemingly on a smaller scale.

It will be interesting to see how 2015 online gaming communities unpack this. I'm sure r/gaming will be dominated by Fallout memes for the next month, and that YouTube videos will soon uncover all the cool little secrets. Then the modders will come, and maybe that's when I'll really start having fun.

Image: Bethesda Softworks

Slack: Friday, Nov. 6, at 11:28 AM ET

Nicholas: Oh, I hate the combat.

Nicholas: I dislike how enemies can move (albeit slowly) in VATS.

Clinton: Did they get rid of radiation poisoning effects?

Clinton: Like does it seriously just cap your max HP? That's so boring.

Nicholas: And the lip sync seems pretty off at times.

Nicholas: Could be just an early bug but it's off-putting.

Clinton: oh yeah it's off sometimes.

Nicholas: Kinda lame.

Clinton: yeah, combat feels kinda Skyrim-ified, actually most things feel Skyrimmy

Clinton: but! I am pleased with how they revamped ghouls.

Clinton: they legitimately freak me out now.

Nicholas: Did you guys do the quest where you had to clear out some place with raiders?

Nicholas: You get it fairly on.

Clinton: yeah that was garb.

Nicholas: But like I'm exploring that facility or whatever

Emanuel: yesss yessss, join me, hatersssss

Nicholas: Then I'm like, oh there's an inside! Nuts to that

Nicholas: And left

Update: Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 at 11:40 AM ET. We've updated our headline to be more reflective of the tone of this story.