This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Fallout 4.
Oh look everyone, it's the other game that came out on November 10th, the big fat one that rolls around for ages, selfishly hogging all the attention like the buttocks of a Kardashian and which takes longer to get through than a family-size broccoli cheesecake. Fallout 4... 'lout!
Y'know, I don't think I'll ever understand why people always make such a huge fuss about the release of a new Bethesda RPG. The usual answer I'm given when I ask about it is that they look very impressive and there's lots to explore, but the same is true of- well, the buttocks of a Kardashian, which, just like a Bethesda RPG, only look good from a distance. The moment you get up close, you start to see all the stretch marks and the little pimples that were covered up with the bucket of fake tan and a cement trowel, and you never know when the whole thing's going to do a great big fart in your face.
Bethesda RPGs are always deeply explorative, but never immersive. They make for some great screenshots, but the moment it has to start living and animating, you find it full of blank-eyed computer programs who struggle to navigate a six-lane highway without a carelessly-placed dog turd making their path-finding bugger up, and who have a weird habit of mysteriously vanishing in front of doors, which the doors always find so surprising that they momentarily forget how doors are supposed to work.
Is Fallout 4 any different? Do lamprey eels give pleasant blowjobs? Oh well! Still, at least it gives us a never-before-seen glimpse of the world before it was bent over a concrete traffic barrier and given a ruddy good nuclear seeing-to. You play as one half of a loving couple in possession of a comically badly-made animatronic doll that you somehow convinced yourself is a baby, who have to hoof it to a vault as the bombs drop. In the world of Fallout, the vaults are a system of underground bunkers designed to preserve the essence of white middle-class America in a world gone mad, except as has been established in previous Fallouts, they were all secretly designed to fuck with the occupants for giggles, which has got to be a shoe-in for the Umbrella Award for Extremely Contrived Corporate Villany.
So you and your family get cryogenically frozen for two hundred years for the aforementioned giggles, and wake up to find yourself up one blasted hellscape and down one baby. So you set out on an epic quest to track down your animatronic son and naturally get side-tracked within nanoseconds. As the plot unfolds, you find yourself caught up in a big multi-faction conflict centered around artificial humans created by a weird future cult and the moral question of if they deserve rights, which suffers from the fact that we aren't given any clear personal investment in the debate. Granted, we had an animatronic baby, but that looked more like plywood and string than artificial flesh. Perhaps as an effort to force some investment into you, the various factions involved are rather alarmingly quick to trust:
"Wow, you did one mission for us because you happened to be passing and it was on the way to the pisser! You have demonstrated total dedication to our cause and we've decided to make you our king."
This happens, like, three times! And the factions that don't go that fast still aren't much better:
"Obviously one mission isn't going to be enough to make you our king quite yet, so we'll just make you our most trusted warrior and hinge all our future plans around your continued success and assumed loyalty."
Listen, you dipshits, I'm just trying to fill an XP bar here! Maybe some of the fault is mine 'cause I tried to avoid conversation options that might piss you off, and for that reason I seem to have accidentally taken a thousand-year oath of allegiance, but excessive neediness just isn't attractive. Look at my dog, he doesn't need my approval! Maybe he'll move when I ask him to, maybe he'll stand with tongue hanging out, blocking the doorway to the next objective, staring at me as I scream 'til I'm blue in the tits.
The dog was something of a selling point as I recall, since you can command him to go and pick things up for you, but this is never as efficient as walking over and getting it yourself. I thought exploration was the whole point, why are you trying to get us to subcontract it? But he's handy to have in battle, I suppose, at least for the first five seconds before he's shot by every responsible gun owner in a six-mile radius, or get hit by a grenade thrown by me because he just ran into a bunch of entrenched enemies and I wasn't going to wait for him to finish nibbling on their bums! Then he has to lie down and wash his bollocks while you sort it out. Lucky for him, I had about ninety Stimpaks by the end of the main plot; I had enough stimulation on me to fuel an entire sweatshop's worth of Chinese spinsters. And this was from only a token amount of side-questing, mind, so I wouldn't come to Fallout 4 for a balanced or challenging RPG experience, which does rather raise the question of what the fuck we are here for!
Well, it could be for a "how much garbage can we fit in our underpants" competition. See, in previous Bethesda games, you'd know that whatever currency you could get by stealing an office building's worth of rotary phones and waste-paper baskets wouldn't make it worth the bother, but now there's a crafting system so all bets are off, and you need to be dragging sackfuls of typewriters around in case they contain screws, which, if you want to do any weapon and armour upgrading, have the street value of two discarded infants and a back-alley handjob. Don't even get me started on town-building, 'cos that's totally what we want to do in an exploration game, isn't it?
"Behold, stout adventurer, a hundred square miles of adventure and peril!"
"Great, I'll just squat in the top left corner for six hours building a giant light-up wooden statue of Michael Nesmith!"
"Oh give it a rest, Yahtzee, you obnoxious lager belch bubbling through a bucket of cold jizz! You don't have to build a town or craft anything, you can just stick to mercenary adventures, or you can spend all your time hopping up and down on a riverbank with a saxophone down your trousers, it's up to you!"
That's kind of me point, though: why's it up to me to figure out how I'm going to have a good time with this? That's what I paid Bethesda for... lout... four...
See, the problem with Bethesda RPGs is that they always load them up with a whole bunch of shit that's all completely detached from each other, so when I come to review it, how do I know I didn't inadvertently only play the really shitty parts and I'd have found all the good stuff if I'd taken the south road and followed the signs that read "cumdumpster adoption centre"?
But in general terms, Fallout 4 has bent over backwards for gimmicky ideas of what the kids want these days (i.e. Minecraft) and as cut off some of its own bollocks to do it, or at least shaved them down with an orbital sander. The number of missions that just boil down to "kill everything in this area and loot the place" is almost Borderlands-y, and the conversation system's been really simplified and now it's actually quite difficult to be a complete git. The most you can usually do is agree to solve everyone's problems in a slightly sarcy tone of voice. Yeah, I suppose I could just shoot them the moment they stop flapping their moist jaws like a broken animatronic vagina, but there's no karma system, and there's no fun being reprehensible unless I know I've disappointed someone. That's why I'd always wait for my parents to be around before I started sticking dogshit up my nose!
- I hope we didn't fall out over this: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Hope you enjoyed that 'lager belch bubbling through a bucket of cold jizz' line 'cos it went through quite a few iterations
- Oh the evenings I've spent pining for a good hard screw