If my last two forays into the Fallout Universe are anything to go by, it’s likely that it’ll be another couple of hundred hours before I “finish” Fallout 4, so I figured it’d perhaps behoove me to do a series of ‘my journey so far’ type pieces in the meantime. This is the first, I guess, but it’s also a ‘First Impressions‘ piece, so I’ll limit this one to the immediately obvious stuff, but with a bit of the ‘sense of occasion’ thrown in for good measure. Think of me as a modern day Herodotus, if you will; not only being witness to history as it happens, but, like, writing that shit down too.

That said, I spent a fair chunk of my first few hours in the game just grinning and giggling like a village idiot, and another big chunk of that time randomly and involuntarily shouting ‘Holy shitballs, I’m playing A NEW FALLOUT GAME!’. Whilst that’s understandable (to a point, although I suspect my neighbours might disagree) it wouldn’t make the best reading, so I’m going to try my best to convey that sense of joy and excitement, but using proper sentences within the commonly accepted framework of grammar (note I said “try” – I’m not making any promises at this point). Also, it pretty much goes without saying that I’m something of a fan, so, you know, usual caveats about subjectivity and such apply, obviously.

Fallout 4 IntroSo, anyways, let’s begin shall we!? From the minute you load up Fallout 4, there’s a veritable feast of Fallout-ey goodness, and it’s made all the more, erm, goodnessy, by the wait we’ve endured to devour it. BOOM; ‘Please Stand By’ screen. WHAM; Cheesy Retro Video! KAPOW; War….War Never Changes….! I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been as impressed by an introduction as I was by the Fallout 4 one, and not just because it was the Fallout 4 one either. In terms of quality it was up there with any Hollywood blockbuster, and even though Fallout’s not known for its cinematics and stuff, they absolutely nailed it here. That’s impressive, particularly if you consider the ridonkulous levels of anticipation that have built up, and it’d be entirely understandable if the reality fell slightly short – but it didn’t. At all. In fact, I was so blown away by everything that I didn’t even register I was now in control of a Fallout character – a moment I’d literally dreamed about for several years. But I was. I WAS IN CONTROL OF A FALLOUT CHARACTER!

And what’s more, my first task was to make that character look like me, or to at least try to make that character look like me (my face isn’t symmetrical, and it’s altogether too weird to be recreated with algorithms, but if you squint, it’s not a million miles away). My real-life-name’s also in there too, so basically, I’m right there, actually in the Fallout world. On the one hand, that’s pretty cool, but on the other – given the real-life vs Fallout lines got a bit blurry last time around – potentially problematic, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, though, let’s just go with it being pretty cool.

Fallout4 GraphicsThe second thing that’s immediately obvious is that this is a next-gen Fallout, and it just looks, and feels, richer and smoother. There’s still that quintessential Fallout-ey Retroness to everything, but it’s just that bit brighter, and deeper, and altogether better on my PS4. The incidental characters aren’t approaching the photo-realism of the ones in The Order, or Halo for example, but they’re a considerable step-up from the previous installments, and it all just appears more polished. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve already come across several glitches, and a bit of stuttering and stuff – which objectively I realise isn’t great, but as a fan, it was weirdly comfortable, and comforting, like sliding on your favourite pair of slippers. I’ve seen the Fallout games get a lot of stick for the graphics, and glitches, and often hilarious mistakes, and I get that the criticism’s valid, but a) it doesn’t really detract from the game that much in the grand scheme of things, and b) in a game the size and scope of a Fallout, it’s definitely more understandable and forgivable than in a linear, level-based one, I think. Essentially, in terms of graphics, Fallout 4’s better, but not perfect.

The next note-worthy addition to Fallout 4 world is the increased degree of crafting and building. This’ll be introduced to you fairly early in the game, and it’ll likely take a bit of getting used to and/or be a bit confusing at first. I don’t like change, and I don’t like being confused (which is unfortunate because it’s basically my default state) and at first I was all a bit ‘What the fuck is this shite!?’. However, within just a few minutes I was getting the hang of it, and within a few more minutes, I was stone-cold hooked on it.

In fact, at some point, I strongly suspect there was a conversation at Fallout HQ, which went a little something like this:

“Guys, you know how these games are already the most ridiculously addictive ones ever, d’ya reckon there’s anything we can do to step that shit up a gear or two?”

“Erm…. How about if we stick some Minecraft-type resource collecting/building/management stuff in. That’ll do it, right!?

“Yes. Yes it will!

*high fives, evil genius laughter, etc, etc*

Fallout 4 craftingBasically, it means that all the foraging and stuff that made the other games so compelling is turned up to 11 here, because literally everything has some degree of utility – be it for weapons, armour or general settlement construction and upkeep. Seriously, if you haven’t wrapped up all your non-essential real-life shizzle, do it now, because this is some next-level addictiveness. I’d spend days scouring the wasteland for bits and pieces anyway, but now there’s the added incentive/motivation to pimp-out my settlement with various things, I’m basically fucked. But in a good way, obviously.

The final thing of note I’ll relay for now is the whole Dog thing. Dogmeat (see what they did there?) is your all-new canine companion, and his presence has already made a slight difference to the general feel of my Fallout experience. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s something I’m going to love just yet, but I suspect a lot of that will depend on me getting to grips with it all. At this point it’s something of a mixed bag, and for every hidden stimpack he’s found for me, there’s been a time he’s run in front of a bad guy I’ve been trying to shoot, which is annoying.

Without wanting to spoil anything, that included a bloody mahoosive Deathclaw, and Dogmeat “helped” me by getting us both dead. A few times. In the end, I ordered him to wait in an upstairs room whilst I dealt with it alone, but then, when I had, I wasted five minutes going back up there to tell him to follow me once more. Again, I expect this is all on me, and I need to figure it all out/get practice with it, at which point I’ll likely reap the benefits. And even the fact that I want to do that is significant, given my distinct preference for the ‘go it alone’ approach in the other Fallout games.

FalloutIn conclusion – and even at this early stage – I’m loving Fallout 4, and more importantly, I can see quite clearly that I’ma keep loving particular elements of it for (at least) the foreseeable future. There’s always a risk of Build-Up/Expectation vs Reality stuff working against some games, and the long years between the last Fallout and this one made it an obvious contender for that, but I’m not feeling anything of the sort. So far, what I’m actually seeing is more of the same stuff I love about the game, and plenty more new stuff that I almost certainly will love about it. Sure, I’m biased, and yes, it’s still too early to go giving it levels of praise and kudos that might not entirely pan out, but, as the ever eloquent Oscar Wilde, or William Shakespeare might’ve said…..