Video Game Review: Fallout 4 (PlayStation 4)

Having loved Bethesda’s work on FalloutFallout: New Vegas and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I have been chomping at the bit to play Fallout 4 for awhile. Although, when it comes to video games that consume mass amounts of time to play, it can sometimes take me a few years before I can devote that much time to them. Life is a busy bitch when you get older.

So by the time I was ready to jump into this game, I was able to get the expanded “Game of the Year” edition and for rather cheap. That’s one big benefit I have by buying video games a few years too late.

Anyway, the enthusiasm I had for this series sort of went away as I started playing this. Let me clarify that I mostly like the game but after giving this a go for the first few days, I just felt like I was playing a game I’ve already played.

Sure, Fallout 4 takes place in a new location but it feels incredibly similar to Fallout 3. It’s in a northwestern American town that is surrounded by lots of patriotic shit. This one takes place in Boston, Fallout 3 took place in Washington, D.C. But this one does feature Fenway Park as a major location in the game, which was pretty cool being that I’m a big baseball fan, especially in regards to the history and culture of the sport.

But the map just wasn’t very exciting and didn’t feel like a new experience, really. Sure, there are some cool places and things that are fairly unique for this game but exploring the world map just didn’t seem as fun as it did in Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas. The only part of the world map that was exciting was the nuclear zone, as it was friggin’ ominous as hell, dark, dreary, desolate, full of tough as balls monsters and cool secrets. Plus, you need a hazmat suit before you even try to venture off into this part of the map.

My biggest complaint about the game, however, is its difficulty from the get go. Hell, one of your first few missions makes you have to fight a damn deathclaw when you’ve really got no experience or perks to speak of. It’s not an unbeatable situation but I had to expose a flaw in the games design in order to sort of cheat my way through the feat. Plus, in that same mission, you acquire power armor. It just makes everything seem very topsy turvy when compared to how the other two games played out.

Also, there are raiders and super mutants literally everywhere. Exploring the map is really damn difficult, early on. I found this to be a major annoyance, as I tend to like exploring my surroundings in these types of games. I think that it’s done to make exploring more pocketed to what your actual experience level is at. However, that seems odd as you also have to travel to Diamond City pretty early on in the game and it’s a hell of a real trek for just starting out and having to fight or evade groups of raiders and super mutants.

Needless to say, I had some frustrations with the game and it wasn’t very fun, as a low experienced player. So then I noticed that Bethesda allows you to use mods on the console versions of this game. So I tried a few out, not that I wanted to cheat but I just wanted to enjoy the game and have my battles with swarms of raiders and ghouls to feel a bit more balanced.

The mods made the game fun enough for me to not want to outright quit it after about ten hours. Although, the game should work and be balanced enough on its own. Everything felt lopsided early on and that wasn’t a problem I experienced with other Bethesda games before this.

Additionally, all the “dungeons” in the game feel very repetitive and not as imaginative as the dungeons from Skyrim or New Vegas. Those games had some great interior locations whereas Fallout 4 just seems like a lot of the same. Some places are interesting but a lot of the maps suck and are more like traveling through a knotted up snake than something more natural feeling. Also, a lot of these interior mazes make you have to backtrack through them, unlike Skyrim, which would typically reward you with a secret exit once you worked your way through these places.

In regards to the settlement building addition to the game, I’m not really a fan of it. I think that’s because it wasn’t a component in other Bethesda games and it just feels like something to waste my time and distract me from actual ass kicking gameplay.

The story in this game is also lacking. I was engaged by the main narrative in the other three Bethesda games but I just didn’t care about the story here. A lot of the missions were fun but I got more enjoyment from side quests than main quests. In fact, getting back on track with the main quest felt like a real chore.

Another issue, is that the graphics are improved but this doesn’t necessarily feel like a next gen game. I guess I’d have to fire up Fallout 3 again to really notice the difference but Fallout 4 doesn’t feel like a big enough leap forward in that regard. I haven’t played the older Fallout games since 2012 or so but the mechanics in this one felt clunkier than they needed to be. The controls felt more complex and it took a period of adjustment for me to get used to them but they never feel natural to me.

The only real positive is that this seems less buggy overall than previous Fallout games. Both of them felt littered with bugs that caused me to have to save often. Stuff like getting stuck in terrain and lots of freezing. This Fallout is better in that regard. I never got stuck in a rock and the game only froze up on me once.

I expected this to be at least a 9 out of 10 based off of my experience with other Bethesda games. It really disappointed, even though it was fun to play after getting some mods. But ultimately, I still quit after a few weeks because the mods eventually caused bugs and I didn’t want to go back to a really old save and play through some of the mundane missions again.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.

Video Game Review: Fallout: New Vegas (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2015.

Fallout 4 is finally out. I haven’t played it yet. But I did want to talk about the previous console Fallout installments before getting to the new game.

Fallout: New Vegas was the unnumbered sequel to Fallout 3. But as has become the trend, direct sequels aren’t usually numbered anymore, at least until the next console or generation of games. While this usually leads to confusion over what the chronology of games is in certain series, Fallout has only done this once. It certainly isn’t anywhere near as confusing as the clusterfuck that is the Assassin’s Creed series.

This game came out exactly two years after Fallout 3 and it plays exactly the same. It is an amazing game and pretty close to the masterpiece level of its predecessor but there just isn’t enough new stuff to set it apart and the story is less interesting. Also, the Wasteland seems more vast but the geography makes it more diverse. But even with that environmental diversity, it just feels like it is retreading the same formula.

The exchange of metropolitan D.C. for Las Vegas isn’t that exciting either. Sure, Vegas has a totally different vibe but it is much smaller than D.C. was and the casinos don’t serve much purpose, as they are simply aimless mazes with no real function other than a few plot points.

There are new creatures added to the mix of this game, as it is in a different region of the United States. However, most of them are more annoying than exciting when engaged. The damn mutant wasps are just a nuisance. I’d rather smash giant scorpions and blast on radioactive crab people and mutant bears.

Had this come out before Fallout 3, it would probably have been heralded as one of the best games of all-time but it came out after and just didn’t live up to the Fallout 3 experience.

I also had issues getting the DLC content to work. I played through one of them but there was a glitch preventing me from accessing the second and third ones, which is never fun after you pay for them. No patch seemed to fix the problem and that just adds to the other technical issues I faced with this game. I’d often times get stuck in the ground or a rock surface, the game would freeze, it would lag or I’d lose companions and never be able to find them again.

Even with all the negative points I’m making, this is still a thoroughly enjoyable game. It just isn’t as great as Fallout 3 but perfection is hard to replicate, even when you’ve created the formula already.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Fallout 3 and Fallout 4.

Video Game Review: Fallout 3 (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2015.

Fallout 4 is finally out. I haven’t played it yet. But I did want to talk about the previous console Fallout installments before getting to the new game.

Fallout 3 was a masterpiece. It is also my favorite game of the series up to that generation.

The world was vast. In fact, it was the most vast world I had ever played in, up to that time. The graphics were solid, the game play was incredible and the story was pretty good. The game also introduced me to the magical world of DLC content and produced some of the best DLC content of all-time.

The reason I like this game better than its follow up, Fallout: New Vegas, is because it just seemed grittier, more dangerous and a lot more interesting. It also took place in Washington D.C. You could walk through the Capitol Building, the museums, access the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The final battle of the game took place around the Jefferson Memorial. There was also a massive aircraft carrier that was converted into a city.

The game also featured D.C.’s subway systems and sewer, which were full of ghouls (essentially radioactive zombies) and other terrors. The city streets were overrun by raiders (savage human gangs) and super mutants (giant hulking beasts with heavy armor and big guns). The Wasteland, the area outside of the city, was a vast desert with all kinds of danger and monsters.

Fallout 3 came chock full of side quests that made the game pretty much endless. You could play this thing for well over 100 hours and still find new things to do. It never got boring, it never got stale and I still fire it up on a regular basis and storm the wasteland looking for action.

This game was the precursor to what Skyrim became. It took a formula successful from the Elder Scrolls series and repackaged it in a more modern setting. It was nothing like Fallout and Fallout 2 before it and it benefited from the change.

The VATS combat system was unique and a cool new way to experience a fight in a video game.

The greatest thing of all, were the humongous super mutants called “Behemoths”. Battling one of those is one of the greatest experience you can have in a video game. It was like one man versus King Kong. But a sick, twisted, yellow, hairless King Kong.

Hunting Deathclaws in caverns was also a huge thrill. It was more frightening than most horror games and this isn’t really a standard horror game. It is a post-apocalyptic action game with a lot of scary threats that will make your survival a real challenge.

Fallout 3 is pretty close to a perfect game. There really isn’t much that one could do to improve upon it with the technology and capabilities of its time. Well, except for the bugginess and lag that I experienced on the PS3 version. My friends who played this on Xbox said that it ran smoothly, all the time.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4.

Video Game Review: Wolfenstein: The New Order (PlayStation 3)

*I played the PlayStation 3 version. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows.

*Written in 2014.

I have been a pretty huge fan of the Wolfenstein series since I discovered Wolfenstein 3D (the third game in the series) on one of my friend’s PC’s back in 1992. It introduced me to the first-person shooter genre and led to the great Doom series, also put out by the same publisher, id Software. In fact, both games are believed to exist in the same fictional world.

In 2000, I was blown away by the much improved game in the series Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Then in 2009, one of my favorite video games of all-time Wolfenstein was released. Yep, the 2009 installment, was simply called Wolfenstein. A sequel to that awesome game was inevitable and what we got was this year’s Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Let me start by saying that, in my eyes, this game had really big shoes to fill. I expected a lot from it because the last game was damned near perfect, they spent five years on development and they brought in Bethesda Softworks, who made the magnificent games Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, The Elder Scrolls series (most notably Skyrim), the Doom series (since 2012) and others.

This game is fun, it is exciting but it is not as fun and exciting as the 2009 game it follows. The graphics are killer, the plot is interesting enough but it seems to lack in spirit and ingenuity. It was a very straightforward game and was quick and easy to beat. It was also, at times, tedious. For instance, some missions just had you rummaging through your hideout or the sewers beneath to find random bullshit objects like keys and blowtorches. I found those missions to be distracting, pointless and boring as hell. They poorly broke up the heavy action sequences of the game, they really didn’t contribute to the overall story and after having destroyed a Nazi death camp, why am I the errand boy for the resistance, as opposed to one of the useless office monkeys?

The plot of the previous games were over the top but they had a light heartedness and didn’t take themselves too seriously. This game got more serious and suffered because of it. The fact that it got darker and more realistic didn’t allow it to flow naturally and it felt kind of silly at times, which wasn’t the intention. The point is, this is a story that can’t be taken realistically and when it is presented that way, it works against itself. The end result is that this game’s serious tone and brutality seemed to replace the campiness and adventure of what made the previous game so much fun. It felt like a poor recreation completely lacking any understanding of why the previous game worked so well.

Additionally, this game was missing that supernatural and occult element that encompassed all the previous games. 2009’s Wolfenstein dealt with a lot of really cool occult shit and the protagonist actually had a medallion that would allow him to move through different dimensions, which added an awesome element to the game that was reminiscent of what made the Soul Reaver games so unique and fun to play. This game was a straightforward shoot’em up and you were just shooting at Nazis and mecha the whole time. While that’s cool, I miss the demonic and mythical evil elements that tied this series to its sister, the Doom series.

The hero, B.J. Blazkowicz, felt like an entirely different character in this game and was missing the charm he had from the last one. He was just an angry brute with a hole in his heart and he wasn’t this likeable guy that he had always been previously. I always saw him as an Indiana Jones or Nathan Drake type and now he is like a generic background character in an Expendables movie.

It sounds like I am trashing this game but the truth is, I did enjoy it. It was more polished and a well executed game. It was also enjoyable and entertaining. The problem is, that being a sequel to an amazing game, regardless of its predecessor’s strengths, means that this needs to top it or at the very least, be on the same level. It fell short and that is why it will probably go onto my game shelf, most likely never to be touched again, where I play through the 2009 game just about once a year.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The 2009 version of Wolfenstein, as well as this game’s sequels.

Video Game Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PlayStation 3)

*written in 2015.

*I played the PlayStation 3 version. The game is also available on Xbox 360 and Windows.

Yes, this game is a bit dated. I don’t care. I put it off for very good reasons.

First of all, it is made by Bethesda, who have made four other Elder Scrolls games before this one, as well as the last two Fallout games, which took away big chunks of my life, as I was immersed in their world for not just weeks but months. Well, Skyrim was no different and I knew that for a long time before I started this masterpiece, that I had to be prepared to devote an insane amount of time to the game to truly get the full experience.

Over the last month of my life, I have spent most evenings and weekends traversing the mystical land of Skyrim – protecting its citizens from massive dragons, frost trolls, giants, liches, vampires, werewolves, orcs, dark elves and civil war. There are several other threats, such as gods and small armies of bandits. Actually, almost everything is a threat.

Additionally, this is the ultimate sandbox style game and the world you play in is so massive that it makes the Fallout games feel like they take place in a cereal box. Now it might not be as massive of a map as Just Cause 2 but it is pretty close and a lot more diverse. If you count all the square footage of the dungeons and caves in the game, plus all the DLC content, it probably exceeds Just Cause 2 in total area.

The game also features a slew of radiant quests, which are quests that reappear as the game goes on and each time that they do, they have differences that set them apart from their previous incarnations.

Essentially, this game is designed so that the player can play forever. There is always something to do. It took me less than a week to finish the main quest but with all the DLC content, radiant quests and several other quests I haven’t even unlocked yet after a month’s worth of play, I could just keep going and going and going.

The engine is pretty much exactly like the one that Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas were built on. They’ve fixed and polished some things though and this is a much more enjoyable experience from a technical standpoint. It does still have its issues, especially on the PlayStation 3 – the version I’ve been playing, but they aren’t anywhere near as bad as the freezing, lag and annoying other little things that plagued the Fallout games once you got deep into them.

There is lag here and there, the game has frozen up a few times but it is rare in comparison to Bethesda’s other PS3 releases. My biggest complaint is that the load screens take a really long time and that gets worse the bigger your save file gets.

However, Skyrim has provided me with one of the best video game experiences I have ever had. Yes, I’ve wasted a ton of time on it but it isn’t a waste if one is truly enjoying themselves.

Besides, what is cooler than building your character up so strong that you can kill a dragon with just your fists? Yeah, I’m at that level and it is fucking awesome!

Rating: 10/10