Fallout 4 review copy provided by Bethesda
Fallout 4 has had a pretty rough ride since launching to critical acclaim, sadly more so on PS4 than anywhere else, with Bethesda inadvertently repeating the third wheel treatment on PlayStation that saw Skyrim and the like struggle so terribly last generation. Framerate issues, crashes, removal of an entire visual effect on a DLC expansion in order for the game to cope, promised mods still languishing in development hell while other platforms have had them for months (spookily similar to the Skyrim DLC situation that saw expansions arriving way after the fact on PS3). It’s washed away a lot of the goodwill from that initial launch (not helped by a high level of player backlash in general for the above reasons and beyond).
It’s very unfortunate. There’s plenty to love about Fallout 4’s progression. Even if you do find it combat-heavy and choice-light, there’s a wealth of exploration and detail in The Commonwealth, and the expansions have proved to provide some interesting new people and places to encounter. Yet there’s been an underlying sense of the underwhelming to it all, even when the things given are genuinely very good. Take Far Harbor, a fine expansion in many ways, especially in the sense of story and new creatures it gave, but it became a technical nightmare, and if anything is going to scupper best laid plans in video games, it’s technical issues. As we draw to the end of the player’s journey, can one last hurrah spark the game back into life?
Nuka World is the final piece of Fallout 4 DLC proper, a hefty expansion set among the ruins of a once grand theme park, and now the battleground for a volatile turf war between several gangs of Raiders. The player turns up at the gate to find a bloodbath ensuing, and before long you’re led into a savage gauntlet of deadly intent that culminates in you taking on the head honcho of all the park’s Raider gangs in a fight to the death (he’s got a dodgems-powered suit of armor, you have something quite comical yet effective to defend yourself with). It’s a typically shooty section, but thankfully, like with Far Harbor, there’s more room for talking and negotiating than the main game allowed for.
In fact, fans of New Vegas might be interested to hear that Nuka World captures an essence of the gangland setup from that game. Not THE essence, mind, just a morsel of that. This is nowhere near as deep as Obsidian’s janky dream, but still an encouraging sign that Fallout hasn’t completely lost touch with its past just yet. There’s a thicker mean streak to Nuka World, one that goes beyond the protagonist’s Joey/Chandler hybrid of conversation. In Nuka World, you can begin to unleash just a smidgen more of your inner bastard.
You need to impress and press upon the gangs to avoid/cause all out war between them, and if they trust you enough through doing jobs and the like, then you can order them to do something many would have been dreaming of the 99 times Preston Garvey got all passive-aggressive about settlements and their problems. Yes, you can send Raiders out to pillage your own communities (and obviously any you don’t have a share in as well) if you so wish (they’ll probably do it anyway). It ties in Nuka World to the main game quite well in that regard, knowing that there is a proper Raider H.Q. out there that’s likely been feeding your settlements to the deranged, aggressive types you’ve been turning into human colanders for the past 100 hours plus you’ve been roaming the wasteland.
There’s also a welcome amount of Fallout-brand silliness to be had. Strange characters, absurd situations and the daft novelty of each themed area is a refreshing shake up from the regular game’s relatively sober encounters. Throwing in some new beasties as well adds to the experience, even if they are just retooled versions of existing enemies.
What’s disappointing about all this is that the changes amount to little more than window dressing. Sure there’s more non-violent options, but even these lead down the path of giblets and offal eventually. Fallout 4 just can’t shake that cacphonic shootybang problem that was so prevalent in the main game. Everything goes Rick Grimes in every situation, that was less of an issue in the main game because there’s the exploration and freshness to it, but by this point the player is expected to have put in hundreds of hours, and the lack of combat variety really does grate somewhat for even the most ardent fan. As a result, along with the other issues I touched upon, it’s incredibly tough to motivate yourself into being enthused by Nuka World. That is a bit unfair on the expansion because it’s definitely fun to tuck into it in small doses.
The start of Nuka World does well to grab hold of you early on, making you feel like you’ve come home for another adventure, but it quickly devolves into the usual fare, which is already losing its lustre. That there epitomizes the problem with every bit of Fallout 4 DLC so far: good ideas that outstay their welcome. It’s a solid slab of game, and if you’ve had a break from Fallout 4, then it’s extra nice to play. The new areas are daft in the best way, but there’s not enough meat on the bones to rouse me from the lethargy caused by oh so much Fallout 4 already.
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