Fallout 76 has had an interesting path from the original announcement to a proper reveal at E3 leading up to the pre-order only B.E.T.A. Fallout 76 was rumoured to have a focus on the base building aspects of Fallout 4 and there were also various rumours of it being a persistent multiplayer world and the end result is a bit of both. Given the pre-order only B.E.T.A. performance and impressions, I wasn’t expected something super polished here but the final game available right now has tons of things that need to be addressed very soon for it to be something I can recommend to even fans of Fallout. This review is based on the Xbox One X version of the game.
Fallout 76 is set as a prequel to the whole franchise. It is set in West Virginia (Just like the famous song that Bethesda had covered for trailers which is the best part about Fallout 76 as a whole). You begin in Vault 76 which is a shelter and emerge over 2 decades after the bombs were dropped. Your aim is to try and survive in the world which also happens to have lots of other players and various enemy types.
In a lot of ways, Fallout 76 feels like the worst of games like Sea of Thieves and No Man’s Sky. Both of those games launched with less content than expected and were dropped by many players until later on when content patches started bringing in more features and modes. Fallout 76 is one of the most unpolished games I’ve played this generation and the quest design is repetitive and bland to the point where it becomes beyond annoying when quests glitch. Many games are full of fetch quests but the way these games mask that with story and character development or even set pieces makes the quests bearable. The situation here feels like you’re just wasting time going from terminal to terminal or robot to listen to long audio logs and do the same thing over and over again while trying to survive in between locations.
Enemy variety is one of the redeeming factors here but combat is a bit iffy. VATS makes a return but it is in real time here. The team obviously didn’t implement a slowing down mechanic given the persistent multiplayer online world and this system lets you target parts but everything happens in real time. Melee combat is good but enemies glitching out or even appearing in your field of view from a few feet away is not good at all. I even had an enemy suddenly stop attacking as if I had disappeared when I was right in front of it.
Fallout 76 builds on Fallout 4’s visuals and has some great lighting outdoors. Things look very rough indoors though. Fallout 4 is just a lot more polished in every aspect. Foliage can range from looking beautiful to looking like something you’d see on a Vita game that has asset streaming issues. This is probably the most inconsistent release of 2018 in how varied the visuals are ranging from plain ugly to great looking.
While the visuals have a few redeeming factors, the performance is almost always bad. Even when it holds 30fps, there are random freezes or frame pacing issues that make it never feel good. The performance issues don’t even seem to occur only when there’s a ton going on because I ran into frame drops even in smaller rooms with nothing inside. The frame rate also seems to tank when there are multiple players in a smaller area with enemies attacking. Even with the patch that arrived earlier this week (that was 48GB), performance is bad. In fact after the patch, playing in third person resulted in my character’s head loading in without a body for about 15 seconds. This happened a few times.
Inon Zur’s soundtrack is the best part of Fallout 76. It makes a lot of the mundane quests bearable. The audio design in general is very good through the audio logs and combat but the music is exceptional. Even if you skip the game, make sure to check out the soundtrack.
Forza Horizon as a franchise does a fantastic job of letting players experience what feels like a living world but populated with AI controlled versions of people on the Xbox friends list. That lets people who want to play solo get a good experience instead of forcing them into a world with randoms who may or may not annoy them in game. Fallout 76 has a system that punishes players who constantly try and kill others who aren’t interested in PvP but that doesn’t fix the annoyance.
Overall, Bethesda has a base here they can build on (no pun intended) but the game needs a Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn level overhaul to be something that is worth buying. This should have launched in Game Preview / Early Access for a lower price instead of being a full priced release launching on all platforms. In its current state, Inon Zur’s score is the only redeeming factor here. I can’t believe Bethesda released Fallout 76 in a state that makes even launch versions of Destiny and No Man’s Sky feel like complete experiences.