DISCLAIMER: A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, and PC
Developers: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Fallout 76 is nothing short of an unholy disaster. It’s a game I’ve wanted since Fallout 3, the idea of enriching that world with some additional players seems really smart on paper and hell, it still is. The problem is, Bethesda removed everything good about Fallout, added more players, and made an astonishingly unpolished game.
I really don’t want to be mean for the sake of being mean but Fallout 76 is bad, really, really bad. It’s probably the second worst game I’ve played in 2018 next to The Quiet Man. It’s packed with bugs and glitches that aren’t funny, they’re annoying, ugly, and at times, game breaking. It’s got abysmal presentation, a boring but almost non-existent story, and it’s just painfully unfun.
So for the uninitiated, what is Fallout 76? Fallout 76 is a prequel to all the other Fallout games which sees a set of survivors emerge from their vault in West Virginia years after the nukes have hit America in order to rebuild. The twist this time is that there are 23 other players in the world with you, they can help you, they can trade items with you, and they can kill you (only if you fight back, though).
A Fallout game that feels like its developed by people who don’t know much about Fallout:
When you leave your vault, you can pretty much tell that this is going to be a watered down Fallout experience. The usual fanfare of the epic music, the light beginning to shine in, and your eyes adjusting to the desolate wasteland is pretty much gone. You just hit a button and load out and bloop, you’re in the world.
The excitement instantly deflates and you quickly say to yourself, “Oh no… this is going to be really disappointing, isn’t it?” The world just kind of exists and outside of some monsters to kill, there’s not a lot to do within it. It’s Bethesda’s largest Fallout map but it feels totally baron, Fallout: New Vegas’ map feels larger because of how rich that world is.
There are unique places on the map to visit like the Strip, people of all different kinds with stories to tell and unique opportunities to offer, it’s a lifeless wasteland that is ironically filled with life. That’s the beauty of this series, the world is captivating and in your travels across the radiated deserts and destroyed cities, you find things that show that humanity is making attempts to rebuild.
Whether that’s through foul-mouthed children creating their own civilizations, a town built around an undetonated nuclear bomb, or a dictator repeating history with disturbing crucifixes and questionable ways of ruling, there was always something unique about the worlds Fallout has had to offer. Fallout 76 has none of that because there are no humans, there are no sentient beings you can interact with outside of the players. Just robots and monsters and it’s totally lifeless in a completely counter-productive way for the series.
It’s like everyone involved in Fallout 76 just has a complete misunderstanding of what Fallout is. The joy of Fallout is in the conversations, ranking up your charisma to smooth talk people, unearthing new revelations about people and the world, etc. The heart and soul of Fallout are simply gone.
There are very few people who will say “My favorite part of Fallout is when I shoot stuff,” simply because the shooting in Fallout is kind of the worst part. The gunplay isn’t great, that’s why they implemented VATs because it made combat more fun and engaging.
VATs is more or less just an aimbot in 76, since it’s multiplayer, nothing stops so everything moves still and your gun just locks on and you may or may not hit your target depending on your chance of hitting them. The strategy of VATs is gone, no more taking a minute to pause and select a target’s limb or head to shoot it off, it’s just super simplified now.
To be fair, I don’t think there would be a way to successfully do VATs in a multiplayer setting but it still feels what they came up with is less than ideal.
A boring, unengaging story padded with even worse quests:
Fallout 76 has a story but frankly, I couldn’t tell you what it’s about because of how wildly unengaging it was. The game starts with you seeking out the Overseer of Vault 76 and you follow their trail, listening to found holotapes (audio logs) which tell you the story. Because who doesn’t love listening to a story in a massive AAA video game like an audiobook?!
These tapes are long, they autoplay when you pick them up, you can’t pause them at a specific spot and play from that spot again later, and they’re just a really bland way of telling a story in such an interesting universe. The quests surrounding the story are equally as bad, if not worse.
Find a terminal/robot/or whatever, go seek someone out, find out that *gasp*, they’re dead because there are no human NPCs in this world, take something, report back. Or go somewhere, clear out a building of creepy deformed mutants, find something, report back. That’s really the meat of the game, rinse and repeat.
Everything about the quests and story feels incredibly inept, completely ignoring everything that Bethesda has learned from creating some of the most renowned RPGs in the history of gaming. I can replay hours of Skyrim in my head, mentally exploring caves and towns, furthering specific arcs, it’s a memorable game filled with unforgettable stories. Fallout 76? I find myself forgetting mostly every quest that I’ve done.
One of the buggiest, most unpolished AAA games of 2018:
Over the last week or so, there’s been countless articles and videos showcasing how buggy 76 is. It’s not just cherry picking the most extreme examples, that’s pretty much the game right out of the box for hours on end. You’ll find horrid enemy AI where they just stand there and take shots or move in bizarre rotations, have your weapons faze out of existence in front of you, suffer from a frame rate of less than 20 FPS in combat, and so much more.
It’s a chore to experience this game because you’re constantly bombarded with bugs that don’t have that fun Bethesda charm, they’re frustrating and ugly. I once had to clear out a base to call in a government airdrop and once I called for it, I waited for several minutes but nothing ever came.
In a similar instance, I finished an event and a small ship came and dropped off loot. The ship glitched and instead of landing/hovering above us, it clipped into the ground below the feet of a player, and then flew off, catapulting the other player somewhere else in the world, never to be seen again!
The HUD also gets super cluttered with probably a fourth or more of your screen filled with objectives if you don’t manually go into your menu and deactivate all your quests (this makes navigating the world via the compass a nightmare too), everything about the design of Fallout 76 feels completely unintuitive.
The screen just gets overwhelmed with junk, the UI is a pain to navigate in a real-time setting (god forbid you need to eat food or something while in combat and don’t have it in your favorites menu), and you end up getting aggravated rather than enjoying anything about the experience.
This is a game made by a studio with an obscene amount of money and they even tackled this with other Bethesda studios around the world, yet it feels like what we’re playing is a super duper early access game. Fallout 76 feels like a blatant slap in the face, how anyone can charge a minimum of $59.99 for a game like this is beyond me.
Fallout 76 is Fallout on the surface in the sense it has the same art style, the lore, the gross critters lurking all over the place but it severely lacks what everyone loves about the post-apocalyptic RPG series. A world to spend dozens, even hundreds of hours getting lost in, moral dilemmas, interactions with characters, dialogue choices. Fallout 76 feels like buggy, mindless killing and looting none of which is even remotely fun to do, creating a serious identity crisis for one of gaming’s most beloved franchises.
What Bethesda has released is honestly pretty gross and shameless, it’s not up to par with even the bare minimum requirements for an independent early access game on Steam. It’s a game that will hopefully improve over the months and years to come but the fact is, what they’ve released feels disrespectful to Fallout fans and gamers alike.