Is it a graphical issue? The short answer is, no. As with many older games, the concept of graphics isn’t necessarily an issue, as gamers can switch back and forth between current generation and older generation games with relative ease. But there are times when Bethesda titles don’t look great because they refuse to update their game engine. Is it a play-style issue? Not really. As the current generation of gamers obsess over graphics, there is something that a more critical player will pay attention to: the gameplay aesthetics.
Though aesthetics is normally viewed as visual appeal, game critics often refer to gameplay aesthetics as how a game evokes emotions in its players. How the world of the game makes the player feel.
This is where Fallout 4 seems to separate itself from the originals, as well as Fallout 3 and New Vegas. From the subtle, tonal shifts in the music, to combat fluidity (so long as you’re familiar with V.A.T.S.), character actions and words, and and even a simple thing like an Alpha Deathclaw sneaking up behind you from a rock like a bloody velociraptor while you’re trying to snipe him with your .50 caliber recon sniper rifle! These elements cause you to actually think about what to do next. You’ll want to listen to a group of raiders complain about their jobs so you’ll know when they’re going to move. Or take out a Super Mutant Suicider that has a red blinking light because he’ll kill you with a mini-nuke when he gets too close. So while there can be large segments of wandering the wastes where you don’t see anything, when you do run into them you need to pay attention or else you’ll end up paying for it.
That’s not to say the game is perfect, there are flaws to be sure; the story and dialogue at times leave much to be desired, but the level of detail in the world still makes for a compelling experience. While you’re on missions and exploring you can stumble across the digital counterparts of several real life Boston locations. Bunker Hill, Fenway Park, The Freedom Trail—you find them in the game and that makes you want to go out and learn about the real world locations themselves. There’s even a bar in honor of Cheers located on the street the real-life bar is located on. Bethesda went out of their way to ensure you really felt like you were in Boston, (though the accents they use could have used a little work). But ultimately you feel like the people who live there really exist and you want to help them when you can. Often it’s just for the rewards, but there are instances when you genuinely want to help them out and see the quest through, and upon completion, you can see small ripple effects due to your actions.
In Fallout 4 the nuclear radiation has had over two hundred years to disperse, and while much of the residual danger is gone at this point, the game reminds you that radiation has a nasty habit of sticking around. Fallout 4 incorporates rain and thunderstorms whose lightning bolts will increase your radiation levels, forcing you to keep an eye on changes in the weather, It’s a simple and effective element which adds a new layer to an already-dynamic open world environment. Additional reminders of the past devastation pop up in clever ways throughout the game; water in certain areas will likely still be contaminated, soil may be infertile and affect plant life enough so you find only patches of vibrant land.
You can go it alone, bring your trusty dog or friends, build a town where you can settle down after your journeys are over, or make a series of homes you rest in during your travels. The choice is yours, and the Commonwealth is yours to do with as you please in one of the most alive, if somewhat flawed, games this year.