The folly of Fallout 4: Virtual Reality on Steam

Henry Ruiz

The great iron vault door stands immobile and silent in front of you. Pressing the oversized red button begins an orchestra of grinding gears and hissing pipes. As the great geared arm pulls the vault door away, light rushes into the room, brighter than any light you’ve ever seen. As you take your first steps out and your vision adjusts to the light, the outlines of buildings and trees begin to appear; ghosts of their former selves. The trees are stripped of leaves and show only black burned bark with deep gashes and splintered limbs. The buildings, the few that are still standing – have their walls ripped away and roofs collapsed on top of them. The rest are simply foundations with thin support beams and some burned roofing tiles on top of them. 

You’ve stepped into the world of Fallout, set in a desolate wasteland following the Great War of 2077, a nuclear apocalypse that leaves America in a post-apocalyptic state of anarchy. Originally released in September of 1997, Fallout immediately gained a following with it’s intricate and engaging open world, a rarely seen level of character customization both before and during the game, and enjoyable gameplay that begged for multiple play-throughs. Previously a strictly a PC based game, the franchise was bought by game developer Bethesda Soft Works in 2004, and four years later Fallout 3 would see a platform-wide release on Xbox360, PS3, and PC in October of 2008. This release would revive interest in the game following a seven-year hiatus, selling 4.3 million copies in the first month of release and a total of 12.4 million by fall of 2015, according to Electronic Entertainment design and research. Fallout New Vegas, its prequel released in 2011, would sell 11.4 million copies by the same time in 2015. The sheer scale and popularity of Fallout was astounding. 

It came to no one’s surprise when Fallout 4 was released in November of 2015 and shipped 12 million copies in the first week of sales, a game that took the previous two titles four years to do. Its release was brought in with raving reviews, rewards, and hundreds of YouTube videos that were quickly swamped with millions of views. With multiple DLC releases planned and talks of virtual reality (VR) integration in the works this seemed like a huge hit for Fallout as Bethesda strives to change the VR industry. Despite all this, after days of gameplay, something was not right with long terms fans of the series, including myself. Behind the new intuitive gameplay mechanics, increased customization of player characters, and enlarged maps, which are now bigger than anything before it. It also includes a wider variety of guns, extensive missions, more to explore, and more to play through the game felt like so much less. The complex missions of the previous games that were solely based on finding seemingly random notes and tying together contradictory evidence. 

The dark humor and the missionsthat make one question the meaning of humanity and what oneself would do in a truly hopeless situation were all at best watered down, and at worst, completely gone. The game, after hours of playing could be summarized with “It was fun.” Gone were the discussions amongst gamers of choices made years before in previous series. With an overly simplified story that included a clear-cut good vs. bad choices, the greater nuances of the game were gone. We finally had sprinting and customhouses, but we lost places to sprint to and reasons to build these houses in the first place. 

Fallout 4 was a true game changer for the franchise and the industry, the standard for gameplay mechanics and graphics was set for the new era of RPGs, but so was the story quality and player involvement. No one is going to say Fallout 4 was a bad game - because it wasn’t. It had great sales and a huge player base, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who claims to matches the story quality and re-playability of the previous titles. This trend is seen across the gaming industry—a drop in story quality is almost standard and general focus beyond gameplay or presentatio n is rare. With rumors of a new Fallout game in the works, one begins to question how it will hold up when compared to the older titles but considering the sales of Fallout 4 and similar games with the same problems such as, Destiny 2 or Star Wars Battlefront, does anyone really care?