Fallout 76 is Bethesda's attempt at bringing the post-apocalyptic series online. Revealed prior to E3, and detailed at E3 2018, Fallout 76 was touted to be the biggest Fallout game ever. With the game now out on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, we've managed to spend some quality time in Fallout 76's vast online world so you don't have to. Here's what you need to know.
Fallout 76 takes place before the events of classics like Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 3. You're an inhabitant of Vault 76. Vaults are the franchise's many underground shelters constructed in the event of a possible nuclear war. You emerge from your vault 25 years after the bombs dropped and you're tasked with reclaiming the area of West Virginia. Along the way you'll discover what happened to the world around you, hunt for your fellow vault dwellers, and take down hordes of enemies in a hostile, irradiated environment.
And while all of this sounds promising on paper, the reality is far from it. For one, the game has no non-playable characters (NPCs). Granted Bethesda mentioned their absence when the game was revealed, but it does little to change the fact that the world of Fallout 76 feels empty, soulless, and devoid of any life. Sure, it's a nuclear wasteland inhabited by fierce mutated creatures, which should make NPCs in short supply anyway, but that logic should have held true for past Fallout entries as well, which were filled to the brim with memorable characters and missions. In comparison, Fallout 76's structure falls apart with quest givers being computer terminals and robots, which ends up making each mission feel more impersonal than it should be.
Furthermore, the quests don't snowball into anything of relevance or importance to the overall story. Rather, they seem to exist as a reason to give you more weapons, armour, materials, and items, instead of progressing you through a plot. It seems that for most part, the quests are designed to make you travel vast swathes of the Appalachian wilds to obtain pieces of information pertaining to characters that have already died. These are usually in the form of audio tapes or emails and while they're well-written, they do little to make you feel like a part of the game world and its events. Instead, they have you living vicariously in a virtual world, which is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
Additionally, Fallout 76's always-online structure means that VATS — one of Fallout's more interesting gameplay mechanics — is meaningless. VATS allows you to slow down the action and pinpoint specific body parts of an enemy while using a gun, allowing you to pull off some hilariously gory kills. Since Fallout 76 is an online game, pausing the proceedings isn't possible. This reduces VATS to a quick aim feature, allowing you to snap onto a foe fast, and then use manual aiming to fire. If it sounds convoluted it's because it is, making standard shooting a better option.
Thankfully, Fallout 76's gunplay is passable. It's not at the level of polish we've come to expect from other online shared world shooters like Destiny 2 or Warframe, but it gets the job done with adequate handling and recoil. It's not that big a step up from Fallout 4, but it does just enough to not make running and gunning not feel like a chore. Melee combat has more in common with the likes of Skyrim and Oblivion, which is to say waving a machete around feels wonky and chances are you'll end up missing your target ever so often. This is okay when you consider that the enemy AI oscillates between being hyper-aggressive — with hordes of mutants or robots charging at you —and simply just staring you down until you hit them first.
The issues with Fallout 76 don't end here. Playing the game on the Xbox One X, we noticed erratic frame rate drops where Fallout 76 would crawl to a near halt even with not much going on in a scene. That's perplexing when you consider that aside from its lighting and foilage, Fallout 76 doesn't look too dissimilar to Fallout 4 which wasn't this poorly optimised at launch.
Hopefully, Bethesda reboots Fallout 76 like it did with The Elder Scrolls Online. Right now though, the game is hard to recommend to anyone but the most faithful of Fallout fans.
Rating (out of 10): 5
Gadgets 360 played a review copy of Fallout 76 on the Xbox One X. The game is available at Rs. 3,999 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC in India ($60 in the US)
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