Having a blast in Fallout 4

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The long awaited Fallout 4 (Bethesda’s third Fallout title, coming five years after New Vegas) released last week to the excitement of millions of gamers around the world. The release was so significant, that Pornhub reported a ten percent drop in traffic the day of the game’s release, as reported by VentureBeat. In fact, Fallout 4 shipped over 12 million copies on the day of its release, raking in $750 million in a single day. In contrast, Bethesda’s first Fallout game, Fallout 3, sold just 4.7 million copies in its first year and Skyrim shipped seven million units in its first week. Fallout 4 has already proven to be an extraordinary success.

My first Bethesda experience was with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind on the Xbox in 2001. On Christmas morning I set up my new Xbox and stuck in the disc that would soon spend hundreds of hours inside my Xbox’s disc drive. I was immediately blown away by the amount of freedom to explore and do anything I wanted. If I wanted I could take out a sword, slaughter a store owner and steal all of their supplies. I could try to convince another character to help me, or I could strike them down and be done with them. I could travel anywhere in the world at any time, with hardly any restriction. It was truly mind blowing to experience such an open game.

My first experience with Fallout 3 was just as incredible. The detailed opening sequence inside the vault was unlike anything I had previously experienced. The freedom to complete objectives via multiple means (violence, persuasion, etc.) and the multiple outcomes of various quests was revolutionary. I was instantly in love and utterly addicted.

Fallout 4 has so far lived up to much of the hype. The pre bomb drop opening sequence was interesting (though rather uneventful) but the real fun begins once you’re let loose into the wasteland. Emerging from the vault for the first time and setting sight on the vast wasteland is both daunting and exhilarating. There’s so much to explore and experience, it’s hard to decide where to start. Part of me wanted to just head as far as I could in a random direction just to see what I came across, yet I found myself following a somewhat linear path into the wasteland.

By linear, I mean I feel like the path I ventured down so far has been crafted by Bethesda if that makes sense. Most of what I’ve experienced so far has been the same as others I’ve talked to. What seem like random encounters (a mole rat with a bomb strapped to its back) turn out to be quite scripted, at least in the sense that everyone else seems to have experienced the same encounter at around the same play time. This isn’t a bad thing, I just think it’s a consequence of how most people play games. We’re afraid to miss anything, so rather than venture to the very end of the map, we explore away from the vault in a careful, calculated manner.

Despite feeling like I’ve been led along a crafted path, I’ve enjoyed Fallout 4 immensely during my seven hours spent playing so far. The shooting is much improved over the previous Fallout games which makes the V.A.T.S. system much less necessary to succeed. V.A.T.S. is still useful, as it slows down time and can help you target a hard to hit enemy at a critical moment during a firefight, but it’s much easier and less frustrating to down enemies aiming on your own than it used to be. I’m not necessarily a fan of the new critical hit system, in which you have to trigger a critical hit once the meter is full. It was always a pleasant surprise to score a critical hit at random; triggering a critical hit with a button press is much less satisfying.

Another significant change in Fallout 4 is the abandonment of the text boxes of Fallout 3 and New Vegas in favor of fully voiced dialogue. In theory this is a good move, but so far I’ve found a lot of the voice acting to be flat, spoken with the enthusiasm of Peter Dinklage’s Ghost from Destiny. The main character and Preston Garvey’s lines are particularly dull and dreadful so far. I’d almost prefer text, as I’ve found the dialogue to detract from the otherwise wonderful experience. I can only hope it gets better as I explore more of the game.

Fallout 4 screenshot dialogue

The inputs for responses also leaves much to be desired. It’s not always clear what your character will say before choosing a selection, and I miss the dialogue trees of the past which provided more detail. There was also much more charm and wit within the dialogue options that doesn’t seem to exist in Fallout 4. Several times there have been responses simply labeled as ‘sarcastic’. I’d rather see all of the options, rather than blindly picking a response based on vague descriptions.

Fallout 3 dialogue

Despite these minor complaints, I’ve been having a wonderful time exploring the world of Fallout 4. I didn’t expect to spend very much utilizing the settlement building features, yet they’ve proven relatively easy to use, although they can be a little rough around the edges (it can be difficult to get objects to conform to the ground, often resulting in partially floating objects). I haven’t yet experienced any benefits of building up settlements, but hopefully it’ll prove a worthwhile task in the long run.

Fallout 4 building mode

Fallout 4 may lack some of the wit via dialogue options that feature in the previous games, but it’s not entirely without its trademark humor. I started seeing the achievement ‘Touchdown’ pop up in my Xbox feed and was wondering exactly what it meant. And then I earned the achievement, entirely by mistake, and it brought a smile to my face. Clever one Bethesda!

Fallout 4 touchdown achievement

I have so much more to experience within Fallout 4, and I can’t wait to venture further into the wasteland. I hope to log a few more hours later today before another lengthy workweek begins. Who knows what I’ll run into next.

 

 

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How Super Mario Maker got me to purchase a Wii U

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Just over a week ago I did something I thought I never would. I bought a Wii U. Ever since the Wii U’s launch in the Fall of 2012 I had thought of the system as little more than a bad joke. The gamepad looked goofy, the system was woefully underpowered, and it had a terrible name. If that weren’t enough, the system’s game library was lacking at launch and the Wii U’s catalog has been sparse ever since.

It didn’t take long for most people to refer to the Wii U as a failure. Sure, it had some great games, but that was never enough to make me want to purchase one. I haven’t really been into Nintendo since the N64, and even then I played more third party games on the system than core Nintendo games. I bought a Wii second hand, long after the system’s prime, mostly to play around with Wii Sports and to check out the Zelda games (which I couldn’t get into). I’ve probably logged less than ten hours of game time on my Wii. Last Christmas I got a 2DS, my first handheld system since the original Game Boy, and finally started getting interested in the world of Nintendo again.

Like many gamers in their late twenties and early thirties, Mario on the NES first introduced me to video games. There was nothing more fun than passing around a controller, attempting to see who could get furthest into Super Mario Bros. When I first learned of the warp pipes (through a friend, there was no Google) it blew my mind. There was something incredibly special about Super Mario Bros. and I couldn’t get enough of it. I remember watching my cousins play Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3, however for whatever reason I never played those games myself. It would be several years until I would dive into the world of Mario again (outside of Super Mario Kart).

1996’s Super Mario 64 became one of the most influential video games of all time, and I remember it fondly. I found it astonishing that you could run around the castle just goofing off instead of diving into the game’s levels. Eventually one of my cousin’s showed me how you could grab Mario’s face on the title screen, and again a Mario game blew my mind. Things like the warp pipes and the silly title screen illustrated the incredible charm and dedication Nintendo’s developers are known for today. When playing a Nintendo game you know you’re getting something more than a product. You’re getting an experience delicately crafted, down to every last detail.

When I first heard about the concept of Super Mario Maker I was intrigued, but as exciting as it sounded I still had no intention to purchase a Wii U. It wasn’t until I actually watched someone playing it that I knew I needed to experience it for myself. Not only would it be a blast to create my own personal Mario levels, but the game has an irresistible charm. I was going to buy a Wii U.

Just over a week ago I bought a Super Mario 3D World Wii U bundle. I had heard horror stories about the initial console update process, but to my relief there was a note inside the box advising me to insert the 3D World disc to install the update before connecting the console to the internet.

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The initial setup process was rather painless, though more cumbersome than other modern consoles. Before too long the Wii U was up and running and I was ready to ‘make some Mario’. I was immediately surprised at just how easy it was to begin creating. The gamepad and stylus make for intuitive click and drag process that you can master in seconds. It took only a few minutes to make a simple level with the basic set of items available at the start of the game.

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After making and uploading my first level I jumped into the 10 Mario Challenge mode, and made my way through ten levels of varying difficulty. It was exciting to see a variety of concepts between the different levels, and it was exhilarating to complete each one. From there I jumped into the wild west that is the Course World mode. I encountered some unimaginably creative levels alongside some especially difficult levels. Despite dying over and over again, I couldn’t help but continue on trying to get inside the head of the levels’ creators, attempting to figure out the ‘trick’ to complete difficult segments. In the long run I learned that a large number of Mario creators are simply sadistic, and don’t want you to be able to complete their levels at all. Although frustrating, I could never stop having fun.

I’ve loved owning a Wii U so far, even though I’ve only played one game. I’m saving Super Mario 3D World for when I get back home so that I can play with Vanessa. I’ve been tempted to download Mario Kart, but I feel like that will also be a title best experienced alongside her. I’m not sure what Wii U game I should play next. I’ve pondered purchasing New Super Mario Bros. U, however I have New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 2DS and haven’t spent a lot of time with it.

The wonderful thing about Super Mario Maker is that with the never ending variety of levels, the game should never feel old. Would I recommend buying a Wii U solely for Super Mario Maker? Absolutely, however I’d recommend waiting until Black Friday as it’ll probably be the best time yet to pick up a Wii U.

Halo 5 so far

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Halo 5 finally arrived this past week, and after spending three days downloading it I finally got to spend some time with it during my day off.

I jumped into a few Arena matches and got my butt handed to me again and again. I think I probably have three kills total in the Arena so far. The Halo 5 multiplayer experience feels very chaotic compared to the games I spent the most time with (CE through Reach). All of the player chatter and weapon spawns make the game feel very busy, maybe too much so. I have to admit, I didn’t really play Halo 4, so maybe this is what Halo feels like now. I’m sure I can get used to it.

The Breakout mode was my favorite from the beta, and I think it’ll be one of my favorite game types in Halo 5. Breakout is a series of rapid rounds in which each member of your team only has one life and you win the round by either capturing a flag or by eliminating the enemy team. The mode is an absolute blast and almost every match I’ve played has felt close.

Warzone is a massive 24 player mode that also features AI combatants and bosses. It feels like it borrows a bit from Titanfall, while also from games like League of Legends. You gain points for holding territory and killing enemy Spartans, but you also gain points for taking out AI combatants and bosses that spawn into the map. Warzone also allows players to use requisitions, which are similar to Titanfall’s burn cards. You can get special weapons or bonuses by using requisitions, and you unlock additional requisition packs as you play multiplayer or via in game purchases.

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I only played one Warzone match and it seemed quite complicated and even more busy than the Arena multiplayer. I enjoyed it, but I felt entirely overwhelmed and mostly just ran around getting myself killed.

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I played through the first five story missions today, and it’s been an incredible ride so far. I’m a little out of the loop having not gotten very deep into Halo 4, but I’ve felt invested in the story and its characters from the opening moments. The story itself has been incredibly action packed, and the ending of mission five is the stand out moment of the game so far.

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Halo 5’s soundtrack is as epic as ever, quite the relief after 343’s split with Halo composer Marty O’Donnell. I’ve felt chills during intense moments in the game so far, mainly because of the powerful music that accompanies the on screen action. On a similar note, the sound effects in the game are incredible. Every gun is as much a joy to listen to as they are to shoot.

Everything about Halo 5 feels masterfully crafted, however as a Destiny fan I’ve felt myself comparing the gunplay between the two games. Halo 5’s guns certainly sound better than the guns of Destiny, but the act of shooting and downing enemies is still much more satisfying in Bungie’s Destiny over 343’s Halo. It may not be a fair comparison, but I can’t help but pit 343 and Bungie against each other. Despite not living up to Destiny’s quality, Halo 5’s shooting mechanics are by no means bad. Halo is certainly a very capable shooter, part of me just wishes it felt a bit more satisfying.

Bungie may have the edge when it comes to gunplay, but 343 wins hands down when it comes to storytelling. Halo 5’s cutscenes are sure to have your pulse pounding, and some of Master Chief’s lines will probably have a die hard Halo fan grinning from ear to ear. It’s not all about Master Chief, however, as a second fireteam led by Spartan Locke are equally as important. The new characters are well voiced and are incredibly charismatic and interesting. I’ve found myself just as excited to be playing as Locke as I was to step back into the Master Chief’s boots.

Halo 5’s use of two man fireteams is certainly interesting, however there are some issues if you’re playing with AI teammates. I’ve found the AI to be pretty terrible, especially when it comes to reviving downed teammates. The AI will drop everything to revive you if you call for help once downed, however this means they’ll just stand there allowing enemies to fill them with bullets in the process. As convenient as it is to have the chance to revive when downed instead of restarting at a checkpoint, it’s almost as frustrating to watch all three AI teammates die on top of you body during an intense gunfight.

I’m sure Halo 5’s four man teams shine when all three members are human players, however I haven’t had the chance to group up with anyone yet. I was disappointed to find that there is no matchmaking for co-op play, meaning you’ll have to coordinate with three other friends if you want to jump into co-op play. It would be nice if Halo 5 treated its co-op mode like Borderlands 2 or Diablo III where people could be matched into your game based on story progression at any given point.

So far I’ve enjoyed Halo 5 quite a bit. I can’t wait to get deeper into the story and also play some more multiplayer matches. I’m hoping to at least finish the story before Fallout 4 releases, however working 12 hours a day, six days a week leaves very little time for gaming. At the very least I should be able to finish the story during my next day off (Monday), before losing every bit of free time I have to Fallout 4!