N8B8: Fallout 4 is bad.

I haven’t made a post on this blog in a little over a month – back right before Fallout 4 came out. The idea I had in my head was to make some sort of silly series on the game, detailing my experience in short blog-snippets. I would do a goofy run through with a melee-only character and update N8R8 every time something particularly funny or otherwise noteworthy would happen, or maybe I’d just give the game my time, consideration, and care and write a thorough review. But now that I’m sitting at thirty hours of gameplay and zero blog entries, I’ve decided to give up on both.  I will not make a happy-go-lucky series in which a nudist with iron fists scours the wasteland in search of his adult son and I will not write a review for this game. Instead, I’m just going to ramble and sputter vague complaints and give Fallout 4 a N8R8 of N/A because I don’t think it’s wise to try to rank a monstrous AAA game like this in the same way I rank the games I actually care about.

I hopped into Fallout 4 riding on everyone else’s enthusiasm even though I had none of my own. I stupidly thought I needed to be in the same boat as everyone else. I wanted to have some content ready on a bi-weekly basis so I could get people to read N8R8, right in the midst of the F4 explosion. I ignored my gut reaction after watching the trailer, reading the details, and watching the gameplay. I told myself, “hey it’s a huge Bethesda game. It’s going to be a good time no matter what.”

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But I was wrong. I spent thirty hours playing this game, and while i can’t say I wasn’t entertained, the quality of entertainment was pitiable. I felt stupid as I played this game, somehow detached and shut-off from the world of video games I care so much about. I trudged through the trope-infused story, played a few dozen repetitive side quests, crafted, modded, and built up a clunky settlement or two… all with this easy, vapid smirk across my face.

Fallout 4 offered nothing challenging in terms of gameplay or narration. It confronted none of my expectations about what a ‘typical’ Bethesda game consists of. If anything, it reinforced how I’ve felt about their games since my time spent with Skyrim. This is not a good RPG. This is not a good adventure game. This is not a good FPS. This is not a good exploration game. Fallout 4 is a purely mediocre mish-mash of game mechanics that belong to all of those ‘genres.’ It aims to please the everygamer, and so fails to accurately please the fans of any one camp, or even those who would say they’re a fan of every camp. The game’s scope is too wide. A fundamental layer of depth that existed in previous Bethesda titles has been getting slowly sliced away since the last generation of consoles.

Or maybe that’s the wrong analogy. Maybe a more accurate picture of what’s going on here is that of Frankenstein’s monster.  Bethesda thinks that by conjoining all the best parts of all the most popular types of games, a good game is guaranteed. The fact is that we’re presented with a chunky, clunky, buggy mess of nothing in particular. It’s not an adventure game. Or an RPG. Or a crafting game, exploring game, or a shooter (OK well maybe it’s that, at least). It’s a Bethesda game. And it’s got all the birthmarks, blemishes, scars, and handicaps that Bethesda games are so known for. In their movement toward creating games for the ‘modern gamer’ (AKA the everygamer and everyone in his immediate family) we wind up missing something genuine and serious. In place of a a feeling of uniqueness, the games have grown more accessible, more homogeneous, and more entertaining.

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And that’s a weird thing to say. How could a ‘more entertaining’ game possibly be anything but positive? And I guess the answer lies in the true question, which is, ‘entertaining to which audience?’

Compare what I’m talking about to TV. It’s all entertainment. But the quality of entertainment is intrinsically dependent on who is doing the watching and critiquing. To many, Family Guy is quality entertainment. To others, The Big Bang Theory is quality entertainment. I don’t mean to say anything about the people who like Family Guy, or The Big Bang Theory, or Fallout 4. But I can’t help but consume those sources of entertainment and feel worse because of them.

So that’s why I haven’t posted, I think.  The whole time I played Fallout 4, I was trying to figure out how I could turn that mediocre experience into something that people would want to read. Rather than looking critically at the shitty time I was having, I just kept on playing, clearing dungeon after dungeon and skipping every shitty dialogue scene I could. I was being entertained, but in that mind-numbing, life-sucking way. That same way your uncle is entertained by Fox’s 24-hour news cycle and reruns of 7th heaven.

So the next time I encounter a piece of entertainment that gives me that rotten feeling in my stomach, that feeling of wasted life, I’m going to make sure I don’t sink thirty hours of my real-life time mucking around with my stupid companions in my trash-hole of a settlement. There are better games, made by more genuine groups of people. Those are the games that deserved to be played and praised.

 

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