War never changes, but fortunately gameplay does. For the better.
In the course of Fallout 4‘s game, you see an NPC fight his way through three would-be assassins in a cool cutscene. You’ve probably seen the kind of scene in movies- a badass gunfighter shoots two enemies after he subdues the third and uses him as a shield, before executing the hapless opponent with a final headshot. Badass but incredibly enough, my character in the game does that as well regularly in some pretty awesome battles, with a combination of actual aiming and shooting (like an FPS) and the use of V.A.T.S. (Vault Assisted Targeting System). I have to say, with literally days worth of play through the game so far (and I am still not anywhere near plumbing through most of this game’s content), I am quite convinced that in terms of action gameplay and combat, Fallout 4 is the best Bethesda has come up with so far.
It’s a combination of many factors- the world and setting, the tools you have for combat and the enemies you face. Fallout 4 takes place in Post-Apocalyptic Boston, AKA The Commonwealth- an irradiated wasteland dotted with everything from ghoul-infested ruins to fortified settlements to cult hideouts and monster lairs. As you wander the vast expanse, you’ll inevitably find yourself fighting for your life- whether it be against a band of human (or super mutant) opposition or some sort of bestial menace. The battles with humans/mutants are the most fun (I treat the beast encounters more as horror/survival encounters), as you engage in life-or-death gunfights or frantic melee to survive.
The gunplay in Fallout 4 is markedly different from previous games. Previously, shooting guns in Fallout felt detached and unwieldy- as if stats were were more important than your actual aiming your weapon. It’s now all different in F4- this is about as competent an FPS as Bethesda has ever made, and it can be played as such- though using VATS is still recommended so as to conserve ammo. It’s fairly easy to empty your arsenal uselessly unless you take the time to aim properly, but then of course that places you at risk- the enemy shoots back as well.
But once you get past the initial skirmishes, invest points into pertinent Perks (I recommend Gunslinger or Rifleman as well as Gun Nut), you begin to turn into a badass and you’ll soon look forward to seeing combat because it is SO DAMN FUN. It helps that enemies- such as Raiders- feel like capable and dangerous foes, plus they usually attack in groups. Also, dispatching enemies is supremely satisfying thanks to the ragdoll physics and animations that make every death seem unique.
One time I stumbled into a raider hidout, opening a door to surprise three of the bandits. I shoot one with VATS, and savour the slow-motion scene of the man’s head popping off from a round from my rifle. I switch back into real time and pump a couple of rounds into the second raider, then charge at the third who is shooting at me with a revolver. I close in, stab at the miscreant with my bayonetted rifle, then finish it with a round into his chest. That. Was. Bliss.
This is just one of countless such battles, and every one feels different and nuanced. Enemies can surprise you, ambush you, or you can ambush them. Sometimes I find myself camping out in the dark, sniping at Feral Ghouls who are lurking in the shadows. Sometimes you’re fighting your way through a raider or supermutant-filled apartment, clearing room after room with your tried-and-tested arsenal. It helps to mod your guns to the best of their capabilities, to deal out the most damage. And to know which gun to use in the right situation. I keep a sniper rifle ready for long range kills, a combat rifle with bayonet for in-close fighting, and a combat shotgun when things get really hairy. Sometimes though, I make like Revolver Ocelot and pack a six-shooter pipe pistol which packs a punch, even if it’s relatively slow to fire and has pretty heavy recoil. Six shots is usually all I need to kill anything that lives. Most of the time.
I have to say that the experience I’ve had so far is with the game at Normal Difficulty- perhaps it gets too easy once you level up high, so perhaps at that point bumping up the difficulty to Hard may be merited. I don’t really like the idea of Survivor since I really don’t like the idea that you’d need to pump a dozen bullets into someone’s face before they die- bullet sponges aren’t fun, realistic or immersive. I’ll take enjoyment and relative realism over ‘expert’ difficulty.
Still working my way through the game’s main quest (I am probably more than midway) but I am certain I’ll be roaming the wasteland for many, many days even after the story is done and done. It’s just that fun.