5 Dark Things You Learn About Yourself Playing Fallout 4

There are very few things that I'm fanatical about. It's pretty much just my dogs, whiskey, and Fallout. And now Fallout 4 is out! It has dogs and whiskey! I also have dogs and whiskey! You'd think my week would haven been all happiness and butterflies until I puked up pure sunshine. But no; in playing Fallout 4, I have learned some dark and disturbing things about myself that, in all honesty, I wish I could take back. For example ...

#5. I Don't Want To Be A Bastard, But I Need The Option

My favorite part of Fallouts past was that the games were truly open-ended. You could go nuts and slaughter a whole town, save for those damned invincible children, who still insisted on entering into battle with you only to spend every turn panic-sprinting to the edge of the map you little sons of bitches. And if one of your victims just happened to be a major quest-giver, well, that's called a consequence, motherfucker. Sometimes your actions have them.

We lost some of that with Fallout 3, which had invincible major characters. Oh, sure, that made for "a smoother progression in plot" and ensured you didn't "accidentally screw your whole game 'cause that guy on the aircraft carrier called your hat ugly so you slaughtered the entire society two hours ago and only just now found out you needed the captain alive to get the last mission to beat the game." You'd think having a few major characters that can't be killed would make the game less violent and more moral, but the opposite is true. Now I know that once I start machine-gunning mini-nukes into a farm because one of the ranchers stupidly rejected my sexual advances, anybody important will just take a knee for a moment, then get back up and give me my quest. There are no real consequences.

That's been happening since Fallout 3. But Fallout 4 adds a bigger problem: I have seen very few opportunities in the game to be anything less than a good guy with a personality problem. That's down to the nature of the central story. In the early Fallouts, and in New Vegas, you were pursuing a fairly neutral goal. In Fallout 3, and now 4, you're looking for a lost family member. In 3 it's your father, and that sort of limits your role-playing options. No truly dark and malevolent character is out there in the wasteland screaming, "Daddy, why did you leave me?!" into the radioactive winds.

In Fallout 4, however, you're after the people who murdered your spouse and kidnapped your child. You are cast, from the start, as the good guy. Sure, you can go all Taken on them and do some messed-up stuff in the pursuit of justice, but at the heart of it you always know you're doing the right thing. And I never thought that would be a problem for me. I usually play as a generally good guy who occasionally responds to rudeness with a Molotov cocktail.

Wait, wait, I've got a super witty response to this ...

But now that the option to be a murderous psychopath is limited, I'm apparently unhappy. See, first they came for the assholes, and I said nothing, for I am not an asshole; then they came for the dickheads, and I said nothing, for I am not a dickhead; now they've come for us, the bastards, and there is nobody left to speak out.

#4. I Am Far Too Sensitive For The Apocalypse

The Fallout games have never been famous for their graphics. I think they look pretty enough, but then I've been playing games since a graphics card was "your imagination." If the main character is more than a square with a slightly smaller square of a different color off to one side, I'm all right with your graphics. I'll accept a few drops in frame rate and some flat textures as long as I can tell the game's central villain apart from the wall. Fallout 4 sports some pretty decent graphics by my standards, as well as better character animations.

And this is a problem for me.

See, like in all the Fallouts, you can get a dog companion. And like in all the Fallouts, people will attack that dog companion. And like in all the Fallouts, when that happens, I lose my shit and butcher everything around me. But this is too much: The dog is a bit too real, and the animations when people attack that dog are vastly improved. It used to be that enemies would punch in the general direction of your dog, visually appearing to miss by a good three feet because there was no special animation for dog punching. And it still hurt my feelings.

But for Fallout 4, Bethesda apparently hired a dog-punching motion-capture division -- just a bunch of sociopaths in green suits beating the shit out of puppies to observe their reactions -- because you can now see every skull-shattering crack as raiders beat your beloved pup into the ground. And I can't take it. I used to travel with the dog companion often -- just me and my dog against the end of the world, because dogs don't judge you when you drink out of an irradiated toilet. They just wait their turn. But no more. As soon as the option was available, I sent Dogmeat out to Sanctuary to live his life in peace, and now I am dogless. This is no kind of apocalypse.

#3. I'm The Chris Farley Of The Apocalypse

The combat is much improved, and I'm kind of ... mad about that? That sounds stupid, but hear me out:

It's totally stupid. I'm probably an asshole.

Here's my totally-stupid-probably-asshole thinking: Fallout 4 has finally made third-person POV a viable play option, which I'm very happy about. And it feels good -- the camera settles into a Resident Evil 4-style over-the-shoulder approach, which means real-time gunplay is much smoother. And that's necessary, because when you activate the targeting system by hitting the V.A.T.S. button now, it just slows down time a bit (it used to stop time altogether while you planned out everything you wanted to do, which in my case was mostly shooting people in the crotch a thousand consecutive times until they begged a god that did not exist to put an end to their torturous existence while I laughed and laughed).

In the older Fallout games, V.A.T.S. meant combat was entirely turn-based. In Fallout 4, V.A.T.S. means that you queue up actions and watch them rapidly play out, then suffer through a few moments of awkward panic as your badass slow-motion ability runs out and you are revealed to be a stumbling bumblefuck in real time. In the old Fallout games, where combat was slow paced and involved clicking on which eyeball you would like to explode next, I could fool myself into thinking that I was a dangerous assassin. Now I still start fights that way, jumping into V.A.T.S. and smoothly headshotting one opponent, blasting out the knee of another, then detonating a mine beneath a third -- until my super slow-mo power runs out and I trip backwards over a mailbox, become stuck on a stump, shoot my partner in the neck, and get suplexed by a deathclaw onto my own grenade, which explodes, sending my head -- complete with appropriately disappointed and embarrassed expression -- sailing into a trash can.

Other times, I just do a bitchin' cartwheel through my own nuclear explosion.

I didn't need to know this, Fallout. It wasn't hurting anybody, letting me think that I would be a Roland-esque gunslinger come the real post-apocalypse. I didn't need to be brought down a peg and shown that just I'm Mr. Bean in power armor. Fallout games used to be where I went to meticulously plan exactly how my enemy's crotch was going to explode and when, not for thrilling, edge-of-your-seat action. I have plenty of other games for action; I have only Fallout for my delusions of strategic crotch explosion.

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Robert Brockway

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