GAMES RE­VIEWS

$69 | PC, PS4, XBOX ONE | FALL­OUT.BETHESDA.NET A gam­ing waste­land.

APC Australia - - Contents -

High-per­for­mance play­time

The irony of Fall­out 76’ s nar­ra­tive can’t pos­si­bly pass you by as you take the first ten­ta­tive steps into its con­sid­er­able world map. This is a game about dis­as­ter and deso­la­tion told, quite in­ad­ver­tently, by dis­as­trous de­sign and a des­o­late core game­play loop. Ir­ra­di­ated hounds with rusted bi­cy­cles glitched through their bod­ies as if skew­ered by the force of the bomb blast; build­ing af­ter de­serted build­ing with noth­ing beyond au­dio tape logs or com­puter ter­mi­nals to in­ter­act with; ex­chang­ing emotes with pass­ing strangers be­fore re­turn­ing to the lonely busi­ness of run­ning be­tween quest mark­ers. It’s a mul­ti­player ex­per­i­ment whose own de­vel­op­ers never seemed to­tally con­fi­dent in at its con­fer­ence show­ings, and which re­veals it­self to be fun­da­men­tally flawed af­ter just a few hours of play.

Far from the tra­di­tional solo RPG the se­ries’ name con­jures, this is shared­world sur­vival in Pip-Boy cos­play. Up to 24 play­ers can in­habit one it­er­a­tion of the world map, which is ge­o­graph­i­cally at least as in­ter­est­ing as those of Fall­out 3 and 4. And those play­ers can im­pact the world sig­nif­i­cantly, in the­ory.

The re­al­ity, in­evitably, is that you want Fall­out 76 to play like a Fall­out game, and on those terms it fails to sat­isfy. But from the sec­ond you wake up in Vault 76 and en­ter a char­ac­ter cre­ator neari­den­ti­cal to its 2015 pre­de­ces­sor’s, you have the un­shake­able sen­sa­tion that you’re play­ing some­one else’s Fall­out game. A save file in which they have com­pleted ev­ery quest and killed ev­ery sin­gle NPC, and never load up any more, be­cause there’s noth­ing left.

And so you wan­der out of the de­serted vault, into an equally bar­ren wilder­ness, tasked with hours of quests that amount to noth­ing more than reach­ing a map lo­ca­tion, lis­ten­ing to an au­dio log and then ei­ther craft­ing or killing some­thing, in al­most com­pletely un­bro­ken si­lence. When you do bump into an­other player the in­ter­ac­tions are al­most al­ways flimsy – an ex­change of ad­mit­tedly well-in­te­grated emotes be­fore go­ing your sep­a­rate ways, or an ig­nored head­set mic salu­ta­tion.

Amid the mess, you find mo­ments of beauty and won­der. The au­dio logs, such as they are, tell a thought­ful, well-paced tale of Vault 76’s first colonists meet­ing a hos­tile land­scape they weren’t pre­pared for, and be­ing torn to shreds by the lo­cal flora and fauna. Given that Fall­out 76 is con­structed so brazenly from the com­po­nent parts of Fall­out 4, there’ll be loud and an­gry voices who’ll have it that this is Bethesda sim­ply hitch­ing it­self to the game-as-ser­vice band­wagon with­out any dis­cernible cre­ative or artis­tic im­per­a­tive to match that com­mer­cial am­bi­tion. Out there in the miles of lonely waste­land, there’s barely a dis­sent­ing voice to be found. APC team

Fall­out 76 is buggy, repet­i­tive and bor­ing.

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