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