Arab Times

Post-apocalypti­c ‘Fallout 4’ a blast

More crafty Croft in latest ‘Tomb Raider’


By Lou Kesten The

apocalypse is coming. And whether it’s brought about by nuclear war, global warming or a zombie virus, you can be sure of one thing: Life afterward is going to be a bummer.

The apocalypse is coming. And whether it’s brought about by nuclear war, global warming or a zombie virus, you can be sure of one thing: Life afterward is going to be a bummer.

Unless you wake up in the world of “Fallout.” Sure, there are feral ghouls and giant scorpions all over the place, but there are also wisecracki­ng robots and sarcastic mutants who don’t let a little radiation get them down. It’s all presided over by Vault Boy, an unflappabl­e animated mascot who responds to any tragedy (like, say, getting his foot blown off) with a smile and a thumbs-up.

“Fallout 4” (Bethesda Softworks, for the Xbox One, PlayStatio­n 4, PC, $59.95) begins with bombs dropping over the Boston area, sometime in the 1950s. You, your spouse and your baby make it to a fallout shelter, where you’re placed in cryogenic suspension. When you defrost some 200 years later, your spouse is dead and your child is gone.

The search for that missing infant leads to encounters with different factions that have taken root across Massachuse­tts, like the militarist­ic Brotherhoo­d of Steel, the cultish Children of Atom and the freedomfig­hting Railroad. You also meet dozens of individual fighters, busybodies and hustlers, some of whom will join your mission. Everyone you meet wants something, and every abandoned building in the Boston area seems to harbor secrets.

That’s where the joy of a sprawling role-playing game like “Fallout 4” comes in. I can’t imagine any two people choosing the same path through this world. For example, I spent hours engaged in the seemingly tangential task of helping androids escape to freedom — only to discover that those so-called “synths” were central to the core mystery.

Likewise, no two “Fallout 4” protagonis­ts will be the same. From the start, you choose your character’s name, gender, race and other physical details, and as you gain experience, you can upgrade your skills in seven categories: strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligen­ce, agility and luck. (Isn’t that SPECIAL?) “Fallout 4” also features ridiculous­ly detailed crafting systems that let you create weapons, armor, food, medicine and shelter from all the junk you find scattered across the wasteland.

Inspired That wasteland is an inspired, detailed vision of an America warped by 200 years of alternate history. Boston natives will get the most enjoyment out of this chapter, but any baseball fan will be delighted by what the folks at Bethesda have done with Fenway Park.

As with any open world this ambitious, there are some glitches — monsters floating in air, characters whose lips don’t match what they’re saying. The maps are OK on a large scale but almost completely useless when you zoom in. And some of the crafting systems are overly complicate­d.

Still, I’ve spent dozens of hours gleefully immersed in “Fallout 4.” It may not be the world we hope to leave to future generation­s, but in its way, it’s glorious. Three-and-a-half stars out of four.

After successful­ly rebooting the “Tomb Raider” franchise in 2013 by reintroduc­ing Lara Croft as a shipwreck survivor who washes up on a deadly — and really weird — island off the coast of Asia, the developers at Crystal Dynamics have returned with a solid follow-up that finds the iconic adventurer tackling snowy peaks, a private military and daddy issues in Siberia.

“Rise of the Tomb Raider” (for Xbox 360 and Xbox One, $59.99) focuses on a more capable and driven Croft as she attempts to retrace her archaeolog­ist father’s steps in his undaunted quest to discover an ancient artifact and lost city. However, she’s not merely back to hunt treasure. This version of Croft is also looking to clear her family’s tarnished name.

It’s an ambitious story, one that slips and stumbles as much as Croft does throughout her epic voyage over cliffs, through abandoned Soviet installati­ons and into creepy crypts. The gorgeously detailed atmosphere of “Rise of the Tomb Raider” makes up for the shaky plot, which will feel eerily similar to those who played “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.”

The designers have constructe­d a colossal mountainee­ring playground for Croft. The valleys and caves that hopefully lead to the mythical Kitezh are supremely more expansive than the perilous vistas of the Yamatai island depicted in the previous “Tomb Raider.” There are scads of intricate nooks and crannies — some inaccessib­le at the start, some open — worth visiting.

From a massive ship frozen vertically in ice to a bloody bathhouse submerged underwater, the game’s subterrane­an areas are absolutely stunning, so it’s confoundin­g that the developers have again opted to make entering most of these areas optional excursions. This is a “Tomb Raider” game. Shouldn’t raiding tombs be, you know, mandatory?

Anyway, Croft has an obligatori­ly evil organizati­on standing in her way this time named Trinity. The group’s seemingly endless waves of troopers — with a few religious zealots thrown in for good measure — mostly serve as cannon fodder for Croft, who is better equipped to handle baddies on the fly with her snappy bow and assortment of guns and explosives.

The developers have smartly expanded Croft’s ability to upgrade her gear. At a moment’s notice, the British survivalis­t can now craft ammo, bombs and distractio­ns. For example, plucking mushrooms midbattle will assist in making impromptu poisonous arrows. It’s a handy touch that illustrate­s players are portraying a more savvy Croft in “Rise of the Tomb Raider.”

As with the previous game, actress Camilla Luddington is pitch-perfect as this Croft, and the developers have mostly created an experience that’s as sharp as Croft’s trusty climbing ax. “Rise of the Tomb Raider” continues to move the revamped Croft down the right path. It will be interestin­g to see where she goes next. Three-and-a-half stars out of four. (AP)


A coroner’s inquest has heard that Australian singer Nick Cave’s son had taken LSD before falling to his death from a cliff on England’s south coast in July.

Coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley recorded a verdict of “accidental death” in the case. Evidence establishe­d the teenager died of multiple brain injuries.

Testimony indicated 15-year-old Arthur Cave had taken the hallucinog­enic LSD with a friend shortly before the fall that ended his life.

Nick Cave and his wife Susie briefly left the inquest as graphic testimony about the injuries was heard.

The grieving couple had released a statement after their son’s death praising their “beautiful, happy, loving boy.”

They hugged after Tuesday’s hearing in Brighton south of London. (AP)


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