Barren wastelands. Decrepit and abandoned towns. Desolate landscapes ravaged by time and trauma. Recognisable landmarks slowly but surely reclaimed by nature after our demise. Games have consistently embraced the post-apocalyptic setting. It invites excitement, apprehension and a deep curiosity, and plays on the thought-provoking hypothetical, the 'what if?'. And when these post-apocalyptic environments and landscapes are incredibly detailed, they can result in great efficacy and power.
"Come on. Lighten up. Have a whiff."
Editor's note: Rob's piece here concludes his series of essays for Eurogamer on the seasons in video games. For more, be sure to check out Video games and the life of summer, starring Witcher 3, Firewatch and Dishonored 2, The power of spring in Horizon Zero Dawn, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture and The Last of Us, and Video games and the power of winter, which looks at Skyrim.
Nestled in the mountains, the door that leads to Vault 11 is the kind you see hammered onto a shack. It is rotting wood and nails and spider webs clinging on to existence like the people of Fallout's post-apocalyptic Mojave Wasteland. The Brotherhood of Steel have sent us here to find a differential pressure controller, one of the parts needed to repair their faulty air filtration system.
It's been six months since E3 2017, when Bethesda announced its intention to add a Creation Club to Skyrim and Fallout 4, their massively-successful mega-RPGs known for their breadth of content and emphasis on player freedom. This club would task third-party developers with producing new pieces for the publisher's two marquee games, which players could then buy from an online storefront with real money. While some decried the service as yet another attempt to introduce paid mods to the single-player gaming ecosystem, Bethesda insisted the market for free fan-made content would remain unaffected. "We won't allow any existing mods to be retrofitted into Creation Club," reads the FAQ. "It must all be original content."
Fallout 4's new PS4 pro update has landed. As promised by Bethesda's blog, patch 1.14 (also known as 1.9) pushes the game to a native 1440p, adding in expanded draw distances and a higher grade god ray effect. It also improves frame-rates compared to a regular PS4, but we're still some way off a 30fps lock. However there's a twist: by using patches earlier than 1.14, and selecting PS4 Pro's boost mode option, it's possible to achieve smoother results than Bethesda's official patch - although all other Pro enhancements are obviously left off the table.
They said it was happening, and then it happened. Fallout 4, the third major entry in the celebrated retro-futuristic RPG series to be overseen by Bethesda, had just five months to lodge itself in the public consciousness following its June 2015 announcement. This was highly unorthodox.
From what I've played of it, Fallout 4 is a game about nuclear war inasmuch as the Narnia adventures are books about a wardrobe. Nukes may add a dark wit to a few of the central systems and give NPCs something to latch onto when they want to philosophise about humanity's endless cycles of violence, but their primary function seems to be ushering you from the character creation sequence and into the vast and brackeny post-America playground where the real fun takes place. Like Skyrim, Fallout 4 is a fantasy game. It's just that this time the fantasy revolves around the notion that there could be a meaningful kind of life following any decent exchange of ICBMs.
"Too many folk these days count on violence to solve their problems. You only have to look around to see where that got us," declares my android companion, Nick Valentine, as I turn another raider's face into crimson mush. He's right, of course. Still, there's nothing to be done - nobody's feeling chatty and I don't want to become a red smear on a post-apocalyptic dodgem.
One of the bigger surprises to come out of Bethesda's E3 conference was the news that the publisher had been secretly working on virtual reality demos of both Doom and Fallout 4 for the HTC Vive. While the Doom demo may never be more than a demo, Bethesda's marketing boss Pete Hines confirmed Fallout 4 for Vive would get a commercial release in 2017.
Fallout 4's user created mods at last arrive on console - a feature rarely seen outside of PC's domain, and something of an experiment with its Xbox One debut this month. Over 800 mods are up for grabs, ranging from graphical tweaks, new sound effects, and even brand new missions - and PS4 owners are expected to receive a similar update later this month. A surprising amount of content makes the jump from PC to Xbox One too, but just how impactful are they on the game's visuals and performance?
Fallout 4's latest Far Harbor DLC performed poorly on PS4, where frame-rates typically stuck at 20fps, and even locked to 15fps at points. However, Bethesda has announced that a solution is readily available, ahead of the patch's arrival. Simply deleting the expansion from your hard drive, and then downloading a newly updated build of Far harbor from the PSN servers is said to solve the problem. Our tests show this is very much the case, and the update gives PS4 a remarkable turnaround in frame-rates - though, perhaps inevitably, not without a drawback.
The good news is PS4 now runs at a practically locked 30fps line, at some points doubling the frame-rate seen in Far Harbor's 15fps stretches at launch. It represents a huge leap over what we had in its original state, and the game is vastly smoother to play with this updated build in place. However, such a radical boost does come at a price, and while the island's distinctive volumetric fog is still in play, the effect is also now visibly dialed back on PS4.
In several scenes throughout our video comparison, plumes of fog are removed from the ground on PS4 to create a sparser atmosphere compared to the original DLC. Woodlands are more barren compared to Xbox One in particular, where its older Far Harbor build retains the heavier layers of fog. It's clear this effect was indeed culpable for the frame-rates drops on both machines, and PS4 has made the necessary trade-off. However, whether Xbox One is also set to receive a similar patch - to boost performance and lower fog density in the same manner - remains to be seen
Ian's been playing a Megaton of Fallout these last few days. Specifically, he's been getting stuck into Fallout 4's newest DLC, Far Harbor - or as we've affectionately dubbed it in the office, Fahhaahahbrah. Not content with making a very helpful explainer on how you can get started with the DLC, or even with playing the first four hours in one go for our entertainment, he's now back with another in-depth video in which he tracks down Far Harbor's most interesting easter eggs.
Fallout 4's largest expansion to date is more soggy B&B holiday than a hair-raising voyage to parts unknown, but I can't fault its opening sections. Dispatched to a mysterious island in search of a teenage runaway, I've barely set foot in the town of Far Harbor itself when I'm asked to chase off a mob of hungry fishmen, spawned by the radioactive fog that rolls across the surrounding country like a designer's wayward imagination.
He'd never tell you this himself, but poor Ian was up until 3am last night putting together a video explainer on how to get started in Fallout 4's latest DLC, Far Harbor (leaving out that 'u' made me hurt typing it as much as it did you reading it, trust me).
Why did I decide to walk all the way to the sea in one evening while playing Fallout 4's new Survival Mode? I don't know. Does the swallow question why it flies south in winter, or the salmon why it must hurl itself against the rapids? All I know is that on firing up a new save, I felt the call of the ocean in my marrow.
Fallout 4: Far Harbor is the meatiest and most interesting Fallout 4 add-on announced yesterday.
It's the only DLC we know of that adds a whole new area - a coastal island and the largest new Fallout landmass ever added as DLC, developer Bethesda has said. Its map will also play host to new faction quests, settlements, creatures and dungeons.
What you may not know is Far Harbor is based on a real-world place, just as the game's main campaign is set in the remnants of a post-apocalyptic Boston.
Omitted completely in Bethesda's latest release notes, patch 1.03 has boosted Fallout 4's visual settings on PS4 and Xbox One. The update weighs in at 500MB on each console, and makes surprising improvements to draw distance settings for geometry and foliage. It's a great addition to the game that pulls it closer to the look of PC's higher 'fade' settings, but is there a trade-off in play on console - and does this advantage come at any cost to their performance?
We're pleased to say it doesn't in general and both consoles hand in with near identical grades of performance before and after the latest update is applied. However, PS4 suffers somewhat in the transition in one area in particular: Diamond City. In this case, performance drops by 2-3fps on average on overlooking the centre, dragging frame-rate down in comparison to version 1.02. This is not an issue on Xbox One, which turns in identical readings while rising in a lift behind the city.
Fortunately, the Diamond City portion of Fallout 4 is the only area in our test suite that is affected negatively on PlayStation 4. Every other segment - from a Deathclaw battle in Concord to shootouts on top of the Corvega factory - run with precisely the same level of performance as before (including a lengthy bout of play at near 20fps for the latter). In other words, patch 1.03 does very little to improve performance as a whole on either console, and where it dropped on patch 1.02, we still have significant issues here.
I need to break Fallout 4 to finish it.
Video game heroes and heroines don't die - they're forgotten. For every conquering protagonist there's a handful of leads who never made it to the credits roll, never weighed a civilisation's fate in the scales. Instead, these characters are left to languish on a save file for months and years as feckless players drift to other releases, their skill trees mere sprouts in the dirt, unfinished plot arcs jutting over a wilderness of backstory. Like ghosts in need of exorcism, they haunt the dreams of their owners. No, Shepard, no! I never meant to abandon you on the Moon. It was Cerberus, I swear. Cerberus put that complete Dawn of War collection in my hands. Cerberus hid the controller charger under the sofa.
Even at a meagre 512MB, Fallout 4's new patch has a surprising impact on the console experience - restoring a good chunk of its 30fps performance in places, while other spots still don't flatter. As covered in our initial PlayStation 4 test of the Corvega factory, update 1.02 ratchets up the frame-rate for one of the game's most taxing sequences. But going beyond the factory walls on PS4, just how far-spread are its benefits, truly? And do similar tests on a fully patched Xbox One bear out similar gains?
To start, the good news is PS4's improvements aren't limited to one targeted section, but rather, the game at large is now better optimised for Sony's machine. In particular, any combat that puts a strain on PS4's memory bandwidth - via the usual flurry of effects-work - now gets a marked boost on patch 1.02. The gains are remarkable in one early Deathclaw battle for example, going from lengthy lulls at 25fps and under when using the mini-gun on nearby sandbags, to a practically faultless 30fps with the update.
As the PS4's version's primary weakness at launch - particularly in comparison to Xbox One's 30fps delivery in this scene - the frame-rate boost in battles is a big deal. Drops are still an issue of course, and an encounter with Paladin Danse outside the Cambridge police station has PS4 and Xbox One dropping under 30fps. However, it's a clear benefit for PS4 compared to the launch day's patch's mid-20fps delivery. And between the two fully-patched versions, frame-rates are now equal, or in several cases during the Corvega section, much smoother on PS4 in identical tests.
Fallout 4's patch 1.02 went live last night, a 512MB file that puts to rights some of the game's outstanding issues on PS4. Stability issues, glitches and areas of performance are in the crosshairs this time - while Xbox One's patch is still pending. Based on its update notes, Bethesda singles out the Corvega factory as a focal area of gain on PS4 - a nightmare to play in its launch state, with drops to 20fps and under on the console. Thankfully, we have some good news on this front.
Starting at its sewers and working up to the rooftops, Bethesda delivers a notable boost in Corvega's overall performance level compared to the day one patch. Across the breadth of our video below, a run of this area puts us at a fixed 30fps in places where the older version dwelled in the mid-20s. It's a night and day difference at points. It's a handsome boost then - but it must be stressed that we're still in the process of determining whether this improvement reflects the game's other stress-points on PS4 - such as effects-heavy battles.
As things stand, the improvement is clearly tangible, even if the frame-rate still isn't 100 per cent ideal. A flat reading at around 20fps creeps in once we trigger explosives in the sewers, while the high-rises of the factory plant still take a toll on PS4's frame-rate. An overview of Lexington prompts a similar lengthy drop, but patch 1.02's overall reading is indeed higher in each scenario.
Bethesda has a thing for skeletons, and so do I.
Well then! Yesterday's article on Fallout 4 encumbrance sparked an interesting debate, didn't it? After over 300 comments on Eurogamer, a decent-sized thread on NeoGAF, and loads of tweets and Facebook posts, it's clear to me I picked up on an issue lots of Fallout players had an opinion on.
With Fallout 4 on shelves and thousands of special editions out in the wild, it's a safe bet at least one person is playing through the entire game with a plastic Pip-Boy on their arm. But how does the Pip-Boy stack up in the real world? Is it actually useful for your everyday wasteland explorer? Because I am a committed idiot, I decided to find out, wearing the Pip-Boy for a whole week. Here's how I got on.
A friend of mine visited over the weekend. He'd never played any of the Fallout games, nor had he played any of the Elder Scrolls games. But he'd seen adverts for Fallout 4 and asked me to show it to him. So on went the PlayStation 4 and on went Fallout 4.
UPDATE 16/11/15 12:15pm: There's some confusion about the status of Fallout 3 as an Xbox One pre-order bonus, and also the question of whether the code will expire or not. We've looked into this and can confirm the following: first of all, every copy of Fallout 4 available now includes the Fallout 3 code, and this situation is the case in every copy in every territory. This will be included with all copies of the game shipped in the first 90 days of its launch. Additionally, the code will not expire 90 days after launch - once you have the code, you can redeem it at any time. And finally, any initial stock that originally contained the Fallout 3 code will still have it once the 90 day period is over - it won't be withdrawn. Hopefully that clears everything up!
Yesterday we reported on Fallout 4 console performance, finding that both PS4 and Xbox One target 1080p30 gameplay - with somewhat variable results. Both versions have issues maintaining their frame-rate targets, but it's the Xbox One version that has a tangible disadvantage - there's a 'macro-stutter' issue that seems to be related to the game's background streaming technology. Entering new areas can see second-long pauses, and even switching weapons sometimes causes problems.
UPDATE 13/5/15 11:40am: Since our initial analysis, we've put more time into Fallout 4, and we've been able to isolate a number of spots that really challenge the engine. In particular the Corvega factory is a rough spot, and PS4 takes the brunt of the hit once we reach its rooftops (down to 15fps). Both machines also suffer long drops to 20fps in certain interior battles. Time will tell just how far-reaching these trouble spots are throughout the game, particularly once more hours tally up. In the meantime, we'll update soon with a full Face-Off, taking a deeper dive into the specific ins and outs of each platform.
Original story: Four years on from its predecessor, Bethesda emerges from the vault with the hugely anticipated Fallout 4 - adding new technologies to its Creation Engine on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Equipped with an improved physically-based lighting model, it's confirmed the game's development process began with the team porting its earlier work to Xbox One first. However, optimising for both platforms has evidently proven tricky since, and on analysing the reality of each console's frame-rate at launch, the results are something of a mixed bag.
First up though, we can confirm PS4 and Xbox One render at a native 1080p resolution, with no compromise in either case. It gives us a sharp base image, and in presenting a post-apocalyptic world that sprawls out for virtual miles in each direction, it pays off hugely in keeping the image sharp on views across the wasteland. It's a surprise for Microsoft's machine too, with its previous history of cutting back on resolution in similar open world games. But here, both consoles give a matching, full HD presentation, also using a temporal anti-aliasing pass to minimise shimmer on panning shots.
With Fallout 4 due out in a couple of weeks, millions of people are set to leap into the post-apocalyptic open world Bethesda has spent the last few years crafting.
Ahoo, and a lovely warm welcome from Eurogamer's Gamescom team at the end of the first day proper of Europe's biggest gaming show. Chris, Bertie, Ian and Martin delayed their trip to the beer halls of Cologne just long enough to bring you impressions of all they saw out on the show floor, and took a little time to relay the highlights. There's Star Citizen, Scalebound, Fallout and some of that esoteric PC stuff that Chris loves so much. We'll be back tomorrow for another episode, though we'd better be careful - any more and we're in danger of making this podcast thing a habit.
More E3 bulletins: Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday
After years of waiting and false hopes, Bethesda has finally announced Fallout 4. It's as good an excuse as any to take a trip through time to where it all began, in a very different kind, but now much more familiar kind of Wasteland. This was back in 1988, on technology so primitive that most of the original's game text had to be printed in a manual, with the game simply giving a number to look up every time anything happened. Nevertheless, it found almost instant critical and commercial success... and immense difficulty getting a sequel off the ground. At least, an official one.