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Fallout 76 Review

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I never imagined that one of the worst games I’d play this year would be a Fallout game.

Fallout 76 is bad, and not even in a “it’s so bad it’s kinda good” way. There’s nothing I can say that’s fun or exciting about Fallout 76. In my time spent with the title, I’ve never been impressed with any element of it. It’s simply a disaster.

Confused and confusing, that’s what Fallout 76 is. Billed as the multiplayer Fallout game we’ve all been waiting for yet also completely playable by yourself, it fails to be fun or engaging no matter how you play. If you play on your own you’ll miss interacting with NPCs as you explore the world seeing as there are none, and when you do come across other players they’ll probably just irritate you. Often they’ll follow you around like lost puppies, wanting to share the horrid experiencing they’re having with another victim. Occasionally they’ll attack, hoping to engage you in combat so they can presumably steal your loot. If you don’t fight back, however, the damage they do to you is pretty negligible. If you simply run away, your attacker is likely to lose interest in their evil act.

Team up with friends and Fallout 76 becomes more bearable – in the same way that any harrowing situation isn’t quite so bad when you have people to share it with. Working as a team, you’ll be able to share supplies and be more of a formidable force when taking on groups of enemies, but you’ll still struggle to have fun. Quests are mostly a case of moving from point A to point B to interact with a computer time and time again. Sometimes you’re asked to do other things like collect bottles, which is about as much fun as it sounds. And occasionally you’ll encounter events that are more likely to confuse you than entertain you. Your time with Fallout 76 quickly feels pointless. And soon after that, it’ll also feel frustrating, tedious, and quite frankly, broken.

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While most Fallout fans would have salivated at the prospect of a co-op Fallout game, what Fallout 76 delivers is far away from the mark. Sure, you can play it with friends, but why would you want to when it’s so shallow and dull?  It being a online multiplayer game doesn’t enhance it any way; its multiplayer features aren’t meaningful. And to make Fallout a multiplayer game, Bethesda has removed features that prior single player instalments used to captivate players: an involving story, NPCs, and game mechanics that actually work.

Fallout games used to have depth. While their post-apocalyptic landscapes just waiting to be explored were a draw, what kept you playing were their deep RPG mechanics that saw you grow as a character over time. Here, they feel stripped back to bare minimum in some regards, yet also strangely a hindrance. You can level up, allowing you to customise your perks by arranging a deck of cards, but it’s a fiddly, confusing system that feels random and unsatisfying. And then you have the ability to power yourself up by finding and crafting new armour and weapons. That would be fun, if it wasn’t for the need to endlessly scour a boring, barren, lifeless world for materials. Well, lifeless until you encounter enemies.

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Combat has never really been one of Fallout’s strong points, and with Fallout 76 being always online and more action-driven, it really needed to be improved. It hasn’t been. Gun play is about as much fun as taking a cheese grater to your face, and melee combat isn’t much better. Changing weapons during combat is a nightmare seeing as the action still carries on in the background – why Bethesda doesn’t allow you to assign items to a quick access menu or something is perplexing – and VATS is useless now that it’s real-time. And there are other issues, too, such as enemy levels that vary wildly in areas and the fact that they constantly respawn when entering/leaving buildings. Combined with the fact that you’re nearly constantly short on healing supplies, combat quickly becomes something you hate in Fallout 76.

Another thing I hate are Fallout 76‘s survival elements. You constantly need food and water – again, things that are quite scarce – and it’s just not fun trying to maintain those while also not catching diseases or becoming too radiated. They’re hindrances to you enjoying the game rather than making it more engaging. And death just feels inconsequential. Die, and you’re able to instantly respawn at a number of landmarks you’ve visited, often just a stone’s throw away from where you died. You’ll be back at full health etc., but any junk you were carrying will be left in a bag where you died, meaning you better go and retrieve it. When you do though, you’ll find that you have to keep hammering a button repeatedly as Bethesda didn’t think to put a “Take All” option in the game.

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You know what’s the real kicker about Fallout 76 though? How badly it performs. On Xbox One X, the game’s framerate frequently crawls, and it’s not afraid of stuttering quite often either. And it’s not even because the game’s good looking or has brilliant animation; I’d go as far to say that Fallout 76 looks worse than Fallout 4 the majority of the time. It certainly does’t meet your expectations of a AAA game in 2018, that’s for sure. And then there are the glitches, all the wonderful glitches. I’ve encountered invisible items, non-existent quest markers, crashes and more. All of these issues make Fallout 76‘s already dull and broken gameplay even more painful to stomach, to the point where I’ve just simply given up.

There are no redeeming features to be found in Fallout 76, and I’m not even sure if it can be saved. Technical issues just make what’s a boring and soulless experience at its core into something that’s simply more of an abomination. And even if you made Fallout 76 into an offline single-player experience I doubt it would set anyone’s world alight. Uninteresting mission design, borderline broken gameplay features, ugly graphics, and a whole smorgasbord of technical issues combine to make Fallout 76 one of the worst gameplay experiences I’ve had this generation, and I’ve played Super Street: The Game and Yasai Ninja. I really hope Fallout 76 is turned around, I really do. I have a lot of respect for Bethesda for publishing quality single player releases such as The Evil Within 2, but Fallout 76 is just dire. It shouldn’t have seen the light of day, and you shouldn’t buy it.

Fallout 76 is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. We reviewed the Xbox One version.

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