Fallout 4 Xbox Series X|S Review

Remember Fallout? It’s the franchise from Bethesda Game Studios that hasn’t had a mainline release since 2015. During that time, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been re-released twice, so you’d be forgiven for thinking Bethesda had forgotten about it too. But a very successful – and very good – TV adaptation has got everyone talking about it again. And whilst a new release isn’t on the horizon to cash in on all that chatter, a widely anticipated Xbox Series X|S update to Fallout 4 has just arrived. Is now the time to return to the wasteland, or indeed, to jump into it for the first time?

My return to Boston saw me loading up a save after the conclusion of the Nuka-World DLC. But, with a few achievements still to unlock, reacquainting myself with the game by searching for collectibles seemed like the easiest option.

Fallout 4 Xbox Series review 1
You should know this world…

Within a few minutes I had stumbled across the Grandchester Mystery Mansion, a haunted house style exhibit within the theme park. What followed was a self-contained thirty minute story involving creepy parents and even creepier children. It was also a reminder that there is no one better at creating these shorter narratives in larger open-worlds than Bethesda. It’s what makes their games feel so unique and special, and why many of us lose countless hours exploring every nook and cranny of them. I’m 175 hours into Fallout 4, and I already feel like there are many more to come.

The mansion also housed traps and a deadly assaultron that did kill me a few times before I was able to find a decent hiding place.

Once again, Fallout 4 had its deathclaws in and wouldn’t let go.

For those living in a vault for hundreds of years, the Fallout series tells the story of a world post-nuclear annihilation. The surface world has been fundamentally transformed, but for those ‘lucky’ enough to have bought a space in one of Vault-Tec’s vaults, there is a whole new nightmare underneath the surface.

Fallout 4 was our first real glimpse of life before the bombs dropped, starting just before that history altering moment. You and your family are rushed into Vault 111. Here, you are cryogenically frozen for 150 years, only to see your spouse unfrozen and murdered, and your son kidnapped. When you finally awake some 60 years later, you go off into the wasteland to find out exactly what happened.

Fallout 4 Xbox Series review 2
Well armoured

This being an Xbox Series X|S update, there are a few new features, though perhaps somewhat lacking in terms of juicy content. A few new quests here and there that existed previously in the Creation Club are now free to everyone as the only new gameplay additions. And then even within them are a few new power armour sets, but it felt like these were in abundance beforehand. So much so that even several of my settlers had power armour equipped to bolster their defences.

The big new feature with Fallout 4 Xbox Series X|S though is the inclusion of a Performance and Quality mode. But these are not as straightforward as perhaps you would expect. Rather than having one running at 4K resolution, both are capable of it: Quality mode does this at 30fps, with Performance mode targeting 4K at 60fps. The emphasis here though is on targeting.

During my time returning to Fallout 4, I played it on Performance mode and it worked well enough for me. The frame rate stayed fairly solid throughout, even when the Enclave ambushed me, peppering with one of their new heavy incinerator weapons. There were explosions and fire aplenty, and I couldn’t help but think if this was the 1.0 version of 2015 this gunfire would have caused the framerate to drop down significantly. But here it held up perfectly well.

But let’s address the elephant in the room; even on release, Fallout 4 was not what you would call a looker. It ran on the same Creation engine that just about managed to produce Skyrim, but here it doesn’t lend itself to a brighter, more colourful apocalypse so much. Sure, it is a vast improvement over Fallout 3 but this would have been a perfect time to improve textures and assets. Instead, the 4K improvements simply gloss over some pretty dated visuals.

There are also no improvements to building settlements, something that remains very fiddly. It would have maybe been good to see the improvements in base-building in Starfield retroactively applied here, but alas.

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The right time to update Fallout 4

Of course, the majority of the settlement stuff was secondary content, as was pandering to Preston Garvey’s incessant requests. Fallout 4 remains a solid game, with so much to see and do it is no wonder people are returning to it after the success of the TV show. There is a resurgence in Fallout, but with no new games looming on the horizon for the foreseeable future, Fallout 4 is the most up-to date single-player Fallout game we will have for some time.

What we have here then is, in all honesty, a pretty bare bones update that had been nearly 18 months in the making. A few new quests, a confusing resolution approach, no new achievements (unlike the native PS5 version) and a smattering of bug fixes feels slightly disappointing. But this mostly becomes a moot point when you jump back in. The gameplay is still king in Fallout 4 on Xbox Series X|S. The exploration and VATs system still trump any lacklustre additions. 

Not that you ever needed an excuse to return, but with the series arguably as popular as it has ever been at the moment, now was the right time to release the Fallout 4 Xbox Series X|S update. It just could have been more.

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