Fallout 4 VR may be the Vive’s killer app. It’s no secret that we at GameSpace love Fallout, so when it was announced that the game would be coming to VR in time for the holidays, those of us with headsets perked our ears up. The idea of exploring the wasteland in virtual reality, tricking our minds into feeling like we were actually in this place we’ve spent so much time it, well, it sounds almost too good to be true. Is it? This is our review of Fallout 4 VR.
Existing in the Wasteland
The crowning achievement of Fallout 4 VR is how it so effectively transports you into its post-apocalyptic world. There is an incredible sense of presence as you walk around exploring. Having already spent many dozen hours in the original Fallout 4, I expected the novelty to wear thin sooner rather than later. Like so many remakes, to eventually realize that this was the same game with a fresh coat of paint and some shine on the shaders. Yet, even though it is the same game – mostly – that novelty never wore off. That’s because unlike those other games, even though it might all be familiar, you’re experiencing it all in a brand new way.
It’s about the scale of things. In the original Fallout 4, the world seemed vast in the way all open worlds seem vast. When experienced through the lens of VR, suddenly that scale explodes. When you feel like you’re actually there – and you do – your perceptions of size completely shift.
There are moments of awe in Fallout 4 VR that the original game just can’t compare to. Seeing an airship overhead, the looming hulk of a deathclaw, or even just walking through the ruins of the gang-controlled auto factory (and later the crisp, clean halls of the Institute), demand that you take a moment to pause and soak it in. This is what VR is about, revelatory moments of just how much of a game changer it actually is.
Even small encounters, like visiting a shop or picking up a quest, feel more real and intimate in VR. The game tricks your mind into feeling like you’re there and being face to face with characters we’ve already spent so much time with changes those encounters and you begin to notice details you might have missed when playing on your monitor.
Familiar Made Fresh
If simply displaying on an HMD was all Bethesda did, Fallout 4 VR wouldn’t be much of a game at all. VR demands accommodations be made to make the most out of the system, and there are a number of tweaks and changes in store for this version.
How you engage and interact with the world is quite different from the original. Movement, for example, can be done using the staple VR teleport or by using smooth motion through the Vive controllers’ touchpads. I opted for standard movement which I find vastly more immersive, but also because teleporting feels awkward in a world not made for it. You can teleport long distances, for example, by using action points, which is nice, but you may also get hung up on the terrain trying to get there. In battle, teleporting just felt awkward to me. Other players don’t seem to have this issue, though, so this may be a personal call and will likely be influenced by how susceptible you are to motion sickness.
The VATs system has always been tweaked to fit VR gameplay. Instead of pausing the game, VATs now throws the world into slow motion which slowly depletes your action points. You choose your target appendage by aiming at it. It’s great for close quarters fights but falls apart at a distance when you can’t get a good bead on any single part.
Melee is also much improved. If an enemy gets too close, which can happen with the slightly more cumbersome movement style, you can simply lash out and pistol whip them, just as if you were there. Just… be careful not to smash your desk.
The game is also rich in small touches. Pulling up your PIP boy, for example, is done by raising your left arm. The crafting and settlement systems have also been touched up to fit the first person, motion control system. Both work well and feel natural in virtual reality.
The VR Sacrifice
All of that said, none of it would mean a thing if we were throwing up on ourselves to experience it all. To achieve the all-important framerate that prevents motion sickness, Bethesda has had to scale back the graphics a bit. Textures are lower resolution, sometimes markedly so. There’s also a lack of crispness due to the resolution of the headset itself. In motion, and compared to many other VR games, Fallout 4 VR fares quite well; I just wouldn’t go comparing it against the original and expecting it to be on par, which isn’t a fair comparison to begin with.
There are also some things that just don’t work well. Scopes, at the moment, are completely broken. You can still craft them and attach them to weapons, but when you pull them up, you can’t actually see through them and instead have a flat black texture filling up your screen. Locomotion, as I mentioned before, can be a finicky beast, even if you’re not getting hung up on terrain mid-teleport, especially when you’re in the thick of a battle and under pressure. The system of focusing on an NPC to start a conversation is also hit or miss, sometimes starting dialogues you never meant to.
It’s early days for VR, and especially Fallout 4’s take on it, and there are some rough edges that need to be patched out.
When Fallout 4 VR was announced, I had my doubts that Bethesda would be able to pull it off without sacrifices. They did it. Even for its missteps, Fallout 4 VR is the virtual reality game I plan to show off this holiday. It’s familiar, we know it, and experiencing it in VR immediately shows what this tech is capable of. It’s what gamers have been asking for: a real, full-fledged game, not an experience. There are rough edges and things Bethesda needs to fix, but it’s an achievement nonetheless.
Compare to: Fallout 4, Skyrim VR
- The most immersive version yet
- Excellent sense of scale
- At times awe-inspiring
- Many tweaks especially for VR
- Terrain can get in the way of teleporting
- Low resolution textures
- Scopes are completely broken