Fallout 4 Review: The Game of the Year

So I'm out here in the middle of Boston, except it's not Boston as you probably know it. No, this is Boston hundreds of years in the future, after our worst fears are realized and the world is decimated by nuclear weapons. I'm wearing a giant Iron Man-style suit of armor and I have a dog that keeps yapping and attacking giant cockroach-looking things, which is both kind of awesome and terrifying at the same time. Why can't you leave those things alone, dog? Why do you need to bark at them?

This is the world of Fallout 4, the latest in the long-running series from Bethesda. As a video game, it is—for lack of a better word—daunting. I do not know what I'm doing, for the most part, and the game is extraordinarily unhelpful in helping me figure out just what the hell is going on. I have already emerged from a vault (that held me for 200 years) and then discovered this giant suit of armor, which I used to destroy a mini-Godzilla looking thing, and then I started building a settlement for my new friends in the Minutemen, which is not the same Minutemen as you are probably used to hearing about from the history books.

Fallout 4 is not a game for the weak at heart. It is very difficult. This is not a video game that holds your hand; instead, it kicks you in the backside and pushes you out into the world and then tries to make you figure things out on your own. I am really not good at figuring things out on my own. But I love exploration, and this game has that in spades. I could literally spend hours—and I know this because I did, in fact, spend hours–just wandering around the post-nuclear Boston area, looking at the gorgeous decimated scenery and rifling through the personal belongings of those long dead and buried.

The thing about Fallout 4 is that it's so massive that you can spend a couple hundred hours and not even finish the main portion of the game. I've barely made a blip on the main storyline of the game. Instead, I've spent all my time cleaning up the first settlement I've been instructed to build, preparing buildings, planning trade routes and the like. Ever since Minecraft, games have incorporated crafting, because that is the way of the world. Games like DayZ dropped that into end-of-days scenarios, and it worked.

But never has it worked like it does in Fallout 4. I quite literally–and this is not a joke, not a thing where I actually mean figurative when I am actually saying literal—spent four hours scrapping everything I could find in houses and in the surrounding areas so that I could build a proper settlement for the Minutemen that elected to follow me after I rescued them from the aforementioned mini-Godzilla in the first town I stumbled upon. I scrapped cars and mailboxes and entire houses. I wanted every bit of precious metal so that I could improve the lives of the people who were following me. I agonized over the placement of every lightbulb, every generator (I didn't want them to make too much noise and disturb the sleep of my new friends) for hours.

And maybe this crafting thing won't be a thing that resonates with you. Maybe you'll just put on your armor and go out and start killing crap. But for me, this added a very real and personal element to the game, and I suspect it will work different ways for people with different personalities. I wanted to care for the people who were with me. I wanted them to not regret following me. I wanted them to be comfortable.

The thing about Fallout 4, I think, is that it feels so very real. Not real as in something you have experienced before, because unless you have been to The Wasteland, there's no way to prepare you for what you'll experience in this game. What I mean is that this is a world that feels as real as anything else put on a screen, and you can explore it, and you can make it yours. You will mess up and you will die (a lot), and then you'll return to your Sanctuary and you'll make some new weapons and new strategies and you'll lumber back out into the night, trying to figure out what went wrong the last time around.

Speaking of weapons: this is awesome. You can craft untold hundreds of possibilities. I took my first cheap-ass pistol and, with a bunch of spare parts I'd accumulated by wandering around like a lazy person, created a monster of a handgun that looked, sounded and performed like a terrifying thing of nature. It had a neon green sight and a massive handle and a bunch of other things, and the fact that I was carrying it around was a direct result of my willingness to look around for spare toolboxes and tires and other crap that nobody else wanted. It was fun, and it was powerful.

I haven't played Fallout 4 as much as other reviewers have. I've spent double-digit hours with the game so far, and I actually haven't progressed too far in the storyline. But it doesn't matter. This is a game with an incredible storyline (that I've seen so far) and a massive, massive open world full of possibilites. And when it comes right down to it, the storyline is secondary to the possibilities.

I don't know when I'll ever finish the full game. Maybe never. But the time I'll have between now and then, whenever then comes, is going to be magical.

Because this game–if you can even call it that—is among the very best video game experiences I have ever had. It stands alone with the best of them, a title that transcends an industry.Buy it now.

Score: 9.5 out of 10

What do you think?