Over the last few weeks I’ve played a lot of Fallout 4 VR, and although it still has plenty of the bugs and quirks that you’ll always find lurking in a Bethesda open-world RPG, it also sets a new standard for what we can expect from a VR title.
At its core, Fallout 4 VR doesn’t do anything seriously revolutionary compared to the vanilla game. The core Fallout 4 experience is still there, so if you absolutely hated Fallout 4 in the first place Fallout 4 VR probably won’t hold a lot of ground for you.
What Fallout 4 VR does do is port one of the biggest RPGs to come out in the last few years to VR, and it does it well enough that it makes the game fun again even for people that played over a thousand hours of the vanilla title. For players that weren’t a fan of the original experience, it offers the natural pick-up-and-play nature of VR to take center stage.
VR implementation done right
A huge part of this success is just how smooth the VR port feels from vanilla Fallout 4 to Fallout 4 VR. Fallout 4 VR needed an extremely robust set of options and controls to appeal to a wide audience within the VR community, and it managed to cram quite a few features and options in to appeal to just about everyone.
Fans of teleportation have a solid system that allows you to move with a surprising amount of agility and precision. Using AP for long teleports as a pseudo sprint balances the somewhat overpowered nature of teleportation, and forces you to occasionally make frantic tactical decisions that keep the atmosphere tight and frenetic.
And on the flip side of the fence, fans of locomotion can move exactly how you would expect to move in vanilla Fallout 4 without a lot of the discomfort and motion sickness some games bring to the party. For players that have issues with motion sickness using traditional locomotion, Fallout 4 VR utilizes field of view narrowing vignette techniques to make it as comfortable as possible without sacrificing much in the way of immersion. If you’re particularly sensitive to VR’s specific brand of motion sickness, you might still want to stick to teleportation, but for veterans that only get the occasional bought of nausea it virtually eliminates that sensation for even extended play sessions.
At launch, Fallout 4 VR did have a few visual issues, including some blurriness that caused the game to look a lot less crisp than the vanilla game, beyond even what you would expect from VR resolution issues. Fortunately, a small day one beta patch fixed that issue for us entirely.
All of these settings can be tweaked and enabled based on your preferences, your PC’s hardware, and whatever you feel works best for you, including smaller settings like actually squatting to sneak around, or pressing a button to enable a sneak mode that automatically brings you closer to the ground like you would expect in vanilla Fallout 4. You can even choose to toggle the Pip-Boy interface option to a setting that works best for you.
New VATS, New Feeling
It’s worth mentioning that not everything is how you remember Fallout 4. VATS in particular feels like a whole new system. Bethesda has managed to cater the new VR controls in a fun and unique way that perfectly fits expectations of how VATS would work if you were really in the Wasteland.
You’re still triggering slow motion, a system that’s become a relatively standard VR feature. That gives you a tactical advantage, but it also feels like you’re trusting your accuracy to a computerized targeting system with all the bonuses and downsides that implies, rather than just shooting with the speed and accuracy that slow-motion mechanics normally offer.
With VR VATS, you’re able to let your Pip-Boy’s targeting system do the work for you, which frees up your attention for other things like running away, switching guns, applying some meds, or pretty much anything else you can think of. All while you point your gun in the general direction of the enemy’s head or body, squeezing the trigger indiscriminately, and occasionally screaming into the jaws of a drooling Deathclaw as he eats you.
It’s immensely entertaining and satisfying, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few issues with the system overall. Occasionally it feels like you can’t quite target the limbs you’re pointing at, but once you get used to the gun wiggle it takes to make the system wake up and pay attention it becomes a natural extension of your aim.
The other new mechanics, including how you set up settlements and how you jump and teleport around the map, all feel like they’re well adapted to the world of VR. These mechanics offer an expanded sense of the game, rather than limiting the concept to what they thought they could accomplish in the relatively new medium.
That crate to your left? Perfect for pulling off a sneaky distraction if you toss it around the corner from an enemy. That ledge you could never jump to before because your character doesn’t understand how to use his hands while jumping? Easy to access with a quick teleport. Even the small touches like oil spills, fire extinguishers, and electricity hazards that we’ve seen since Skyrim feel like natural and innovative extensions of what you would expect to do in VR.
The Biggest VR Game to Date
VR games have the (often deserved) reputation of being too limited in scope. It’s a huge plus for any game if it has a lot of quality content, and one of the biggest weaknesses of the VR community is the price of content versus the hours of gameplay you can get out of it.
Games like SuperhotVR, AEON, and Echo Arena get around a relatively small amount of available content by offering multiple game modes, difficulties, and sheer gameplay based replay value, which gives you an excuse to play the same game, or the same game mode repeatedly. Even then, a quality VR game offers 6-10 hours of gameplay on average, with some exception to the rule extending that time to 20-25 hours.
Fallout 4 VR has the advantage of basically already being a triple A game with (conservatively) 40-60 hours of gameplay baked in, but the number of possible endings, the multiple difficulty options and the sheer random nature of the explorable world means you’ll probably never run out of things to do. For a VR game this is truly remarkable, and the sheer addictive nature of Fallout 4’s scavenging, questing, and settlement system constantly gives players a reason to keep venturing out into the wasteland for more experiences. Anyone that’s ever played the original Fallout 4 can tell you that it’s easy to go out on a trip looking for coffee cups and come back six hours later with a new set of power armor, 22 microscopes, six plasma rifles, 200 pencils, thousands of caps, and three coffee cups.
Fallout 4 VR is everything you would expect out of Fallout 4, which means it’s the biggest VR game to ever hit the platform by far. That means something, because it’s the first VR game that offers an experience that’s hundreds of hours long with more content than you can shake a stick at. It really is a game-changer because it proves that quality triple A titles are right at home on today’s VR headsets, and that can only spell out good things for the future of VR.
Glitches in the Synths
That said, with any big games comes the occasional big bug or twelve, and Bethesda is well known for having a few of these at launch and some that just pop up out of nowhere. With a game as large and as random as many of the open-world titles we see come out of Bethesda’s corner it’s no surprise, but it can be a bit frustrating.
Some of them are benign, like being able to reach through the occasional wall or display case to steal the Cryolator, while others can be a frustrating break from immersion where you’re reminded by a massively glitched render in the distance that reminds you you’ve managed to break the matrix just by moving from point A to point B. Or, in my worst case, I almost wasn’t able to start the game at all because I couldn’t type my name into the character creation menu. I was able to fix this issue by opting out of the SteamVR beta client, but it stills seems odd that there was a game-breaking bug hiding behind a single SteamVR Beta update that no one noticed until launch.
Additionally, it’s important to mention that at launch the issues with blurriness were severe enough to make aiming nigh impossible, but it’s hard to hold that against the game after Bethesda quickly released an optional beta patch that fixed the issue.
There’s also a slight issue with tutorials and how fast they slip by your screen, which makes getting the hang of some of the mechanics a bit dicey, especially when it comes to some of the more complex settlement mechanics. If you’re not already familiar with the game, I could see this becoming a substantial barrier to entry.
A Whole New Look at the Commonwealth
Bethesda was right on top of trying to fix issues the second the game went live, which is a modern gaming merit badge in its own right. After Bethesda rolled out the fix for the blurriness issues the game became markedly more visually impressive. Other than the occasional long distance visual glitch we mentioned earlier, the sense of immersion in the Wasteland is truly a sight to behold.
The atmosphere feels much more tense and tight than the vanilla game because enemies are actively attacking you rather than your character. Encounters feel much grittier and visceral because you’re actively looking at them from a few inches away rather than that sweet little safety net afforded you by your monitor or TV. As a result, almost every encounter leaves your heart pounding or your adrenaline pumping as you try and survive the harsh environment. Your movements, your choices, they all feel like the stakes are a cut above what you get out of the vanilla version because dying feels much more impactful in VR.
The atmosphere and immersion are through the roof, especially if you can stomach playing the game with traditional locomotion and forcing yourself to crouch to sneak.
Even something as simple as aiming becomes a tactical struggle where you’re forced to use the post-apocalyptic landscape as a tool. Using a pipe-rifle’s reflex sight reminds you constantly that you’re not using something from a hunting magazine, you’re using a tin can with two screws stuck in the side to aim at someone’s head from a hundred yards away.
It’s as difficult (and fun) as it sounds.
We just want more
As huge and diverse an experience as Fallout 4 VR is, it does feel like there are a few things missing.
DLC like Far Harbor and Nuka World are nowhere to be found, and let’s not even get started with mod support. Where is it all? Is Bethesda holding out on us, just so they can buy some more time at this year’s E3 before finally releasing another Elder Scrolls game? Or is it just a technical challenge?
Are we going to see any mods at all? Any player made attempts at body creation? Any official attempts? Is dual wielding ever going to become a thing (because It feels like it should be). We have questions that stretch for miles but no answers in sight.
It’s a beggar’s complaint, because there are so many things that make Fallout 4 VR so good, but ultimately, it’s a valid question of potential content that we would love to see make its way to Bethesda’s best VR game to date.