Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hey Chance, whatcha' playin'?

I have literally spent the last hour trying to find a video of Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw performing a Sparkle Hunting kill with the square-square-triangle combo.  That's it!  Just pom-pom and a forward thrust of the chainsaw, because when she does that move you see this huge grin on her face as the zombies' heads pop off - but after clawing through literally dozens of gameplay walkthroughs and hard-mode tutorials (you'd think someone would know how to really play the game by hard mode!) - but no.  Nope.  Nothin'.  

So - game diary.

Since its launch, there have been - maybe - five days in which I did not play at least some Fallout 4.  I have played the ever-loving crap out of that game, and the only things that could yank me away from it were personal obligations or, over the weekend, Bastion on Vita.

It's a game that's sort of living in Skyrim's shadow, even as it strikes out in its own direction, and reinvigorates the identity and style of Fallout by refusing to do much original and double down on on what you already know and feel about the series.  In Fallout 4's wake, Fallout 3 seems more like Bethesda kind of feeling their way around the property, afraid to impose too much of an identity on it.  By contrast, New Vegas had so much sense of self, and so much charismatic flavor, that it feels like Fallout 4 is kind of reticent to possess its own vibe.  Like a semi-intelligent politician, it doesn't want to offend you with any opinions, perspectives or insights - it does its damnedest to be as Vanilla Fallout Ver. 2.0 as it possibly can, and it succeeds.

I love some of the new additions to the radio classics we've come to love over the  years, which further indulges the whole songs-from-the-30s-40s-and-50s-were-way-racier-than-you-think thing.  I'm super-happy there's so much Roy Brown on the sountrack (Butcher Pete II! woo!), Rocket 69 is frickin' awesome, and honestly one of my favorite movies when I was a kid was Bull Durham with Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.  There's this fantastic scene where Susan Sarandon finally realizes the super-cool, experienced catcher (it was a baseball movie) Kevin Costner is far more fun than the meathead pitcher Tim Robbins, and they're dancing in his kitchen to Billy Ward's Sixty Minute Man.

I've loved that song ever since, and having it pop up in Fallout feels like a little shimmering part of the game was placed there, just for me.  Just for Chance.

But it's still so... I don't know... expected?  I feel like a game we were intentionally shown so little of prior to its release would have more... surprises.  All of the companions, for example, are pretty bland, and two-dimensional.  What little character development there is, on their part, is reliably tepid, when it's not being kind of numbly annoying.

I get it, McCreedy, I've opened your heart.  Now maybe turn the emo down by a few hundred percent and bugger off, because Piper and I have some robots to shoot.

Maybe there would have been backlash if 4 had more to its unique identity than settlement-building, (pretty damned lightweight) weapon and armor modifications and power armor that actually feels super-powerful, but when I think of New Vegas, y'know what's the first thing I think of?

I think Blue Moon, sung by Frank Sinatra and Johnny Guitar by Peggy Lee. I think of Felicia Day's young Brotherhood of Steel explorer, a Mexican ghoul and the Rose of Sharon Cassidy.

Fallout 4 feels so beholden to the expected that it has a real, real hard time surprising you, and making a real impression.

Not that any of the above has stopped me from playing it, of course.  By the end of my first playthrough (and by "end" I just mean I finished the main story quest and didn't continue running around doing sidequests - which you can totally do, and is awesome!), I was an obscene, God-like destroyer with my luck, stealth and rifleman skills.  Elite Deathclaws could show up and I was like "meh, whatever, die" - and this is on Survivor difficulty!

Chamberlain asked me a while back how much time I've sunk into it, because he's worried it will suck him up and refuse to let him shave a few more games off his backlog and I assured him it will.  The playtime on that first run through is over a week.  Not thirty or forty or fifty hours but a week.

Then, I immediately started up a new game, walked straight into Sanctuary and built so much that by the time I left, I was level four.

So it's sure as hell not a bad game.  And, at the very least, the Glowing Sea is something this series really needed.  Having new enemy types is a very pleasant surprise, and everything surrounding the Institute is super-interesting right up until you really get a grip on what's going on with that place, but walking through a windswept desert with an omnipresent, eerie green glow rising from the ashen ground feels like what will be remembered, years from now, as a quintessential Fallout moment.

It's Fallout's microwave hallway.


  1. I'm humming uranium fever right now...

    1. I did have that one on repeat, for a while. Also, with the addition of the lounge singer songs, I was convinced for my entire first playthrough that Crawl Out Through the Fallout was written and recorded for F4, which is why it isn't quite as good as ninety per cent of the soundtrack. Then I looked it up and discovered it's actually from the sixties - we'd just never heard of it, before, because... well yeah, it's not that great - but its lower quality kind of allows the lounge singer songs to slip in comfortably.

      "This doesn't sound quite right."

      "It sounds about as right as that last song."

      "Fair enough."

    2. Yeah it's... a low point on the soundtrack, definitely. I really wish they'd gone for more old blues. Why is there no Etta James, Howlin' Wolf or Nina Simone on this thing? Answer me that, Bethesda!