Fallout 4 PC review

Fallout 4 PC Review

NB: This is our port review of Fallout 4, specifically analysing its performance on PC. For our full review of the game itself (spoiler: it's real good), head to page 2

Fallout 4 has launched on PC, giving us a new version of Bethesda’s Creation Engine, a new post-apocalyptic wasteland and, for some people, a whole host of new bugs and performance issues to worry about. 

Traditionally, Bethesda’s open world romps have been more at home on PC than consoles – though the PC-like PS4 and Xbox One have brought things closer to parity – and after hours of traipsing across the wasteland, hunting super mutants and putting welding goggles on dogs, I can say that tradition has been upheld. 

Caveats are, of course, forthcoming.

Tested on a Intel i5-3570K @3.40 GHz, 8 GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 970, Windows 10.

Having recently replayed Fallout: New Vegas, I was immediately struck by the visual improvements lavished on Fallout 4. The Boston wasteland is a huge expanse of diverse terrain and settlements, brought to life with lighting both subtle and overt, and countless tiny details. 

New Vegas is five years old, though, and running on an engine two years older, so significant changes should be expected. Compare it to Skyrim, itself four years old, and the improvements are less massive. They are there, of course, particularly when it comes to lighting, but so are many of Skyrim’s visual failings. 

For every detailed texture, there’s one that looks like it should never have made it past QA, and no amount of lovely lighting or fancy weather effects – of which Fallout 4 has many, and they are a delight – can hide just how awkward the character animations look, or how hideous and alien many of the faces look. 

Like Skyrim, Fallout 4 is a game that’s blessed with impressive vistas and scenes that, at a glance, look impressive, but once you look closer, immediately begin to look dated. It’s good looking game from five years ago, with the benefit of a few modern tricks. 

Dated does not mean ugly, however, and Fallout 4 is absolutely the best the series has ever looked, not just in terms of fidelity, but art direction as well. Settlements are full of varied architecture and buildings modern and historical each oozing personality. Out in the wilderness, the atomic blue and green wasteland of DC and the sun-scorched Mojave desert seems worlds away, replaced by diverse, colourful environments rich in clutter and abundant with life. 

All this is achieved without compromising the overall style of the series. Post-apocalyptic Boston is undeniably Fallout. 

Graphics options cover most of the bases, though it’s frustrating to only be able to change most settings via the launcher rather than in-game. Along with anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, and the various qualities of textures, shadows, decals and lighting, you can also fiddle with several view distance sliders that deal with specific objects, like NPCs or grass.

Further tweaking can be done by turning off or on rain occlusion, which keeps rain from appearing or splashing on the ground when you’re under cover; wetness, which gives you that ‘I’ve just finished swimming in an irradiated swamp’ look; screen space reflections, which adds glossy reflections to surfaces; lens flare, because sometimes you want to burn your retinas; and motion blur. 

Four presets have been put together, from ultra to low, and should you wish to spin the dice, you could always let the game auto detect the settings. I wouldn’t advise it, though. In my case, the game was a tad optimistic. On the other side of the spectrum, GeForce Experience was overly conservative. So expect to do a bit of tweaking before you get the performance you’re hoping for. 

(Larger version)

On the ultra setting, with TXAA anti-aliasing enabled, the game looks its best, and on my now slightly dated (aside from the GPU) rig, the performance cost is surprisingly minimal. 

Indoors, it’s rare for the frame rate to dip below 60, even when all hell breaks loose and explosions and screaming androids fill the screen. Even outdoors, things remain mostly steady, occasionally dipping to the low or mid-50s. 

It wasn’t until I hit the built-up area surrounding Diamond City, the game’s largest town, that I considered turning my settings down a tad. I was still able to hit 60fps, but the dips were more noticeable, occasionally reaching the mid-40s, though that’s by no means terrible. 

(Larger version)

Using the high preset, performance gets a noticeable boost without a significant visual cost. The game looks mostly the same, but in areas jampacked with buildings, it manages to keep a mostly steady frame rate of 60. 

(Larger version)

It’s not until using the low preset and by turning off AA that we can see a very clear downgrade, with jagged edges no longer being hidden, shadows becoming harsher, and objects in the distance losing detail or vanishing. In motion, it’s even more obvious as the shadows start to flicker and buildings pop into view. 

Here’s another comparison between ultra and low in first-person. 

(Larger version)

(Larger version)

For some reason, certain options have been left out of the settings menu, most notably the frame rate cap and an FOV slider. Thankfully, both of those things, along with several others, can be edited in a pair of .ini files. For instructions on what to edit, take a look at our Fallout 4 FOV tweak guide. You won’t, at least, have to dive into any files to change the keybindings. That can be done in-game, thankfully. 

Unexpectedly, given my past experience with Bethesda games, my time with Fallout 4 has been blessedly bug-free, for the most part. Sometimes NPCs get stuck or a line of dialogue gets cut out, but nothing major. Others have reported more serious issues, from CTDs to disk write errors. Check out our Fallout 4 crashes, bugs and fixes article if you do have any problems. 

Ultimately, it will be the mods that will give Fallout 4 the sort of longevity that Bethesda’s open-world adventures typically enjoy, in addition to the amazing settlements people are coming up with. In the meantime, however, Fallout 4 is already a decent PC port. 

There are problems, yes, and disappointments, certainly, but at its worst Fallout 4 is a functional port, and at its best, a rather good one that offers greater fidelity and performance when compared to its console counterparts. It’s the version you should get, if you have a choice, and this would be the case even without the promise of a mountain of mods. 

Verdict: Passed

Keep reading for our full Fallout 4 review.

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Inquisitar avatarXerkics avatarLordCrash avatarorbitalcommand avatarTurrican avatarHtorne avatar+9
LordCrash Avatar
110
1 Year ago

Not a single word on the terrible PC controls and UI, which was again directly ported from console? Shame for a PC review, sorry.

6
Htorne Avatar
497
1 Year ago

Thanks LordCrash - I mean it, I was just about to buy it, literally. Also it would have annoyed so much, I hate crappy console port interfaces. Again thanks :)

1
QDP2 Avatar
556
QDP2(1 day 3 hours played)
1 Year ago

To be fair, I haven't read anywhere about poor UI/controls... It's releasing for me in 2(ish) hours and will update then, but controls are apparently fine :P

UI is always built console friendly, but then mods are always made to fix it, and who ever had problems with the PC controls for Skyrim? It's the same engine...

1
Lolssi Avatar
221
1 Year ago

PCGamer is filled with people complaining about controls. If you can rebind something it often doesn't work in certain situations.

2
QDP2 Avatar
556
QDP2(1 day 3 hours played) replied to Lolssi
1 Year ago

I admit I haven't rebound any keys, but so far I've been happy with the current control scheme :P

2
unwanted Avatar
750
unwanted(1 day 16 hours played)
1 Year ago

Terrible controls? It's the same for all FPS games. You might sound smart to other people who just played PC games this year but not to me.

-4
Lolssi Avatar
221
1 Year ago

You might have unknowingly encountered these mystical creatures called lefties in the wild...

1
LordCrash Avatar
110
1 Year ago

You know that UI navigation is part of the controls?

1
Xerkics Avatar
303
1 Year ago

What is the "bloody mess" perk like in fallout 4? does it ruin the criticals making everyhing explode making you unable to shoot of limbs any more ? or does it only occasionally kick in now?

2
orbitalcommand Avatar
2
1 Year ago

Agree with LordCrash, I just got the PC version and it has tons of crashes. You can find the fixes here, quite helpful: http://www.crashwiki.com/how-to-fix-fallout-4-crashes-errors-resolution-getting-stuck-disable-v-sync-save-mouse-lag/

2
Fonz Avatar
2
Fonz(40 days 13 hours played)
1 Year ago

Runs like a gem. Get yourself a decent rig.

-1
JerryDarkHorse Avatar
7
1 Year ago

Thanks for the review.

A little off topic but why are reviews so few and far between on this site? Seems like there is about one every 20 days or so recently...

2
Turrican Avatar
31
Turrican(2 days 5 hours played)
1 Year ago

I wonder how the reviewer would have felt had he never played a Fallout game before? I have never played a Fallout game before but have picked up Fallout 4 and hope it feels fresh enough that I enjoy it more than perhaps a Fallout veteran would.

1
Turrican Avatar
31
Turrican(2 days 5 hours played)
6 Months ago

I didn't

0
Lolssi Avatar
221
1 Year ago

Playing second time game doesn't make it half as long.

Not everyone plays to see all choices. I myself make "right" choices first time around and wanna keep that end result.

1
Silentius Avatar
148
Silentius(6 days 9 hours played)
1 Year ago

I've been on the fence as to whether I'd buy Fallout 4 full price or wait for the inevitable sale next year... having read several reviews I'm forced to admit that the pull of the wasteland is just too strong... It doesn't bother me that it's 'more of the same thing'. I loved both FO3 and New Vegas, so I'll be purchasing my copy tonight. . . goodbye life!

1
AnAuldWolf Avatar
859
1 Year ago

I can't agree. I mean, I understand your reasoning, but I always hope for more from Fallout. I don't find the base premise to be all that interesting, nor does it really live up to the potential of what it could be. Now, that's not saying it's bad, or even that you're necessarily wrong. It's just a difference of opinion.

To me, it's more like a diet of bland meat and potatoes that never, ever changes. And you can imagine this brilliant dish conceived by a clever, talented chef that you might eat instead, but only those tasteless spuds and that tough, stringy meat sit in front of you, day after day after day.

I know that the daily grind can have an appeal, the lack of variety means that you're always guaranteed a base level of stimulation. It's too small for me, though. I would risk that in order to achieve something far greater.

I've often brought up the good ending of Fallout Tactics, and here, let me do it again. Just for those who might not have seen it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4ewKOcVW2E

That sets up the scene for a game that could realise the potential of Fallout. What I would so dearly love to see is a title set long after the apocalypse. You've got these diverse races (super mutants, ghouls, robots, deathclaws, humans, et cetera) and equally unusual factions all tenuously working together to fashion Society 2.0.

And you're in the middle of it. You're an agent playing the sides and angles for the greater purpose of peace and prosperity. You're dealing with the splinter groups, shining light in the darkness, driving out the rot, and showing that the monsters aren't always who people are easily manipulated into believing them to be. You're an agent of an organisation that maintains the foundations of a brave, new world. One that has the potential of being so much more fantastic and brilliant than the one which came before it, if you can stop it from eating itself before the equilibrium balances and people begin to accept it.

I know it's fun to do 'war, war never changes' for the five billionth time, but wouldn't it also be fun to take Fallout to the next level? The review makes it sounds like (sadly) Bethesda has once again played it overly safe and that disappoints me. It may not be the case, and that might just be initial impressions. I hope there's more to it than that.

But if there's not... Such lament. Oh Fallout, you could be so much more than this, so much better. But you keep selling yourself out to any Tom, Dick, or Harry for a cheap thrill. You should respect yourself more, Fallout. You could be something.

1
Runeclaw69 Avatar
171
Runeclaw69(3 days 7 hours played)
1 Year ago

I so want to play this game, but don't have the money to buy it for another two weeks. :(

Guess I should try Eric Cartman's trick when he wanted the Wii and freeze myself till then, so I don't need to wait and get teased.

1
Ov3r_Kill_Br0ny Avatar
8
1 Year ago

Fallout 4 was a huge letdown for me and along with how obvious they just ported it over to PC with the lack of options and terrible UI and the bugs and performance issues thanks to Gameworks for AMD, it was just not worth my money. Refunded.

1
Lolssi Avatar
221
1 Year ago

How are the respawns? Does location stay cleared when you've cleared it or is it magically full again when you go back like in Skyrim.

1
AnAuldWolf Avatar
859
1 Year ago

Oops. Double-posted. Sorry.

-1
Inquisitar Avatar
74
1 Year ago

Too bad they turn great rpg into console shooter with poor story and useless minecraft autistic elements

Imo

-7