Apply the brakes: Why you should be skeptical of Fallout 4
The time is nearly upon us. After much speculating, anticipating, and worry, Bethesda has announced Fallout 4 and has tenuously scheduled a release for November of this year. Given the stature of Bethesda and their fan base, on top of the fanbase for Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, it is probably an understatement to say Fallout 4 is massively anticipated. While fans are jumping for joy and poring over every bit of footage and each screenshot released for tidbits of knowledge of the upcoming release, I think it's important to raise my cynical voice and temper some expectations.
There’s no problem with being excited for games. I get excited for upcoming releases pretty often. The problem comes when the hype becomes a massive hype train which throws caution to the wind, and people overlook flaws in the game once it is released and any pre-release shenanigans.
Am I saying you should not be excited for Fallout 4? Absolutely not. Just like when I suggested people might want to temper their expectations for the Final Fantasy VII remake, I am just raising some concerns people might want to pay attention to before release.
By all means, be excited. That is a key part of playing games. But don’t get too caught up in the hype train. Here are some reasons why.
We have yet to see much of the game
When Bethesda unveiled Fallout 4 at their E3 conference, the house literally shook with tangible excitement for the game. Since then, we have yet to see much of the game. Sure, we have seen some gameplay, kill montages, and trailers, but we have not seen much of the game in action without the constraints of a PR demo.
Obviously, a key part of E3 revolves around vertical slice - PR demos meant to tantalize gamers and whet their appetites. While it is not uncommon for Bethesda to show these types of demos, we are talking about a game that releases in two months. Two months until the release of one of the year’s biggest titles, and we have yet to actually see the game in action.
Bethesda is obviously holding off on showing more of the game until closer to release in order to whip anticipation into an insatiable frenzy. But is it wise to throw ourselves headfirst into an Olympic pool of hype when we haven't really seen that much of the actual game?
It already has a season pass
I know seasons passes are a huge trend with major releases nowadays, but the practice is still dubious. We have seen more than one occasion where seasons passes have ended up biting players straight in the rear with the strength of Cujo. A season pass is just a pre-order for DLC, which (again) we know nothing about.
Bethesda has attempted to qualm critics by asserting the season pass will cost $30, and Bethesda has assured us they “know that it will be worth at least $40.” Of course, they also said they could add even more content than the pass is currently valued at. However, as PC Gamer noted, “they’ve left out the part where they could also do less.”
Instead of telling us more about the game or showing it to us, Bethesda is just telling us more ways they want our money. Given the state of AAA games and practices, this isn’t surprising. But it is still a shame.
A season pass is a gamble.
The Pip Boy ordeal
When Bethesda announced the Pip-Boy edition of Fallout 4, you could already hear the furious scrambling of fans to get their copy pre-ordered. Personally, I think is it just a giant plastic phone holder, but hey! If that’s your thing, by all means go for it! What I find suspicious is the entire ordeal surrounding this edition of the game.
Bethesda isn't dumb. They know people want Fallout 4. They also know people want special editions of the game. When the Pip-Boy editions sold out almost instantly, fans began to raise their ire at how they sold out so quickly. Bethesda claimed they made a “s***load” of them, and they have asserted that more cannot be made. I understand the idea and appeal of a limited edition, but this seems suspicious. Bethesda knew this thing would sell like hotcakes, and we still have a shortage. Rather than learning from Nintendo’s amiibo ordeal and the scalping problem, Bethesda has done the same darned thing.
Rather than limiting the number of units that people could buy at one time, Bethesda let them snatch up several at a time in order to jack their prices up on Ebay later. Bethesda has said “more cannot be made.” There is a huge base of players who are willing to shell out over $120 or more for these things, yet Bethesda cannot get the manufacturer to make more. Granted, there probably are some behind the scene things and other problems with making something like the Pip-Boy edition, but it's not like no one will buy the things once they are made.
It seems suspect Bethesda cannot entice a manufacturer to produce one of the hottest gaming commodities in recent years.
Bethesda games are not known for their stability and lack of bugs. Many Bethesda releases are plagued with numerous technical issues, but Skyrim was by far the worst at launch.
Before Skyrim released, the game, much like Fallout 4, was extremely anticipated. When the game finally released on November 11, 2011, many players were happy with their purchases and questing away. However, a massive number of PS3 users had a game which became nearly unplayable due to massive slowdown. The game was patched several times to eliminate the PS3 issues, but these patches were released months apart - not helping players who had spent their hard-earned cash on a brand new game they could barely play.
Most of the issues for PS3 owners were finally remedied with the release of Patch 1.4 - three months after release. That is a long time to wait for your game to become playable. To Bethesda’s credit, they did their best to squash the bugs as quickly as possible, and the bug itself was caused by a strange issue revolving around the order in which players actions took place. With a game as large and filled with an infinite amount of variables as Skyrim, that would be a difficult problem to fix.
The problem lies with what Todd Howard said post-release at a DICE summit. He said Bethesda knew PS3 players could encounter this issue. But like I said, it revolved around the order players did things, so there is almost no way to predict how this would occur with an infinite number of possibilities. Bethesda believed they had quelled the problems before release, but...
“the team knew the PS3 version could run into a ‘bad memory sitation’ and they coded solutions that they felt would work - and in their tests the solutions did work.”
Unlike Warner Bros. knowingly releasing Arkham Knight, which was literally unplayable for most players on PC (and is still a hot mess by many accounts), Bethesda did their best to fix the issues beforehand. But they could have alerted PS3 owners to the fact that issues might arise while playing, instead of allowing players to find out post-release their games were nigh unplayable. A small announcement would not have hurt the sales of the game - those PS3 owners would still buy the game once it was fixed.
Some degree of skepticism with any new hype-inducing release is healthy. Many times we have been let down and found that the game we bought was not what we thought it was. Fallout 4 will not be a bad game. Bethesda’s games have issues, but they are never bad or of poor quality. However, putting some brakes on this hype train isn't a bad idea either. (The same is true for any major release.)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go yell at some young whipper snappers to get off my damned lawn.