Fallout 4 VR makes a terrible first impression.
Boot it up and it’s immediately clear it wasn’t built for VR first and foremost. The main menu does that thing where it’s just the original 2D menu projected in empty space. The “War never changes…” intro does the same. Then when you get into the actual game, you see a rudimentary version of the character creation sequence where you’re standing in front of a mirror—and if you step backwards, you can just walk straight through the wall.
This “Oh, someone didn’t even think of this or at least didn’t come up with a way to solve it” rough-around-the-edges aspect does not bode well. It continued, too. As I dove further into the game, I kept finding other aspects that annoyed me, that demonstrated Fallout 4 was never built with VR in mind—awkward controls, a terrible teleport system, objects that don’t react the way you’d expect in VR.
And yet the first night I played Fallout 4 VR ($60 on Steam, or bundled free with the HTC Vive VR headset) for three hours straight and only stopped because it was 4 A.M. The sheer scope of it is incredible. So you could say I’m torn.
It’s the end of the world
First and foremost, I’ll say this: Fallout 4 isn’t a great game. You’re free to disagree of course, but I was pretty tepid on it in 2015 and the ensuing two years have only left me feeling colder. I find the dialogue wheel needlessly reductive, the dialogue it contains often cheesy, and Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic Boston empty and sterile. Not in a good way.
Thus I came into the end of the year expecting Fallout 4 VR to be my least favorite of Bethesda’s trio of big-name VR titles, with Skyrim VRmarginally more interesting (swinging swords!) and Doom VFR the most intriguing—after all, it was the only one built specifically for virtual reality. And…well, you can see how that went. In short: Not great.
Doom VFR’s failure made me even less interested in Fallout 4 VR and the opening hours in the Commonwealth did nothing to dissuade me of that feeling. Seriously, the beginning is rough. Not only can you break the game in a bunch of different ways, but Bethesda’s lack of tutorializing almost begs you to break it. I had to literally open a menu to figure out how to teleport around because a tutorial prompt never popped, or if it did I missed it entirely.
That same lack of polish crops up in all manner of ways. If you’re not holding something in one of your hands, for instance, you don’t see an empty hand like you’d expect. No, instead it’s replaced with the generic Vive wand prop. Since you can’t hold any weapons and don’t have a Pip-Boy for the opening sequence that means there’s a good 20-30 minutes where your hands are just disembodied Vive wands.
And it doesn’t goes away after that opening sequence. Anytime you get into a conversation, your right hand is again replaced with a Vive wand so it can show you the conversation wheel on the touchpad. Immersion? Pfah. Who needs immersion in virtua—oh wait, that’s literally the entire reason the platform exists. It’s probably the most confounding decision Bethesda could’ve made, and like Doom VFR, just one of those moments where you shake your head and think “This problem’s already been solved by a dozen different VR studios, and you chose the least practical solution.”