Bethesda has been turning out VR games like there's no tomorrow. How does Fallout 4 shape up?
Fallout 4 VR is more or less the same game that was released back in 2015. Naturally, some things have changed in the transition to virtual reality, but if you look past the most obvious new elements it's still an easily recognisable experience to players of Fallout 4.
What's different this time around, aside from the fact that you're now in the middle of this post-apocalyptic wasteland yourself rather than staring at it through a screen, is that the game is controlled using Vive's motion controllers. To aim with the gun you now have to look down its sights, and if you want to have a look at the map you'll hold your wrist-mounted Pip-Boy up in front of your face.
To move around the world you can choose to use the default teleportation feature, or you can enable a more traditional control-scheme where you use the touch-pad on your left controller to walk around like you would in the non-VR Fallout 4. There are also a few so-called comfort settings to make this more bearable for those who worry about getting queasy, but our suggestion is to turn them all off, as they do their best to pull you out of the virtual world by covering your peripheral vision during movement.
These core elements work beautifully, and never before has the brutality of Fallout been more apparent. Heads might not explode in the most realistic of ways, but it feels utterly gruesome and almost a little too much. That is also what makes it so much fun of course, no matter how morbid it might be. But even though shooting a gun feels really rewarding it won't take long before you run into some issues. This is a Bethesda game after all.
The Vive controllers, as mentioned, have a touchpad that functions as a control stick. While these generally work well in terms of moving your character around, they don't fare as well in the game's various menus. The main issue is that they just aren't accurate enough, and this is a problem that rests with this game specifically. It almost seems like they're too sensitive, and far too often do we find ourselves fiddling back and forth between selections. Considering how prominent menus are in Fallout 4, you can likely gather how frustrating it becomes.
To make matters worse, what's up, down, left or right will actually change depending on what menu you're using. When you're in Power Armor, the Pip-Boy will just show up as a hologram in front of you, but on-foot it's mounted on your wrist. When you're using it you're holding the controller sideways, and the developer decided to re-orient the touch-pad commands around to accommodate for this.
In theory, it sounds like a good idea, but practice is another story, and we would have preferred it if there was an option to keep the same orientation across the board. That said, you can choose to have the Pip-Boy work like it does with the Power Armor, though doing so means that you'll no longer have it mounted on your wrist, and as such it is not as immersive as it could be.
Fallout 4 has a lot of options, and that's why it's all the more impressive that Bethesda has been able to map all actions to the Vive controllers with its limited set of input options. That said, there is a lot to keep track of, and looking things up is a complicated menu exercise.
Visually the game doesn't hold up to the original game, but it's not as bad as rumours prior to release would have it. It's hardly the prettiest VR game we've played, but it is the only one to offer such a large, expansive world to explore (apart from Skyrim on PSVR, which we very much enjoyed, by the way).
That said, we did have to make a few changes manually in order to get it to look just right. Specifically, we had to turn off the temporal anti-aliasing-effect (TAA), which is supposed to make the image softer but has the side-effect of making everything incredibly blurry, to the point where it would hurt our eyes.
This brings up another issue because there are no built-in graphics settings. You heard that right, the game doesn't actually allow you to alter the visual quality without resorting to console commands or tinkering with the game's files. This is a huge omission, especially for a VR game where performance is incredibly important.
There also seems to be something wrong with the resolution. Bethesda has issued a hotfix that did alleviate this issue, but it came at the cost of performance. It would appear that they have simply upped the supersampling settings, which naturally requires more of your hardware. It's unclear if this is the final solution or a temporary fix, but for now you can lower the supersampling settings on your own, should it be a problem.
It's very unfortunate to see these kinds of problems in a game like this. It would appear that Bethesda could take some notes from other VR developers in terms of how this is done, though that doesn't really excuse them - things like graphical options are something PC gamers have come to expect, and it is a shame that they have been left out of the game.
Another thing that stuck out to us is the fact that scopes don't seem to work. Indeed, if you find yourself a snazzy sniper rifle you might as well leave it at home with Dogmeat, because you can't see through its scope, making it practically impossible to hit anything other than a super mutant standing two feet away from you.
Bethesda has said that they are looking into both these issues, though given how the game already performs we have doubts that they'll be able to work it out to our satisfaction. And while it's not extremely bad, even on our computer, which passes the recommended specs with ease, we ran into frequent frame drops. A loss of frames is even more noticeable in VR, and puts even more emphasis on the lack of settings.
We might sound overly negative here, but the reasons for that should be clear. When it all comes down to it, this is one of the biggest VR releases we've seen so far and content-wise it is beyond comparison. It's awesome to see a game of this magnitude show up on the VR platform, though it is a shame that it comes with as many issues as it does.
Fallout 4 VR is a wonderfully enjoyable experience when it shows its best side, but Bethesda has a laundry list of things to work out before this becomes the much-needed flagship for VR it could and should have been. Maybe when they do we'll look to bump up the score.
6 / 10
The entire Fallout 4 experience in VR.
Performance issues, Wonky menu controls, No graphical settings.