Now, if you've played Fallout 76 at this point, you know what it has to offer. For the first time in the series' storied history, vault dwellers can explore West Virginia together, scraping together all the loot they can find to build a civilisation and survive the wasteland. Much has been said about the lack of NPCs in the game, which Bethesda also addressed in the conference. However, they aren't done with the multiplayer options, and with that arrived Fallout 76: Nuclear Winter.
Yes, this is a battle royale mode and we know that this isn't the most original idea at this point. The hot new game-type has spread like wildfire in the industry, with countless attempts from developers and publishers to jump on the wagon. If perchance you haven't tried one yet, a large number of players are dropped into a huge level with the goal of being the last person standing.
With Fallout 76, things are a little different but the mode works as you'd expect. The current player count is on the low end at 52 players for a full lobby. You start out in Vault 51, and the game skips the whole "dropping in" segment, opting for a simple load screen and then picking where you spawn in. The map is carved out from the Flatwoods area of West Virginia and features a nice variety of settlements, open fields and riverbeds. It's a wise idea to pick your spawn location carefully as if you don't choose in time, the game will decide where you drop, often leading to your untimely demise. If you're set up in a team, each player picks their spot individually, so be sure to communicate a joint landing zone.
Looting works in a similar fashion to the main game, with a variety of chests and crates stashed in various corners of the map. If you want to drop any spare items for a teammate, you plop out a small brown lunch bag that can magically hold an automatic rifle or two, which we found amusing. Switching between weapons is fast and simple using the weapon wheel, but things can get a little cumbersome when trying to access other items, as you have to go through a PipBoy-like menu to use them. We're not blaming the game, but a few early deaths may have come from fumbling around in that menu...
The ring of fire, as we like to call it, closes in through multiple stages, like with most modes in the genre. The effect is very similar to Battlefield V's Firestorm mechanic and it's a novel way to keep the action moving. Computer-controlled AI also forces you to be on your toes, as radiated creatures and ghastly ghouls are always lurking in the Nuclear Winter. Our co-op buddy for the day succumbed to some creature-born rads a few times, which didn't end well for him. Rads poisoning works as it does in typical Fallout games, and exposure to too much radiation chips away at your health, decreasing your chances of victory.
When it comes down to the final fighting, Fallout 76: Nuclear Winter stumbles a little bit. The slightly wonky shooting mechanics we've all come to know from Fallout are serviceable in an open world RPG, but less so in a tense battle royale firefight. It felt easy to lose sight of a target in the wasteland, and tall brown bushes and rocky outcrops became ideal locations for players to hide. In this sense, Fallout's take on battle royale feels closest to PUBG among its contemporary rivals.
To be frank, we weren't expecting much from Fallout 76: Nuclear Winter, but it is strangely fun. It builds on all the things we didn't necessarily want from a Fallout game, but the mode's clear direction and end goal are a nice change of pace from the standard adventure mode, which can feel aimless at times. The clunky shooting mechanics take away from the focus on combat somewhat, but other Fallout norms like roaming ghouls, the threat of radiation poisoning and the allure of finding some sweet, sweet power armour all makes the mode stand out from the competition, and we recommend giving it a go, especially during the current free trial period which lasts through until June 17.