Oh dear, this isn’t Bethesda’s week, is it? Fallout 4, perhaps one of the most anticipated titles since Skyrim, is announced to the world at large with a big, flashy trailer. Except that whilst it was big, it wasn’t that flashy. The public, it seems, aren’t too enthused about the graphics.
And yes, I’ll admit it. Games these days can and do look better in terms of aesthetic realism. The dog that bounces around the trailer as a focal point is probably the most noticeable flaw. It moves well, mostly, and has the right kind of behavioural animation, but it looks kind of flat. The fur that doesn’t look like fur, the slightly angular body shape, the way its feet don’t quite seem to touch the ground with any impact, it all makes it look a bit like a robot – a really well-made robot, mind you – that had an Alsatian painted over the top of its chassis.
What else? Well, the humans have Lego hair, we see a couple of people with an identical running animation (one that looks a little floaty, like in the previous game), the ghouls in the supermarket somehow push against big metal trolleys with no resistance, and people’s faces seem to have that slightly glassy, mannequin look that’s almost a Bethesda trademark at this point. No, it’s not the best graphics I’ve seen in a major video game, not by a long shot.
And yet, I don’t really care. Because it looked gorgeous.
This is probably what I was most excited about from the trailer, because the series really seems to have gotten some colour back into its cheeks. Everything, from the contrasting blue cot in the faded bedroom, to the bright, toybox spectrum of the pre-war streets, to the beautiful cinematic shot of the neo-noir city, it all shone with visual personality.
I really liked Fallout 3 and New Vegas, but I did tire of greys, greens and browns. I know that this world is meant to look scarred and sickly, but there’s a difference between faded colours and no colours at all. So Fallout 4 splattering itself with all the best members of the rainbow is a plus in my book.
Not to mention the visual design, something that stays with us long after we’ve forgotten about the graphics. The sweeping shot of the huge pirate ship, the mighty doom-Zeppelin floating in the thunderstorm, the prowling deathclaw in the radioactive mist, they all point to ideas that aren’t just realistic, they look good. Old concepts like the Protectrons have gotten some life into them visually, with the glint of a red LED eye shining within their circuitry, or the hanging suit of DIY power armour, a massive network of hydraulics and gears solemnly draped from its supports. Even the blue Vault-tec jumpsuits look more blue. The whole thing seems delighted to see you, and that’s pretty cool.
I know, the images could be better, could be clearer. They still might be – remember, this is a trailer, not a finished product – but yes, it would be nice if they were as svelte as other games, Perhaps it’s a little disappointing that a game with this kind of pedigree and expectation behind it couldn’t manage graphically what titles with smaller budgets can do, but I still can’t bring myself to be all hot and bothered over it. You could record an orchestra doing Beethoven on your phone, and yeah, it might be little grainier than intended. But it’s still Beethoven. It’s still excellent at its core.
Perhaps I’m just bitter because an excellent game series has just been announced to have a fresh new game incoming, and all anybody can talk about is the aspect to games that engages me the least. Nobody’s talking about what might be contained in Vault 111, or whether we get to use vehicles for the first time, or if we might see a user interface that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out. I can’t help but notice the ugly cube of a Pip-Boy lashed to the protagonist’s arm. If he has any sense at all, he’ll drop it for an iPhone the first chance he gets.