Birds are chirping, your son, Shaun, is safe in his crib, and Codsworth is preparing something in the kitchen. It's the same intro we've seen countless times in the standard version of Fallout 4, except this time I'm physically standing in the middle of my VR room with everything that isn't nailed down moved away and out of sight.
There's going to be radiation poisoning (can't get enough Fancy Lad Snack Cakes), there's going to be scavenging (need everything we can get for building settlements), and there's going to be a whole lot of hurt laid down in this redone Commonwealth. Here's what we think of Fallout 4 VR.
About this review
We're writing this review after what we think is an adequate amount of time in-game to test mechanics and playability. The core Fallout 4 storyline and countless side quests — no DLC content is included — have been played to death, and, because they haven't changed, we will focus mainly on how the game actually works in VR and how well it's been remade for the platform.
Fallout 4 VR gameplay mechanics
Fallout 4 is a complex game with a lot going on at all times, and translating it all into a workable VR experience was no doubt an enormous task. While the overall mechanics do take some getting used to, it overall plays quite well. Your controllers (no virtual hands here) are active at all times no matter what you're holding, and with all the junk littered around the world, commands can get mixed up. With precision that comes after playing the game for awhile, you won't accidentally whack Preston Garvey in the face with your laser musket a second time. I did also enable pointing sticks out of my virtual wands, which made it much easier to pick up and start conversations.
All types of locomotion
One of the biggest topics leading up to the release of Fallout 4 VR was locomotion. Would we be able to move smoothly or would we be stuck with teleport? Bethesda has chosen to let the player decide.
The default mode of movement is teleportation. The trigger on your left Vive wand is pulled to bring up an arc and landing spot. As long as you don't want to teleport too far at once, you can move without limitation. Action Points (AP), the value that also applies to the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.), will only be drained if you teleport too far. Teleporting is the quickest way to jump around the world, but it takes quite a bit away from immersion.
Smooth movement is the most immersive way to get around, and even without the movement fade enabled I didn't experience any discomfort.
The Settings menu of the game now has a "VR" section, which includes options for locomotion, Pip-Boy, and movement fade (translucent borders that suck in to prevent nausea). Here you can choose smooth movement, controlled with the touchpad on the left Vive wand. Just touch the direction you want to go and you'll start moving. If you click, your character will move faster, but your AP meter will also drain. Smooth movement is the most immersive way to get around, and even without the movement fade enabled I didn't experience any discomfort.
As my setup is in a large room with nothing in my way, I could freely turn my body. There is nevertheless a snap-turn function on the wand's touchpad. Those without the means to turn physically should have no problem playing Fallout 4 VR facing only one direction, and likewise I don't see why you wouldn't be able to play the game sitting down.
The first piece of hardware you get your hands on in Fallout 4 VR is the security baton, a short, thin bashing stick. The first radroaches you encounter are close to the ground, and you'll find yourself bent over smashing them into submission. If melee encounters were all like this it would grow quite tiresome, but luckily most enemies are standing upright, ready to take a beating at eye level.
Like guns, melee weapons are handled with one controller, no matter how large of a sledgehammer you find. Swinging your controller and watching a head come off is a disgusting thrill, and tracking is your standard Vive precision. Going with a strictly-melee build would be quite a bit of fun, but after playing for a few hours I found myself gravitating toward guns as it was easier to keep track of targets from a distance. Taking on large groups of enemies up close — especially when there are multiples using melee weapons — can be overwhelming in VR. You do seem to be able to block incoming melee attacks, but it doesn't always work as it should.
After playing a few other Vive games, Pavlov VR and Breach It included, it's clear that holding guns with two hands works quite well in VR, but due to button-mapping limitations, guns in Fallout 4 VR are held in one hand. Yes, even the minigun.
Most of your time here will involve some sort of gunplay, and it's safe to say Bethesda got it right. The angle at which you hold your controller when aiming feels natural, and reloading takes a squeeze of the grips. Holding up the larger guns with one hand does seem a bit cheesy, but I quickly got over it. Just pretend you're John Rambo.
As of now, scopes do not work. At all. If you're looking to get into Fallout 4 VR just to create a badass sneaking sniper assassin, wait awhile until Bethesda releases a patch or two.
Settlements and crafting
One of the biggest changes Fallout 4 brought over its first-person predecessors was the ability to break down all your collected junk into crafting materials and refashion it into armor and weapons and items for your settlements. All the same crafting and settlement building features are here, and the menus have been redesigned to suit the Vive wands.
After first navigating the Pip-Boy, I was expecting the crafting menus to be even more complicated. They are, however, laid out over both wands very well. It took about 30 seconds to get used to, and after that I was building and scrapping just as fast as I do in the regular game. The smooth movement you might be enjoying will be interrupted while building your settlements, because the touchpad is used for the menu. Teleportation is used instead.
Fallout 4 VR immersion and VR changes
Not much more can be said other than Fallout 4 VR is incredibly immersive. The creaks and groans of the rotting buildings around you, the snarls and groans from ghouls around the corner, and the chatter of enemies lying in wait will continuously cause shivers to run up your spine as you stalk the wasteland. If you found standard Fallout 4 to be spooky, you're sure to get a thrill here. Changes to accommodate VR seem to have been kept to a minimum, and are mostly in place to allow for the move from keyboard and mouse to Vive wands.
The first change you'll likely notice in VR is how there are way less character customization options. Like Skyrim VR, there's no way to pull back to a third-person view, so there really isn't much need for extensive options. Instead we have just a few presets to choose from.
If you found standard Fallout 4 to be spooky, you're sure to get a thrill here.
Computer terminals were the cause of much frustration in the standard game due to players getting stuck while attempting to sit down. Instead of moving the VR view around when accessing a terminal, we're instead shown a black background with the glowing green writing overlaid. It's a simple fix for any potential nausea-inducing movement.
Sort of the opposite idea, lockpicking in VR brings up a small lock image above the safe or door rather than making it take up most of the screen as in the regular game. I was hoping we'd get to use our Vive wands as if we were actually lockpicking, but instead you move the bobby pin by swiping left or right on the touchpad and twist the screwdriver by pulling the trigger. It works, and now that I've played the game, having exact lockpicking movements with the wands would likely be too finicky to work properly.
Your Pip-Boy is by default located on your virtual wrist and is visible at all times. To access it, you simply hold your arm up in front of your face and it expands to allow for easier readability. This is admittedly an extremely cool feature and adds to immersion, but I found it was a bit difficult to control, especially when in combat. After changing it to be accessible by pressing the middle of the touchpad and using it as a standard menu, it was overall less immersive but worked better. Actually navigating the Pip-Boy menus with the Vive wand touchpad definitely takes getting used to and can be frustrating until you get the hang of it, but it seems like Bethesda did a good job condensing a keyboard and mouse down to the wands.
Finally, the change for VR I love the most is with V.A.T.S. Instead of stopping time, you're put into a slow-motion scene that drains your AP meter. Pointing at body parts will highlight them, making it incredibly easy to pop off precision shots. Landing headshots in real time is satisfying, but landing four in a row in V.A.T.S. is borderline overindulgent.
Most of the other small tweaks to the control scheme and way the game handles mostly go unnoticed while you enjoy the wasteland. This is a good thing, as it allows you to play the game and not worry about skipping certain areas because there's something that didn't translate well to VR.
Fallout 4 VR performance and graphics
My first step into Fallout 4 VR involved about two hours of straight playtime. I was taken in by the gameplay and enjoyed poking around, getting used to the controls and combat. The graphics seemed to have understandably taken a hit, but it was nothing awful.
Update December 12: Bethesda has released a beta update that fixes the blurriness many users were experiencing. Full patch notes and instructions for installing the patch can be found in the Steam Fallout 4 VR News page. Testing the game following the patch, graphics are much better, but some users are still reporting issues.
Other than the issue with scaling and DPI, Fallout 4 VR performs quite well using an NVIDIA GTX 1080, 16GB of RAM, and an Intel Core i7-7700K processor. There were some jumps to the SteamVR gridscape for a quick load between major sections of the storyline, but other than that load times were speedy and there was minimal twitching and tearing you sometimes see.
Bethesda games are known to have their share of bugs and you'll likely run into a few the longer you play. I crashed to desktop several times over the course of hours, but I didn't see anything game breaking. Put that quicksave function to use and you'll avoid a lot of frustration.
As for mods, it seems like they're working here in much the same way mods were working in the early days of Fallout 4 before the mod manager was implemented. I have not tried them out, but it's fun to look forward to what the community can come up with.
Fallout 4 VR review: Conclusion
One of the complaints we've heard quite often — and one we've voiced ourselves — is the lack of AAA games on the sort of scale that Fallout 4 VR delivers. Yes, this is only one game, but it proves that, given the right love and attention, a VR game can be something more than a few hours of great content.
Despite some early graphical issues, the game is immersive and you feel like you're really a part of this apocalyptic world. Conversations with NPCs are up close and personal, and skirmishes will have your heart pumping. Bethesda has done a good job of offering up varied settings for the VR functions we use the most, and you should be able to play comfortably sitting, standing, or front-facing.
The controls, boiled down to two Vive wands from the mighty keyboard and mouse, take some time getting used to, but once you get the hang of them you'll be cruising around without hindrance. For a VR game this scale it runs relatively well, and I have a feeling that after a patch to fix scaling and some mod work from the community, Fallout 4 VR is going to be something that a lot of people entertain.
- Incredible scale and immersion
- New V.A.T.S. works perfectly
- Variety of locomotion and VR settings
- Truly Fallout in VR
- Controls take time to get used to
- Some graphics issues
- Scopes don't work at all
- Goodbye social life