As I wandered the Wasteland in Fallout 4, I was transported to another world, another time and it is one that I have seen before. I was Mel Gibson as Mad Max, I was Denzel in The Book of Eli, Will Smith in I am Legend and Van Dam in Cyborg. I was all of these things and more: I was the Vault Dweller, The Wanderer, and the Saviour of the Commonwealth. Fallout 4 has been eagerly awaited by an astounding number of people, and now that it is finally here we can once again walk the Wasteland.

Fallout 4 clearly comes from very healthy stock, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas were a big part in pulling fans away from Oblivion and introduced the Role Playing genre to a new generation of gamer. Gone were the lengthy text boxes and tutorials, the point and click combat and the endless lore. What Bethesda saw fit to unleash on the world was a new kind of RPG, one where your laser gun and nuke-launchers were as accessible as a baseball bat. Fallout 3 introduced us to a world desolated by atomic war, marauding raiders, mutated wildlife and a truly branching narrative. In short, they reimagined the norm, the common and they came up with a franchise that is loved dearly.

Does it stay true to its franchise roots? That is not an easy question to answer. Fallout 4 is undeniably an excellent game but it feels subtly different from its predecessors. The controls are far more responsive than they have ever been before, instead of the sluggish, almost drunken swagger from New Vegas, Fallout 4’s controls are tight and composed. Whether traversing the highly irradiated Glowing Sea, the barren hills of the north or running for cover in a ruined town, the control system is right there with you, putting your character exactly where you tell it to. The added control has a huge impact on exploration and combat, and it made Fallout 4 seem much more like a mainstream shooter than your standard RPG. I know that hardcore fans will hate this aspect of Fallout 4 but it made a huge difference to my enjoyment of the title. Not once did I accidentally fall from a cliff or off of a bridge. It cuts down on the frustrating and wasted time of reloading your last save because you plunged to your entirely avoidable doom.

The biggest change in Fallout 4 is that, for the first time, your character has a voice. This addition has both positive and negatives attached. As a silent protagonist, all previous characters were simply an avatar, a vessel that I occupied as I wandered the Wasteland, I felt that I held the control, that I was running the show. That feeling does seem to have dimmed in Fallout 4. By voicing our Vault Dweller we relinquish a measure of control, we are no longer running the show, we are just there to watch, or that’s how it felt to me. I can look past this though, because what we have is a character, as flawed as you are, who adds a layer of passion to the game. In conversations I was no longer just staring at an NPC, it acted out like a short cut-scene and made it a much more engaging and cinematic experience. This decision has helped to make Fallout 4 the most narratively driven story in the series so far.

I think we can all agree that any spoilers of the story would ruin this game so I won’t go into details on the quests or main plotline bar the extreme basics. The game begins pre-war, this section acts as a short tutorial and character creation. The character creation is easy to use; instead of the usual options of preset faces and slide bars, each character (male or female) are sculpted be simply selecting the body part and moving the thumbstick. There are pre-set options if you don’t really care what you look like but the creative player can do almost anything. It isn’t long before the bombs fall and you, family in tow, race to Vault 111 to escape the blast. During cryosleep a group abduct your baby and it falls to you to get him back. That’s the premise of the main storyline but as with many Bethesda titles, the path you take to the end is entirely your own. There are many paths that Fallout 4 offered me and it will take multiple playthroughs to see them all. I finished the main story in around 35 hours (taking the odd detour), but I neglected many of the side missions. That time would at least double if you were to properly explore and chat with the various settlers that occupy the Commonwealth. Realistically you are looking at 100 hours of content from this little gem, there is certainly no shortage of things to do.

In another bold move from Bethesda, Fallout 4 has a distinctly warmer colour pallet in comparison to its younger brothers. While there are plenty of dull browns to gaze at for hours, we finally have a blue sky, one that seems oddly radiation free for the most part. At times the added colour can take away from the feeling of the ravaged wasteland but, again, it’s easy to look past this as the world of Fallout 4 seems so alive. It certainly isn’t Times Square at 5pm but we really get to see the signs of life struggling, scraping and biting its way to survival. Sticking with the new, and occasionally gorgeous aesthetic, is a dynamic weather system. I watched as a furious storm split the heavens above me and I ran for cover as a radiation cloud rolled over the horizon. Fallout 4’s world is the most lived in and alive world Bethesda have graced us with in the franchise.

Due to Fallout 4’s new found enthusiasm for narratively driven gameplay I found myself less eager to explore the world. I always had something to get on with, often more quests than I care to admit, so I found myself only exploring when I hadn’t discovered the location I needed to fast travel to. It may have been time constraints in order to get this review to you as quickly as possible but I feel that by giving me a character that I cared about, and a surprisingly engaging and emotional main quest, I didn’t need to see the extent of the wasteland, I needed my son back. Again, some players will call this heresy, some a revolution.

In the time that I was meandering over the Commonwealth I encountered all of the series favourites: Deathclaws, Radscorpions, Raiders and Super Mutants, they are all there. The combat is the smoothest and sleekest to date. I have always felt the Fallout games were predominantly Role Playing games, based on melee and they just happened to throw in the ranged combat, a suspicion that is backed up by the almost crucial use of V.A.T.S.

The gunplay is reliable and smooth and in many cases I found myself forgoing my usual V.A.T.S use and simply looking down the sights of my rifle. It really does feel like a shooter, the downside is that the melee combat feels clunky and awkward, enemies can lunge at you and timing the swing of my sword or Super-Sledge was nigh impossible. The enemy AI is far superior to previous entries too, with Raiders taking cover and Super Mutants releasing their hounds and flanking me: the combat couldn’t be further from point and click. When using V.A.T.S I was able to actively trigger a critical hit, the system works on a charge bar that fills whenever you use V.A.T.S. and it really made tackling the larger and tougher enemies less of a crap shoot.

Fallout 4 does suffer from a range of technical issues, I experienced countless glitches with trade caravans walking on the roofs of buildings, characters that simply would not interact with me, floating items, poor, low quality assets and texture pop. Many of these glitches should be expected when a game is as large as Fallout but they did reduce the overall quality. What was worse than these annoying but forgivable glitches were five separate game ending crashes. I played on the Xbox One and the frame rate was fairly consistent in the early stages of the game, as I travelled into more densely populated regions, especially large battles, the frame rate would drag. It never reached the point where it was unplayable however it was an annoyance as I drew to the climax of the story.

Modding weapons and armour is back in Fallout 4 and it takes a bit of getting used to. Instead of the repair system for weapons in New Vegas, we have a system where all the junk that gets picked up can be used to build and alter your weapons and armour. What’s that? You have a low powered machine gun but want something with some more kick? That’s not a problem, as long as you have the right perks and materials, you can turn almost any weapon into whatever you like. I favoured a Laser Rifle that I modded with a long sniper barrel, a high yield base and a magnified sight. I could just as easily turn it into a rapid fire, close quarters weapon if I so desired. Being able to tailor each weapon allowed me to load out my character with exactly what I wanted but it can be a steep learning curve as the tutorial in this section isn’t the most helpful.

The armour system has a similar set up but changes from previous games, instead of having one set of armour, the armour consists of a chest piece and 4 limbs that can be worn individually. Keeping track of all that armour can be a bit much and I found myself deliberately ignoring this aspect of the game until I was forced to upgrade. There is just a little too much going on with the armour, with three separate types of damage resistance (ballistic, energy and radiation) as well as the condition, special attributes and weight. This is the one aspect of Fallout 4 that I feel caters for the hardcore RPG fan, but it was an aspect that grew to become a hindrance. I would also be remise if I didn’t complain about the weight restriction, a full set of armour can easily weigh 50lb and weapons can hit 15lb each. It didn’t take much before my character was over encumbered. Stats can be increased when you level up and the correctly modified armour can increase carry weight but even with those benefits I found I didn’t have much spare room for pillaging.

The newest feature (I want to say gimmick but there are missions that require the feature) is base building. Any and all junk that you pick up can now be used to build, reinforce and strengthen settlements. There are so many options when using a workshop that it is overwhelming, and the tutorial is terrible. Buildings can be made through individual sections or preset building templates, barricades can be built and manned and defences can be placed. The confusion comes in when supplying power to a settlement, after investing some time into this I was able to figure it out but a more in depth tutorial would have saved me a great deal of messing around.

Power Armour makes a return but, as with many things in Fallout 4, it is slightly different. Instead of using it as standard armour, it now works, almost like a vehicle. The Power Armour needs Fusion Cores in order to function, meaning that once you step into it, there is a limited time until it is unpowered. When my suit powered down I was moving at a snail’s pace. It made me hold back on using the Power Armour on my meandering and instead I only used it for missions that I knew I would be in for a pretty hectic firefight. The Power Armour is customisable too, with numerous combinations of parts, upgrades and add ons, including an electrical field that damages melee attackers and a jetpack. Yes, a freaking jetpack.

The Smartglass app works wonders too. Checking inventory and changing equipment or the radio station without having to break the flow of gameplay by opening up my Pip-Boy felt great. It definitely isn’t essential to the experience but it is a lovely gimmick.

All in all, Fallout 4 is a great game but it not without its flaws. The new streamlined movement and combat makes the game feel less clunky and much more responsive but it feels subtly different from what I expect a Fallout game to feel like. It’s a good evolution of the franchise and really works hard to add a story that you can care about and characters that have real charisma. While it is not always gorgeous to look at, there are moments of pure bliss: watching the slowly expanding mushroom cloud of a mini-nuke and the brilliantly implemented weather system, there is beauty in the wasteland, if you take the time to look for it. Fallout 4 is the new generation of Role Playing Games, just like Fallout 3 changed the way we looked at RPG’s on the Xbox 360, Fallout 4 changes it again for the Xbox One.