Fallout 4 is out today, and with it comes a few big questions. One of those questions: Just how buggy will it be?
Anyone who's played the last two games by developer Bethesda Game Studios, Fallout 3 and Skyrim, has grown accustomed to a certain level of what we all call "jank" -- physics not working properly; characters popping through floors; conversations repeating themselves; etc. These are massive, memory-stretching open world games with tons and tons of moving parts; the more features and pieces get packed into an RPG like this, the tougher it is to optimise. So it's always been a safe bet that Fallout 4 would have some of these same issues.
But there's a big difference between "jank" and "game-breaking."
This morning, the Fallout 4 review embargo (not to be confused with the Fallout 4 review embargo embargo) lifted. We'll have a review in the near future; for now, check out Chris Suellentrop's impressions for some thoughts on the post-apocalypse.
Pretty much everyone who's played the game, Suellentrop included, says they have run into glitches and bugs ranging from minor (framerate drops) to major (total crashes). One piece, published on The Verge by Kotaku friend Chris Plante, stands out. "Nine hours into Fallout 4," he writes, "I'm stuck inside an elevator." As it turns out, elevators are totally broken in his playthrough, and even after loading an earlier save, he just keeps getting stuck.
Whatever I do, I feel as though the game could break at any moment, making any additional investment meaningless. At best, I'm treating my play time like an unpaid quality testing assignment. At worse, my investment proves to be a wash, and late in the game this bug prevents me from reaching the conclusion.
So that's where I'm at. Nine hours in, I'm stuck in an elevator wondering if it's even worth getting out.
That's the worst of them, and the most alarming. I'm terrified at the thought of starting up Fallout 4 tomorrow night and playing for a dozen hours only to discover that the elevators are all broken and I'll have to start the whole damn game again from scratch. (Plante played the game on PS4.)
As far as I can tell, few other reviewers ran into game-breakers like that one, but just about everyone says the game is full of bugs. Let me give you a quick sampling, from people playing on both console and PC.
Writes Chris Carter at Destructoid:
At this point, you're probably aware of Bethesda's history with shipping buggy open-world games by now. If you were hoping that somehow a generational leap would magically buck that trend, prepare to be disappointed. Nearly every classic glitch is accounted for, including occasional save data issues, repeated dialogue, frameskipping, severe frame-rate drops, pop-in, falling through the floor, and so on.
And here's Dan Whitehead at Eurogamer:
The broad sweep of the game is as absorbing as ever but, like the cockroaches that survive a nuclear blast, Bethesda's bugs have also endured the shift to new-generation console hardware.
It's impossible to miss the glitches, bugs and downright broken bits in Fallout 4, and that can't help but dim its shine. I've watched my dog sink slowly into the floor. I've beaten countless high-level enemies that have got snagged on scenery or locked in an animation cycle, holding them in place so I can snipe them at my leisure. I've watched textures pop in and out of existence, and seen the very walls and streets around me vanish, revealing the ghostly void underneath.
Here's IGN's Dan Stapleton:
Fallout 4's performance on both consoles is tolerable, but sometimes disappointing. We've seen frequent frame rate slowdowns well below the target of 30 when simply walking around the world, and hitches of a second or more that arise mostly after loading a new save or fast-travelling. The PC version has been much smoother in that regard, running between 40 and 60fps on Ultra settings on my GeForce GTX 970, and maintaining 60 when I lowered only the anti-aliasing settings. On all platforms we saw occasional crashes (the auto-save system prevented any major loss of progress), and every so often we hit a side quest that won't properly begin or end due to scripting bugs.
Which brings us to the less savoury matter at hand. It's time to talk about bugs -- Fallout 4 has them, and I'm not referring to Radroaches. Being a Bethesda open-world game, you might be inclined to expect glitches and, well, those expectations will yield frustrating fruit. Pretty much everything you've seen impact Bethesda games of the past can be seen here, from a handful of potential quest bugs to wacky A.I. pathfinding and a number of physics-based anomalies. I'm also not sure whether or not an early story mission become unbeatable on a test file, because I'm sure the raiders I needed to kill weren't spawning.
You get the picture, right? General consensus is that this is a very good game and a worthy if not groundbreaking sequel to Fallout 3, but if framerate drops and other bugs drive you crazy, you might want to hold off until we hear more about Bethesda's plans for patching the game. I'm still excited to dig into Fallout 4, of course, but it's a bummer to have to play with that sense of foreboding hovering over you -- that sense that everything could fall apart at any moment.