What I’m playing now: Fallout 4/Battlefront

Posted on January 14, 2016

At parties kids often ask me, ‘are you a gamer’? Despite some problems with the label, I usually reply yes since gaming forms an important part of my identity. They usually follow up with ‘what are you playing now?’, so I thought I’d start a blog series updating telling about my current choice of games.

I am usually monogamous with games but the end of 2015 offered two options so compelling and complementary that I just had to play them both. Fallout 4 and Star Wars: Battlefront came out within a week of each other, and they were all I played for the last couple of months of the year. Both games are only available on current-gen consoles (PS4/Xbox One), indicating that the older consoles are beginning to be phased out.

Fallout 4 (Bethesda) 

Fallout 4 was perhaps the most hyped-up game of the year: you’ve probably seen ads on the sides of buses or even whole buildings. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic future/past, meaning that while it portrays a post-nuclear wasteland, it’s one which is strangely stuck in the 1950s, allowing for a mid-century aesthetic that is unique but works really well. It follows on from a number of highly successful previous entries in the franchise (notably Fallout 3) and even had a mobile game (Fallout Shelter) to prepare players for its release.

Fallout 4 is basically a shooter game, and players can switch between first-person and third-person perspectives. However it is not a simple action shooter like Call of Duty or Battlefield: it is actually an RPG (role-playing game), meaning that it has very rich characterisation (including developing your own character’s skills and attributes) and a well-developed fictional world and narrative. For my money, this is much more interesting than just a straight shooter (and I’ve played it for about 95 hours so far). It is comprised of single-player campaign missions only: the complete opposite of Halo 5, for instance.

The Australian Classification Board has given Fallout 4 an M15+ rating, mostly for violence – it is a shooter, after all. During shootouts a slow-motion targeting system and ‘killcam’ makes for some rather gory scenes. There are a few adult themes involving estranged parents, for example, and this depth of narrative is appropriate for slightly older kids. The use of alcohol and stimulants does affect the gameplay, although an ‘addiction’ mechanic reinforces the negative consequence of using substances in the game. Also, the lack of online multiplayer may be encouraging for some parents. As always, the advice would be to watch some trailers, check out some ‘let’s play’ videos, and make the decision for your own child at their age and stage.

Star Wars: Battlefront (Electronic Arts)

The world of pop culture has gone slightly Star Wars-mad lately, with the release of (the excellent) Star Wars: The Force Awakens along with a bevy of merchandise just in time for Christmas. This is reinforced for gamers by Star Wars: Battlefront, a first-person shooter in the classic action style: online-only, largely multiplayer. Developed by DICE, similarities to Battlefield are rife, and having sold 12 million copies in 2 months is some mark of success, at least.

In many ways Battlefront is the complete opposite of Fallout 4: it is a game best played with friends online. There is virtually no campaign to speak of, but the multiplayer is done right: some modes allow for 40 players at once, while smaller modes (6 vs 6) are also possible. The developers have absolutely nailed the look and feel of the Star Wars world: from visuals to sound effects to the sense of epic heroism in the objectives, it all rings true. The chance to pilot authentic starfighters or other engines of war (the AT-AT is a particular highlight) is matched only by the ability to step into the shoes of heroes and villains like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, with all the power that implies. If you’re a fan of Star Wars and first-person shooters, you should try this game.

With the M advisory rating from the ACB, Battlefront has been deemed as less restricted than Fallout 4 for younger players. It is true that although it’s a shooter, blood and gore are don’t feature as heavily, and the science-fiction setting can take some of the gritty realism out of the violence. It also has fewer adult themes, nudity and sex references, and is based in a world that many kids are already familiar with. However, really the only way to play this game is through online multiplayer, which opens a whole world that some parents can be nervous about (not least involving the cost and complexities of having an online account).

Both of these games are probably more suitable for older players (or their parents/uncles/aunties!) but overall they are great fun and give a sense of two similar but also very different styles of shooters that are out now. They’ve certainly kept me occupied over the summer!

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