The Fallout series has been a fan favourite since its first release in 1997. Creating a character, leaving the Vault (the starting area your character is created in), and venturing into a war-torn wasteland –  players have always had a plethora of options on how they want to play. Tackle the main story, pledge your allegiance to a faction, or, if you’re inspired by Thanos, you could settle down and become a farmer. Now in 2018, Bethesda have released Fallout 76, the latest spin-off game in the Fallout series, and this time they’ve spiced things up.

Fallout 76 works as a prequel to previous entries in the series. Players wake up in the Vault (a nuclear fallout shelter) 25 years after a nuclear war, on ‘Reclamation Day’. Players then create and customise their character and leave the Vault to help recolonise West Virginia. In the previous entry, Fallout 4 had players leaving Vault 210 years after the nuclear war (also known as the Great War) to an established world with multiple cities and towns, whereas Vault 76 was designed for the sole purpose of recolonisation, so there are no pre-established cities or towns in West Virginia. Although, what Fallout 76 has that no previous entry has had is multiplayer. If you’re looking at Fallout 76 for a single-player, story-driven experience, perhaps give this a pass. However, if you’re a fan of the Fallout series and have a crew of friends who also love the game, Fallout 76 should be on your radar – or is that Geiger counter?

Players can now play Fallout online with up to 24 players. Starting the game and venturing into the fresh wasteland (as it’s only been 25 years after the bombs dropped) is breathtaking. With a world four times bigger than Fallout 4, players can head out into different environments/zones, with some environments taking inspiration from previous Fallout games such as New Vegas. Walking into a suburban area and hearing another player scream for help is startling, yet exciting. As the game is online, anytime you use your Pipboy, a terminal or the map, the rest of the game continues, and having a friend to keep an eye out is key. I’ve been killed multiple times from checking my Pipboy in the wasteland. Players now also need to manage their hunger and thirst levels upon stepping out of the Vault. If unmanaged, your character’s AP (action points) will halve, and regenerate slower.

With a 24-player count, Fallout 76 has public events (similar to Destiny) where players can meet up and try to take down a boss for some rewarding loot. Fallout 76 also has a variety of new enemy types (move over Deathclaws!). Some of the new creates are the Scorched (more intelligent versions of feral ghouls that can wield weapons), the Scorchbeast (the lovechild between a dragon and a Deathclaw), Wendigos, the Grafton Monster (very similar in design to the Tank from Left 4 Dead), and many more (the Mothman is flat out terrifying). Joining a group of random players to help take down a boss is not only entertaining, it’s something that’s never been done before in a Fallout game.

Now, it’s not Fallout without one of the best inventory management systems. The Pipboy is, of course, back with its iconic inventory system, Vault-Boy animations, and without a doubt the best feature – the radio. The music in Fallout 76 has some familiar songs (for you Big Lebowski fans, Tumbling Tumbleweeds is included, and it works so well within the setting of 76) as well as some fan favourites (Butcher Pete from Fallout 3 returns, as well as The Ink Spots).

The V.A.T.S. system has also returned, though it has been changed for the world of Fallout 76. In previous entries in the series, activating the V.A.T.S. system would pause the game and allow players to highlight and target certain body parts or weak points on enemies, at the cost of AP points. As Fallout 76 is online, activating V.A.T.S. allows players to target certain parts on enemies, but it doesn’t pause the game. For fans of the Fallout series, V.A.T.S. has been an iconic feature, though changing this mechanic may not sit right with some players.

As Fallout 76 is the first MMORPG set in the Fallout universe, there are some gameplay hurdles that fans of the series need to be aware of. As the game’s main premise is for Vault 76 to be used to recolonise West Virginia, there are no NPCs (non-player characters). The Fallout franchise is known for having some great characters (Nick Valentine from Fallout 4 being a fan favourite), but when waking up in Vault 76, the only other characters inside the vault are the Codsworth bots and other players. All the main story missions are given from Holotapes (audio recordings) or Terminal consoles, making story progression a bit of a chore. However, the exploration and world of Appalachia makes up for this.

The hit detection in the game can also be a bit of a hit and miss (pun intended). Lining up a perfect headshot on a large target from 10-20 metres away and missing completely can be a bit frustrating. The third person option also returns from previous entries in the series, however crosshairs in third person aren’t accurate – it’s best to use first person view for greater accuracy. As a newly released MMORPG, this will be fixed as the game continues to evolve (every MMORPG has had bugs on launch – GTA 5 online wouldn’t allow players to log in for weeks, or the infamous corrupted blood event in World of Warcraft). The looting system has also been changed. Yes, you can still loot weapons and ammo from enemies, though you can’t loot their clothes. (I was bummed when I couldn’t loot a sweet coat from a dead body).

Something that a Fallout game has never had before is respawning. Previously in Fallout 4 if you died, you would restart from a checkpoint or from a previous save. In Fallout 76, should your character succumb to radiation poisoning, players enter a ‘down but not out’ state where other online players can revive you. Failing that, you can also respawn at landmarks for a cost of caps (bottlecaps are the currency in Fallout universe). Should players be saving their caps or have none left, you can respawn back at Vault 76 for free.

If you are venturing into Fallout 76 alone, you may not enjoy your stay in West Virginia. Without other players and NPCs, the wasteland can feel like, well, a wasteland. Fallout 76 is built to be played online and with friends. The game does, however, encourage playing with others. If you don’t have a mic, there are a variety of emotes available to communicate with other players (but thankfully no dabs or flossing).

Yes, there are some bugs and technical issues, but there is fun to be had. If you’re new to the Fallout series and are looking for an outstanding single player game to play, Fallout 4 would be your best bet. However, if you’re a fan of the Fallout franchise, have a crew of friends to play with (or are looking to make some new friends online), then the wasteland of West Virginia isn’t a bad place to spend your time.

Fallout 76 is available now on PS4, Xbox One and

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi