Bethesda’s Automatron DLC was the first DLC for Fallout 4 and was a solid addition to the game, but fell slightly flat in some areas. Quickly following Automatron, Bethesda is rolling-out their Wasteland Workshop DLC, which adds to the capabilities of settlement building through new lighting, technology, and even the ability to catch creatures.
Capturing creatures is likely to be the most significant – and fun – addition from Wasteland Workshop. The types of creatures that can be captured range from raiders to deathclaws to cats. These creatures can be tamed, or more interestingly, made to fight to the death. Settlers can even be chosen to fight creatures, so next time “another settlement needs your help,” Preston can be forced to fight a deathclaw. Maybe that’ll teach him.
Fallout 4’s first DLC – Automatron – was released last week for $10. In it, the player has to stop “The Mechanist,” an evil villain creating robots that are terrorizing the Commonwealth. More significantly, Automatron adds the ability to create and customize robots.
Today, we're reviewing that DLC. Fallout 4: Automatron marks Bethesda's ambitious expansion efforts with its best-selling title, and we've got story and gameplay analysis below.
Fallout 4 is a solid game, but like all games, it has its flaws. Luckily, Bethesda both allows and encourages mod development that oftentimes fixes these problems and add news features – and occasionally new problems – for Fallout and Elder Scrolls games. For Fallout games, Bethesda has released the GECK for modders to use. The GECK for Fallout 4 is yet to be released, but community-made tools have been created, are improving, and allow for a jump-start on mod development.
To help address the problems of Fallout 4 and improve upon its features, we’ve settled on seven essential mods for improving gameplay. These are among the best Fallout 4 mods currently out -- mechanically, at least -- and are must-haves for the mod list. Some simply make stats and information more clear, but others change the game’s dynamics more drastically.
The hardware world has been lit ablaze with news over the past few weeks – CES a huge boon to that, of course – and now we turn the magnifying glass to the world of gaming. This past week alone, we've seen a new mod for Fallout 4 that introduces seasonal changes, a Call of Duty sales surge to 250 million boxed copies, Steam's Winter Sale volume increase 50% over the Summer Sale, and major eSports news from ESPN and Intel.
Fallout 4 still doesn't have official tool kits available, but that hasn't stopped modders. Most mods are making use of .ini tweaks, overwrites, and even Skyrim editing tools, and they've come a long way with that limited suite. Fallout 4's seasonal changes mod is one of the most visually appealing to-date, in our experience, and kicks-off our weekly game news recap. Video below.
This week's news cycle was, unsurprisingly, dominated by the two major releases: Fallout 4 and Black Ops III, shipping within a few days of each other. We're anticipating a similar story to be true for next week's blockbuster Battlefront launch.
Big items for the week mostly include Fallout 4's concurrent user record on Steam, alongside its $750 million generated in 24 hours, and Black Ops III's $550 million 72-hour generation, a game which is expected to surpass $1B by the end of the year. Other items, for Battlefield players – not Front, but Field – the “Legacy Operations” DLC will release a free-to-download Dragon Valley remake, updated from Battlefield 2. Outside of the shooter world, Roller Coaster Tycoon World has been delayed into 2016, citing performance and usability/mechanical bugs, and Legacy of the Void has finally shipped to PCs globally.
The video recap, with a bit more detail, is available below:
Fallout 4 – now an entire day old – is nearing the end of its content lifecycle on our test bench. We'll soon move on to the next major hardware and games, but for now, we've got a few tests left in Bethesda's latest title. This next benchmark looks at the game's CPU performance, a greater methodological challenge than our preceding GPU benchmark, volumetric lighting benchmark, and texture quality comparison.
Our Fallout 4 CPU benchmark compares FPS across the Intel & AMD lineups, including an i3-4130, i5-4690K, i5-6600K, some i7- CPUs, and AMD's FX-8370E, 8320E, & 9590. Other CPUs were tested as well, like the popular G3258 dual-core Pentium and A10-7870K APU, and are all included on the benchmark charts. The top-level goal was to find the best CPU for Fallout 4, but we also wanted to identify performance disparities and anomalies across models.
In suit of our Fallout 4 GPU benchmark and the follow-up Volumetric Lighting Benchmark, we're now looking toward Bethesda's odd texture quality presentation. Fallout 4 includes with it a Texture Quality option, which should dictate the resolution of textures as applied to game elements. The setting scales from medium to ultra, with one step (“high”) in between. Usually – especially in Black Ops III, as we found – texture resolution can have profound impact on performance and VRAM consumption, leading us to run some texture tests in Fallout.
Here's an example of what we're used to when it comes to texture quality comparisons:
NVidia's implementation of volumetric lighting utilizes tessellation for light shafts radiation and illumination of air. This approach allows better lighting when light sources are occluded by objects or when part of a light source is obfuscated, but requires that the GPU perform tessellation crunching to draw the light effects to the screen. NVidia is good at tessellation thanks to their architecture and specific optimizations made, but AMD isn't as good at it – Team Red regularly struggles with nVidia-implemented technologies that drive tessellation for visual fidelity, as seen in the Witcher's hair.
When benchmarking Fallout 4 on our lineup of GPUs, we noticed that the R9 390X was outclassed by the GTX 970 at 1080p with ultra settings. This set off a few red flags that we should investigate further; we did this, tuning each setting individually and ultimately finding that the 970 always led the 390X in our tests – no matter the configuration. Some settings, like shadow distance, can produce massive performance deltas (about 16-17% here), but still conclude with the 970 in the lead. It isn't until resolution is increased to 1440p that the 390X takes charge, somewhat expected given AMD's ability to handle raw pixel count at the higher-end.
Further research was required.
This is sort of a two-in-one fix – at least, it was for us.
Fallout 4, shipping tomorrow, is built on the same engine as Skyrim and previous Fallout games. Anyone familiar with Skyrim's expandability through mods and .ini tweaking may recall “iPresentInterval” – well, it's back.
iPresentInterval isn't just a V-Sync equivalent, which would lock the framerate to the refresh rate; instead, iPresentInterval caps the framerate at a hard 60 max (even with a 120Hz display). In Skyrim, changing this setting could impact physics events and was often recommended left on, despite the framerate limitation. To be fair, neither Skyrim nor Fallout are games that benefit from the notoriously high framerates demanded by CSGO players, for instance, but users of high refresh rate monitors still want their FPS.
A dozen hours of Black Ops 3 testing completed and we're moving to the next sequentially-incremented video game: Fallout 4. It's got a bigger number at the end.
Bethesda has one of the longest development life cycles in the industry, but the company's games are also among – arguably – the longest lasting, thanks to the undying efforts of modders. It helps that the modding community is able to fill gaps in Bethesda's code or build entirely new games from the strong foundation set forth by the veteran RPG team.
Our Fallout 4 game review & gameplay analysis is live on the homepage already, if that's what you're looking for. This post looks exclusively and in depth at Fallout 4's graphics settings and performance on PC. The below Fallout 4 PC benchmark tests FPS performance across nVidia and AMD GPUs, including the GTX 750 Ti, 960, 970, 270X, 285, 390X, and many more. VRAM and memory consumption is also looked at loosely below, hopefully establishing a baseline for the best video cards for Fallout 4 on PC.
Because mod tools don't yet exist – and certainly no mods did during our pre-release testing – we are not accounting for the inevitable performance hit created by future graphics mods.
Update: Volumetric lighting benchmark now live.