After that initial wave of excitement following the release of Fallout 4’s debut trailer, there was a surge of comments, tweets and editorial pieces that bemoaned the game’s visuals. The trailer, which was created entirely using in-game footage, revealed that Fallout 4 was probably going to make use of Gamebryo, the engine used to power Fallout 3 and other Bethesda titles such as The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Gamebryo has come under criticism in the past due to it not really being up to par with the majority of other engines out there used in triple-A games, with its stability issues and awkward, stunted animations being some of its defining characteristics.
Visually, the Fallout 4 trailer is certainly underwhelming. Though its environments look well-designed, there are a number of glaring issues with its visuals that seem to have been carried over from Fallout 3, a game released back in 2008. The textures still leave a lot to be desired, its characters look oddly plastic with inhuman walking animations and the dog, pictured above, has its fur pretty much glued onto its skin, seemingly being constructed with the use of a singular texture rather than the multiple textures required to create realistic hair.
But it’s still real. Fallout 3 wasn’t exactly considered a graphical powerhouse when it was first released, and the Gamebryo engine has been receiving complaints ever since Oblivion and the potato-faced inhabitants of its world. Sure, we’d love to see more out of a game visually given that the PS4, Xbox One and PC gaming rigs are capable of delivering so much more, but how many times have we watched a trailer revealing a new game, been swept away by its visuals only to later argue that the developer had downgraded its graphics upon its release?
There’s an honesty and a confidence to the Fallout 4 trailer, offering us in-game footage when the majority would have likely settled for a – sigh- “cinematic trailer” or a short teaser informing us that the game was on its way. Of course, Bethesda being honest with us doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be open to criticism, but they are due some respect for not opting to falsely lead us through a series of images from the game recorded using a mammoth, high-end PC firing on all cylinders that will in no way be representative of the finished product.
Bethesda deserves some credit for actually showing us what their product looks like right now (and who knows, it might look better upon its release) rather than showing us a fantasy of how they think we want the game to look. Given the high profile of the game, the reaction to its visuals will only inspire more developers to take a look at the negativity inspired by it and come to the conclusion that it’s best for business if they don’t make themselves vulnerable to criticism by being open and honest with consumers.
The reaction suggests also perpetuates that age-old belief that gamers would rather have a game that looks good than a game that is fun to play. As previously mentioned, I was never bowled over by Fallout 3‘s awkward animations, nor the washed-out textures of its environment, but I piled countless hours into that game for a variety of other reasons outside of its technical proficiency. Sure, I’d have liked for the Fallout 4 trailer to have bowled it over with its gorgeous visuals (though it’s lighting does admittedly look rather splendid), and I’d rather that the Gamebryo engine be put out to pasture, but Fallout 3‘s mediocre graphics didn’t dampen my love of the game, so why would they prevent me from enjoying Fallout 4?
Upon watching the Fallout 4 trailer, you’d have to believe that Bethesda realizes this. They know that people want more Fallout, and that those people didn’t spend so much time in the world of Fallout 3 because of its textures, so they didn’t consider that they should lead us all along on a string by showing us a trailer that wouldn’t be representative of the finished product.
People will eventually place Fallout 4’s graphics under scrutiny when the game is eventually released. Maybe its animations will prove to be detrimental to the game itself, and maybe some may find themselves unable to overlook its visual flaws in favor of digging into the game that’s buried beneath them. We won’t know until that day comes, so for now all we have to go by is this three minute trailer, and maybe this says more about our lowered expectations when it comes to the triple-A gaming industry’s treatment of its consumer, but hey: at least it’s honest.