Hi, my name is Paul and I have a problem.

I’m not sure that calling it a problem is really accurate.

That’s probably a problem in and of itself though.

Like many others, I’ve been playing Fallout 4 to the detriment of any other extracurricular activity in my schedule. But let’s be honest, I knew that was going to happen. I feel like all the people for whom Bethesda’s open world opuses (opi?) are not just another game to play, but an event worth letting so many things in your real life slide, will know what I mean when I say this game has it’s hooks deep, deep in me.

Like well past the skin and digging raw, bloody furrows through my muscles.

It’s not like I’m missing work, or completely skimping on familial duties. The dog is still making it to school, the kids are still getting fed and put out in the morning.

But I think about the game. Not just a little, or when I’m not preoccupied. I think about it all the time.

All.

The.

Time.

I don’t actually see raiders while I sleep (though I have vague memories of dreaming about post nuclear apocalypse, so that’s fun), but I plan quests when I’m away from the game. I think about how best to develop my settlements when I ought to be paying attention to something else. I plan my leveling up perk advancement sometimes.

So, while this isn’t any kind of review (I don’t know that I’ve got it in me to attempt a full game review yet, certainly not to start with something as Goddamn huge as a Fallout game), I will go ahead and and say that yes, the game does have some issues.

Occasionally the frame rate will dip randomly, and for no apparent reason. Sometimes it will dip for very apparent reasons. It never becomes unplayable, or lasts too long in my experience. I’ve had one or two BHC’s (Bethesda Hard Crashes, you know what I mean). There are times when it feels almost a little too much like Fallout 3, instead of pushing forward more.

All that having been said, the art direction in this game is superb. The visuals aren’t necessarily mind blowing, but the composition is always solid, always selling the fiction they’ve set up. The color palette is much improved over previous games, with bright reds and blues and yellows all over the place, breaking up the drab wasteland with glimpses of the retro-futuristic world that never was.

V.A.T.S. is better this time around. Though folks who aren’t so adept with first person games may still rely heavily on it, the targeting system doesn’t freeze time anymore, keeping the pressure on to choose your targets before they choose you. But seasoned first person gamers may not need it much at all. The gun-play isn’t going to knock off a Halo or Call of Duty, but it’s totally serviceable and does its job just fine.

My not review is turning into a lengthy stretch of words, so I’ll call it here and end with this.

I can’t wait to go shoot some more raiders and collect some caps.

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In Which I Riff About Xbox One and PS4

With E3 blowing up this week there has been a deluge of video games news.  The juiciest bits were undoubtedly the pricing and the new Xbox One and PS4 systems, followed very shortly by millions of nerds and fanboys like myself collectively scratching their heads over some of the policies being announced by Microsoft.

The biggest kerfluffle, and the one that still seems to be the sticking point after lots of PR backpedaling and clarifications, is the always online nature of the Xbox One. I personally don’t have a big problem with the 24 hour checks back to home base to determine you’re playing a game licensed to you because I rarely trade in games and I can count on one hand the number of times my internet has been out in the last ten years or so.

However, I realize I am not the only person in the world who buys video games. There are big chunks of the United States where broadband internet is not so prevalent as it is here in metropolitan mecca of the southwest, lovely Phoenix Arizona.

At Microsoft, Don Mattrick has said that if you need an offline console experience, you’ve got an Xbox 360 to take care of you.

As a consumer this says to me “I don’t care about your dollars if you don’t have a consistent internet connection.” Is there a more blatant way of telling a certain number of people not to send their money that direction?  Is there anything less consumer friendly?  It basically means that you can’t play new games on new hardware if you can’t fit into the square hole of the demographic they’ve designed their system for.

When Mr. Mattrick says go play a 360 if you need to be offline he is discounting his competition.  A PS4, architecturally similar to an XB One, will play many of the same 3rd party games and not require you to be online to do it.  Microsoft has essentially ceded a certain demographic to their competition with this policy, and it’s a stupid move.

I prefer to play my 360 over my PS3 when I’m gaming, but if all things are equal -excluding the fact that I can play my games with a PS4 if/when my ISP is having a bad day – I think a lot of consumers will go that way.  The internet hubbub certainly seems to point that direction.

But launch for these two systems is still a few months off, and Microsoft theoretically has time to change their tune before they drive a big wedge between themselves and a large segment of the video game playing audience.