Putting a cap of any sort, whether a yellow flight helmet or made of Deathclaw hide, on Fallout 4 is a tremendous endeavour. That’s mostly because it’s a tremendous game that managed to pack on some mighty fine DLC, making its world somehow even bigger and more lively. Nuka-World aims to be the lingering flavor in your mouth as you walk away from this enormous buffet of content.
To that end, it’s more overflowing fudge atop a taste flight of all the brownies the game has ever had rather than any sort of complex and savory entree. That’s owed to the conceit of the DLC, which is the eponymous theme park Nuka-World. Through that, you are treated to a distillation of what might be considered the game’s greatest hits. Various factions, different locales, and a smattering of really cool sights and sounds.
And it’s actually quite fun just to walk around the park and it’s distinctly themed biomes. From the Wild West area to the kiddie rides, there’s a whole bunch to just try. There are rides to ride and games to play, giving the whole area an almost frenetic pace to it, as if you were an actual visitor to the park in its heyday. You just want to consume it all before the gates close.
Luckily, they never really do. But almost predictably, within each individual section of the park, you’ll find different types of content. It’s mostly oriented along the lines of what sorts of enemies you’ll be fighting, but it does tend to showcase all the best and worst parts of Fallout 4 throughout this revue. The factory, for instance, looks and plays like every other fucking factory whereas the wide open spaces give you room to experiment.
Some of the battles you encounter, however, are both fun and surprisingly, well, surprising. I learned, for example, that radioactive clowns are a new fear of mine, as are Gatorclaws, which are exactly what they sound like. And they give you a chance to try out the slew of new armaments, most of which are just as inventive. The Nuka-Cola paddle ball is especially fun, bopping your way through robots and to victory.
It all relies on an exceptionally rote structure, though. From the moment you pick up the radio beacon directing you to where you need to go, it’s all standard Fallout 4 fare. You start out being forced to take over as Overboss of the different Raider camps of the park, but then it dissolves into something more akin to an excuse for a new raiding mechanic rather than anything narratively interesting. (The Kiddie Kingdom guy is pretty sad, but that’s about it.)
There is essentially no story going on beyond the setup, which is also almost impressively contrived. So when you get sent out on your umpteenth fetch or clearance quest, you feel kind of lost. Not physically (it’s easy to see where you’re going) but more in the sense that you have no idea why. These are Raiders and they’re afraid to take on some Ghouls? Far Harbor this is not.
And forget about the radiant quests. They’re as immediately tiring and repetitive as setting up weathervanes. There’s some good jollies to be had attempting to uncover the park’s grander secrets like secret Nuka-Cola recipes, but it’s all kind of inconsequential by the end. You’ll end up with more weapons and more junk, but that’s pretty much it.
There’s a bit of intrigue in the raiding mechanic, wherein you’ll be able to gather up your Raiders and lay waste to settlements around the wasteland. It’s an unexpectedly and incredibly cathartic experience, rolling up to Sanctuary Hills and blowing all those crops to hell. And it’s somehow more rewarding knowing these defenses you’re destroying are also the ones you yourself built.
It feels like a just reward for dealing with all their problems, walking into a new area and being greeted with nothing but other people’s issues and conflicts. You can almost see the different values pop off into the air as you blow up each turret, watching circuits and steel and springs ding into the ether as you (presumably) laugh maniacally at the dying settlers at your feet. Hey, Preston Garvey, I think a settlement needs your help.
Fallout 4 still gets the last laugh, though, as your Raider settlement are still just as prone to Raider attacks as your regular, less bloody settlements, so you’re never free of the shackles of being protector to these post-apocalyptic idiots. After this last outing, though, I just might be done with the Commonwealth. But at least I went out on a delicious, sweet reminder of why I went there in the first place.
+ Diverse theme park setting is a lot of fun to explore and play with
+ New gear and upgrades and enemies are refreshing
+ Killing your own settlements as a Raider is unexpectedly cathartic
– Setup and story are pretty much worthless
– Doesn’t even attempt anything new or interesting or surprising
Final Score: 7 out of 10
Game Review: Fallout 4: Nuka-World DLC
Release: August 30, 2016
Genre: Action role-playing
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Available Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC