The apocalypse is coming. And whether it's brought about by nuclear war, global warming or a zombie virus, you can be sure of one thing: Life afterward is going to be a bummer.
Unless you wake up in the world of "Fallout." Sure, there are feral ghouls and giant scorpions all over the place, but there are also wisecracking robots and sarcastic mutants who don't let a little radiation get them down. It's all presided over by Vault Boy, an unflappable animated mascot who responds to any tragedy (like, say, getting his foot blown off) with a smile and a thumbs-up.
"Fallout 4" (Bethesda Softworks, for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, $59.95) begins with bombs dropping over the Boston area, sometime in the 1950s. You, your spouse and your baby make it to a fallout shelter, where you're placed in cryogenic suspension. When you defrost some 200 years later, your spouse is dead and your child is gone.
The search for that missing infant leads to encounters with different factions that have taken root across Massachusetts, like the militaristic Brotherhood of Steel, the cultish Children of Atom and the freedom-fighting Railroad. You also meet dozens of individual fighters, busybodies and hustlers, some of whom will join your mission. Everyone you meet wants something, and every abandoned building in the Boston area seems to harbor secrets.
That's where the joy of a sprawling role-playing game like "Fallout 4" comes in. I can't imagine any two people choosing the same path through this world. For example, I spent hours engaged in the seemingly tangential task of helping androids escape to freedom ￢ﾀﾔ only to discover that those so-called "synths" were central to the core mystery.
Likewise, no two "Fallout 4" protagonists will be the same. From the start, you choose your character's name, gender, race and other physical details, and as you gain experience, you can upgrade your skills in seven categories: strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck. (Isn't that SPECIAL?) "Fallout 4" also features ridiculously detailed crafting systems that let you create weapons, armor, food, medicine and shelter from all the junk you find scattered across the wasteland.
That wasteland is an inspired, detailed vision of an America warped by 200 years of alternate history. Boston natives will get the most enjoyment out of this chapter, but any baseball fan will be delighted by what the folks at Bethesda have done with Fenway Park.
As with any open world this ambitious, there are some glitches ￢ﾀﾔ monsters floating in air, characters whose lips don't match what they're saying. The maps are OK on a large scale but almost completely useless when you zoom in. And some of the crafting systems are overly complicated.
Still, I've spent dozens of hours gleefully immersed in "Fallout 4." It may not be the world we hope to leave to future generations, but in its way, it's glorious. Three-and-a-half stars out of four.
Follow Lou Kesten on Twitter @lkesten.
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