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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Plot themes include corporate and government corruption, criticism of both capitalism and consumerism. The action makes a violent, survivalist lifestyle seem fun, but cooperative play promotes positive concepts including strategy, teamwork, socialization.
Positive Role Models
The player's character, whose gender and appearance may be customized, is a survivalist trying to live in an irradiated wasteland. He or she does what's necessary to continue living, including many acts of violence. Players can make ethical decisions on behalf of character, such as whether or not to attack other human characters controlled by players.
Ease of Play
Returning players to the series should find the interface very familiar, but new players may be a bit overwhelmed by the complex -- and frequently used -- menu system. The controls aren't as tight or responsive as those in many other action games, but a limited automated targeting system called VATS can help struggling players find their marks.
Violence & Scariness
Players use firearms, explosives, melee weapons such as knives, wrenches to attack mutated, diseased humans, mutated animals and robots. Red blood erupts from wounds, limbs are severed, bodies decapitated. Environments are littered with dead bodies, bones, and "meat sacks" that function as containers. Combat can be viewed from either a first- or third-person perspective.
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Text and spoken dialogue contain only occasional but strong language, including "f--k" and "s--t."
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Products & Purchases
Players can spend real-world money on virtual currency used on cosmetic upgrades. This is latest installment of very popular franchise.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Alcohol, cigarettes, cigars, and fictional drugs such as "psycho" can be obtained, used to receive mix of effects both good and bad, including increases or decreases to strength, perception, intelligence attributes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Fallout 76 is an online sci-fi role-playing game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. In the game, players attempt to survive in a post-nuclear apocalyptic future. Players fight mutated and diseased humans as well as robots and animals using firearms, explosives, and melee weapons. Combat frequently results in blood and gore, with heads severed from bodies, blood gushing from wounds, and "ragdoll physics" controlling the motion of bodies as they collapse. Players share their world with other players, and can join together in groups that allow for socializing and teamwork. But players can also choose to aggravate others, attacking and killing them indiscriminately (though behaving badly comes with the consequence of making the offending player an active target for others). As in other Fallout games, several subplots -- and the world itself -- provide critiques of consumerist and capitalist culture, with a focus on corruption within corporations. Drugs and alcohol can be collected and provide both positive and negative status effects, altering key character attributes such as strength and perception. Spoken and text dialogue contains occasional but sometimes very strong language, including the "F" word. Parents should be aware, as well, that players can spend real-world money on virtual currency that can be used to buy cosmetic upgrades for characters.
Is It Any Good?
Players looking to get the most out of this sandbox adventure will need to be both patient and forgiving. Fallout 76 is extraordinarily buggy, frequently booting players from servers and even freezing up altogether. There are critical glitches that keep players from completing specific missions, times when quest markers and fast-travel locations won't appear on maps, and instances when your character simply falls through the floor and into empty space. If these technical issues don't frustrate you, then Fallout 76's dated presentation and design likely will. It looks and plays like a game at least half a decade older than it is. And if none of that proves irksome, there's Fallout 76's online element -- a first for the franchise -- which requires players to maintain an internet connection at all times and share their world with others, who can kill you or ransack your carefully crafted camps (thankfully, you can hide your location from individual players bent on mischief). The move to online play has also resulted in a much larger sandbox world that feels oddly empty and has less personality than the worlds of other Fallout games -- likely because there are no human non-player characters.
But it's not a complete write-off. Despite its many faults, Fallout 76 does maintain the series' attractive retro-future vibe, which shows us a glimpse at a universe that might have been ours if our culture collectively made just a few different decisions in the 20th century. Plus, the lore waiting to be discovered on hackable computers and in notes scattered all over West Virginia provides plenty of interest for players who can't get enough of the franchise's tantalizing alternate history/future. And the business of survival -- collecting and crafting gear and camps -- is strangely rewarding, with plenty of self-directed mini-objectives that push players to keep playing just a few minutes more in order to level up, get a better gun, or put the right roof or turret on their camp. There's fun to be had in Fallout 76, especially for those who want to soak up every detail of the Fallout universe, but by and large this is an installment only for die-hard series fans who don't mind sharing a world with other players. More casual players will be better served waiting for what will hopefully be a prettier and more polished sequel.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.