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The first few hours in Fallout 76 are strange. It’s both familiar and foreign. The well-trod path of creating a character and exiting the safety of an underground vault is sharply juxtaposed with a distinct lack of scripted NPCs. Instead, in a departure from Fallout’s decades-long history of single-player titles, you share your slice of post-apocalyptic West Virginia (referred to as Appalachia) with real, live people. Since Bethesda didn’t provide pre-launch review code, we’ve only been able to spend our single day playing in this strange new land alongside the rest of the audience. So far, it’s unclear whether this experiment will be a successful one.
What is clear immediately is that Fallout 76 is the best-looking Fallout ever. Running on an Xbox One X and displayed on a 4K TV, the visuals are vibrant and clear, a far cry from the muddy textures of Fallout 4. So far, the game has run much more smoothly as well, without the long loads and jerky pauses of the previous Fallout titles. These days, that’s an impressive feat for a multiplayer game on launch day.
Fallout 76 starts similarly to other games in the series: after decades in an underground vault, protected from the nuclear war and ensuing fallout that devastated the United States, it’s time to go outside. While Vault-Tec subjected many of its vault inhabitants to convoluted social experiments, Vault 76 residents have a simple mission: on Reclamation Day, 25 years after the bombs fell, it’s time to leave and take the country back.
You’ll create a character from scratch, determining details like face and body shape, skin color, hairstyle, and gender (male or female only; there’s no non-binary option). Fallout 76 adds a fun photo mode that lets you snap your character using a variety of filters and frames, like an in-game Instagram. After taking that first photo and naming your character, you’re on your way.