If there was any lingering question about what Bethesda's most important intellectual property is, the publisher put that to rest in front of a sold-out Dolby Theatre auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday.
One key problem for Bethesda is that the inherent bliss of Fallout games -- their wondrous sense of freedom to draw your own narrative path -- is inevitably diminished when portrayed through cinematic and choreographed trailers. Which is why Todd Howard, the executive producer of the game, opened his demonstration with a long montage of concept art, as opposed to in-game footage. The promise is obvious; Bethesda wants you to understand how much of its world will be available when the final build ships. (The Fallout 4 release date is November 10, if you're asking).
The company appears to still be a little shy about showing the world in forensic detail, however, with its gameplay demonstration frequently skipping between scenes, and jumping from first-person to third-person perspectives. A wise PR move, certainly, with the game's graphics under scrutiny from some quarters, but not exactly an answer to those critics either.
Bethesda's focus of the pitch was not graphical fidelity, of course, but scale and possibility. Howard referred to Fallout 4's Boston wasteland as "an enormous, dynamic world, where you can create what you want, and do what you want."
Driving the point home, he stated: "Player freedom remains our absolute number one goal."
Predictable press conference hyperbole, you might have thought, until Howard listed a remarkable number of new options available to players. From wide-ranging apparel choices, to hundreds of possibilities to modify your weapons, Fallout 4 wants players to make more choices than ever. If you want, you could even build your own homes and buildings. You can find jetpacks, ride helicopters, and can even play 8-bit games on your new Pip-Boy.
It even comes with a Pip-Boy app for your Android or iOS smartphone--which Howard proudly proclaimed is "the best f**king second-screen experience" out there. For those interested, here's a closer look at the Pip-Boy app and the real-life Pip-Boy included in the Fallout 4 special edition.
Meanwhile, vast volumes of in-game audio have been recorded (apparently, a thousand names were recorded alone just so your child's name can be uttered). Many of those recordings will not be heard, with the game utilizing a Mass Effect-esque conversation tree system.
This is a natural evolution of Fallout 3, with every single element expanded upon, sometimes to an unbelievable degree. But it also appears to be a far more personal Fallout, with your hero given a voice, a dog to keep you company, and quite tragically, a wife and child to lose after the bomb lands
Fallout 4 has been in development for four years, and while some may lament the slightly awkward animations, you really can sense how much love and energy went into building this world. Boston is a vulgar wasteland, but it's Bethesda's vulgar wasteland, and there's nothing half-hearted about it.
Get up-to-date on Fallout 4, Doom, Dishonored 2, and more with our in-depth Bethesda press conference news roundup.