Nuka-World is Fallout 4's version of Disneyland. Which is more like Fallout's version of Banksy's version of Disneyland. Like all things Fallout, it's broken-down early 20th century Americana. Welcome to the final piece of season pass content; the last DLC for Fallout 4 forever.
After tuning into the short radio ad, the Nuka-World Transit Center pops up, just past the western border of the Boston Commonwealth, beyond the freeway overpass that crosses in front of Lonely Chapel and the Federal Ration Stockpile. It takes you across a load screen to Nuka-World, operating much like the Far Harbor DLC did, firing up a chunk of map that’s physically adjacent, but technically separate from the main map.
After a scuffle or two with some Gunners, I hop on the tram to Nuka-World proper. The games begin when you arrive and have to deal with a long gauntlet of tripwires, traps and turrets. Your ticket into Nuka-World is paid for with guns, grenade bouquets and gored human bodies. It’s the bloody price of entry. And there’s a game show announcer chiming in over the PA system.
Nuka-World is where you enter the game inside of the game. It’s combat for sport. Kind of The Running Man-like.
Minor spoiler alert, but this is basically the entire premise of Nuka-World: You run the gauntlet, you replace the current raider overboss, then everyone hails you as the new overboss. But heavy is the head that wears the crown. You have to figure out how to get three separate raider clans all on the same page. The last overboss couldn’t do it. But you’d better be able to. They show you to your new raider estate. There are some snide comments here and there, but the raiders mostly welcome you with open arms.
The park has its own radio station, complete with a shock jock at the helm. Redeye is his name. There’s uneven sound mixing in your Pip-Boy, though. When it moves from segment to segment during DJ Redeye’s set, the sound goes from having a radio crackle to an overly voluminous swallow-the-mic-while-talking time, and then back again.
The protagonist—at least the male protagonist, since I’m playing one—takes on a goofier-than-normal guffaw with his voice. It’s “Golly gee, you betcha” kind of voice. It gets even goofier if you play along in the Wild West segment of the park. It makes me want to adapt the angry conversational choices because the nice-guy dialogue just sounds naive and silly, especially in this context.
So you meet the sub-bosses running the three raider camps. There are the Operators. Caps are the only thing that matter to them. Their symbol is a bleeding heart with three bullet holes in it. They wear moulded metal armor pieces over fancy suits. They look like they’re starring is a Wasteland reboot of Cruel Intentions. I thought the Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Michelle Gellar-acting duo were going to start making out any minute.
The Pack is a second group. They’re all about establishing a pecking order. They dress like color-blind animals, they make animals fight in an arena, and they cage up other people like animals. They dress up a theater real pretty, though, and their boss looks like he woke up on the wrong side of Skyrim. They’re pretty much animals themselves, but they’re the closest things Fallout has to evil clowns.
Then there are the Disciples. A real sick bunch. They dress cool in D&D-looking metal armor, but they have chopped up bodies laying all over the place. Heads on pikes, of course; torsos in sinks; arms and legs just sorta kinda everywhere you look. The Disciples give mutants a run for their money when it comes to corpse-ridden feng shui.
At this point, I feel like Lucius Vorenus in the second season of HBO’s Rome. I'm thrust into the position of mob boss, I have to keep these gangs from killing each other, and, in the end—who knows?—I might just come out sober, smarter and with a resolution to strengthen the Wasteland and its people. That’s unlikely, however. These missions go down a dark path.
Of course, I have no qualms, in this context, becoming the “bad actor.” So much of my time in Fallout 4 has been spent, more or less, playing the paragon. Be the good guy. Do the right thing. But not here. Not in Nuka-World. If the game is going to excuse some of my bad behavior, then now is the time for me to take advantage. Sorry, Longfellow. I’m sending you back to your cabin in Far Harbor. Go write a poem. The raider Gage is my companion now. He seems to know how to get stuff done in Nuka-World. Well, he can’t hardly take out a turret, but at least you wake up with him standing on top of your bed sometimes. Chill, Gage. I know you’re a romantic option, but we’ll have to work up to that, you hunky redneck of a raider you.
The Nuka-World DLC is a big fork in the road. There are a couple branching paths here, both of them with points of no return. You can legitimately undo all your hard work in the Commonwealth, leading raiding parties and raising raider flags over your old settlements. Or (and this is what I eventually ended up doing), you can cut off the heads of state in Nuka-World and hand the property back to the traders. Strangely, this “good guy” option felt like the most insane course of action I could’ve taken. It also prematurely cuts out a lot of perks you could’ve otherwise earned, too. But my conscious lets me sleep at night for it. Your mileage may vary.
There are a few design missteps in Nuka-World. But it’s still Fallout 4. But I got lost numerous times in the Space Mountain-looking part of the park. Spinning in circles became a new past time for a while there. I may never talk myself into backtracking through that cavernous rollercoaster arena in order to find all the collectible items I missed.
I have a higher tolerance than most for buggy gameplay. But even for a Todd Howard-helmed game, Nuka-Cola is particularly glitchy. Some bugs were reliable and repeatable; others were one-offs. But a few that stuck out for me were listening to Gage get stuck in dialogue loops. “If you ask me, the whole idea of these ‘Vaults’ was messed up. If you ask me, the whole idea of these ‘Vaults’ was messed up. If you ask—”
Yes. Gage. Thank you. Got it.
Mission markers appear in completely wrong places when traveling between Nuka-World and the Commonwealth. I ghost suit of power armor kept me on a wild goose chase across the map, until I finally caught on that there was nothing to find. One victim I was supposed to clap a slave collar onto would follow me out one door, teleport herself halfway to Nuka-World, then disappear utterly. Not sure I’ll ever finish that mission.
And frame rate slowdown can be so bad on PC it requires a reboot. That’s at least the experience of John Yan, our senior hardware editor. He has a muscular PC, too; don’t even trip. I’m playing on PlayStation 4, and I’ve got wicked load times going in and out of doors now, and some Nuka-World specific armor and weaponry likes to lag when loading itself up on the Pip-Boy’s menu screens. Mission targets were running underground (and not in tunnels either). I couldn’t complete the mission until they inexplicably popped back above ground. I even racked up a nice hallway full of dozens of corpses, and they’re all disappearing, one by one, before I can loot them all. Just lots of stuff like that.
All that aside, in Nuka-World, the trick is to learn where the wanderer’s life ends and the raider’s life begins. Figuring out which new behaviors are kosher and which are unacceptable. But if you’ve been looking for a bald-faced excuse to tear up your former comrades—and you’re willing to accept the permanent consequences of your actions—then this last piece of DLC is your gamechanger. It can be a tough place, though. Be ready to fight for your life.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Randy gravitates toward anything open world, open ended, or open to interpretation. He prefers strategy over shooting, introspection over action, and stealth and survival over looting and grinding. He's been a gamer since 1982 and writing critically about video games for over 15 years. A few of his favorites are Skyrim, Elite Dangerous, and Red Dead Redemption. He lives with his wife and daughter in Oregon.View Profile