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Blockbuster releases are strange things. You spend what feels like an eternity waiting for the next big thing, absorbing all of the excitement that you possibly can, and then before you know it, it's already a week after launch day and you've pumped 100 hours into your new favourite game. The hype's dispersed somewhat by this point, and then it's a case of looking forward to yet another title that's sitting on the horizon.

To put all of that into context, Fallout 4 is only about a month away – which seems crazy when you stop and think about it. Fallout 3 released a whole seven years ago, and Fallout: New Vegas graced us with its presence all the way back in 2010. It's been a long time coming for fans of radioactive wastelands, but we're now incredibly close to getting our mutated hands on Bethesda's latest project. As such, it's about time that we stopped the hype train for just a minute and asked ourselves: what do we actually want from Fallout 4?

Obviously, first and foremost, we want it to be a good game – but with so many years between this and previous instalments, it's probably a good idea to talk about how this latest trip to a broken America can impress us on this new generation of consoles. With that in mind, let's roll out five things that Fallout 4 has to get right as the franchise's first foray on the PlayStation 4.

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Role-playing is the heart of the experience

Role-playing is pivotal to the Fallout series. The property has a long history of presenting the player with moral choices, many of which have a large impact on the game world, and Fallout 4 needs to keep them at the heart of its storytelling for maximum effect.

If we look back at Fallout 3's plot and the various tales that it tells, it's not all that cohesive. Yes, there are choices to be made and branching quests that are dependant on your actions, but it's Fallout: New Vegas – which was developed by Obsidian – that really nails the sense that you, as the courier, are in charge of your own destiny. It presents you with several very different factions that you can join, and there are usually numerous ways to complete a single task. Even the dialogue options are expanded upon, allowing you to further shape your character's personality.

Fortunately, it would seem as though Bethesda's taking the role-playing aspect of the franchise more seriously than ever this time around. We already know that Fallout 4 features a voiced protagonist who's going to spout thousands of lines of speech, and that Mass Effect-like dialogue wheels are in place during conversations alongside dynamic camera angles – but this is something that the developer needs to get right if it's going to keep everyone happy.

Generally speaking, the problem with giving a fully customisable character a voice is that you're then narrowing the player's potential to create what feels like their own unique avatar. Briefly going back to Mass Effect, you have full authority over Commander Shepard's actions, and it's up to you whether he or she is considered a hero or a borderline tyrant, but at the end of the day, you're playing as Commander Shepard – your destination's already laid out and it's just a case of deciding how to get there.

Of course, no game can offer complete and utter freedom of choice. Dialogue options are always going to be limited to some degree, and your actions can only branch so far from one extreme to the other. Realistically, then, it's all about balance: Bethesda has to give you a sense of freedom, while also keeping you immersed in each and every situation.

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There's beauty to be found in desolation

Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas may as well be colour coded. The first is green courtesy of the constant radioactive tint that permeates throughout the entire game, and the latter is yellow due to sun scorched sands of the dusty Nevada desert. Both look really bloody ugly by today's standards, but their respective wastelands remain memorable because of their choice of colour and attention to detail. They're existing proof that even if your graphics aren't top notch, art direction and design can still make your game visually interesting.

Indeed, the settings of both previous games may be desolate, depressing places, but there's a certain haunting beauty to be found in the aftermath of nuclear war. If there's one thing that Bethesda's good at, it's setting a tone for the worlds that it creates. Fallout 3's atmosphere is still one of its greatest achievements, and much like the unique mood that's found in the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it goes a long way in helping players become immersed in the experience.

Fallout 4's putting something of a new spin on things, then, because it's stepping away from the monotone dreariness of past titles and injecting a lot of colour. Sure, it's still going to be populated by creepy abandoned buildings and most of it's going to be stretched out across acres of nothingness, but it's not going to feel like your eyes have been coated in a very fine layer of faeces.

Still, Fallout 4 needs to ensure that its post-apocalyptic wasteland is a place that you want to see and explore, despite the fact that it's an absolute sh*thole. Like we've already mentioned, there's a definite appeal to be found in desolate, unforgiving landscapes, and when it comes to gaming, perfecting the tone, mood, and feel of a setting can be key to maintaining a player's interest – especially over long periods of playtime.

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Companions worth caring about

Bethesda's dabbled in creating companion characters a few times now, and with Fallout 4, it has the opportunity to make your potential partners more memorable than ever. You can probably remember the likes of Fawkes and Dogmeat from Fallout 3 or Boon from New Vegas, but even though it's fun to drag them around the wasteland on perilous adventures, they aren't the deepest or the most intriguing personalities that you'll find in the role-playing genre.

Because of Fallout 4's new dialogue system, we've got high hopes that you'll be able to form strong relationships with the game's available companions, and ultimately come to care about who they are and what they're doing. Throw in a few quests based on your favourite partner's plight, and we reckon that you've got the basis for some solid secondary characters.

Bethesda's already stated that you'll be able to pursue romance with your buddies, too, although it's worth remembering that Skyrim also had a similar system. In the land of the Nords, you were free to marry a character that you fancied, but it wasn't all that exciting – in fact, it was rather drab. Your spouse would sit at home, open up a small shop, and rake in a few gold whenever you were away killing dragons. Needless to say, it hardly felt like you were in any sort of meaningful relationship.

However, Skyrim allowed you to marry one of numerous non-playable characters, and from what Bethesda's said about Fallout 4, you'll only be able to romance a small selection of chosen wastelanders. In theory, this should mean that relationships will end up having more depth to them. Post-apocalyptic Boston is bound to be a lonely place, but that doesn't mean that you should be forced into making friends with survivors that you couldn't care less about.

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Gunning for glory

Out there in the wasteland, you're going to need a lot of bullets – unless you're one of those nutters who runs around swinging mechanical hammers and makeshift concrete clubs at things. Anyway, the point is that guns have always been a core pillar of Fallout's gameplay, and with Fallout 4, there's quite simply never been a better time to evolve the practice of shooting mutants in the head.

Fallout 3 and New Vegas are pretty terrible shooters – at least when compared to other blast-'em-ups on the market. This is partly because they're not meant to be action games, and partly due to the fact that Bethesda clearly wasn't too comfortable with crafting such mechanics. Fortunately, the studio introduced the genius V.A.T.S. – which allows you to pause time and pick your shots – and combat was subsequently saved from being a bit rubbish.

As alluded, Fallout 4 has the opportunity to please both V.A.T.S. users and shooter enthusiasts – but it needs to refine the feel of the series' gunplay to do so. We've already seen glimpses of this courtesy of the title's gameplay trailers, and while it certainly looks like an improvement, we obviously won't be able to fully judge it until we've got our hands on the release.

With so many shooters readily available on the PS4, Fallout 4 needs to offer gunplay that's at least serviceable by comparison. We're at a point where if Fallout 3 launched today, it'd likely be torn to bits for its shooting mechanics, even if it has V.A.T.S. to fall back on. Obviously, the developer's had seven years to implement a better system, so we're remaining optimistic, but that also means any hint of shoddy gunplay will be doubly unforgivable.

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Don't be a broken mess

Yeah, you knew that this one was coming. It's not harsh to to say that all of Bethesda's PlayStation titles have launched in poor condition over the years. All of them have suffered from frame rate issues of varying severity, and all of them have been capable of crashing consoles. There is hope, however, in that all of them have been PS3 games up to this point.

Sony's last-gen system was notoriously difficult to develop for, and Bethesda's memory intensive titles definitely weren't an ideal fit for a system that sported such a stunted amount of RAM. That said, you can't help but point a finger at the developer that's been using such an ancient game engine for so long.

The blame can be aimed at crap technology on both ends to some extent, then, but with Fallout 4 on the PS4, there are no excuses. Assassin's Creed Unity released in a downright shameful condition last year, and it was rightfully blasted from every angle by critics and players alike. And, while we all like to joke around, mention 'Bugthesda', and generally have a laugh regarding the copious amount of technical issues typically found in its games, Fallout 4 should be treated no differently to Ubisoft's sandbox romp if it does indeed run like garbage.

Really, all that we ask is for Fallout 4 to perform as you'd expect. No crashes, no constant frame rate dips – just a fun jaunt across a post-apocalyptic Boston without having to worry whether or not it's going to murder your expensive hardware. It's surely not that hard to get right, Bethesda?

Are you looking forward to Fallout 4? Did we miss anything that you think is important? Show us your healthy green glow in the comments section below.