Fallout 4 has great music! You should turn it off.

*This post was originally published on The Game Bolt in November, 2015*

Since Fallout 4 cemented itself into my disk tray, I’ve poured well over 100 hours into its massive list of quests, settlement building, and random dungeons. I’ve become well acquainted with all the in’s and out’s of the game, and this includes the game’s impressive soundtrack. Fallout 4’s soundtrack has become one of my favorite from Bethesda thus far, but after 45-50 hours of the same set of tracks over and over again, I grew tired of it and turned the music off. Completely. Boy does this change some significant aspects of the game!

I turned off the soundtrack and Fallout 4 became an entirely new experience for me. It’s the only way I can play now. It does two major things to gameplay. The first is that it increases the immersion of different beautiful moments of the game. The hubbub of Diamond City’s market area becomes livelier as you can pick out the individual comments from Moe selling his swatters to Myrna’s distaste for synth shoppers. Even the side comments of passing residents hold more of a place in the overall din of society thriving in the wastes.

And about the wastes, did you know there are birds singing, insects that chirp in the night, and light breezes that can grace your ears? I never noticed the depth to which Bethesda went to in its sound design this time around. I loved Skyrim but the sound design was pretty lacking outside of dialogue and combat. But this time, Fallout 4 feels more like a living breathing world than any of Bethesda’s previous games.

However, there’s a rather devious reason to turn the music off. It raises the tension of the game’s combat and infiltration. As a sneaky character I’ve had some truly terrifying moments that turned up Fallout 4’s already tense moments into pure fright fests. One such instance was in infiltrating a bunker that I had found. In 15 minutes of searching the bunker I had found no one. Literally no enemies at all. The silence was starting to get a little eerie. But then, out of the silence, I heard footsteps. It chilled my spine because I was completely under the impression that I was alone.

Another horrify moment came when going through an underground tunnel and without any warning at all, a Deathclaw’s feet dropped down in front of me. I didn’t even see it coming and the only thing I saw were two clawed feet descend into view. I darn near had a heart attack and panicked so badly I alerted the Deathclaw and had a frantic fight for my life.

I just love the tension of going into a massive church and hearing the creaks and groans and passing air that are only punctuated by the blood curdling howl of a mutant hound. I doubt I’ll ever turn the music back on. Granted, I still have it so radios play, and on occasion I’ll put on Freedom Radio while working on settlements to fill in the otherwise dead air.  But when wandering the wastes I love hearing the birds chirp and the sudden break in the calmness to an alerting gunshot in the distance.

It’s a whole new world when you open your ears. I’d highly recommend you give it a shot for a little while and see if you agree!

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