Recently I started playing Fallout 76 for the first time and one thing I'll give it credit for is that it constantly keeps surprising me. My most recent surprise came not long ago after learning that Fallout 76 actually had a battle royale. Not only that, but it's been in the game since 2019! As someone who loves both battle royale games and the Fallout series, I knew this was something I had to check out despite every bone in my body telling me it was bound to be clunk city. In all seriousness, clunk city honestly wouldn't be a bad way to describe Nuclear Winter. I won't hate on the game mode too much, I actually had genuine fun playing it, but it was clear to me that some things needed to be ironed out.
The Nuclear Winter mode supports 52 players and shockingly I never had trouble filling a lobby. I won't act like you get into the game instantaneously, realistically the wait time is comparable to something like PUBG, the lobby will fill but you might want to grab a snack or use the washroom while you wait. Once the game starts you drop into one of two maps that players vote on in the lobby and you pick exactly where you want to land on the map and promptly teleport in with your team. While this is a stark departure in regards to the traditional concept of landing on the map, I honestly thought this was a unique way to balance the early game. By eliminating the landing part out of the normal land, loot and fight gameplay in every other BR, things start much quicker and the game flows faster as a result. The maps themselves are also fairly small, but again unlike with most traditional BR's it actually works well for Nuclear Winter here in my opinion because of the smaller lobby size. It doesn't take ten minutes to get into your first engagement after looting and when the game starts you can also see where all the other players in the lobby drop in, giving you valuable recon on what areas will be potentially dangerous or possibly safer for late game rotations.
Another mechanic I want to praise in Nuclear Winter is a minor one, but one that I think is a potential game changer. Right when you drop in, your character is invisible for about 15 seconds. This might not seem like it would make a huge difference but imagine a situation where you drop hot and maybe your teammates were falling asleep at the TV and didn't land with you, at least now you have the strategic decision of escaping before you lose your invisibility and become vulnerable or you can quickly sneak in with an aggressive approach and find a weapon before you get gunned down first. Speaking of teams, you can expect the classic squad size of 4 players here but like most other BR's you do not have to fill the team if you want to go solo or just with a friend or two.
Nuclear Winter is currently in beta but the game mode is actually going to be removed from the game in September of 2021. This was something I was surprised to learn and is actually the reason I gave the special game mode a chance in the first place. The reason for removing it boils down to both a low player count and general lack of interest from the community, but I never struggled with finding a game like I mentioned before. It is completely possible that with new 76 content being announced at E3 in addition to the game being on Gamepass that this has now changed so it will be interesting to see if Bethesda still plans to do away with Nuclear Winter when the time comes. I won't pretend to be a game developer or act like I have any knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes, but removing it entirely seems like a befuddling decision. I completely understand not wanting to create new content for Nuclear Winter over the base game of 76 if that is where the majority of the player base is, but removing it when it stills seems active feels like a missed opportunity.
For me personally, I think the most damning thing about Nuclear Winter is the performance. I use an Xbox One X, not the newest hardware of course but still not horrendous. I'm sure that it's due to 52 players being on a smaller map, but the game couldn't hold 30 FPS to save its life. The moment you get engaged into a firefight cancel Christmas because the chance of you winning that fight is so low you might as well throw your console into the dishwasher. My good friend Mr. Catelli uses the new Xbox Series X for his games and didn't experience the same issues I did so you might want to steer clear of Nuclear Winter if you're on older hardware like me. With all that said I only played about 4 games of Nuclear Winter and despite some choppy performance I honestly thought it was enjoyable. Even though the janky nature of the game makes me feel like I booted up PUBG by accident, the novelty of playing a Fallout BR is something I think every fan of the series should experience, especially considering it is set to be removed in only a few months. I personally would be disheartened to see it go but ultimately not surprised. I truly believe Bethesda could have a diamond in the rough if they just put a little bit more work into it with some patches and fixes. It has some genuinely refreshing ideas when it comes to the BR genre and I would love to see it reach its full potential like they did with base 76. If Nuclear Winter sounds interesting to you, definitely check it out before it's gone.