One of the biggest changes in the newest edition to the Fallout franchise is that the main character is fully voiced. Bethesda games usually featured a silent protagonist that communicated via text while the companions, adversaries, and other denizens were portrayed with voice actors. Following the lead of Mass Effect and Dragon Age, the sole survivor of Fallout 4 found a voice.
Previous Fallout games went the silent text-based route, and allowed the games to present the many paths the player could embark. The optimistic, help-everyone-in-need hero, the amoral bastard of the wasteland, and everything in between was represented in each game. A protagonist with low intelligence had text dialogue options consisting of simple words and grunts. The character was "voiced" by the player's imagination, actively engaging them.
However, this did lessen the cinematic impact of the game. Everyone had a distinctive voice while the main star was subjected to a wall of text; the proverbial fourth wall was on full display. The arrival of the fully-voiced Mass Effect trilogy made text-based protagonists seemingly irrelevant.
The other huge blockbuster role-playing game of the year is the much-acclaimed The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Geralt of Rivia has always been a fully voiced and well-defined character. Cynical, self-serving, rogue with a heart of gold, Geralt is a great star for a huge cinematic video game. The voiceless sole survivor of Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas would look out of date today; a reminder of an older, simpler style of game narrative.
Fallout 4 succeeds in bringing a larger cinematic and modern feel to its sole survivor with voice. The brilliant Silver Shroud quest line is a wonderful example. The Silver Shroud is a serial radio play hero similar to The Phantom or The Shadow. Almost every dialogue has an option to "speak as The Shroud". Selecting this dialogue, the voice character unleashes a bombastic heroic voice at home with the radio programs of the 1940s and 50s. Complete with stutters and misreads, the sole survivor tries to emulate the Silver Shroud with varying degrees of success. The result is an extremely entertaining quest with classic Fallout absurdist humor.
There is something lost in the transition to a fully voiced protagonist. Rather than relying on the player to supply the voice, the resulting characterization is less customized and more standardized across all experiences. Another character, physically different with other dialogue choices will have the same voice every time the game is restarted. Each gender does have a different voice actor, but the problem is still present.
Realistically, it would be unfair to expect Bethesda to have a voice actor for every variation of the sole survivor. The amount of time and resources to do such a thing would be harrowing, if not impossible. While Geralt in the Witcher series is a pre-defined character that can lean in a few slightly divergent directions, Fallout has the player create someone from scratch. Make no mistake, Fallout 4 is a great game with lots of memorable moments, but the Inclusion of a voice protagonist changes the game's relationship with the player. Instead of asking the player to imagine their own personality, Fallout 4 standardizes the voice and ultimately character.