It’s been two years since Fallout 3 hit, bringing new life to a long sleeping franchise. Aside from garnering all sorts of critical acclaim, Fallout 3 successfully transported a new generation of gamers (by which I mean console as well as younger) to the harsh wasteland of post WWIII Washington DC.
While Fallout 3 was fantastic in almost all aspects, the one place I felt it was lacking was in the Fallout feel. Anyone who played the first two Fallout games should know what I’m talking about. The original isometric Fallout games were a no-holds-barred glimpse into the savagery that is post-apocalyptic society. Fallout 3 was a bit too touchy feely for my likes, which raises the question: What direction did Obsidian games take Fallout: New Vegas? Read on to find out.
The short answer to this question is that Obsidian has made a fantastic Fallout game that feels very much like Fallout 2. The developer has done a awesome job of taking the Fallout 3 engine and placing it in a much more familiar West coast location. Besides the local, New Vegas also marks a return to familiar Fallout-y themes like betrayal, hopelessness and the pursuit of what’s left of the American dream.
Fallout: New Vegas drops gamers off in a conflict between several factions, all vying for control over the New Vegas strip. The two main contenders are Caesar’s Legion, a savage bunch of slavers who are quite clearly the “evil” choice and the NCR (New California Republic) a familiar face to anyone who played Fallout 2. The other factions tend to be fan favorites from previous Fallout titles including The Brotherhood of Steel and The Great Kahns, as well as new factions like the mafia-esque families on the strip and the ever illusive Mr. House.
The game starts off you with your character (a courier for a small delivery company) being robbed, shot in the head, and left in a ditch to die. Luckily for you, a robot finds your shallow grave, digs you up and drops you off at the local doctor. Rather than putting you through a long winded intro like that in Fallout 3 (which spans 18 years in a vault), New Vegas just guides you through the character creation process and plops you out into the wasteland. While some gamers may not appreciate this hands off approach to familiarizing the gamer to the game, I found it both refreshing and true to the spirit of the original Fallout titles.
Once you’ve gone through the character creation process, you find yourself in Goodsprings, a small town that has managed to remain independent from both Caesar’s Legion and the NCR. From here, you are allowed to do pretty much anything. The game will suggest that you stick around Goodsprings for a little bit, helping out the locals and earning some easy experience, but you don’t have to take this advice, however. Remaining true to the open worldness of the Fallout series, you are free to chase down the SOB who shot you (who is voiced by Friends star Matthew Perry), or just wonder the wastes discovering new locations, people and quests.
As the game progresses you discover that the job that almost got you killed involved delivering a platinum poker chip to the legendary Mr. House. This is huge news across the wasteland. You see, when the bombs first dropped and chaos came to Nevada, it was Mr. House and his robot army that managed to keep order on the New Vegas strip. Since then, however, nobody has seen or heard from Mr. House. He just keeps to himself in his private casino Lucky 38. Obviously something major is about to happen to the New Vegas wastelands and needless to say, you play a pivotal role in deciding the outcome.
So far I’ve played through Fallout: New Vegas two times. On my first run through (which ended up taking over forty hours) I stuck around Goodsprings and leveled up before taking the suggested path South East to pursue the man who shot me. Along the way I discovered tons of quests, picked up a few NPCs (you’re allowed one human companion and one non-human at a time) and got some pretty good combat experience under my belt. One thing that really blew me away was when I stumbled upon a town that refused to succumb to Caesar’s control. I could tell something was up by dozens of crucified wastelanders lining the road up to the town. It’s things like this that make a Fallout game a Fallout game.
On my second play through I decided to take a different path out of Goodsprings. To my surprise I found several major towns that I had completely missed on my first run through. Sure some of them were blocked off to me due to my karma/alignment (slaver towns are a no no if you’re playing a “good” character, etc.) but I still think this is a major testament to the amount of content in the game.
Much like in Fallout 3 you are required to repair your weapons using scavenged items for parts. The VATS system makes a return with some minor tweaks. Like before, VATS will pause the game, allowing you to target specific body parts, however Obsidian has added melee attacks to this system. Now, if your melee skill is above 50, you can preform unique attacks that have special effects. While you still cannot target head shots with melee weapons, these new special attacks do help add some variety and make playing a melee character a more viable option.
Despite all my praise, Fallout: New Vegas is not a perfect game. One of my main annoyances came from the NPCs you can ask to join your party. Whenever you preform a certain action (engaging enemies, using sneak, etc.) your party members will respond with some sort of audio cue (be it playing music in the case of ED-E or whispering “Shhh. We’re hunting shit heads,” in the case of Cass.) While this is all well and good when used sparingly, the problem is the NPCs will preform this audio cue every time. Needless to say, it can get pretty annoying when you’re in a tight spot, pressing sneak every few seconds and are forced to listen to the same line over and over again.
Much along the same lines, Fallout: New Vegas features several radio stations you can tune into via your Pipboy. These stations are fantastic at first: I was blown away by the host Mr. New Vegas, voiced by real-life Mr. Las Vegas Wayne Newton. My only problem with the radio stations is that they only play something like six songs. After half an hour to forty five minutes, you’ll start to hear everything repeat. While I appreciate the effort and think the radios stations are a fantastic idea, there isn’t enough content to keep the gamer captivated in the New Vegas world.
Another problem with Fallout: New Vegas is the bugs. While I personally had very few problems with bugs, the only issue I had, besides the run of the mill Radscorpion in a rock every now and then, was that on launch day, my autosaves and quicksaves wouldn’t work. Luckily Bethesda patched that asap. Looking online, all people seem to be talking about with New Vegas is the bugs. It’s important to note that a majority of these bugs are on the console versions of the game.
The reason for this is that there’s an approval process which delays any sort of patch from being released. You see, on the PC, if a developer wants to patch a game all they have to do is release it. On the Xbox 360 or PS3, the developer has to submit the patch to Sony or Microsoft who then checks/tests the patch to make sure everything is kosher. The problem with this is that the system of checks on the 360 and PS3 is a long and arduous process, meaning it will take much longer for a patch to be released on consoles.
It is also important to note that a game of this size and scale is going to have tons of bugs regardless how much QA you run it through. As I mentioned above, on my first play through I managed to dump over forty hours into the game. In those forty hours I only discovered about half of the locations on the map. Now if we think about this for a second; forty hours were spent just discovering under half of the content in the game. (I found half of the locations but didn’t do all the quests/talk to all the people/etc.) Can you imagine the amount of time it would take to bug test (which involves recreating each bug in a controlled environment dozens of times over) every piece of content in the game? It would easily take several years. With that in mind, you have to give some leeway to Fallout: New Vegas.
All in all, Fallout: New Vegas is by far one of the best games of this year. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so captivated by a setting and its NPCs. The amount of detail in this game is staggering. To give you an idea of what I mean, in my first play through I found an old vault that was currently being occupied by some nasty geckos. As I cleared out the vault I found a bunch of active computer terminals.
Because my science skill was high enough, I was able to hack into these computers and, through a series of journal entries, discover that the original inhabitants of the vault were told that if they didn’t sacrifice one of their own once a year the vault would kill them. Going through the journals I discovered that there was a coup within the vault to stop this barbaric practice. I’ll stop here so I don’t spoil anything, but I think this experience speaks largely about the amount of care put into this game. This side story wasn’t part of any quest. It was just something to help immerse the gamer into this world and provide some intrigue, which it did successfully.
If you are the kind of gamer who can dedicate tons and tons of time to one game, do yourself a favor and pick up Fallout: New Vegas. The amount of options are staggering and will keep those who are motivated entertained for a long long time. With that, I’ll leave you guys with an exemplary link. Here’s a forum post by someone who completed a the game without killing a single thing. Now, in how many RPGs can you do that?
While the visuals haven't changed much from Fallout 3, they still hold up nicely and allow gamers to become fully submerged in a wonderfully detailed post-apoclypic world.
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If the gripping story doesn't keep you coming back for more, the joy of splattering heads will.
While the voice acting and sound effects are great, the lack of variety can wear on your nerves, especially when you're putting in more than forty hours a play through.
With a seemingly endless amount of options in terms of character development and plot outcomes, Fallout: New Vegas will keep gamers entertained for a long long time.
Fallout: New Vegas is easily one of the top contenders for Game of the Year.